Serena B. Miller didn’t seriously pursue writing until her forties, but her first published book, Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio, was recently turned into a made-for-television movie. Her tenth book, Fearless Hope, released in April, and Under a Blackberry Moon, which released last year, is currently a 2014 Christy Award finalist. Prior to penning novels, Serena contributed to periodicals like Guideposts, Billy Graham’s Decision Magazine, Focus on the Family, and Christian Woman.
Serena is the mother of three grown sons. She and her husband live on a farm in southern Ohio and have worked together in the full-time ministry for years.
You began writing, at least professionally, later in life. What sparked your writing journey?
Initially, it was depression. My three sons were nearly all grown. My “job” as a mom was coming to an end. I had put so much time and energy into raising my boys and being a wife, I felt like I had lost myself and I was getting panicky about the future. I was going through a time of questioning my very identity. Who was I? What was I? I’d worked various pickup jobs, but I’d never had a career. What would my life look like after the boys were gone? I confessed the emotional struggle I was experiencing to my husband and with a few words he changed the direction of my life. He said, “You’re a writer, Serena. You always have been.” It was a surprise to me for him to say that, but I heard the truth of it. He was right. I had always written. Journals. Letters. Attempts at poetry and short stories. At that point, I began to seriously work at becoming a writer, and much of the sadness I was experiencing dissipated. Depression can be paralyzing, but it can also be a catalyst. In my case, it was a catalyst.
How does your faith play into your work?
I’ve never intentionally inserted faith into my stories. To do so always feels contrived to me. Instead, I try to faith enter organically. To me, faith in God is simply a natural and common-sense response to the miracle of our existence. To live without faith would mean a life without hope, which is something I cannot bear to contemplate. Because of that view, faith tends to permeate my stories without having to deliberately insert it into the outline. My characters, like me, might not always be happy with God, and they might often second-guess Him—but they eventually have to come to grips with their own need for someone bigger than them.
As authors, we’re always writing “detours” into the lives of our characters, just as our Creator sometimes sends us down unexpected paths in order to bless us. Have you ever experienced such a “divine detour”?
A month after I sold my first book on the basis of a proposal only, my husband became extremely ill. It took eleven months before the doctors were able to correctly diagnose the cause. During that time, this man I loved was in the worst pain I’d ever seen in my life. It was a terrifying time during which I could not leave his side—and yet I had a book to write. Eventually the pain was correctly diagnosed as an extremely rare form of bone cancer. He had a successful bone marrow transplant and four years later is still in remission. During that dark time, I questioned God’s timing over and over. It seemed like a bad joke for Him to answer my dream of becoming a writer at a time when it was nearly impossible to concentrate. Several close friends, who know me well, say that they believe having to write that book helped save my sanity. It forced me to concentrate on something else, even as I cared for my husband. I now believe having that book to concentrate on was a great kindness from my heavenly father.
Let’s talk about Fearless Hope (Howard Books, April 2014). It’s a great book title—as well as a reminder of how we should approach our faith. Please tell us about the story.
Hope is a pregnant Amish mother who witnesses her husband’s death by a crazed bull. She looks for work as a housekeeper and finds it caring for the home of Logan Parker, a successful mystery writer from Manhattan who has turned a farmhouse in Amish country into a writer’s retreat. As Logan watches Hope struggle to work and raise her small family, he is greatly impressed with the valiant young woman—but neither of them realize that they share a common past.
Your first novel, Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio, was recently turned into a made-for-TV movie. Please tell us about that!
I found out there was going to be a movie made only two weeks before filming started. The director and producer invited me to come spend time on the set, for which I was very grateful. Watching those talented actors working with a wonderful direction to bring my words to life was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It will air on the UP TV channel on June 1 at 7 p.m. EST. I’ll be watching it in the auditorium of our church along with our entire congregation. We’ll be eating popcorn and wrestling babies and having a great time. My church family has been such an encouragement for so many years. I can’t wait to share it with them.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Hands down—it is saltines stacked with mayo, cheese, and slices of cucumber washed down by hot tea sweetened with honey. It always has been. Weird, I know—but that’s my favorite comfort food.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
I enjoy singing. I’ve done some solo work, but that isn’t my preference. I much prefer singing back up. I sang in a classic rock band several years ago and loved doing the tight harmonies on some of the oldies-but-goodies.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
My childhood was Appalachian, so I’d be a cross between a mountain ballad and a praise song.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Oh—what a great question! I am absolutely the little girl trying to walk in high heels. Still working on mastering grown-up life and I admire those who have.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
We live so far out in the country that we don’t have any visible neighbors—which means people think it’s a good opportunity to drop unwanted dogs off on us from time to time. We’ve never needed to buy a dog. We just love the ones that are left on our road. Right now we have a hound-dog mix named Bonnie who religiously guards our porch from squirrels and keeps me company while I write. I presently also have a dairy goat named Cleopatra and her tiny kid, Cocoa, who likes to climb into my lap and give me baby-goat kisses.
Thank you, Serena! It’s nice to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
I enjoyed this interview. Thanks for having me!
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For more information about Serena and her books, visit her website.
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