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A Novel Journey - Sherry Ann Miller

I'm so pleased today to be interviewing author Sherry Ann Miller, an optimist by choice, a genealogist by addiction and a writer by genetic composition.

Her writing credits include eight published novels (soon to be eleven), several full-scale musical productions (most of which she also directed), five published family histories, numerous one-act plays and road shows, and three screenplays (two were semi-finalists in national competitions, and one was optioned). In 2004, my novel, An Angel's Gift, placed first in the prestigious Write Touch Readers' Award, which also tied for first place in the national Beacon Awards for Published Authors. Learn more about her at her website.

Now, let's get straight to the interview:

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

The Refiner's Gift, fifth and final installment in my award-winning Gift Series, will debut late this fall or early winter. This will be Tom Sparkleman's story, and how he overcomes his problems that were presented in book one, and mentioned in books three and four. It has been a long season (over ten years) since the first book in the Gift Series was conceived, and I have had mixed emotions about its conclusion all year. How can I possibly bring the series to an end? It's a part of me, the characters have become almost real, and I will miss them. But, who else is left in the Clark and Sparkleman clans to write about? The answer is simple: No one is left without a story, unless it would be Will and Melanie, who are married with children, and who hadn't been included in their own story. It may be that a story will come to me regarding Will and Melanie at some future date, but that is pure speculation. As of this moment, The Refiner's Gift is the concluding story.

Within the pages of The Refiner's gift, we are reminded that Tom Sparkleman confessed to a brutal crime eight years ago, and he has been paying the price ever since. Parents shun him and women want nothing to do with him. As Tom agonizes over questions in his mind and heart, he asks the Lord, Am I still a child of God? Is there no miracle in store for me? Then, a raging flash flood sweeps Tom’s tainted world aside . . . setting in motion events that will shape the man Tom is yet to become, and he is astounded at just how much the Refiner is truly mindful of him. In The Refiner’s Gift, Tom learns God carries each of us during our most difficult trials, while giving us courage and strength to carry the burdens of others.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I had been writing for thirty years. In February, 2000, when the telephone call came from President Jeff Lambson at Granite, I was totally blown away, and couldn't believe it until the contract actually arrived in the mail.

Do you still experience self-doubt regarding your work?

Of course, but I think this helps me be more thorough in my editing.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

In the late 70's and early 80's, my writing was deplorable. I still can't believe I submitted some of that junk. No wonder I was rejected so often back then.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Your manuscript will never sell while collecting dust on a shelf in your home.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

"The world wants erotic romance." and "Inspirational Romance is not a genre, it's a mistake to write it because it will never sell well in America." This advice was given at a RWA Conference back in the 80's aboard the Queen Mary. Rubbish! thought I. Twenty years later, America is embracing inspirational fiction and it is spreading like wildfire.

What is something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

How to write well . . . and how to keep the reader turning every page.

Is there a particularly difficult set back you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

Discouragement settled into my writer's mind in the mid 80's until 1997 when Elder Russell M. Nelson wrote to me: "You are an excellent writer." I was immediately struck with the idea that if an apostle of the Lord could tell me that, what did the editors who had rejected me so often know, anyway! I began writing One Last Gift, edited it until I was blue in the face, then sent it out to LDS publishers. Two years later, Granite picked it up, and it is still one of my top sellers.

What are a few of your favorite books?

I'm a Harry Potter fan. I like to study the way J.K.Rowling writes, and I am beginning to experiment with middle-grade readers' fiction.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

The Warwick Saga. When I went searching for my 10th great-grandfather, John Dutton, I came across bits of info about a man named John Dunton from the same time period. I wondered if they could be one and the same because I had seen so many variations on the spelling of Dutton. I searched all up and down the East Coast, until I found a small book at the Norfolk, Virginia, Maritime Archives. The book was titled, A Journal of the Sally Fleet, and was written by John Dunton, master mariner. Disappointed flooded over me when I realized from John Dunton's journal that he could not possibly have been my tenth great-grandfather, but his story fascinated me, and I did an enormous amount of research on him, and finally came to the conclusion that his story had to be told. Seeing his story come to life in the pages of Search for the Bark Warwick brought so much joy to me. In real life, his story is unknown beyond the concluding chapter in my book, so I had to completely fabricate a happy ending for him, and that account, found in the sequel and concluding story, Search for the Warwick II, made The Warwick Saga complete. What a great sense of joy and accomplishment this gave me!

