An Interview with V. Jolene Miller
The act of writing connects all authors, but each author I’ve encountered is so vastly different from another, it’s no wonder the products of our writing are so varied. In this installment of the Author Interview, I’m pleased to present V. Jolene Miller (all the way from Alaska!), whose background and life are so different from mine, I can’t help but learn from her. She is the author of Soaring Alone, Shooting Sdax, Sons of Steel, and multiple low/no content journals as well as the forthcoming Starring Alaska. In addition, she runs Author’s Ink, which is a “literary boutique celebrating readers, writers, and the pages between us.” Anyone who wants to celebrate anything literary deserves to get a little shout-out, so I’m grateful to V. Jolene that she took the time to answer a few questions.
Christina: On your website you state that you believe “in ordinary heroes and write for and about the misfits, the misunderstood, and the underdogs of life.” What draws you to their stories? Do you always hope for happy endings for them? Do they always get happy endings?
V. Jolene: I think I’m drawn to these stories because I live a pretty ordinary life. And I think most people do. In society we celebrate the person who saves the drowning person or rescues the missing children or whatever, and all of those stories are important. They truly are. But I think the stories about people who are trying to build a better life or get out of debt or put themselves through college are just as heroic and important and those stories are rarely told; those heroes rarely celebrated. Do I always hope for happy endings for them? Yes and no. Naturally, I want my characters to see their dreams come true. That being said, I know that’s not reality, and I like my fiction to resemble practical reality. So, no. They don’t always get a happy ending, though I do try to find a silver lining in there somewhere for folks to glean hope from.
Christina: You run Author’s Ink, which is a pop-up shop in Bethel, Alaska: “Every month at Bethel’s Saturday Market, Author’s Ink ‘pops up’ with a variety of new and used books and literary novelties for sale.” What brought you to Alaska? What does a typical Saturday at Author’s Ink look like?
V. Jolene: Almost ten years ago, my husband and I lived in the Midwest in a house we’d worked hard to be able to afford. We home schooled our six kids and were making a decent living. We thought we’d live there forever. We talked about living there forever while we prayed that if there were opportunities God wanted us to take in life, that He’d present those to us. One day, it dawned on us: We weren’t serious about that prayer, that willingness to go anywhere God called us if we were following it up with statements about never moving out of that house. Around the same time, the company I worked for was going through transition and my options weren’t that great. I put out my resume and couldn’t get a bite. Then I found an opportunity for a job in Alaska. Two months later, we sold everything we owned and relocated.
A typical Saturday at Author’s Ink starts with pancakes and coffee. From there, some lounging with my husband until he goes to work. After that, I have the house to myself to work on pricing books, editing, or writing on my WIP. Running a few miles is usually weather- and mood- dependent. By late afternoon, two of the grand kids come over and then I’m in “Gigi” mode until bedtime.
Christina: You’ve chosen to independently publish your work. How did you go about making that decision, and what should a writer contemplating the process know?
V. Jolene: Impatience was a large part in the decision to publish independently. If getting traditionally published takes years, and the writer has little to no control over things like the cover or the title, then I want no part in it. Though, if someone discovers me and says I can chat with Oprah about my book as long as I traditionally publish, I’d do that in a heartbeat. Otherwise, I also decided for myself that my work is good enough to be in the world. Growing up in an environment where you’re often told to “shut up” or that your opinion “doesn’t matter” has an impact on a person. The last thing I need is to spend my non-writing moments reading a multitude of rejection letters. My husband and kids are my biggest supporters, and I decided that if they believed in me, I could believe in myself enough to write and publish my work.
Christina: Which of your works are you most proud of and why? Do you think your readers would agree with you?
V. Jolene: I am most proud of my collection of stories Sons of Steel. This book came from a single conversation with my youngest daughter about struggles and triumphs of some members of my family of origin. It was the creative portion of my thesis when I was in MFA school and it won a Jason Wenger Award for Excellence in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. I poured myself into this book for three years and I wanted that award so badly! Those three years was a time of personal growth for me as a student earning my second master’s degree where I struggled to conquer the concept of point of view. Not only did that book grant me an opportunity to work with some really great authors, it allowed me to reconnect with my history and really honor the greatness of my family of origin. It has sparks of biography and truth in it—I was born in the region and spent many summers there as a child and one of the characters is based loosely on my late uncle. I think my readers would agree with me. Sons of Steel has gotten more downloads than my other books and broke the top 500 in free eBooks once.
Christina: As a fellow runner, I am fascinated by your participation in the I Run 4 group, which dedicates any miles run by the participant to someone who cannot run. With your love of reading, have you thought about establishing a similar group for readers?
V. Jolene: An I Read 4 group? Oh my goodness. That’s brilliant! I’ve never thought of that but I’m thinking about it now!
Christina: Animals teach us all sorts of lessons. What has your dog, Omar, taught you? Do you think you’ve taught him anything? Has Omar shown up in any of your writing in any shape or form?
V. Jolene: My dog Omar has taught me that running is fun and that we can run fast. She’s taught me to enjoy the good weather and get out in it because tomorrow might bring weather too bad for being outdoors. She’s taught me that it’s okay to splurge on that bottled water (she’s a fan of Smart Water). I taught Omar how to run. When I decided I had enough of trashy TV while my youngest was out enjoying life and hubby was at work, I looked at Omar (she’s a Belgian Malinois/Brazilian Mastiff mix—a breed known for running fast) and decided, let’s go do it. I taught her how to run with me instead of running in circles. We are an amazing team together. You know, she never comes up in my writing. My cat Stanlie does though—she’s in Soaring Alone and gets honorary mentions in Shooting Sdax and Starring Alaska.
Christina: I just have to ask: What is your favorite flavor of cupcake? And, if you didn’t like coffee, what else would you spend that cherished $5 on?
V. Jolene: Favorite flavor of cupcake—tiramisu. Yum! But it has to be gluten free. If I didn’t like coffee, I’d spend that cherished $5 on a cup of hot tea (English Breakfast or something ordinary—none of those flavored teas for me) with a splash of cream and a drizzle of honey.
Thanks to V. Jolene for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.
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