28 November 2011

Interview with Serena Miller



Serena Miller is the author of The Measure Of Katie Calloway, and Love Finds You In Sugarcreek, Ohio. She also has five more novels coming out in the next three years.

I met Serena through an article she wrote for Christian Writer’s Online Magazine, about writing through family illness.

Welcome to Overcoming Through Time, Serena.  Would you share either the most difficult thing in your life you have had to overcome, with God’s help, or the most tragic situation or circumstance one of your character’s has had to get past?

For me, as I wrote about in the Wellness column in the on-line magazine you mentioned above, the most difficult thing I ever had to get through was finding out that my husband had a rare form of bone cancer. He was found to have 11 spinal fractures, only one month after I had signed my first contract for a full-length inspirational novel. The cancer was so rare, it took eleven months for the doctors to accurately diagnose it—during which time my husband suffered incredible pain and needed my around-the-clock care. My husband (who had always been my emotional and spiritual rock) was half out of his head from heavy pain meds much of the time, and I was terrified of what the future might hold. By the grace and mercy of our God, I still managed to write two novels during that time.

God gave us a miracle in the form of a brilliant doctor who accurately diagnosed the cancer and began to prescribe appropriate meds for my husband. We spent three weeks this past Christmas in a research cancer hospital, as a stem cell/bone marrow transplant was administered. My husband is now in full remission, out of pain, and able to minister to our congregation full-time again. The transplant doctor says that based on his body’s excellent response, my husband has at least another ten to twenty good years ahead of him. We are incredibly grateful for the prognosis.

I look at those two books now, and the kind reviews they’ve received, and I give God all praise. Without Him holding my hand through that dark time, not only would I not have been able to write, I would have probably lost my mind. Now—I write my books with a song of praise in my heart, and a greater appreciation for each pain-free normal day the Father gives us.

What is your favorite bible verse and why?
Job 13:15 KJV “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”

That became a sort of rallying cry for us during that dark time of my husband’s illness. We could not fathom the reason behind the pain, or the multiple misdiagnoses. It would have been tempting to blame God for allowing such pain—but Job’s cry during his time of suffering became our own.

Human suffering has caused so many to abandon their faith, and turn their backs on God. The reasons behind what happened to my husband was incomprehensible to us—especially since he had devoted his entire life to serving the Lord. We had a choice to make—would we laud the Father only during pleasant times and curse him when things got bad? Or would we continue to trust him, even when we didn’t understand? We chose to cling to Him—and it made all the difference. 

(Serena, that was my verse during a time I was extremely ill 2009-2010 and wondered if I was going home to heaven.  It is a verse to cling to.  So glad your husband survived this terrible ordeal. God still has plans for him!)

Disability friendliness:
Is this latest release available in audio format or do you have any other works available on audio? At this moment, all I know for sure is that Doubleday has brought Love Finds You In Sugarcreek out in large print. Both books are available as e-books. I don’t know about the audio yet.

What has been the most important thing you hope your readers will get from your books and why?

I heard an author once say that she wasn’t trying to save the world with her stories, she was simply trying to brighten someone’s weekend. That is my goal, too. I try to create a safe place into which a reader can retreat, with a sigh of relief. As I write, I always mentally write for a weary nurse walking around with my paperback in her pocket, looking forward to the respite of losing herself in a different world for a few minutes during her hurried lunch. I hope the book will take her on an adventure that will end in an uplifting of her spirits, a greater appreciation of our Lord, and hope for the future.

As you researched your books, did you learn anything that particularly touched your heart?

As I researched the Amish, I was invited into a grandmother’s daadi-haus. It was a small, fully functional home that was attached by a short walkway to her daughter and son-in-law’s farmhouse. This is the norm for Amish families. The grandfather and grandmother eventually sell their larger home to a son or daughter, and move into the attached daadi-haus. The grandparents get an income from the sale of their home. They get to continue to be a part of their family’s life. They spend time teaching the wisdom they’ve gained to their grandchildren. The grandfather continues to help out around the farm as long as he is able, and the grandmother helps with canning and gardening as long as she is able. This is their beautiful answer to a retirement home. I was touched and impressed with the contentment and happiness I saw in their eyes because of it. 
   
