One of the things I’ve enjoyed about blogging is discovering other bloggers who share similar interests—particularly, the large number of Christian writers out there. Miralee Ferrell’s blog caught my eye back when her first book was about to go to print. She achieved something most writers only dream of—a publishing contract.
Last year, I participated in the blog tour for her first novel, The Other Daughter. She’s now finalizing the sequel, which follows Jeena, a secondary character in the first book. Miralee is excited about tying up some loose ends where Jeena is concerned and answering some questions left unresolved in The Other Daughter.
Miralee also writes historical fiction. Love Finds You In Last Chance, CA depicts the (now ghost town) of Last Chance with as much realism as Miralee was able to do, after visiting the area and researching it carefully.
TKM: When did you know you were a writer?
Miralee Ferrell: Truly a writer and not just someone who loved writing long letters and keeping a diary/journal? I’d have to say about 4 years ago, when the Lord spoke to me at church one night via a special speaker. He prayed for me and told me I was supposed to be writing. I prayed about it for 2 weeks, as I’d never taken the thought seriously before.
I began to write about my life with my husband and our spiritual journey first (write what you know), then short stories/articles (several that were published) then six months after starting, moved on to inspirational fiction.
I wrote the first draft of The Other Daughter in 5 weeks, then took 6 months working on learning the craft, revising and editing the book, and rewriting. Six months later, I had a contract and the rest is history.
TKM: What inspires you to write?
Miralee Ferrell: Honestly, the word I got from the Lord was what inspired me to start, but since then, I’ve discovered I truly love writing.
I think part of it is creating something that’s never existed before. It isn’t so much that I have a story burning inside that’s screaming to be told. No… it’s more that I love putting words together… I love bringing a character to life and finding out more about their story. I love seeing the fruit of my labor and hearing from readers who’ve been touched by the spiritual threads that run through my books.
My greatest goal is to touch the lives of a reader. If even one person’s life is impacted by something they read of mine, it’s worth the work and the time.
TKM: What author do you most admire and why?
Miralee Ferrell: For inspirational fiction I think I’d have to choose Jan Karon, author of the Mitford series. I love her down to earth writing style… simple yet heart-felt, and so very real. The characters in her books stayed with me for weeks and by the time I finished the series. I felt as though I knew each one, including secondary [characters], as personal friends.
I enjoy a wide range of genres. As a kid I loved reading Zane Grey, the old Nancy Drew books, Sue Barton nurse books, and as an older teen really got into the Gene Stratton Porter books (Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost, etc), as well as Harold Bell Wright, an amazing author.
I still enjoy his work, and have added many Christian fiction writers to the list. I can’t begin to list them all, but to name just a few, Francine Rivers, Linda Chaikin, Brandilynn Collins, Robin Lee Hatcher, and Alton Gansky. As you can see, there’s historical, mystery, suspense, and women’s fiction all mixed in there.
TKM: What other books have you written?
Miralee Ferrell: The first book I completed was a book about the journey the Lord brought my husband and I through, in our 35 years of marriage. I wrote it more for myself than anyone else, although it may be something my family will enjoy someday. It’s not just a book of memoirs, but one that contains teaching… it’s a mix of Christian living and true life stories.
I’m currently finishing up the the sequel to The Other Daughter. It centers on Jeena, one of the secondary characters in the first book, and follows her through some very difficult times. I’m also working on a historical romance, with the heroine living on a horse ranch in the late 1880s.
Then I have a very rough outline of another women’s contemporary book that will be a stand alone, rather than a series. I’m probably the most excited about it, of everything I’m working on, as it’s a unique story idea that I’ve not seen done in fiction before. At least, nothing I’ve personally read… but that’s all I can tell you right now!
TKM: What has been your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Miralee Ferrell:When I first started, I had a hard time with point of view. I had two very faithful people who kept pointing it out to me and gave me examples of what I was doing wrong. I bought several great books on writing and began to study… but not until after I’d written my first book.
I wanted my voice to come through, without worrying too much about ‘rules.’ After reading and learning, I went back and began to edit and make necessary changes, while still keeping my voice intact.
I also struggle with getting ideas for new books, but am slowly getting my ‘over 50’ brain turned on and tuned in to being creative again. I think it’s just taken time to get it out of the mothballs it’s been smothered in for so many years.
TKM: What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Miralee Ferrell: Join a good writer’s group, and if at all possible an online or local critique group. I’ve learned so much from both in the past two years.
My current book has been helped and gently corrected by my crit group and we four gals have a wonderful working relationship. Each has our own set of strengths that we bring to the group, and each has things that need to be strengthened, that we gain from the others.
Never be too proud to ask for help, and by all means, don’t take a critique as personal criticism. You can only grow when you’re willing to hear the suggestions of others.
TKM: What would you like to tell us about The Other Daughter?
Miralee Ferrell: I’m tremendously excited about this book and the notice it’s gotten since the summary was posted online by my agent. As a result of her post, The Other Daughter was picked by a major motion picture studio to be reviewed as a potential family movie.
At the time of this writing, the agent from the studio has read it, stated she really likes it, and is very interested in the possibility of obtaining an option. It remains to be seen if they make an offer, as there is some concern about the faith elements in the book, and whether the studio can accept them.
With my publishers approval, I made changes that softened the faith elements, but didn’t do away with them altogether. It’s in the Lord’s hands, as He’s the one who brought the opportunity about in the first place.
I believe that the underlying message this book contains is one that most wives and mothers will relate to… the need to be in control of our family and circumstances, and the struggle to allow the Lord to be in charge, as well as the frustrations and dynamics that take place between Susanne and her husband David.
I’d say that the most common response from my advance readers has been that they loved the characters. While it has a very strong plot, it’s almost equally character driven. I think the characters will come alive for the reader, and they’ll feel as though they’ve visited the little corner of the NW where the Carson family lives, by the time they’ve finished the book.
TKM: Any advice for those of us who are still dreaming of that first sale?
Miralee Ferrell: I know what I wish I would’ve had, when I started out. Critique partners… they are invaluable. I didn’t belong to a group until well into the writing of the second book in my series.
Don’t be too shy to ask for help and don’t be too proud to take constructive criticism of your work, when it’s offered. You don’t have to change everything that’s suggested, but if more than one person points out something that’s wrong, take it seriously and be willing to learn. And most of all, don’t give up. If you believe that God has given you the gift or desire to write, then be obedient, even if it’s never published.
When I started out, I thought the best I’d attain would be publication in magazines… having a book published didn’t seem possible. I knew the Lord gave me this story and it needed to be written, and the rest would be up to Him. My responsibility was to write it, then keep moving forward in whatever direction He pointed out.
More about Miralee Ferrell
Miralee and her husband Allen have been married over 40 yrs. They live on 11 acres in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge in southern Washington State, where they love to garden, play with their dogs, take walks, and go sailing. Miralee also rides her horse on the wooded trails near their home with her grown daughter who lives nearby.
If you enjoyed this Writers-on-Wednesday interview, check out my interview with author Mary Haskett.