Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
Welcome Judith Miller, author of The Brickmaker’s Bride, to Author Spotlight! Leave a comment below for the chance to win a copy of her book.
I’m an empty-nester who is currently enjoying a lot of time with an eight-month-old granddaughter. When I first began writing, I worked as a legal assistant and later as a compliance analyst for the Kansas Insurance Department. After several book contracts, and the reaching a point where it was possible to retire from my position with the state, I quit working full time to devote myself to writing.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre, your areas of interest…
I love research and history so my books are all historical fiction. I’m drawn to unique settings where I can give readers a glimpse into a historical setting and a profession that is somewhat new to them. My current series, Refined by Love, takes readers to West Virginia and each book will provide readers with a different business or trade that was popular in that area of the country. In The Brickmaker’s Bride, I hope readers will be intrigued as they learn a little about brickmaking back in the 1860’s.
How did you get started writing?
I was traveling sixty miles back and forth to work each day and during that time, a story came to me that I couldn’t get out of my head. I finally wrote it—and that was my first venture into the writing world.
Did you have a dream of being a published author?
No. Unlike many other authors, I didn’t grow up wanting to be an author. The desire came much later in life.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
Approximately two years before I signed my first contract. I know I was very blessed as many authors go far longer before signing that first contract.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well?
Quiet. I’m not a writer who can have music or other distractions while I work.
Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write?
I always work at my desk. I’m not good moving around to different locations. I want my research books nearby and my coffee in the same spot each day. I’m a creature of habit.
How many hours a day do you spend writing?
I’m at my computer about seven hours a day, but not all of that is writing on my manuscript. Some of it is answering email, doing publicity work, and shopping on Amazon. ☺
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
Back when I was first published there were only a few small writing conferences and I did attend some of those. They were helpful, so I would encourage aspiring authors to attend writers’ conferences. However, for me, the big thing has been a couple good critique partners who read my work before submission. Second would be having a few really close author friends who get together several times a year to plot, pray and play together.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
Yes. I didn’t have particular expectations about the writer’s life when I began my writing career. Since I’m a somewhat solitary person, I like being at the computer creating characters and stories. There are parts of the writing life that I didn’t understand when I first contracted, but overall I have enjoyed the journey.
What are your biggest distractions?
E-mail, internet, and research. I can go off on some very involved bunny-trails for hours when I’m researching, and unless I turn off my e-mail, I want to stop and read each one as it arrives.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
I’d say one of the best moments was when I received my first contract with Bethany House Publishers. One of the worst was when I received my first substantive edit. I didn’t realize there was such a thing when. So when I got that four-page letter telling me what I needed to change, I was in a state of shock.
Dislike would be deadlines. There are so many deadlines beyond the date your manuscript is due. There are deadlines for your synopsis, for substantive edits, for copy edits, for preparing proposed cover copy, for marketing promotions and so forth. It can become overwhelming, especially when you’re working on a new book and doing edits on the last one.
What I like most is the research and plotting of my books. I could research forever and that’s not a good thing when you have those deadlines I don’t like. ☺
What is the role and importance of an agent?
I didn’t use an agent for many years, but that was before the days of e-books and so many changes in the publishing world. I rely upon my agent for everything—from shopping my work to publishers to talking me through problems with a difficult plot. Every agent is different, and I think authors should thoroughly interview an agent before signing with them. Having an agent who understands you and your writing is imperative, so making the right choice is one of the most important decisions a writer makes—at least in my opinion.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Study the craft and before you submit to an agent or editor, make certain your work is ready for the close scrutiny it will receive.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
The Brickmaker’s Bride contains love, mystery, family dysfunction, history, and strong characters who will reveal the heartaches and blessings of post-civil war history in West Virginia.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
I’m finishing The Potter’s Lady, the second book in the Refined by Love series, and then will begin the third book, The Artisan’s Wife.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
My books are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.com and your favorite Christian bookstore.