Thursday, September 25, 2008

Learning about Maryann Miller

It has been such a pleasure having Maryann Miller with us this week. She has been a wonderful guest – very interesting to learn about and fun to visit with.

Today, she answers some questions about her personal life. The questions and answers are followed by more of the excerpt from chapter one of her book “One Small Victory."


Q. Talk a little about your family.

A. I have been married for 43 years to the same wonderful man, Carl. I have six children and eight grandchildren. Our children are all professionals and doing quite well in their adult lives. We are so proud of all of them. We all love to get together here at “Grandma’s Ranch” and have BBQ and play farmer all day. If I did more than generalize about my family, that could take pages and pages. Family is THE most important thing in my life. I remember before I got married, my father took me out for a beer and this is what he told me, “You know, Maryann, I have never had much more than a few coins to rub together. But I am a rich man.” He went on to tell me how precious each one of his children and grandchildren were to him and I have never forgotten that.


Q. Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book?

A. Oh, gosh, these are always such hard questions to answer as I have so many authors I enjoy and books that I could read over and over again. Of Mice and Men, The Color Purple, The Old Man and The Sea, The Great Gatsby, are just a few of the great 20th century books I love. More current authors and books include Jan Bryant, Raymond L. Atkins, Elizabeth Gilbert, Slim Randles and Dennis Lahane. I have read Mystic River a couple of times. I love all of the Anne Tyler novels. Anne Lamott. Laura Castoro. P.J. Parrish. Jonathan and Faye Kellerman. Sue Grafton, and Lisa Genova. Her book Still Alice is one of my top picks of reads this year. But there are so many more authors and books I enjoy, it would take pages to list them all.


Q. What made you try your hand at writing?

A. I’ve always loved stories and decided when I was about ten years old that I wanted to be a writer. Then when I was twelve, I won an award in the Scholastic Writing Awards contest and I thought it was destiny.


Q. What authors have influenced your writing?

A. All of the writers I enjoy have influenced me in that they introduce me to new ways to use the craft, but Steinbeck has been the greatest influence in being my first exposure to writing that plumbs the depths of humanity with such deftness.


Q. When you’re not writing or visiting hospitals, what do you do to relax and unwind?

A. I have a number of hobbies that I enjoy, sketching, puzzles, quilting, and I just learned how to knit. Those are activities I do when I am watching TV with my husband. It is hard for me to just sit there. I can always hear my grandmother, “Idle hands ...” So I have to be doing something. But what really relaxes me the most is to go outside and just spend time with my horse or do some work in the gardens. That is pure heaven.


Q. What would readers be surprised to learn about you?

A. I can lift a 50 pound bale of hay.


Q. Share a favorite quote with the readers.

A. “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Cicero


Q. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

A. Read. Write. Read some more and analyze what works in the books you enjoy the most. Write some more and try to utilize what you learn from reading and maybe from a good critique group. It is also vital to learn the business side of writing because we are pretty much our own marketers now, unless our name is James Patterson. And in the beginning it was his marketing savvy that helped launch him into the big time.


Q. How can readers help promote literacy?

A. By getting involved in literacy programs at local schools and libraries. Mentoring young readers. We have a program here at our middle school for at-risk students and when I first volunteered there, I met a boy in the fifth grade who could not read. Seriously, my four-year-old granddaughter could read better than this boy could. Now, two years later, that boy is still in the program, but he is reading now probably at a fifth grade level. That is thanks to the wonderful teachers who run the program and the mentor who works with this boy.


Q. What are you currently working on?

A. Currently, I am working on the second book in a mystery series that I hope Five Star will pick up. The first book, Open Season, is under consideration now and I am about halfway through the second book, Stalking Season. The series features two women homicide detectives in Dallas, who are thrown together as unwilling partners in the midst of racial tension in the city and the department.


Excerpt

The words had played endlessly in her mind ever since. “Mrs. Jasick . . . Your son, Michael has been in an accident . . . He’s been taken to North Texas Medical Center . . .”

They wouldn’t tell her over the phone whether he was okay or not, but somewhere deep inside she’d known. A mother always knows. She drove her ailing Ford Taurus toward the hospital while the awful dread grew from a kernel of apprehension into a grotesque monster that gnawed on her heart.

By the time she’d arrived at the ER, some coping instinct had mercifully kicked in and she’d numbly received the news that Michael was dead. Nothing else was clear in her mind or memory. She didn’t know how her mother had known to come. Or who she was supposed to call about arrangements and when. Or was someone supposed to call her?

“Oh, God . . .” Carol’s voice brought Jenny back to the present. “I’d do anything . . .”

“I know.” Jenny kept her voice soft in an attempt to hold her friend’s emotions at bay. Grief hung like a pall throughout the house, crowding out any other feeling; and Jenny was sure one more tear would break her fragile hold on sanity.

Carol wiped the smear of moisture from her face. “I hope you don’t mind that I just walked in?”

“Of course not. Mi Casa your casa.”

Carol forced a small smile. “Someday we’re going to have to learn that other Spanish word.”

Jenny tried to match the smile but was afraid her face would crack under the effort. She figured Carol would understand. They had learned to understand a lot since sharing the tragedies of high school that paled compared to what happened in the real world.


Thanks again, Maryann, for joining us this week. I hope everyone will look for the book “One Small Victory” at their local store or order it online. It’s a super novel and one I know my readers will enjoy.

1 comment:

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks so much for hosting me, LuAnn. It has been a real pleasure to be here, and I appreciate the opportunity so much. I will check back later today to see if we get some visitors.