My Interview with Author Christine Doré Miller
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
My name is Christine Doré Miller and my book is a contemporary YA novel.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed is a story about teen dating violence, seen through one girl’s delicate and devastating journey. I was inspired by a lot of things to write this story, some from my own experiences as a survivor of teen dating violence and some from the stories of many other teens who have suffered abuse at the hands of an intimate partner, whether it be emotional, physical, verbal, and/or sexual. A new study shows that 60% of teens in the U.S. have experienced some form of abuse from a person they were dating. This is a staggering statistic, especially considering it’s not an issue that is often talked about. It became my mission to spark a dialogue on this topic through a novel that could be crafted from the voice of a modern teenager.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
When a teenager is a victim of dating abuse, it’s common for them to be minimized by adults due to their age and lack of life experience, so it was important to me to tell this story from a teenager’s perspective to show that, regardless of age or experience, being a victim of dating violence is a serious, traumatic event and should be taken extremely seriously. The fact that my protagonist is a teenager made this into a YA novel from the start, so the genre just kind of fell into place once I identified the characters and story.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I spoke with many, many teenagers from all different demographics and backgrounds to ensure that the book felt relevant, timely, and important, and to confirm that the characters were relatable. Their feedback helped me tremendously in tweaking the story to its final draft. I also read studies and research about teen dating abuse so I could make sure Andrea’s story was properly representative of what is actually happening. Every single narrative thought and decision she made was carefully crafted to make sure it was authentic to the experience of real survivors.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I have a full-time job outside of my writing, plus I have two small children, so a typical day for me is filled with organized chaos. I have a long commute to work so that gives me time to think about my writing and mull over different ideas, usually while listening to some mood music that fits the story I’m trying to tell. The actual writing, though, I usually have to do at night so I can prioritize the waking hours with my family and career. I never set a daily writing goal because any amount I could accomplish in a day felt like a win, so I tried to just cut myself some slack and do as much as I could whenever I could. It took me longer than it might take an author who can write all day, but slow and steady is better than never!
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I’m strongly considering doing a sequel but am still in the outline process right now. I don’t have a title yet.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
The main character’s name is Andrea Cavanaugh and I chose her last name because of the song “Cavanaugh Park” by Something Corporate, not just because I personally love the song (which I do), but because that song represented Andrea to me in a lot of ways so it felt really right. The other character names were chosen because they really seemed to fit their distinct personalities and lifestyles. I loved the name selection process because it felt so personal and helped me understand them in a deeper way.
Where do your ideas come from?
The idea for Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed came from the motivation to tell a story about teen dating violence as I think it’s terribly underrepresented in modern media. But my ideas for how to say certain things and what parts of the story to tell really just come from these innate feelings that I want to put words to so badly, so I usually listen to music that mirrors those feelings and experiment with different wording until it feels right.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
I’m really happy in the YA world right now so I think I’ll stay here for a while.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Finding the time! I love writing so much, but it’s hard to find long stretches of time to devote to it in such a busy life with other important priorities. It would be a dream to one day be able to write full-time as my main source of income, but for now, I have to keep juggling.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I do not have a trailer for my book right now, but I think it’s a great idea! I love seeing other authors’ trailers. I think it’s a great way to set the tone for a book.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
I’m not sure if “accomplishment” would be the right word for my answer, but my children are definitely my greatest joy. I am honored every day to be their mother. They have already taught me so much about life and love and they definitely inspire me to be the best version of myself.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Taking very complex, sensitive, and difficult feelings and emotions and assigning words to them so other people can relate and understand something in a way that maybe they hadn’t before.
Have you always liked to write?
Oh yes, ever since I can remember. As a kid I used to write very imaginative stories about heroic animals and as a teen I loved poetry and journaling. After college I got more into creative writing and played with short prose but Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed is my first full-length novel.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
If you have a story inside of you that you believe in, don’t give up. It just takes one person to take a chance on you, so don’t be discouraged by the inevitable countless rejections that might come before then. Be open to feedback and courteous to those who offer it, and don’t lose yourself in the process.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
Writing is not my main job, I currently have a successful career as a Senior Marketing Manager at a large media company in Los Angeles. Writing is something I do on the side for now.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
Yes, I love reading reviews because I want to hear people’s reactions and see if they connected to the story in the way I intended or if they took something else away from it completely. During my editing process before I signed my publishing deal, I had a ton of feedback from people along the way, some was inspiring and some was very hurtful, but I tried to learn from all of it. It gave me a tougher skin and showed me what parts of my book I felt the most strongly about and what parts really did need some work. Forgiven is my first novel so I am still learning a lot about this industry and anytime someone provided insight, even if it was hard to hear, I was grateful for the opportunity.
What is your least favorite part of the writing / publishing process?
I dislike the querying and pitching process; it is not for the faint of heart. As a new author, it was hard to convince someone to take a chance on me, especially with a story about such a sensitive matter, so I felt like I was constantly facing rejection after long, long periods of waiting. It was hard to stay positive and hopeful, but I believed fiercely in this story so kept pushing forward, even when it hurt.
Where did your love of books come from?
My mom always encouraged me to read and make original stories and was so supportive of my imagination as a child, so I think it really started there. I try to do the same thing now with my children. I think it’s so important, especially in a world of screens, to keep that creative spark alive.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
I think John Green is masterful in the way he writes for young adults. I also love Laurie Halse Anderson and Rainbow Rowell; they are incredible storytellers who tell such brave stories, which I really admire.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
All of the characters in Forgiven are so important to me, but I relate the closest with Andrea. Her quiet courage to believe in love is beautiful and her inner narration is very raw and genuine. That said, I think it’s important to note, too, that I tried to provide insights for even the villainous characters, including Josh. Nobody can act out the way he does without being confused and angry, which does not excuse his behavior whatsoever, but should give some pause for people to realize it’s not necessarily as simple as labeling someone a monster. We, as a society, need to do a better job at supporting and believing survivors like Andrea and preventing the vicious acts that come all too commonly from angry young men like Josh.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both! When I have an idea that excites me, it can be energizing to get it down, but when I’m stuck or feeling overwhelmed, just starting to write can feel exhausting.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Time and patience, neither of which I have very much of 😉
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to be original and let my voice be authentic but it’s important to me that any story I intend on publishing be representative of something real so people can see themselves in it, too, even if just by feeling.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
The community of authors from Evernight, my publisher, is wonderful. Everyone is so supportive of each other and some of the more seasoned writers have been kind enough to offer newbies like me some really great advice and guidance, which I’m quite grateful for.
Where can your fans find you and follow?
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. It was definitely my Pleasure!!!