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Interview with Dineen Miller

Many of us in ACFW know Dineen as the coordinator of the ACFW Author Interview feature. It’s particularly exciting to see the publication of her marvelous new book The Soul Saver, which was released on May 1. Not many of us are brave enough to tackle spiritual warfare so directly—or do it so well. Don’t pick up The Soul Saver until you have plenty of time, because you won’t want to put it down!

Dineen, I’ve rarely read a book excerpt that drew me in as quickly as The Soul Saver. What a fascinating premise for a novel! Would you give readers a little summary of the plot and what inspired you to write it?

Sure! Lexie Baltimore is a gifted sculptor but what most people don’t know about her is that God uses this gift to guide her to people who need help or hope. She wakes in the night with images of the location God will send her to and then feels compelled to go to her studio and sculpt the face of the person she’ll soon meet. She’s also spiritually mismatched so this area of her faith is something she holds close because her husband is an atheist. And here lies the heart of her struggle and frustration—the one face she’s desperate to sculpt is her husband’s. He’s the one person she can’t seem to reach.

What she doesn’t know is that the enemy has hatched a plot to take her down because she’s the only godly influence on her husband. That’s a threat and he’s determined to keep Lexie’s husband in the dark. She’s fighting not only for her marriage but also for her husband’s soul.

My inspiration came from my own life and all the Lexies out there. I’m part of a ministry for the spiritually mismatched ( and spiritual warfare is a daily part of these types of marriage. I wanted to write a book to show this struggle and to bring to light that both equally and unequally matched marriages have a very real and common enemy determined to destroy something God designed to bring us closer to Him.

Your main character, Lexie Baltimore, has an unusually clear belief in her Heavenly Father. When she meets Nate, and he asks her what she does, she responds simply, “I work for God.” What made you decide to portray her in this way?
Lexie is completely sold out in serving God. She sees it as her calling but at this point in the story, she’s feeling the weight of this calling more than the blessing. As I mentioned, the one person she wants to lead to God the most she can’t. Part of her journey is finding her footing again in her faith and her marriage.

How do you find the helpful feedback you need while you are drafting a book? Do you participate in a writing group?
I have three critique partners that I have walked with for almost seven years now. Seven? Let me count that again on my fingers...yep, seven years! We’ve basically grown up together in the pub industry. I also have a local group I meet with once a month. We don’t critique, we just talk shop and encourage each other. And this year I’m blessed with a new fourth crit partner who is a blast to work with. So, I feel very blessed to have had and still have great people to work with along the way.

The Soul Saver is a debut effort for you in the realm of fiction. What was the path to publication like for this excellent new book?
Nearly impossible! When I started the story I knew that Lexie and Hugh had lost their little girl to brain tumor and that Hugh was a physics professor at Stanford. I had that backstory, a few chapters, and a one sheet to take with me for the 2008 ACFW conference. About two weeks after I returned, we found out my youngest daughter, then 14, had a malignant brain tumor. And a physics professor at Stanford would design her radiation treatments so they wouldn’t have to radiate her entire brain and eyes. That and the miracles that brought her to a complete recovery still give me God-bumps! So I basically wrote it during the year of my daughter’s diagnosis, surgeries and treatment. That was the first major hurdle.

The second was finding the right house and I began to wonder if we ever would. Lots of rejections. At one point I thought we (my agent and I) had found a home for Lexie’s story. But then the rejection came—a rejection that pretty much gutted the whole theme to my story. I was ready to give up. Instead I gave the book to God, asked Him to remove my desire to write fiction if I wasn’t meant to be published. I’d stick to nonfiction, thank you very much. (grin)

Then He went and opened a door in what I thought would be the least likely of places. I’m so grateful to Barbour because they not only wanted The Soul Saver, they understood the connection to my ministry to the spiritually mismatched and supported it.

Many readers will also be familiar with your non-fiction. You are a well-known writer and speaker in the area of spiritually mismatched marriage. Please tell us about that other hat you wear, and how it connects to this novel.
I love being part of the Spiritually Unequal Marriage ministry. Lynn Donovan started the site in 2006, and I came on board shortly thereafter. We’ve been writing together every since. In 2009 our book, Winning Him Without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Mismatched Marriage released from Regal, who has been tireless in supporting our ministry and our book. We’ve watched this small online ministry, which at the start had a readership of about 98% women grow into an amazing community of still mostly women but now we have a male readership of about 11% as well as resources for both men and women. We’ve also had the huge blessing to be on Focus on the Family Radio earlier this year so our message is really getting out there. Yes, we can thrive in our mismatched marriages!

I wrote The Soul Saver to actually partner with Winning Him. I love how Fireproof and The Love Dare worked together and thought why not write a story to show the struggles and spiritual warfare that are inherent in these kinds of marriages. And then use some of the principles we share in Winning Him as part of Lexie’s journey. I had a blast unveiling The Soul Saver to our S.U.M community. The book is dedicated to them—to all the Lexies out there.

You contribute to or manage a number of blogs or websites. The old question arises—how do you have time to accomplish it all? How can writing and a busy daily life like yours co-exist? What’s your secret?
Lots of prayer! I’ve actually had to step away from some of those extras this year. Our ministry has exploded and that takes more time to keep up with our blog, reader comments and private emails asking for advice and prayers. Every comment and email we get is important, a heart that needs comfort and encouragement. Plus we are speaking more.

That coupled with marketing eats a lot of time. I finally had to create a schedule I could keep. Basically, I do all the ministry and marketing stuff on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays I go to a coffee shop and write! That’s pretty much all I do those days besides keep up with email. For now it works.

If a pre-published author were to come to you and ask for advice, what might you tell them about writing and the writer’s life?
It takes a lot of work and even more commitment because it can be a journey of highs and lows like I’ve never seen. Take your time. Don’t be in a hurry to get published. Take the time to really study the craft before pursuing publication. I know I was in such a hurry and wish I’d spent more time learning.

Also, trust God and seek Him constantly for every part of it. My faith has played a huge part in my perseverance because when you think about it, we have the honor of speaking truth into people’s lives and hearts, whether subtly or overtly, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. That’s a high calling and not an easy one when you consider we have an enemy in this world who is bent on keeping us ineffective or in darkness. Our hearts and our motivations for doing what we do need to be about the people we reach and not about our own vain glory.

What is next for you, Dineen? Any more books on the horizon?
My first novella comes out in August. A Love Meant to Be is part of the Rendezvous at Central Park collection. I had the honor of working with Ronie Kendig, MaryLu Tyndall and Kim Sawyer on this project. These stories are based on 1 Cor. 13, that love never fails, and they span from the Civil War, to WWII, to Vietnam, to present day Afghanistan. These settings are our backgrounds and the stories tell of "four heroes who risk their hearts once more for a timeless love."

A Love Meant to Be is partially set during Vietnam and then in the present. I wrote it for my father who was a man of great courage and faith in Vietnam and in his life.

Thanks for talking with us, Dineen!
My pleasure! I know I wouldn’t be where I am if not for ACFW. I love this organization and its people. I love how we can all be so unique yet united in common purpose to write stories that inspire and entertain. Is that not cool or what?!?!

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