#1 NYT bestselling author Linda Lael Miller
Why I Write the Books I Write

Working on the Country books, starting with Country Strong, I’ve found myself thinking about what’s important to me—and to so many of you, my dear readers, as you’ve kindly told me—and how these elements are reflected in my stories.  They appear in all my contemporary books and, in a different way, in my historical fiction.

I decided (for no reason other than that it makes me feel organized!) to do this in alphabetical order. Here’s what really matters to me:

Animals. This won’t surprise anyone who’s read my books. My family, my friends and I all consider ourselves—and call ourselves—“animal people.” I know how true this is for my readers, too. We love the animals in our lives, value them and take care of them, and they do so much for us. Our pets love us without reservation; they bring us joy.

And they’re fascinating! Endlessly. You’ll find that Cord, the hero/male protagonist of Country Strong, is utterly fascinated by his horses and an expert in working with them. Then there are Cord’s dogs, plus Holly the adorable rescue Beagle, and J.P.’s service dog, Trooper (a dog with a job!). All of these animals contribute to the comfort and happiness of their people’s lives.

 

Community. That’s something a town like Painted Pony Creek provides; that’s why you go to a town like this, why you stay there. The people here love their home. Many families here go back a number of generations. Others have returned—like Shallie, the female lead–and still others moved here because the place appeals to them.

Not that the town or all its residents are perfect! But you could say that’s one source of the conflict so necessary to any story… And you’ll see how seriously the characters in Country Strong take the protection of their town and its people.

 

Country. As the titles suggest, the land itself is crucial to these stories. Its beauty is a privilege. Being surrounded by all the different landscapes in Montana can bring a variety of emotions—from tranquility to tension (depending on the weather!), from ecstasy to excitement.

Farming and ranching are the kinds of work that depend on the land and sustain entire populations. Country confers strength (Country Strong), generates pride (Country Proud) and is about belonging (Country Born).

 

Family. For most of us, family is the foundation of our lives. It helps us make sense of the world around us—and the world inside us. Family is an important factor in this story, as it is in all my books. Shallie and especially the teenager Carly are seeking their families. And the men—Cord, Eli, and J.P.—are looking for, hoping for, families of their own…

 

Friendship. I believe friendship is the other critical connection in our lives, the other main source of important human relationships, and it’s key to this story (and all the Country books). Cord, Eli and J.P., continuing central characters in the series, are lifelong friends and remain close. They and people like Shallie, Brynne, Carly deeply value their friendships and make new ones. And as a friend (!) of mine put it, friends lead to friends…

 

Humor.  What would life be without laughter, shared jokes and shared witticisms? For one thing, humor is usually such a vital aspect of being friends. It connects us. It also allows us to enjoy the good things in our lives even more and to make the hard things more tolerable. Humor is always there among the three friends in Country Strong—and between them and their other friends.

 

Love. Ultimately the most important thing there is, the emotion that in many ways defines us. I celebrate love in all my books. Love for family, home and friends, of course—and the romantic love we find with the person who will be part of our lives.  That kind of love is also about becoming the best possible version of ourselves. In Country Strong (and this isn’t a spoiler!) it’s what Cord and Shallie experience.

 

Music. Another source of joy! It’s entertainment, yes, but it’s something else that brings us together. And music expresses so many truths, doesn’t it? In this book, and in the series, the music of choice is naturally country music.  Just about everyone in town is involved, attending The GateCrashers’ concerts; they’re the local band. They play classics you’ll recognize and their own music.

 

Mystery. I have to admit I love some mystery, a bit of suspense, both in the books I read and the ones I write. Of course, with Eli as the county sheriff, there are some real opportunities to create situations that need solving… And wait till you read Country Proud, Eli’s story!

 

Story is the perfect word to end with. We read story because we need story; it gives shape and logic to our world and our lives.

I invite you to send me your personal stories and comments on any and all of the points I’ve discussed. Write me at my website: www.lindalaelmiller.com

Thanks and see you in Painted Pony Creek!

The Magic of Seed Catalogs

Few things brighten a dreary winter day like the arrival of a seed catalog or, better yet, several of them.  The covers are always brilliantly colorful, overflowing with blue-ribbon produce and/or glorious flowers, and inside those pages, well, the magic continues.  If you happen to be a gardener, that is.

I love to study all the glorious possibilities, from the mundane to the exotic, and, like many people, I’m definitely guilty of over-ordering.  For instance, I just sent for three magnolia trees–magnolia trees, in Spokane!–but, hey, the blurb says the trees are hardy in zones 5-9.  Our zone is 6, so I’m good to go, right?  I plan to install these lovelies in front of the house, near the gazebo, cross my fingers, give them plenty of water, and dream of filling my nostrils with the glorious scent of that uniquely southern blossom on hot summer evenings.  (Maybe my interest in magnolia trees is related to the novel I’m currently writing–working title, “West of Yesterday”–which is set in Georgia in the period immediately following the end of the Civil War.  Our heroine, Amalie Winslow, has magnolia trees.)

Seed catalogs are, after all, about dreaming, and more importantly, they promise that spring will come again, followed by summer.  

Although I’ve dabbled with gardening for a few years now, I’m far from an expert, and what I’ve grown, I’ve grown in containers.  This year, I harvested tomatoes and green beans, among other things, but the blue pumpkins I planted in the raised containers were a learning experience for sure–as large as these two containers are, they simply don’t offer the kind of room pumpkins need to form adequate root systems, and I wound up with exactly 2 pumpkins.  Count ’em, 2.  Lesson learned–this year, I’m planting pumpkins again, pastel this time, but they’ll be out by the barn, with plenty of room to spread out and, of course, plenty of residual fertilizer.  :)  

I already have a basket full of enticing seed packets from Baker Creek, one of my favorite suppliers, and this year I’ll have at least 6 raised beds to work with, so I’m going big.  Among other intriguing things, I’m planting ‘Nadapenos’–Jalapenos without the heat, a kind of squash grown by the Lincoln family, luffas, tomatoes, of course, and a lot of greens.  It’s still way too early to start seeds–except indoors, which is another blog–but I’m definitely gathering materials and pouring over every seed catalog that finds its way into my mailbox.  There are bound to be successes and failures–things to be learned, discoveries to be made–and I’m itching to grow flowers and veggies and woo hummingbirds and butterflies, bees and ladybugs, too.  (I ordered little houses for Mason bees–whatever they are–and winter shelters for ladybugs to ride out the harsh winter.  Who knew such handy items even existed?)

Ah, seed catalogs.  Hope on paper.

And speaking of hope on paper, my newest book, COUNTRY STRONG, came out today.  I’m sure hoping you’ll enjoy this first book in a brand new trilogy.