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Interview With Judith Miller

A love of history peppers everything Judith Miller writes, including more than two dozen books and novellas, as well as a juvenile fiction book. Behind her success, however, Judith remembers that very first story, the friend who helped her get started, and the constant hand of God leading her every step since.

Judith, you’ve enjoyed great success as a writer. Congratulations! And yet I know you still remember the unique challenges facing new writers. What was your biggest challenge as a new writer, and what helped you the most during those early years?

I truly did not realize the many steps involved in the writing process, the fact that you must juggle a variety of tasks while remaining creative and on schedule with your writing goals. That holds true even today. Authors do more self-promotion than they did years ago and everything we do in the marketing/promotion arena takes time away from creating story and honing our writing skills. When an author is first published, the story is usually completed and there may even be a story or two tucked away in the desk to help us keep up with the deadlines. Learning balance in the writing life would count as the biggest challenge I faced back then as well as in the present.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
There are two things. First: My husband got tired of listening to me talk about the first story that was dancing around in my head and challenged me to quit talking about the story and write it. I took up his challenge, and that was the beginning for me.

Second: Meeting and forming an abiding friendship with Tracie Peterson. In addition to assisting me along the road to publication, we developed a deep friendship and continue to co-author some of our books.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
It’s funny you should ask this question since I mentioned balance was the greatest challenge I had faced as a new writer and as an established writer, as well. I do my best to keep a schedule, especially when I’m on deadline. I’m more creative in the morning so I use the morning for writing and the afternoon for things related to the other aspects of writing. In addition, I set daily writing goals for myself so that I can keep myself on schedule.

Unfortunately, life sometimes interferes with all of those plans and schedules that we make for ourselves. When that happens, I have to flip my schedule and write in the evening. If I’ve agreed to an interview or to read a book for endorsement, I’ve discovered I can work on those tasks while sitting in a doctor’s office or while I’m on the road—at least during the time when I’m not at the wheel. It becomes a matter of seizing and maximizing every opportunity to complete your work so that you don’t end up overlooking important time with God and family.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I grew up in a Christian home so faith has always been a part of my life. It is my goal to have Christ as the centerfold of my stories and I find that my life experiences have given me deeper insight into how I can reflect the joy of the Christian life in my stories. We learn so much as we journey through life. Some of the lessons are much more difficult than others, but if we’ll open the door to our heart, those experiences create a deeper relationship with Christ. I attempt to show some of those lessons as I tell my stories.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
I don’t think I can say one particular moment. The greatest gifts I’ve received have been letters from readers telling me about the impact a book has had upon them. There is no greater blessing than knowing what you’ve written has helped someone grow in their faith or cause an individual to seek a relationship with Jesus.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I’d have to say that it’s just something internal that causes me to write. My writing is a gift from the Lord that I would use even if no one wanted to publish the books. I can’t “not write.” I love the process of bringing stories to the page. My stories come to me more from setting than anything else. My characters become a conglomeration of people who have touched my life in some way.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I would say that it’s probably my use of setting. I am drawn to different and unique settings and those settings become a character in my books. My current setting is the Amana Colonies in Iowa. After one visit, I knew that I had to write stories set in the Colonies. The same is true of Pullman, Illinois, Lowell, Massachusetts, and many other places I’ve written about.

For those who’d like to follow your example and cultivate a greater love of history, would you recommend a couple favorite titles?
For basic reading and to cultivate a love of history, I’d suggest starting with magazines that give you small doses of interesting stories set at different times and places in history. I subscribe to History magazine, American History magazine and Kansas History. These also spark ideas for me that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about. I absolutely love the books that were published by Time-Life and titled This Fabulous Century. I have the books covering 1870 through 1920 and they are fun to read, even if you don’t have an abiding love for history. And the pictures are great, too!

Any parting words?
I am most thankful for the blessing of a writing career that permits me to share my love of the Lord, but I try to keep my writing in perspective and remember that my writing is not who I am. Too often we tend to become caught up in achieving the goal of becoming published when our first goal should be to love the Lord with all our heart and with all our might. We need goals, but we also need to keep our writing goals in proper perspective.

Thanks for sharing with us, Judith!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to visit with you.

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