Judith Miller is the author or co-author of more than thirty novels with many placing on the CBA and/or ECPA bestseller lists. Her avid research and love for history are reflected in all of her novels. When she isn’t researching or writing, Judy enjoys travel, scrapbooking, Bible study, and cooking. Judy and her husband make their home in Topeka, Kansas.
What led you to the career choice of becoming a writer?
I consider my entry into writing a genuine blessing from God. Back in 1990, I lost my job due to some terrible circumstances. The only job I could find required a commute of 60 miles each way. I made that commute with one other lady and on the days when she did the driving, I would read. On the days when I was driving, I was thinking of plots for books. Eventually, those plotting moments and all that reading where I began to learn style and technique resulted in my first book. Even during those horrible long hours when I couldn’t understand why God wasn’t providing me with a job closer to home, he was preparing to give me a magnificent gift. I still marvel at what he has done for me!
Have you had to overcome any obstacles in your writing journey?
I think a lot of writers struggle with the problem of comparing ourselves to other writers—and I’m one of those people. I’ve been working hard to overcome that particular obstacle, because I know each person has a unique voice and God-given unique gift. We aren’t supposed to write like others. However, when I read a beautifully crafted book, I still tend to compare. But, like I said, God’s still working on me! LOL.
What are some of the spiritual themes you like to write about?
I tend to write a lot about lies and trust. Even though it isn’t always my intent to bring forth those particular issues, they seem to work their way into my books—I think because they have been important issues that have affected my life.
Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I’d have to say there’s a little of me in all of them. Somehow, a bit of my personality creeps in and takes over with the most unexpected characters. However, that’s one of the many fun aspects of writing. When your fingers fly over the keys and you know exactly how the character is going to react in any given situation—each little quip that he or she might mutter or the things that will hurt the very most. As an author, I tend to draw on my life experiences to help me see deeper into my characters and how they will feel in any given situation. Of course, I haven’t experienced all of those situations, but we can draw upon our pain and happiness.
Who would you say are your readers?
It’s always difficult to know, but I think the majority are Christians, although I do hear from a few non-Christians. The age of my readers seems to be anywhere between 12-90. I think it’s a wide variety, but primarily female—although I do hear from an occasional man, as well.
And what kinds of things can readers expect from your books?
Readers can expect a unique setting, some interesting history, a love story, and a touch of mystery, all woven within the truth of God’s word.
How do you do the research for your historical books?
I always visit the site—usually several times, and try to establish relationship with historians who can direct me to the best resource material for the specific area I’m writing about. I have been fortunate enough to have several historians who have been willing to read my books for technical advice regarding specific history, and that is always a great help. I read as many non-fiction books, diaries, and other original documents on the history of the people, places and things I’ll be writing about. I also conduct some searches on the internet which can lead to good material, but I was taught long ago that research material should always be substantiated by at least one other source and two other sources is even better—especially if that original information is from the internet.
What are the best and worst things to research and write “Historical Romance”-style?
The best part is the research—I love visiting and researching the people and places I write about. The worst thing is that most of that research is never used because I’m not writing a history book, I’m writing fiction that takes place within an historical setting. As authors of historical fiction, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that the reader isn’t interested in the minutia I’ve uncovered while digging into history books.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished the third book in the Daughters of Amana series, A Bond Never Broken. I’ll soon begin my re-writes on that book and then I’ll be plunging into a new series that I’ll be co-authoring with Tracie Peterson.
What other books of yours are coming out soon?
In February, the first book in the Daughters of Amana released. It is titled Somewhere to Belong. The second book will release in early September and is titled, More Than Words.
What three things do you know now about the publishing world that you wish you knew when you first started?
How to juggle. How to juggle. How to juggle. LOL. I really do mean that! It is extremely difficult to keep all the balls in the air. Once that first book comes out and you’re contracted for several more, you must stop to read galleys, work on rewrites, draft a synopsis for your next book, help with publicity, attend speaking events and book signings. At the same time, you need to remain focused on writing your current book. It can become very difficult to keep yourself organized and on track. I’m not complaining—just explaining.
Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
Yes. For one thing, I don’t have as much time to read. LOL. However, I do find myself reading much more critically than I did before I was writing. I’d say it has taken a bit of enjoyment out of my reading. That said, I still love reading!!!
What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
Study the craft
Be willing to take constructive criticism and use it to advance your skills
Treat everyone with respect and courtesy
If you could recommend only one ‘How To Writing Book’ what would it be?
Only one? Yikes! I suppose it would be Stein on Writing—it is a wonderful guide.
How did you decide on your current project? What have you learned about writing and yourself since you started it?
I am very drawn to different and unique settings. At the urging of a friend, my husband and I visited the Amana Colonies. After spending only a short time in the villages, I knew I wanted to write about the people and their eventual settlement in Iowa. I was delighted when Bethany House agreed that it would be an ideal setting for a series.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I’ve written close to thirty books and/or novellas. Most of them are now listed on my website at http://www.judithmccoymiller.com/
When is your next book coming out and what is the story?
More than Words releases in September. It is book two in the Daughters of Amana series and is set in the village of Homestead in the Amana Colonies. The protagonist loves to write, something that isn’t considered a good use of time in the Colonies. However, she pursues her love of writing and eventually it leads her into a great deal of difficulty with the elders, her family, and the man she loves.
Tell us about Somewhere To Belong. Give us, first, the best thirty-word description, then the longer paragraph version.
In the face of an uncertain future, two young women from two different lifestyles must decide if their restless hearts can find peace in the quiet life of the Amana Colonies.
Johanna Ilg has lived her entire life in Main Amana. But when she learns a troubling secret, the world she thought she knew is shattered. Now she must make difficult choices about a new life and the man she left behind.
Berta Schumacher has lived a privileged life in Chicago, and when her parents decide they want a simpler life in Amana, Iowa, she resists. Under the strictures of the Amana villages, Berta’s rebellion reaches new heights. Will her heart ever be content among the plain people of Amana?
How did you choose your characters’ names?
Most of the people who settle in the Amana Colonies were of German heritage so I used German names. I visited the cemeteries in the Amana Colonies and did some mixing and matching of names. Johanna’s last name is Ilg because I am of German ancestry and Ilg is a family name. I thought it would be fun to use it in the book.
Are there any themes in Somewhere To Belong that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?
I want readers to see that family secrets can be extremely destructive to relationship. It is my hope that any readers who have family secrets will prayerfully consider revealing the truth so that they can be free from the oppression of secrets.
What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?
Well, I loved writing Berta because she is such a feisty little gal. Sometimes, I wanted to wring her neck and other times she made me laugh out loud. In the beginning it’s easy to dislike her, but she eventually worms her way into your heart. LOL.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
That family secrets destroy from within. Although the truth can be painful, it is always the best road to strong relationship.
Introduce your story with the first page of Somewhere To Belong.
Johanna IlgRigid as a barn pole, I stood planted in the parlor doorway with my gaze fixed upon the pink feather-and-plume bedecked hat. Sparkling pins held it atop wavy dark tresses that crimped and coiled. The girl's hair reminded me of the curly leaf lettuce we forced to early growth in our hotbeds each spring. An artificial rose peeked from beneath the curvy brim like a vigilant watchman. Although the visitors to our villages sometimes adorned themselves in outlandish costumes, the hat perched upon this young lady's head surpassed anything I'd ever seen. She appeared rather young to be wearing such an ornate headpiece. Not that I could imagine anyone attaining any age where they thought that hat becoming.
Touching her fingers to the garish chapeau, the girl's lips curved in a patronizing smile. She'd obviously noted my attention. "The latest fashion from England. My parents purchased it for me on their last visit."
Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?
I truly enjoy connecting with readers so if you have any questions, please visit my website and send me an email. I send out occasional newsletters and you are most welcome to sign up for those at the website, as well. If you have books clubs, I enjoy doing telephone interviews to discuss my books with your groups—you need only contact me and I’ll do my best to accommodate your schedule.
Where can we find you on the web?