In this latest work, do you have any topics useful for bibliotherapy, or therapeutic influence through reading about a disorder or situation?
In the book, my heroine's southern-born husband comes home from the Civil War a defeated, bitter man. His hatred for the north is so great that he turns his anger upon his northern-born wife, Katie, and begins to routinely abuse both her and her orphaned little brother. Katie keeps hoping he'll change, but finally realizing that if they don't get away he'll kill them--Katie and her little brother run for their lives. Even though she has no idea where to go or how to support herself when she gets there.

I have known too many women who endured physical abuse--both to themselves and their children--because they were more afraid of walking into the unknown than they were of their abusive husbands and boyfriends. I wanted to portray a woman who gathers her courage to save herself and the child she loves.   

I used to work as a court reporter in Detroit, Michigan. There was one wise, woman judge I greatly admired. I heard her once admonish a woman who had been allowing her husband to abuse her and her two children. She said she was too afraid to leave. The judge said, "You are a mother. Your job is to protect your children. You don't have the luxury of fear. You don't wait around hoping that man won't pound on you again. You put one child under one arm, the other child under the other arm. And you don't walk, you RUN out that door."  

Therefore, my favorite line in the entire book is at the end of the first chapter when Katie climbs upon that good, fast horse and says, "Let's ride, little brother!" 

Katie takes what little faith and courage she can muster, walks into an unknown future, and begins to grow both physically and emotionally as she allows God to create a new path for her and her little brother.   


(CFP: Sounds like this book is about second chances, new beginnings, and the chance for God to put things aright, too.) 

Thank you Serena for sharing with our readers. I remember praying for you during that difficult time and when I read your story I had been so touched it brought tears to my eyes. God bless and keep you and your dear husband!

Thanks for having me! 


Giveaway: Leave a comment and your email address for a chance to win a Serena Miller book, your choice and in your preferred format. 

43 comments:

  1. Wonderful interview ladies!
    So good to read about your trust in the Lord, Serena. I'm glad your husband is doing better now and pray the Lord gives him the strenght to serve Him for the next years.

    I have The Measure of Katie Calloway on my bookshelf, but I didn't have the time to read it yet. I hope to find time for it soon.

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  2. Hey Serena and Carrie -- incredibly touching interview, and that Scripture from Job is one of my very favorites as well.

    Serena, I am SO happy to hear about your husbands recovery, and I pray for God's abundant blessings for you in this season and beyond.

    I have heard many, many good things about The Measure of Katie Calloway, so I am anxious to be in the draw. Thanks, Carrie, for the opportunity and a blessed holiday season to you both.

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  3. Thanks, Marian, for coming by all the way from the Netherlands! I want to read this book and after reading Diana Flowers review (up this Wednesday) I intend to start reading it beginning Dec 1, in honor of my grandmother who was a lumber camp cook and my grandfather a lump camp "boss" in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Sure I'll shed a few tears!

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  4. Julie, when I originally read Serena's story I was just so humbled. I will be honest - I did not see any earthly way he could survive. Well of course there wasn't - God had HIS way! I know Serena has to be jumping up and down every morning to know that her husband has been spare.

    Thanks and God bless you for coming by!

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  5. Hi, I'd like to invite you to post your giveaways on our giveaway directory: Giveaway Scout (http://www.giveawayscout.com). Please submit your blog here: http://www.giveawayscout.com/join/ Once you receive our confirmation email you can post your giveaways on our site. Thanks.

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  6. Serena, it's such a joy to have you with us on OTT this week! What a touching interview, Carrie, and what a testimony, Serena! No wonder The Measure of Katie Calloway had that extra something special about it. Sometimes our greatest achievements for the Lord are born out of great suffering and trial. I'm so thrilled that the Lord touched your husband and restored him!

