Amber Miller is an author and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband in beautiful Colorado Springs. They don’t have any children yet, but they do have a vivacious puppy named Roxie, who is half Border Collie and half Flat-Haired Retriever. Amber has sold four books to the Heartsong Presents line of Barbour Publishing with the promise of two more before the end of the year. She is currently pursuing an expansion into trade-length historical fiction as well. Other writing credits include several writing articles for various publications, five short stories with Romancing the Christian Heart, and nine contributions to the book, 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage. A born-again Christian since the age of seven, her faith in Christ has often sustained her through difficult experiences. She seeks to share that with others through her writing.
Read more about her and order her books at her web site: www.ambermiller.com
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Beth: Tell us about your life, where you grew up, your interests and hobbies.
Amber: I was born in a small suburb of Washington, D.C. with roots in Virginia and Kentucky as well as Pennsylvania, but I spent most of my life living in Delaware until most recently when I got married and moved to the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado. From an early age, I’ve always loved to read and tell stories, but I also love traveling, photography, horses, movies and music.
Beth: Tell us about your writing journey. Did you always want to be a writer?
Amber: As I stated above, I always loved telling stories, and I was actually quite good at keeping a captive audience. I wrote often, but it wasn’t until I was a Senior in high school that I got the ‘bug’ to write. My English teacher saw potential, and as an author herself, she encouraged me to pursue the talent further. However, I became focused on getting my degree in education to become a teacher for the next 4 years, and although I still wrote, my pursuit of a writing career took a back burner. During college, I discovered fan fiction. Bolstered by the feedback from the stories I wrote for the venue and encouraged by Tracie Peterson to join ACFW (then ACRW), I changed courses and began working on my craft. I bought writing books, studied a variety of fiction, conversed with other authors and writers, attended conferences and soaked in as much information as I could handle. Four years after beginning that pursuit, I sold my first book.
Beth: Who has influenced you most as a writer and why?
Amber: Number one on my list would be Tracie Peterson. I could relate to her characters and loved learning a bit of history through her books. She has a simplistic but meaningful way of writing that appeals to me, and I’ve even been told that my style reminds one or two readers of Tracie. What a high compliment! A close second would be Linda Windsor, who helped me whip my first book into shape and prepare it for publication. She stood by me and cracked the whip over my head, pointed out the inconsistencies and pet mistakes I continued to make, then explained why something would work or wouldn’t and showed me how to change it. I learned so much from her that I’ve been able to apply it to my future books.
Beth: What is your favorite movie? Favorite book?
Amber: The movie would have to be a tie between Somewhere in Time and The Sound of Music. Loving moves the way I do, there are many, but those are at the top. Favorite book is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, but I also love the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis in the classic realm.
Beth: Can you share about your newest release?
Amber: It is the first in a 3-book series that will be repackaged in 2009 as “Delaware Brides.” These books are part of Heartsong Presents’ State Series, and I am covering the historical beginnings of the little, but significant state during the Colonial period. Here is a synopsis: Gustaf Rutledge, a gruff farmer, recently made a business-like proposal for the hand of the neighbor’s daughter because he wanted the land. Stinging from Raelene Strattford’s rejection, he plans to relocate. When he finds Raelene’s parents injured in a wagon accident, he promises her father he’ll take care of her. Seventeen-year-old Raelene makes a deathbed promise to her father to fulfill her parents’ dream: to turn the untamed acreage into a successful farm. Circumstances force Gustaf and Raelene to work together, but pride and grief blind them to the plan God has for their lives. The savage land is not all that needs to be tamed. Will they find common ground at the foot of the cross, or will they lose it all, including a chance at love?
The back cover copy, cover and brief excerpt is available on my web site.
Beth: What is your creative process for writing your romance novels?
Amber: For the most part, it’s transfer the ideas in my head to paper in whatever order they come. I do not plot my stories in great detail. I begin with a basic framework and fill in the details as I go. It becomes more of an adventure for me as I journey with my characters from beginning to end and grow along with them. I’ve now written almost 5 books and I could never tell you how any of them would end until I finished them. For research, if I come to a point that requires it, I make a note and come back later to fill in the accurate information. That way, I don’t interrupt whatever flow I might have at the time. If I get stuck, I usually skip it and work on another scene, or go do some research, then return later. Oftentimes, having a future scene completed gives me the inspiration I need to connect what I’ve already written to what I have upcoming, and that blocked scene becomes unblocked.
Beth: Do you have any advice for those of us hoping to write for HP’s romance club?
Amber: Read the books. Study them. Familiarize yourself with the style and guidelines. Know what works and what doesn’t and what the readers have come to expect. Join the club if necessary so that you keep up with reader feedback and changes in the stories. Talk to other HP authors and find out what they suggest as well.
