Interview with Melissa F. Miller, Author of Burned

16 Mar 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, Burned?

Burned (Shenandoah Shadows No. 1) is the first book in my brand-new romantic suspense novella series! It introduces Olivia Santos, a CIA NOC (non-official cover) operative and Trent Mann, a former Navy SEAL who now works as a defensive driving instructor for Potomac Private Services. When Olivia’s cover is compromised by someone on the inside, she and Trent are forced to go on the run together.  Soon Trent and Olivia are dodging the government, foreign agents, and an endless list of shadowy enemies. As the danger reaches a boiling point, Olivia and Trent will have to ignore the fire crackling between them to focus on staying alive. Their story continues in Scorched and reaches its sizzling conclusion in Ablaze. Each novella in the trilogy contains a complete mystery/thriller arc and advances the romance arc, with cliffhangers at the end of Book 1 and Book 2. At the end of Book 3, the overarching suspense plot comes together and Trent and Olivia have their happily ever after.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

From the time I was a young girl, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first mystery when I was four, dictating it to my mom, who typed it up. We made a cover for the book using contact paper. But that dream was deferred for thirty-five years. I was inspired to actually become a published writer when I found myself on hospitalized bed rest while pregnant with my third child. Confined to bed for twenty-three hours and fifteen minutes of every day, I did a lot of reading… and writing. Five weeks later, I had a healthy baby girl and the first draft of my first novel!

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

No way! That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child! Five books that have had a strong impact on me are The Alchemist (Paolo Coelho), The Lincoln Lawyer (Michael Connelly), Peace Is Every Step (Thich Nhat Hanh), and two recent reads—The Book of Longing (Sue Monk Kidd) and The Once and Future Witches (Alix E. Harrow).

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I’m guessing this is an “any author living or dead” question, right? I think, if I brushed up on my Middle English first, I’d want to interview Geoffrey Chaucer. I majored in English with a concentration in Medieval Literature, and I spent a lot of time reading The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer is surprisingly feminist! I’d love to ask him about that quality in his writing.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Definitely when my subconscious seeds a fact in a story that I don’t realize is crucial until later in the book. This happens all the time for me, and it’s such a rush to see the story come together. (I am not a plotter, although I sketch out a framework for my books). The most important details usually are worked out somewhere in my brain without it bothering to let me know!

My favorite thing about publishing is hearing from readers who’ve been touched, affected, or changed by one of my books—most often, in a way I could never have predicted!

What is a typical day like for you?

My typical day has shifted some in the past year, as I imagine is true for many people! These days, I typically wake up by around 5 AM to meditate, journal, and start consuming coffee. When I’m fully awake, I take our beagle/basset mix, Chase, for an hour-long walk around sunrise while I chat with my sister, who is taking her own morning walk several hundred miles away. After my walk, write or do research or administrative work (go over edits, meet with my husband to discuss translations, audiobooks, website updates, and that sort of thing) until lunchtime. The cat (Java) is my office companion. She hangs out on my desk all morning. In the afternoon, I homeschool my three kids (who’ve been working independently until lunch). My husband (who’s the chef in the family) makes dinner and I clean up! After dinner, we take a family walk with the dog. In the evenings, I’ll read or watch a movie or play a board game with my family. If I am on deadline or feeling very inspired, I’ll sneak away to my home office and get in a late-night writing session. Then it’s off to bed to read until I fall asleep.

What scene from Burned was your favorite to write?

Probably the scene where Olivia executes the perfect reverse bootleg turn during her driving instruction with Trent. I’m a cautious (to a fault) driver, but my husband is a high-performance driving instructor. He tracks his little Miata, and I have never enjoyed being in the car on track (I don’t even like roller coasters), so it was great fun to create a character who shared his need for speed.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

“We can do hard things.”  It’s something I tell myself and my kids. We hung canvas word art with these words over our garage door to remind us when we leave the house. Two others that I come back to time and again are “Action expresses priority” (Mahatma Gandhi) and “Always be a little kinder than is necessary” (J.M. Barrie).

Melissa F. Miller is the author of the new book Burned

Connect with Melissa F. Miller

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