    I wonder, Carrie, if your grandma cooked meals like Katie Calloway? Probably...grandmothers are always good cooks! This book made me have constant cravings; I wanted whatever Katie was cooking at the time!:) You'll see what I mean! LOL! What a backbreaking job that had to have been, Carrie, and your grandmother must have been a strong lady! I see where you get yours from, besides the Lord that is.

    I hope everyone will read this book, because as Serena said, she writes to uplift the reader's spirit and it WILL!

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  7. You make it so HARD, to have to CHOOSE, that just is not fair, lol, it'd be much easier if they both didn't sound so good and weren't what I like to read.

    Using einee, menee, minee, mo, I choose The Measure of Katie Calloway, in paperback.

    wfnren(at)aol(dot)com
    wrensthoughts.blogspot.com

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  8. A huge, humbling, miraculous post - I'm so glad to see Serena here and learn more about her and the ways God has met her and her husband at every turn. He is so faithful!

    Readers are in for such a treat with her books! I've just finished An Uncommon Grace for endorsement and had thought to only read a chapter a day but couldn't put the book down! I believe I finished in 2 days which must be some sort of a record as I have my own deadlines. I'm so thankful Revell signed Serena and that she's also writing for other CBA publishers. Her attention to detail and memorable characters really shine, as does her heart for Him.

    Bless you for the wonderful post, Carrie and Serena.

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  9. What a beautiful post and testimony for the Lord, so encouraging. I'd love to be entered for the drawing. I will be putting Serena's books on my wish list. :)

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  10. Forgot to put my e-mail on my post!
    worthy2bpraised at gmail dot com

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  11. Hi Marian! You are posting all the way from the Netherlands? I'm still so new at being published that it totally amazes me to hear that my book is on a sister's shelf that far away:-) I very much appreciate your prayers for my husband's continued ministry!

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  12. Julie--you probably don't remember me, but you were the judge for one of the many writing contests I entered before I was published. Your words were SO encouraging! I lived on that encouragement for quite awhile. Even though we live far apart, I hope we can meet sometime at ACFW.

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  13. Carrie--thank you so much for allowing me to post on this wonderful site. This is such a great ministry you have created.

    I don't know if you've ever seen a lumber camp museum, but you might enjoy visiting one sometime. Your respect for your grandmother will be even greater when you see the primitive, heavy, tools they had to use. I couldn't believe it when I saw the list of what those cooks had to make--even before BREAKFAST! Those women were tough!

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  14. Laura--I'm really sorry you received An Uncommon Grace to read during the HOLIDAYS. I didn't know the publisher had even sent it out until some of my other writer friends told me. Thank goodness it wasn't a hard read for you!
    I appreciate you taking the time to do that for me so much.

    I don't know if you've ever had the opportunity to visit the Revell/Baker headquarters near Grand Rapids before, but I was in Michigan last weekend and asked if I could stop in. I had no idea what being there would be like, but I discovered that people who work in Christian publishing are some of the nicest, kindest, most encouraging group of professionals I've ever met. To make the visit even more special, my husband was with me--our first real vacation together since his illness--and we talked all the way home about the wonder of getting to make that visit together:-)

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  15. Diana--I'm so grateful you enjoyed "Katie" and I'm sorry about the food cravings:-) I wasn't intentionally trying to make everyone hungry, I was just trying to accurately portray the food Katie would have cooked. What was REALLY sad to me, though, was when my son e-mailed from Afghanistan and said he had craved apple pie for days after reading it--and that the military food just didn't cut it. He'll be home for a few weeks at Christmas, though, and I have every intention of making him a fresh apple pie, seasoned with lemon zest, and dripping butter! Several, in fact, if he wants them:-)

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  16. Oh Serena, You've done something I'd love to do and have been planning on! I know Revell loved having you:) We're so blessed to be their authors. So glad you and your husband could do that together - what a treat! And no problem at all about the holiday reading:) I so love books that I always seem to have one in hand, even when I'm in the kitchen! Bless you.
    Laura

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  17. And to everyone: This past week has been one of the most blessed weeks of my life. I was invited by an Old Order Amish midwife in Michigan to come for a visit. We had chatted on the phone a few times--me on my cell phone, her in her little phone shanty--but we had never met. She also invited my husband to come along, and he actually felt well enough to make the trip. We spent three days with these good people, talking, laughing, learning, becoming close friends. They even invited us to attend their worship service on Sunday morning, which was a rare and profound experience. Lying there at night, in a bed the midwife's husband had hand made, the peace and quiet of a non-electric house surrounding us, my husband said, "Last year I never thought we would be able to have adventures together ever again--and yet here we are. The Lord is so merciful."

