Miralee and her husband Allen have been married 37 yrs and have two married children. They live on 11 acres in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge in Washington State, where they love to garden, play with their dogs, take walks, ride horses, and go sailing. You can learn more about Miralee and her books by visiting http://www.miraleeferrell.com/ or her Facebook profile at www.facebook.com/miralee.
Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?
I don’t think the idea of writing ever crossed my mind as child. My older sister and our two best friends played many make-believe games, including creating story worlds we lived in, but it didn’t translate in my thoughts into the writing arena. I didn’t have any aspiration until I hit my early teens when I decided I wanted to be an airline stewardess, as they were called then. Little did I know (having never flown) that I would NOT enjoy flying—especially the take-off and landing—in the big jets, LOL!
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
I started writing short stories based on real events in my life during the summer of 2005, and sold those within a few months. That fall I wrote my debut novel, The Other Daughter, and started shopping it (after revising several times) the following spring (2006). It sold to Kregel that fall, and released one year later in Oct. 2007. It’s been pretty much non-stop since then, with four more novels following that one, and another later this year.
Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?
It’s so important to hone your skills by working with others. Yes, research, craft books, and conferences are important, but learning from other writers more advanced than you is invaluable. If you aren’t already in a strong critique group, do your best to get plugged into one. I’ve learned so much from my crit partners, and hopefully, I’ve also added to their knowledge and helped polish their writing as well.
Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
We’ve always owned animals…dogs, cats, horses, and for a number of years, two cougars (my husband’s project—read more details on my website). The dogs have always been larger breeds, particularly German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, and a couple of Lab crosses. I never thought I’d want a small breed. But guess what’s asleep on my lap as I write this—a 6 lb Chihuhua—a medium haired, fluffy little thing that I absolutely LOVE. Her name is Lacey, she’s not yappy or high-strung, she’s loving, cute and FUN! And of course, she thinks she’s pretty much in charge of the house, LOL!
Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?
Yes, I do, and I assume that will be an ongoing event, but it is different from when I started. Those rejections were based on my writing—it wasn’t strong enough or polished enough, even though the story caught editors’ attention. Now, the writing is rarely the issue—rather it’s typically that they’ve filled their quota for the type of story I’ve sent, it doesn’t fit their needs, or they don’t see it selling well enough to take the risk. They can love your writing or voice but still turn a proposal down—being multi published doesn’t assure you of a contract, unfortunately!
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona is my favorite so far of my historical romances, and I’d have to say it’s due to the theme of God’s redeeming love woven through the book, as well as the strong characters that bring the story to life. I was thrilled to get to use a secondary character from Love Finds You in Last Chance, California, Christy Grey, and give Christy her own book. It’s set in the old west in a town many of us are familiar with due to the movie of that name, Tombstone, made famous by Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell. Here’s what the reader will see on the back of the book.
Love and second chances aren’t easy to come by in a town named Tombstone.
When Christy Grey receives an urgent summons to Tombstone, Arizona, she reluctantly leaves her new life in California. The trip goes from bad to worse when masked men hold up Christy’s stage. She finally arrives in Tombstone to find her mother ill and her brother trapped in a life of gambling. Desperate for money to support her family, will Christy bow to pressure from the local saloon owners and return to the life she thought she’d given up for good?
Nevada King has problems of his own. He’s been dodging bullets for years and wants nothing more than to settle down. But he’s on the run from outlaws bent on revenge, and the one woman who captures his interest recognizes him from the stagecoach holdup. Will Christy turn Nevada in to the authorities, or will the outlaws on his trail catch him first?
If you could only share one line from Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona, which one would you choose and why?
I hope it’s ok to go a little beyond one line—it’s tough to take one out of context. This is from Sara, a girl who works in a saloon, talking to our heroine, Christy.
“I’m dirty, like an old dishrag left to mold next to the slop bucket. God won’t take notice of me.”
“But that’s where you’re wrong.” Excitement colored Christy’s voice, and she leaned forward, tucking a strand of hair behind Sara’s ear… (skip forward)….
“Sara, none of us are perfect, but God loves us the way we are. He’s the only one who can change us.” Christy suddenly realized all the words she’d spoken to Sara were actually directed at herself. All these years she’d thought she had to be perfect to accept God’s love.
Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona, that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?
I’ve done that often in the past—especially in my debut novel, The Other Daughter, and again in Love Finds You in Last Chance, CA (with all the horse details, as I’m a horse person). I think what I included in this book (the redemption thread) has more to do with the type of ministry I’m involved in—praying with and counseling hurting women—and seeing God’s grace and redemption at work in their lives.
Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?
My books rarely depict redeeming qualities for my villain. Not that they might not have some, but because my books don’t center on the villain, they center on the hero and heroine. Because it’s a love story and not suspense, there’s rarely a need to develop a deeply layered villain. I am working on one now, however, where that will change, but to date, it’s not been the case.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?
I love the research phase of my books, as (so far) I’ve been able to visit the town or location where each novel is set. My husband Allen and I traveled to Tombstone in April of 2010 and spent 3 ½ days there. We visited the newspaper office, the Bird Cage Theater, the Crystal Palace, the Oriental Saloon, (both depicted in my book), museums, the old courthouse, jail, sheriff’s office, went on an underground tour of an old silver mine, got to see the boarding house I used, and visited many of the businesses (some of which are the original buildings or close to original). I also found a wall map of the city streets of Tombstone during 1881 that I posted close to my desk and referred to often, to accurately depict street names and business names/locations. I also used the library and checked out a number of books on the history of Tombstone, as well as doing online research.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I have several going right now. An editor requested a proposal for a series of horse novels for girls ages 8-12 and I’m hoping to have an answer on those in the next month or so. I’m in the process of writing two new historical novels, one with an old west theme mixed with romance, the other set in the old west, but with more of a mix of women’s fiction and romance. And my next release is August 1st, Love Finds You in Sundance, WY, with Summerside Press. Set in the late 1880’s, it has a lot of action, adventure, romance, and of course, a handsome cowboy for a hero!
The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?
Never give up if you feel this is what you’re called to do. Don’t let others discourage you with their stories of rejections and struggles. Yes, you’ll have rejections as we all do, but don’t live there. Get connected with other writers who will encourage you, while staying open to constructive criticism from writers who’ve gone down the path ahead of you and can help you avoid pitfalls. Above all else, cover everything in prayer. If God is in it, nothing can stand against you!
What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?
I think one that I dread the most is ‘if your book was a movie, who would play your characters?’ Sigh. I’d say, sorry….I rarely watch current movies, as I don’t have time, so I don’t have a clue who would fit the role. So I guess whoever wants to play them, LOL!