I met Miralee Ferrell at the 2007 ACFW National Conference this past September and was struck by how friendly and caring she is. When she mentioned that she had a new book coming out and asked if I would be on her blog tour, I gave her an enthusiastic “Yes!”
Miralee is active in her small church, and serves on staff with a ministerial license. She works with women in a counseling and ministering capacity. She and her husband are looking forward to full retirement soon when they’ll take off for a few months at a time on their 51′ sailboat. She’s sure her writing will take on an entirely new creativity as they go on that marvelous journey.
Miralee has a horse, a dog and three cats. She admits to being over 50. She and her husband have been married for 35 years this July, and they have two wonderful children, Marnee and Steven.
Miralee, thank you so much for appearing on my blog. Tell us a little bit about your premiere novel:
My premiere novel is The Other Daughter—the story of David and Susanne Carson, a couple with an already fragile marriage that’s rocked to its foundation when a young teenaged girl appears at the door. It’s women’s contemporary fiction that’s set in the North West, and is being published by Kregel Publications, a well known Christian publishing house.
What a compelling topic! What gave you the inspiration for this story?
Great question and one has a very personal answer. I was brainstorming with a friend who suggested I use an experience from my life as the basis or theme for my first novel. I ran through several scenarios in my head, as we’ve had many interesting things happen in our marriage…some great, some not. This personal incident did indeed capture the essense of secrets, forgiveness and healing…not as much in my life as in our marriage and the life of an 18 yr old girl. About 17 yrs ago my husband received a letter stating a young woman believed him to be her biological father she’d never met. We agreed to meet and hear her story, and after some investigation came to believe he probably was her dad. The episode was similar to that of David in the book…a one night stand prior to his becoming a Christian, but that’s where the similarity stops. He was not dating me at the time, and I had a strong relationship with the Lord and didn’t have a problem accepting Trish into our lives.
How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Susanne and David? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?
David’s character and responses are much more me than my husband, and the way Susanne deals with stress depicted my husband in the earlier years of marriage. He struggled with alcohol and ‘kicked against the pricks’ to use a biblical term….or just plain fought against anyone’s authority being above his, including God. That’s since changed and our marriage is strong and stable, but it wasn’t always. We did have a divided household where the aspect of our faith was involved and many times it was tough. Very tough. Some of David’s frustrations with Susanne and her way of dealing with life came from my memories of the same type of circumstances.
Secrets, forgiveness, and healing – what great topics for a novel! So, what was your reaction to the news that your first baby had been purchased?
Stunned and a bit worried at first. I know that sounds strange and I should’ve been bouncing around the house, but my first thought was, Oh no! They read the old version and I’ve made all these changes! What if they don’t like what I’ve done and want to keep the old one? I knew the new version was much stronger, as did the editor I’d been working with on the first 1/3 of the book, so I prayed and my agent asked Dennis, my soon to be publisher, if they’d take a look at the changes. They did, they liked what they saw, and the offer extended to the new book. THEN reality set in and the explosion of joy and incredulity hit me. It took several weeks before I really took in that it was sold.
How long did it take you to write the book, from the first spark of an idea to delivering the manuscript to a publisher?
The rough draft flew out of my head and onto my computer….5 weeks from the first word to the last, of an almost 100,000 word document. It was one year later that I submitted to several houses for consideration, and part of that time was spent hunting an agent and sending it out to a couple of houses on my own, prior to signing with Hartline Agency.
You wrote your rough draft in just five weeks? That’s great! So, how much time do you devote to writing on a daily basis?
I always cringe when someone asks this question!! I know writers are supposed to write EVERY DAY….but I just can’t. My life is pretty crazy most of the time. We spent the last full year building a new home, with the final four months mostly on our shoulders, as we did almost all of the interior finish work and it’s a custom home. Since we moved in, we’ve been trying to get a yard and flower beds in, get a son married off, attended ACFW conference….the list goes on. When I do write, I make it count. I normally write 1,500 to 3,000 words in a sitting, sometimes more. But much of my time is spent on other types of writing…the promotional part, which eats a lot of my time at the computer.
