J.L. Miles (Jackie Lee), a resident of Georgia for over thirty years, hails from Wisconsin via South Dakota. She considers herself “a northern girl with a southern heart”. Her paternal grandfather was christened Grant Lee by her great-grandmother in honor of the many fallen soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Ms. Miles is a former D.I.A.L. Systems Engineer for Baker/Audio Telecom, one of the premier forerunners of voice mail.In addition to systems application, she provided voice tracks for several major companies, including Delta Airlines and Frito-Lay Corporation.A former Miss Racine, Wisconsin, Ms. Miles, made television, print and fashion appearances, and participated in various stage productions, including “Joan of Lorraine”, “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” and “The Miracle Worker”.
She resides in a suburb of Atlanta with her husband Robert. Her debut novel, the critically acclaimed Roseflower Creek, was Cumberland House Publishing’s lead book when it debuted in hardcover. It is also available in Trade paperback. Earl Hamner, creator of The Waltons called it, “A powerful, extraordinary novel.”
N.Y. Times best-selling author William Diehl wrote: “The lyric prose will thrill you, the story is unforgettable, and the characters will stay with you forever.”
Cold Rock River, the journey of two young women born a century apart, debuted September 2006 in hardcover. N.Y. TIMES best-selling author DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK writes: “Cold Rock River by J. L. Miles is a powerful story of family, love and loss that will keep you up into the wee hours. Absolutely wonderful! Beautifully told and straight from the heart of an exquisitely talented writer.”
Miles latest project is the Dwayne Series, a three-book southern anthology featuring Francine Harper, who is under felony assault charges for shooting at her husband Dwayne and his stripper/lover Carla from the Peel ‘n Squeal. Francine finds her strengths and reclaims her dignity via a trial and many errors. Divorcing Dwayne debuted April, 2008. Dear Dwayne releases April 2009. Dating Dwayne to follow.
When not writing, Miles tours with The Dixie Darlin’s, four nationally published book-writing belles—with a passion for promotion—serving up helpings of down-home humor and warmth.Visit the website at www.j.l.miles.com.
Welcome to Beyond the Book, Jackie. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published?
The Dwayne Series is a genre removed from what I normally write, but it did provide a nice respite. My debut novel Roseflower Creek was inspired by an actual death penalty case in Georgia. My second novel Cold Rock River is the parallel journey of two young women born a century apart. In 1060’s rural Georgia, with the Vietnam War cranking up, seventeen-year-old Adie Jenkins discovers the diary of seventeen-year-old Tempe Jordan, a slave girl, with the Civil War well under way. Adie is haunted by the death of her baby sister. Tempe is grieving the sale of her three children sired by her white master. What’s buried in the diary could destroy them both. New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank writes, “Cold Rock River is a powerful story of family, love and loss that will keep you reading into the wee hours. Absolutely wonderful! Beautifully told and straight from the heart of an exquisitely talented writer.”
What was the name of you first book?
Roseflower Creek, published by Cumberland House, is my debut novel. It covers the short life and death of ten-year-old Lori Jean, a sensitive dreamer of a child who longs for a normal family life. Lori Jean discovers a secret that leads to her untimely death. Earl Hamner, creator of The Waltons calls is, “A powerful, extraordinary novel.”
For your first published novel how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher?
I consider the way I got published to be a miracle. I went to this book conference. At the reception I literally bumped into Ron Pitkin, the president of Cumberland House Publishing. He was kind enough not to notice I spilled his drink and asked what I was working on. When I told him fiction, he promptly replied, “That’s a crap shoot.” Definitely not what I wanted to hear. I mean, I’d paid good money to come to this conference and he’s raining on my party, big time. “Well,” I said, “that’s too bad, because I have a dynamite opening line.” I was prepared to walk away, when he gently took hold of my elbow and said, “So what’s your opening line?”
“The morning I died, it rained.” Keep in mind this was long before The Lovely Bones.
“God! I want to see that book,” he said, doing an about face.
“Ah, I don’t have a book,” I said. “I have a great opening line and a hundred pages.”
He asked if I had it with me. “Of course. I’m getting it evaluated in the morning. It costs forty-five dollars.”
He told me to give it to him, he wouldn’t charge a thing. I immediately went to my room and brought back the pages. I had a prologue, and the last chapter and the epilogue along with the rest of it. It wasn’t finished, but I knew where it was going.
Mr. Pitkin thanked me and went on his way. Come Sunday morning with the conference over, everyone was checking out. I spotted Mr. Pitkin making his way toward me and thought, oh-oh, this is where he’s going to pull the rug out from under me and tell me to get a real job. To my surprise he handed me the manuscript and said, “I want this and I want it yesterday. Go home and finish it!”
