Welcome to our first ever author interview on my blog!
Miralee so graciously answered some questions for our book club meeting today (Directly following the interview our book club discussion of Miralee's book Love Finds You In Bridal Veil, Oregon is posted, so keep reading)! So, without further ado...
Here’s Miralee Ferrell!
Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon
Lucie: How did the “Love Finds You” series begin? I noticed that several different authors have joined in writing in the Love Finds You series as well.
Miralee: The Summerside team conceived the idea, with the plan to cover all 50 states with at least one book set in each. They must all be romance, but can have a women’s fiction or chic lit feel, be a suspense, mystery, or plain, straight romance. They can also be either contemporary or historical, but they’re contracting the majority now as historical.
Lucie: The area you wrote about in Oregon based around logging is very similar to our area here, Scotia being a logging town only about 5 minutes from here. We also have large redwoods here. I have been to Multnomah Falls in Oregon where my sister lives, so it was fun being familiar with the setting somewhat.
Lucie: How did you come up with the idea to write Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon?
Miralee: I was asking Stephen Bly for brainstorming help when he was doing a live Q&A session on a blog one time. I have a hard time coming up with ideas. He asked what type of things I enjoy doing and I mentioned flower gardening, and especially roses. So just off the cuff, he said….what if you were planting a rose bush and dug the hole to prepare for it, and your spade hit something hard. You dug deeper and found an old box. When you opened it, the box contained a yellowed paper with one word on it. YES. He went on to say I needed to take simple things like that and ask ….what if such and such happened…and see if I could get a story idea from it. I’m still not great at doing it that way, but bless his heart, he said he wouldn’t use that particular idea & I was welcome to it. So I tucked it away and it became the central idea for Bridal Veil. That’s why I dedicated the book to him.
Also, I didn’t come up with the town of Bridal Veil as a choice for a setting. Summerside Press had a list of towns they wanted to use. When they signed me for the book set in Last Chance I had pitched two story ideas to them, and they liked both. I asked for the list of towns after we decided on Last Chance, and saw that Bridal Veil was on the list—and it’s only about 40 minutes from my town. So I asked if they’d be willing to hold that one for me until I could put together a full synopsis for my story and they agreed. And as they say, the rest is history!
Lucie: I really liked that one of your character’s, Joel, was a special needs boy. I worked a few months with Good Shepherd Lutheran Home in Porterville, CA working with higher functioning special needs people. Do you have personal experience working with special needs people or does someone in your family have special needs?
Miralee: Yes, my cousin Greg has Down Syndrome and he’s a sweetie pie. He can read, works at a store stocking shelves, and is able to be somewhat independent with his parents help. I have a real love for ‘kids’ like Greg and Joel, and wanted to feature a boy in my book that would give readers a better understanding into the hearts and minds of a special needs child.
Lucie: Are the towns in the book actual towns or did you make them up? (I definitely recognized the area of Multnomah Falls)
Miralee: All of the towns mentioned are actual ones….Corbett is only about 3-4 miles on east, Troutdale is another 6 or 7 on past that, and Portland another 15 on past that. Multnomah Falls isn’t a town, but a beautiful, high water fall with a gift shop at the base where a lot of tourists visit each year.
Lucie: How do you do your research when writing a book? Do you travel to the places or just search online?
Miralee: If at all possible I travel to the town, as I did for Last Chance, CA, Bridal Veil, Or, and a year ago, Tombstone, AZ (that just released earlier this month). I take a lot of pictures, try to contact a local historian (as I did with Bridal Veil, and he spent several hours showing me around the area and helping me with books, photos and articles about the town), go to museums, and do online research as needed.
Lucie: I found the historical parts to be very intriguing. Did you use any factual characters or were they all based on fictional characters?
Miralee: The owner of the dairy who had a very short appearance was a real person, as was Mr. Palmer (who we didn’t meet but heard about), the owner of the mill and town. Only one other person was real, and that was my great grandfather, Arthur Gibbs, the man who owned the dog, and found Samantha & Joel and took them to Margaret’s house. He actually worked for the Bridal Veil Lumbering Co during the era my book was set, used a team of horses to skid logs out of the woods, and was engaged to be married to my great grandmother who lived in Portland at the time. He went on to help pull stumps and skid logs for the old Columbia River Highway, part of which is still in use today.
Lucie: When you first set out to write this book did you just have ‘romance’ in mind given that the name of the series is “Love Finds You”? How did you decide to include a murder/mystery in a romance story or did it just develop given the historical setting that you were in?
Miralee: It’s funny….when I wrote my first LFY that’s set in Last Chance, CA, I’d never written a romance before. As you know, I started with The Other Daughter, women’s contemporary fiction, then Finding Jeena, the sequel. All of the LFY books MUST be romance, which I never thought I’d write. But I had a chance to write for this company and wasn’t going to turn down a contract that promised to possibly work into two books. Also, after I signed the contract for Last Chance (which was originally going to be a contemporary setting) I discovered that the town is now a ghost town and was only booming in the last 1800’s, so it quickly had to transition to a historical. It was my first romance, first historical, and first book with a suspense thread, all in one! That was quite the challenge! I enjoyed it so much I decided I wanted a suspense thread in Bridal Veil, as well. I didn’t put a murder or strong suspense thread in Tombstone, but it does have a very strong redemption/spiritual thread and strong secondary characters that carry the book without a suspense.