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  18. Serena I'm so glad your husband is on the road to total and complete healing. My husband also went through cancer, on Fathers Day 1999, he colapsed in church singing a song dedicated to our small sons. It was found quickly and he has been cancer free for 12 years. Now when we look back at all that we went through, it is in amazement at the grace that our Heavenly Father bestowed on us. God is so good. I can't wait to read this book, I just finished LFY in Sugarcreek, Ohio and it was the perfect book to blend the Amish and "English" world. I had a couple of very late nights reading it. I love reading books about the Amish and I believe this is the best I've ever read. :)

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  19. Serena, I am thankful not only that your husband is now in remission but that you both chose to trust God even in this most difficult time of suffering. I've been going through my own rough time but I keep having to make that conscious decision to trust God, no matter what. I am thankful He loves us and has it all in control!
    Both books look good but if I won, I'd choose The Measure of Katie Calloway. I like books about women who find their strength in the Lord.
    pmk56[at]sbcglobal[dot]net

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  20. Lovely interview! I just loved Ms. Miller's The Measure of Katie Calloway, one of my favorite reads this year :)

    crazi.swans at gmail dot com

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  21. Faye, Thanks so much for sharing that. I am starting on it as soon as I am done reading The Chamomile, a colonial by Susan Craft. I cannot wait to read Serena's book!

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  22. Teresa, Isn't that something how God was able to work that out in your life and in Serena's life? Praise God! I celebrated my 24th anniversary with my husband today and I cannot imagine going through that with him. But God knows what we are able to endure. As Serena said - Though He slay me...

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  23. Happy anniversary to one of the dearest ladies I know! Serena's next book is due to be released on the day of my 39th wedding anniversary. Yes, we got married when we were 3 yrs old. LOL! Just kidding, but we were young!

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  24. I'd like to win 'Love Finds You In Sugarcreek, Ohio'.

    frequentreader19 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  25. This is such a soul-stirring interview! My heart is heavy and I will cling to that verse Serena mentioned, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." All Scripture is perfect but sometimes there is one that just jumps out and today it is this one. Thank you, Carrie & Serena, for your transparency and willing spirit to minister! Blogging takes time and effort, of which I am sorely lacking right now, but this is the one blog I come to each day and it never fails to encourage :)

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  26. Anne, my RA is not happy with me and we'll see how much blogging I can do. I am so please to announce that we have a new contributor coming on - Teresa Mathews plus our friend Marian Baay from the Netherlands will be sending us regular Friend on Friday posts! I am so grateful for the people he has sent our way, including you, Anne!!!

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  27. Wow, what a powerful interview. I am so happy Serena that God has given your husband more time on Earth. God isn't finished with him yet. Your testimony of holding on to your faith in tough times has put me to shame. We are going through difficult and uncertain times right now and even though I haven't lost my faith I haven't trusted the Lord fully by turning my burdens over to Him. I hope this makes sense. I Love the Lord with all my heart and it hurts when I let Him down. Satan is right there trying to put doubts and fears into our hearts and our minds. He isn't allowed to do that to me. Jesus and I won't let him.

    God Bless you in your writing!
    Judy B
    judyjohn2004[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  28. What a great interview, very powerful story! Great reminder to keep faith in the Lord!! I have yet to read anything by Serena, thanks for the chance to win!

    Courtney
    kcmelone at yahoo dot com

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  29. Hi Teresa--thanks so much for your kind words about my Sugarcreek book. I tried very hard to make it as accurate as possible without losing the storyline. I spent so much time in the real Sugarcreek, Ohio village, it became a sort of home-away-from home and I miss it when I'm not there.