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with the business?

I wish it was possible for the author to devote all his/her time to writing, and not so much to marketing. I am not a great marketer, and I am self-conscious at booksignings, etc. It would be wonderful if someone could take over the marketing for me, and just let me keep on writing.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.

When I begin a novel, I notify my friends, family and hubby that I will be on a writing retreat for a couple of weeks. They have learned this means I don't want phone calls, emails, or any disruptions during that period of time. Then, I sit in my recliner, my laptop in hand, and I write the entire story from beginning to end. I write feverishly, from dawn to long after dusk, stopping only on Sundays. When the first rough draft is completely written, I put it aside for a few weeks, notify my family and friends that I am again available. I clean my house, work in my garden, and allow my mind to come down out of the story. Then, I begin the rewrites. Rewriting is a gargantuan effort. I rip here, shred there, color here, enhance there. All together, I image I do about ten to twelve complete rewrites. When this is done, I send two clean copies off to my established editors and await their feedback. One editor is kind, and very good at spotting typos, etc. The other editor is brutal and I rarely find many pages which is not edited viciously. Between these two, I get back on the computer and go through all their changes. If I agree with them, of course I make the change. If I disagree, I spend some time consulting grammar books, dictionaries, thesauruses, and research until I decide whether their editing point is valid or not. When I've finished with this process, I send the ms. off to my publisher, who has ninety days to read it and make a decision whether or not they will publish it. So far, they have published nearly everything I've sent them. Only one ms. has been "set aside" for rewriting in the future, and now that it's been several years since I wrote it, I'm so glad that they did ask me to rewrite it. When I finally do get back to it, I will have a clearer vision of where to go with it.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I'm beginning a middle-grade readers' series that my publisher has already agreed to publish, and I am hopeful it will be successful, but most of all . . . that it will help children believe in their dreams.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

I did quit. Between 1985 and 1997 I wrote nothing of consequence except two musical productions. But, fiction . . . I quit entirely until Apostle Russell M. Nelson spun me around.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Escaping into a world of my own creation is so much fun! I can sing, soar, sail, scuba, parasail, and do just about anything I want to do . . . in my mind. My least favorite is rewriting the first rough draft. It's tedious, time-consuming, but so important.

How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?

Not enough. No, but I'm open to suggestions.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

I have two of them, actually, which continue to encourage me to write.

A dear woman named Karen wrote:
"I loved Charity's Gift. It has alot of vivid imagery, and I could picture myself in the islands having the same experiences as Charity did. I have read all of the novels in the Gift Series and very much enjoyed them. What I love about Sherry Ann's writing is that it shows how ordinary people overcome very challenging situations through faith and hard work. Her novels are very inspiring. On a side note, I was able to meet Sherry Ann in December. It was a great experience, and I was impressed with her strong conviction in the power of faith to bring about miracles."
Also, my daughter, Tracie Holbrook, who read The Refiner's Gift early on, and claims she has been struggling her way back into the Gospel wrote a reader's comment for the back cover. Remarkably, she is much closer to the Lord than she realizes:
"Most of us go through life taking everything for granted. Every breath we take and every speck of dust we see is an affirmation of miracles all around us, and they should be cherished to the fullest. Sherry Ann Miller helps us open our eyes and see what we’re missing in her latest miracle, The Refiner’s Gift. Whether it’s the serenity of sunrise or the majesty of childbirth, it’s time to believe in miracles." ~Tracie Holbrook
Parting words?

Never give up on yourself. I did that for over 12 years and wasted an important part of my life. Now, I finally know what I'm supposed to be doing, and I strive each day to accomplish some of it, regardless the many obstacles I face.

Thanks for this opportunity, Candace.

Hugs,
Sherry Ann Miller

And so ends this interview with the incomparable author, Sherry Ann Miller. Please be sure to check out her website and to also cruise Amazon for her books.

A Novel Journey - Sherry Ann Miller A Novel Journey - Sherry Ann Miller Reviewed by Candace Salima on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 Rating: 5