I figured if I took forever to finish it he’d never even remember that he liked it. I stayed up and wrote around the clock for the next five days, took the weekend off, stayed up again and wrote around the clock for the next five days and sent it off to Mr. Pitkin. I marked my calendar for three months, thinking it might take that long for him to get back to me. I started in on my second book. Just like all the books on writing said to do. The following Friday evening my phone rang. I answered. A voice said, “This is Ron Pitkin at Cumberland House and we’re going to bring your book out in hardback.” I said, “Ya? And I’m the tooth fairy.” And I hung up on him. The reason I did this is that the only person other than my husband who knew I’d sent off the manuscript was a good friend of mine who can mimic any voice he’s ever heard. He’d been going to this conference where I’d met Mr. Pitkin for years and has heard him speak many times. It had to be this friend playing a joke on me. Not a very funny one either. I wasn’t amused.
I went upstairs to comb my hair and put some lipstick on. My husband was starving and wanted to go and get something to eat. Poor thing, he probably was starving. I stopped cooking when the kids left home and I took up writing. No sooner did I get to the bedroom when the phone rang. This one has caller ID, the others don’t. I leaned over and saw CUMBERLAND HOUSE flashing on the screen. I’d hung up on Mr. Pitkin for real!
I picked up the handset, leaned into it and barely whispered “Hello?”
“What’d you hang up on me for?” he said. “Ah, it’s a long story, a very boring story,” I said.
“Well, we’re bringing out your book in hard back and bumping back our memoir piece on Dale Earnhardt (he’d been tragically killed), to make Roseflower Creek the lead book. What do you think of that?”
I was hyperventilating and finding it impossible to speak. I did my best. “Didn’t you say fiction was a crap shoot?” I asked
“Yes—and it is,” he said.
“Then I think your crazy or my protagonist got herself a miracle. What do you think of that?”
Mr. Pitkin laughed and said he’d be seeing me. This is a true story and a pretty amazing way to get published.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I got on my knees and managed to stay there for quite a long time!
What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I read as much as possible about promoting ones book and bought a copy of 1001 Ways to Promote Your Book. With my subsequent books I hired Pump Up Your Book.com, which has been a phenomenal way to get my books out there. Thank you Pump Up Your Book.com!!
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
Since I consider the way I first got published to be a miracle, I wouldn’t change a thing. But getting my second book out there wasn’t as easy. First of all, it took five years to write and research Cold Rock River. Once I had finished it my agent, who I secured after I first got published, had left the industry after she birthed two babies back-to-back. At the same time, I found out that Cumberland House no longer was publishing fiction. I decided to send the manuscript to them anyway and ask what they thought about the novel. To my surprise I got a call from Ron Pitkin, the president of Cumberland House, who said he enjoyed the book very much and wanted to bring it out in hardcover. Another miracle!
What had been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
Being invited to all of the book festivals as a featured author and presenter is by far the most amazing achievement. I have seven workshops I’ve written:
5 Things That Make a Good Story Great!
Bring Your Characters to Life.
Finish What you Start in 5 Steps.
Opening Lines That Get Published.
Elements of Fiction Made Easy.
Crafting Queries That Count: Getting an Agent When Others Don’t
Revision: What to Cut. What to Keep and Why!
I’ve presented these at book clubs and book festivals all over the south.I find it extremely rewarding when struggling authors approach me after a festival and let me know that what I taught has been a big help to them. I just want to hug them!!
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
If I were to go back to school I’d want to be a district attorney and prosecute criminals. I have a theatrical background and feel the best criminal attorneys have the ability to spin a good story and capture the audience, in this case the jury.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
I think Id’ combine them and write thrillers like John Cresham! And for sure I’d finish my Kate Ferrington mystery series that I started years ago.It’s billed as A Kill Her Series, as all of the titles have the word “kill her” in it. Titles like:
Love Her So Well, Kill Her So Good
Kill Her Dead, Kill Her Gone
Love Her on One Day, Kill Her on Sunday
Kiss Her, Tease Her, Kill Her, Squeeze Her
I’ve finished the first one, but set it aside several years ago. It needs a good edit. It’s four hundred and fifty pages long. Yikes! Mystery’s normally span say three hundred pages, max.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
On the New York Times Bestsellers list! Hope. Hope. Or perhaps on the beach—laptop in hand—pounding out my next attempt to get on that list.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Read, read read! And write, write, write! And remember those talented authors who you think were born to write, well maybe so, but let me assure you they weren’t born published. And always remember there are only three simple steps to writing a good book:
- Put your protagonist up a tree.
- Put a tiger under the tree.
- Get your protagonist out of the tree.
J.L. Miles, Divorcing Dwayne, women’s fiction, chick lit, virtual book tour, blog tour, virtual blog tour, author interviews, book blog, author publicity, book publicity, online book promotion, book promotion