Lucie: I see that you just came out with another “Love Finds You” book set in Tombstone, AZ. How did you decide on this location?
Miralee: I discovered after writing Last Chance CA that I LOVE writing books set in the old west. I had permission to move Christy Grey, a secondary character from the Last Chance book to another town, so asked what towns in the old west they had available, and my editor gave me 4. I told her I’d love to do one set in Tombstone and gave her the story line. She loved it and they contracted it shortly after.
Lucie: Do you have a contract in which you write a set amount of “Love Finds You” books?
No, they only offer them (typically) one at a time, so I never know beyond the one that I’m on, if I’ll have another or not.
A special "Thank You" to Miralee Ferrell for this edition of Meet the Author.
We met for our February Chick Lit meeting today at Starbucks to discuss Love Finds You in Bridal Veil Oregon. I am posting our discussion with names of who answered each question below. For those of you who couldn't make it, this is a great opportunity to be a part of the Chick Lit Book Club so join in and leave a comment :-)
Opening up the questions Deborah L. takes the first one:
1. How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately, or did it take you awhile to "get into it"? How did you feel reading it --amused, sad, confused, bored?
" I got into it immediately! I was very interested while reading. I felt like I was a part of the story. I also felt especially protective of the character, Joel because I work with people who have special needs."
Christie S. takes question two:
2. Describe the main characters ---their personality traits, motivations, inner qualities. Are their actions justified? Do you admire or disapprove of them? Do they remind you of people you know?
"I thought that Margaret was very loving with a compassionate heart - but due to the death of her father it is making her find independence she normally would not have. I admire Margaret, and she reminds me of myself in ways. I like what the children are doing to her, how they are affecting her life and making her compassionate. They are having to rely on her and she is taking care of them first and foremost."
Lucie B. answers question three:
3. Do the main characters change by the end of the book? Do they grow, or come to learn something about themselves?
"Yes, I believe that they do change. Margaret realizes that her father had good intentions after all and forgives him for not telling her his 'secret' before he died. She also realizes that she was young and immature when she was 'in love' with Nathaniel and has since grown up. A very important thing that she realizes also is how important it is for her to have a relationship with a man who is a believer; contrasting the difference between Andrew and Nathaniel."
Kathy C. takes number four:
4. Is the plot engaging? Does the story interest you? Is this a plot-driven book, a fast-paced page turner? OR does the story evolve slowly? Were you surprised by the plots complications? Or did you find it predictable?
"It's an unfolding story, but at the same time it was a page-turner! I thought that Miralee really developed each character well."
Christie S. joined in: "Kept your attention by switching to different characters/scenes within the same chapter. Kept all of our attention!"
Kathy C. stated: "Definitely! it kept us on our toes until the end!!"
Lucie B. commented: "It kept our attention by letting us know what Margaret was thinking and feeling. And with regards to the two men in her life; giving the descriptions of Andrew and Nathaniel and how different they both were relating to Margaret, kept you wondering who she would choose."
Kathy C. answers number five:
5. Talk about the book's structure. Is it a continuous story or interlocking short stories? What viewpoint does the author use?
"Bunch of short stories woven together. First person throughout the book."
Lucie B. takes six:
6. What main ideas ----themes----does the author explore?
"I really liked the setting of the book. I have been to Multinomah Falls in Oregon and am familiar with the logging industry because of where we live here in the middle of the Redwood Forest where we have very similar small towns that used to log or still do. I also loved that the story brought in a character with special needs -- and was gentle with the subject but realistic from each point of view."
Christie S. commented: "I liked how Miralee put in the line that Joel was just "slow" not saying he was "stupid" or "retarded"."
Deborah L. answers number seven:
7. What passages strike you as insightful, even profound? A bit of dialogue thats funny, or encapsulates a character? Perhaps comments which make a statement of faith?
"The last time the children ran away, on page 270-271 in the book the man who found them in his barn (with a pitchfork in his hand) said something about the 'good Lord watching over them' and Margarets response was 'I think He has been since they arrived here, and I'm guessing He'll continue if I can just keep trusting Him.' The man then responds to her with, 'I think He'll keep on even if you struggle to trust Him. God's pretty big, you know, and He don't need our permission to care for those we love."
Christie S. commented: "I really liked how Sammie heard God's voice and was guided by Him (p. 96), and how it comes back into the story time and again how God spoke to Sammie and that God used this incident to be a witness to Margaret."
Carmen R. wraps it up with the last question:
8. Have you ever felt strongly that God was leading you in one direction and found out later that He wasn't?
"Yes, years ago I felt strongly that God was leading me to go to this private college, Chapman, to pursue a musical career singing opera. Only I found that He had lead me there to meet my future husband's mother who introduced me to him"
Thank you for reading all the way to the end! Whew! Now, let's get those comments coming!