I understand that, and I’m not even published – yet. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?
The most difficult parts were the revising. I didn’t really experience any struggles in the initial writing…it flew from my fingers and mind onto the computer screen as fast as I was able to type. I did the initial rough draft in five weeks, but the revising and editing and additional scenes took several times that long, as I had so much to learn. I found it difficult to tone down a couple of people who needed to be rude and or snotty, but also had to do so in a believable way. My first attempt was very sad….they were straight out of a Grade B movie, LOL!
My favorite parts I think, were developing the characters….especially the children and Grandfather. They came alive for me. Of course, the two younger kids, Josh and Megan, were very similar to my kids, Steven and Marnee at that age, so they sprang to life with little effort. There are no similarities to anyone else real besides those two people, and David and Susanne. But characterization comes easy to me, regardless and my greatest joy is working to develop characters the reader will feel they know. That’s what I look for in a book and what I’m trying to give to my readers.
Yes, making the reader care for my characters is my goal, too. Any advice for those of us who are still dreaming of that first sale?
I know what I wish I would’ve had, when I started out. Critique partners…they are invaluable. I didn’t belong to a group until well into the writing of the second book in my series. Through ACFW I was able to get connected and our small group of four is a perfect fit for each of us.
Don’t be too shy to ask for help and don’t be too proud to take constructive criticism of your work, when it’s offered. You don’t have to change everything that’s suggested, but if more than one person points out something wrong, take it seriously and be willing to learn. And most of all, don’t give up. If you believe that God has given you the gift or desire to write, then be obedient, even if it’s never published. When I started out, I thought the best I’d attain would be publication in magazines….having a book published didn’t seem possible. The Lord gave me this story and it needed to be written, and the rest was up to Him. My responsibility was to write it, then keep moving forward in whatever direction He pointed out.
What else are you working on?
I’m working on Past Shadows (might also be called “Sheltered”), the sequel to The Other Daughter, and hope to have it ready to turn in to my editor in early November. I’ve also started something new for me, an 1880’s novel set in Washington state…I’m hesitating to say it’s a romance, but it looks like it might be heading that direction. I’m playing around with another idea for a stand-alone women’s contemporary with an unusual twist. I’m hoping to start it as soon as Past Shadows is finished. There could also be a #3 in this series, and if so, we’ll return to Brianna, the 13 yr old girl who arrives at the Carson’s door…at the age of 23.
How can we pray for you on the next stage of your writing life?
I so need to be able to stay focused on my writing. Life has a way of distracting me and steering me off my intended writing course. We’ve just completed a year long project of building a new home and are in the process of moving in, so I’m hoping things will settle down and I can get back to some serious keyboard time soon.
Also, at the time of this writing, I’m awaiting the verdict from a major motion picture studio concerning the acquisition of my book as a potential family movie. The studio rep read the book, stated she really liked it and felt it had a strong plot and very memorable characters. She requested a lengthy summary of the book showing how I would soften the faith elements to make it acceptable for a family, rather than Christian, movie, as their studio is not faith based. I’ve done so and she’ll be reviewing the summary over the next few weeks. This isn’t something I or my agent sought—the studio rep came to us when she saw a short summary of the book in a publishers newsletter—so I’m not counting on it or expecting anything at this point. It’s in the Lord’s hands and I’m trusting Him that if He wants to use the book to touch lives in the secular world by making it into a family movie, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too….my book is being published, which is more than I dreamed would happen two years ago.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Keep your priorities in order…God first, family next, ministry and others (including your writing) third. Write for the Lord, and yourself, rather than to be published. It will cut way down on the disappointment and frustration level, and bring a deep sense of joy and accomplishment.
How true. Miralee, thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll be praying for you and your journey! Be sure to check out Miralee’s blog and video trailer on GodTube!