Q&A: Serena Miller
Katie Calloway survived the Civil War but she (and her young brother) may not survive her unstable husband. She escapes his violence and heads north into the gritty, hard, cold world of a lumber camp. There she discovers that she is stronger than she knew and that some men, though rough around the edges, can be gentle, kind and loving.
WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE THE MEASURE OF KATIE CALLOWAY?
The book was in my blood. My father, to whom the book is dedicated, was a sawyer. Sometimes he worked so far away he would be gone for weeks at a time. He would build himself a little shanty and cook for himself on a small wood stove while turning a customer’s trees into lumber. With only an eighth-grade education, he managed to raise four daughters in an impoverished area by doing this dangerous work. Each time he came home he smelled of fresh wood shavings and the outdoors—which I came to equate as the most comforting scent in the world.
He also had an elderly friend who had spent his winters as a young man cutting down the great white pine in Michigan and who told stories about leaving behind nine foot high tree stumps because they had to fell the trees while standing on top of deep snow. The thought of so many quality board feet having been wasted bothered my father a great deal.
STARTING OUT, WHO WERE THE AUTHORS WHO INSPIRED YOU? WHO INSPIRES YOU NOW?
As a child, I read anything I could get my hands on from Nancy Drew to Herman Melville to The Ohio Farm Journal. Pearl Buck was a favorite as was Laura Ingalls Wilder and Willa Cather. As far as who inspires me now? I’m fickle—I tend to love the one I just finished reading the best. Right now Christian fiction is growing so fast and with such great writers that it seems like I find a new favorite every other week.
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
Faith is the only reason I persevered as a writer. I spent ten years studying craft, submitting manuscripts, receiving rejections, praying, improving, receiving more rejections, and finally breaking through with my first book. During this time I kept hearing that the publishing economy was so tight that it was nearly impossible for a new writer to break through. I just kept reminding myself that it was not my job to be successful it was my job to be faithful and do the work. I look back now and see God’s perfect timing in my life and am in awe of His faithfulness and wisdom. At this point in my life, I can no more imagine writing a story without a strong inspirational theme than I can imagine getting out of bed in the morning without hope in a resurrected Jesus.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
From the time I was nine-years-old and got my hands on a dog-eared copy of Little Women. I read it over and over, always imaging myself as Jo, scribbling away in an unheated attic. Even then, being a writer seemed the most romantic thing in the world—and the most unobtainable.
WHAT DO YOU MUST HOPE THAT READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
I want them to feel like they’ve been on a nail-biting adventure, learned some interesting things, and - through my characters - overcome great challenges. I want them to close the book with a feeling that being a Christian means knowing that ultimately, no matter what happens on this earth, there will always be a happy ending.