Beth: What is the message you hope to get across in this story?
Amber: The primary theme is that no matter how bleak the circumstances, God will never abandon or forsake you. Even when life throws all sorts of road blocks your way and it seems like you have nothing left, there will always be hope just down the road. You have to keep looking forward and maintain your faith.
Beth: Do you tend to see the same Christian themes in your books and what are they?
Amber: Not at all. In fact, the themes change with each story and character grouping. Because I don’t plot in detail ahead of time, my characters often bring about the themes through their experiences. There are times when I don’t know the theme until I’m done writing the book. I might set out with a theme in mind, but it doesn’t always stay that way by the end.
Beth: What does your typical day look like?
Amber: Well, since I also work part-time and run a web design business from home, I don’t have a standard writing day, per se…unless I’m on a deadline, of course! Then, almost everything else takes a back seat or back burner. However, I rise with my husband and send him off to work, then I sit down at my computer and go through any email, respond and take care of business, make any updates to client web sites or
Beth: What do you believe is the most important thing an author can do to catch an editor’s eye?
Amber: Don’t approach them in the bathroom and try to pitch your idea or hand them your manuscript! LOL! Seriously, though, study the books their house publishes, know what they are looking to find, ask questions of them or of other authors already published with their house, and present yourself in a professional manner so that they are interested in you as well as what you write. As an agent told me just last year, editors are often looking to connect with you as a person as much as they are with your writing. After all, the marketing department can’t just sell a book. The author goes with the book, and it’s easier to market a book if the author is approachable as well as willing to assist in the marketing. Establish your web presence and start the word-of-mouth beforehand to get potential readers interested. Anything you can do to make the publishing house’s job easier, go for it. Gone are the days when an author submits a book and sits back while the publisher does all the work. So, work on your presentation to people at the same time you work on your writing skills.
Beth: What would you say was the toughest part of the writing craft for you to learn? Any tips for others who struggle with this same element?
Amber: That would have to be recognizing my pet mistakes and learning what to do to correct them and not make them again. Thankfully, the general issues like point-of-view or showing vs. telling didn’t present as much trouble as they do for a lot of beginning writers. For me, it’s often the lack of description of the surroundings and setting the scene that caused holes in my stories. Dialogue always came easy as did the progression of a scene. But establishing unique descriptions or characteristics for my characters to make them individuals in their own right and not cookie-cutter or two-dimensional continued to vex me. So, I went back to studying other fiction books to see how other authors did it. I also asked Linda to point out to me areas where I could develop a character more and to give me an example of one scene before and after. The Writer’s Digest books on Characters, Description and Setting also were of great help to me. Other than that, I sent my manuscript or troubling scenes to readers and asked them to make comments on what worked or didn’t work for them. Once I got that feedback back, I read it over, then stepped away for a day or two from my book to digest it. When I returned, I had a fresher outlook and perspective that enabled me to do what was needed. Sometimes, it was a small fix, and other times it required multiple alterations throughout the book.
Beth: Any marketing tips?
Amber: Register your domain name now and set up a web site or blog, even if it’s just one page. If you’re serious about writing, you should have a web presence set up yesterday. This will give readers a chance to connect with you and learn about your. It’s proven that readers who know more about an author are more likely to pick up a book by him/her than an author that remains virtually invisible. You can do it yourself with the free resources out there, or hire a professional. It can be simple or it can be elaborate based upon your goals. Create a page of links or add links to a page of other information for other sites related to what you do (other authors, writing organizations, resources you’ve used, etc.). This will give visitors other sites to visit and connect your site to others. Visit those sites yourself and see if they will add a link to your site too. You also want to add your web site URL to your signature and everything you write. Get business cards, brochures, flyers, etc., printed with your web site, contact information and what you do. Visit and comment on blogs or online journal sites that are connected to what you write and leave your web site URL in your comment. Other readers who might be interested in what you have to say will visit your site and check out what you have. You’ll also want to become familiar with the bookstores in your area. Once you sell a book, start developing a relationship with the manager and employees or the ones in charge of author publicity and promotion.
Bottom line: Do as much as you can yourself. The more you can do, the better your chances are for selling more books.
Beth: Closing thoughts you’d like to share?
Amber: Writing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of hard work, determination, patience, perseverance and faith. And it won’t happen overnight. You have to maintain a teachable spirit and be open to constructive criticism, no matter how far along in your writing journey you get. In the end, the rewards far outweigh all the sweat and tears you shed along the way. Most importantly, if you feel this is the path for you, never give up!