    Having your husband collapse while singing a song to his sons on Father's Day sounds like a nightmare. I am thrilled for you that he is okay now. Sure does make a wife appreciate each day of normality, doesn't it? What a blessing that he's gotten to watch his boys grow up!

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  30. Pam, Anne, and Judy--

    I feel like it might be good to tell you that I never once felt like I had a particularly strong faith. It usually felt like I was barely keeping my head above water both emotionally and spiritually. But I did learn something from that.

    I discovered that God's love and grace even covers the bad times when we are struggling to trust Him. When we cannot muster much faith at all.I believe it is wise, when one is under great stress, to sometimes allow ourselves to simply allow ourselves to rest as much as possible--to not try to manufacture faith.

    There were times during the darkest days when my head was stuffed too full of fear for me to even be able to pray a comprehensible prayer. For awhile I was deeply ashamed of what I considered was my lack of faith. Then a more mature friend than I informed me that I didn't have to strong all the time. That it was okay to float upon the prayers of my friends when I needed to, and to rest in the knowledge that no matter what happened...God was still God, and I was not.

    Sometimes my faith was (and is) much less than a mustard seed, but God is a keeper of promises and He said that he would never forsake us.

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  31. SERENA!!! Truly??? I judged you in a contest?? I thought your name just sounded familiar because I've seen you around on blogs. I am SO thrilled I was able to encourage you and this makes me chomp at the bit all the more to read about Katie Calloway!! And, YES, if you go to ACFW, PLEASE lets meet, okay?

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  32. Yep, Julie. You certainly did! Sometimes a person says the right thing at just the right time--even when they don't have any idea they're doing it:-)

    Speaking of which--I'm judging my first contest ever this week. Remembering back to how badly my hands shook each time I opened an envelope with the results of a writing contest--I'll try to be extra aware of how much a compassionate judge's words can mean to an unpublished writer:-)

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  33. Serena, you are so right - all we must have is faith like a mustard seed and God will do the rest! Bless you for your transparency. God is so good. I am so looking forward to reading your latest book!

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  34. This sounds like a great read! Thanks so much for doing the review, I would love to have this book!

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  35. a great posting...thanks for the chance to read this fabulous novel :)

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

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  36. Thanks for the interview and giving us a peek in to this new authors life and books. I loved what Serena said about her books, "I heard an author once say that she wasn’t trying to save the world with her stories, she was simply trying to brighten someone’s weekend. That is my goal, too. I try to create a safe place into which a reader can retreat, with a sigh of relief. As I write, I always mentally write for a weary nurse walking around with my paperback in her pocket, looking forward to the respite of losing herself in a different world for a few minutes during her hurried lunch. I hope the book will take her on an adventure that will end in an uplifting of her spirits, a greater appreciation of our Lord, and hope for the future."

    Yes, it's nice to know that you can retreat to a "safe" place and get away from the cares of this world. Christian Fiction doesn't have to be preachy but just plain safe and fun!

    I look forward to reading your books.

    Blessings

    Nora :o)
    The Book Club Network

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  37. Thanks for the great interview. Another book that sounds like it is going to be very interesting from another author who is new to me. I just love finding all these new authors and new books.

    Blessings,
    Jo
    ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

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  38. I would love an opportunity to win one of these books. Fascinating interview.

    I'm a cancer survivor--I know a little of what your husband suffered.

    vernetlh (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  39. Hey Laura H - I was one of your crit partners during that horrible time and we sure did put up a lot of prayers! So glad to see you out there publishing your books! Thanks so much for coming by, Laura!

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  40. Karen and Jo, we will enter your names! You too, A Joyful Chaos! Nora, you are so right! I appreciate you coming by to share with us.

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  41. Laura Frantz, dear friend, thanks so much for coming by and for your kind comments. That has to be one of the many blessings of being a published author with Revell - getting to meet all those other wonderful authors and getting to preview their books for endorsement!

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  42. Well, Nora, I was hoping you'd win on the first drawing and random.org selected your number!!! Congratulations on winning a copy of one of Serena's books!

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