In wrapping up our God, Boys, and Real Life Special with Author Ann Lee Miller, she sits down to chat with Annabell about what makes her such a big nerd, what she hopes readers gain from her books, the misrepresentations of Christian living and some of the best lessons she's learned from her kids and God.
Annabell: Every author who stops by TeamNerd Reviews has to be initiated into our Nerdom, and we do that through asking:
What qualities do you possess that make you a nerd?
Ann Miller: Ha ha! Like maybe I’d rather read a book than go to a party. I want electronics for my birthday and Christmas—not that I necessarily want to learn how to use them. I love my e-reader because I’m so trendy—no, really because I’m too lazy to carry around six books wherever I go. I’m married to a guy who stops eating dinner to go look something up in the dictionary. I spawned four computer geeks who come in handy with those electronics. Thankfully, a couple/few of them got some throwback “cool” genes from somewhere.
Do you like to collect things?
Ann Miller: Books, glorious books! They line my walls like relatives you actually like.
What were you like in high school?
Ann Miller: I was on Homecoming Court, VP of my senior class (ahem, we won’t say what year that was), on the swim team. On the outside, my life looked pretty sweet, but on the inside I’d been bulldozed by my parents’ divorce and a sucky childhood.
Favorite Superhero + Favorite Villain:
Ann Miller: I’m so not a superhero kind of girl. Plain ol’ heros are more my speed. But one of those guys in tights . . .
Annabell: You write stories under the Christian genre, a genre that in the secular world is vastly misunderstood. What do you hope non-believers (as well as believers) gain from reading your books?
Ann Lee Miller: I was a hungry teen, looking for a God to rescue me, fix all the broken stuff inside. When I found Him at 19 it was magic. Finally, someone loved me without conditions. Somebody listened. I finally had a voice. If I can give another girl like me a hand-up to the God I found, I’ve done what I wanted to do.
Annabell: As a fellow Christian, I can understand the feelings of misrepresentation your characters go through when trying to understand God and what a Christian person is supposed to be like. What do you think are some of the biggest misrepresentations about Christians that you wish people would break away from? Or even Christians would break away from.
Ann Miller: Wowzer, Annabel, you ask the best questions! My eyes roll back in my head when I read books that make Christians sound like we have it all together. I wish. Ha! We struggle through life just like everyone else. True, God helps us out of our messes, is a primo therapist, and smooth’s a lot of the rough edges off life. But we whine, pitch fits, and screw up on a regular basis. We wake up in pissy moods and say or do a lot of stuff we regret later. I like books that represent Christians as people who are clean inside because Jesus wiped out their regrets/sins, people who have hope instilled in the bedrock of their beings.
Annabell: In Avra’s God you explore many themes but two stood out the most for me.
The first being the brokenness each individual character has to face and overcome. How did you approach showcasing the brokenness they each face and what gives them each the strength to move forward?
Ann Lee Miller: At the outset, Avra’s burden is slight and common to a lot of girls—she’s never had a boyfriend and wants one, badly. But she ends up more broken than any of her friends when she is betrayed by the guy she falls in love with. Because she flings herself and her pain at God, all her friends are deeply inspired as they watch her heal. None of the friends, even Avra, fully realize she is the one who influences them to sort out their issues with their parents and God.
And the second being the romantic entanglements they each go through and the different ways they handle love, sex, and rejection. What do you hope readers are able to learn from their journey?
Ann Lee Miller: All the characters struggle with sexual temptation. I hope readers will see that sex before marriage is uber destructive. Yes, sex is awesome, but it’s so explosive emotionally that it needs to be experienced in the totally safe environment of complete commitment. God didn’t make that rule to keep us from having fun, but to protect our hearts.
Annabell: Parents are usually MIA in books, no matter the genre, no matter the age. I call them the “Absentee Parent(s)” who come in for a short time than are somehow missing for the remainder of the book, aloof to what their children or child is doing. Avra’s parents, Cisco’s father, and Jessie’s father all played a role throughout Avra’s God. Why was it so important to you to make sure the parents weren’t just left as occasional background voices?
Ann Lee Miller: All my stories are coming-of-age tales, and a big part of that era of life involves dealing with parental baggage. Even people who have great childhoods are called upon to help their friends heal. I think adding this layer makes the books deeper and causes them to resonate with readers.
Annabell: Tell us about Kicking Eternity. What can readers expect to encounter in the book? (Give us stuff not contained in the synopsis)
Ann Lee Miller: Kicking Eternity is for any girl who has fallen for the local badboy/walking-hotness and hopes she can reform him. It’s about having a dream that burns in us while we sleep and drives us through our days, a dream that must be lived. About people who try to steal our dream. And ultimately about relinquishing the dream to God to see whether His vision matches ours.
Annabell: You grew up in New Smyrna Beach, Florida and use it as the setting in all three of your books. What was it like growing up in New Smyrna? What’s something you just LOVED to do there?
Ann Lee Miller: I only lived in New Smyrna Beach full-time my junior and senior years of high school and part-time during college. It was truly the “happy” in my nomadic childhood—the place where I felt accepted and safe. After being a lonely kid, I loved living in a small town where it was easy to know and be known, to run into friends at the beach or wherever I went.
Annabell: You’re a mother of four kids. What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned from your kids?
Ann Lee Miller: Ha, ha! If you don’t manage to teach your kids to pick up after themselves, eventually they’ll move out and the house will be clean. Seriously, though, one of my sons has taught me to just hang out with God without an agenda clenched in my fist.
Annabell: What’s one of the BEST lessons you’ve learned from your relationship with God that continues to inspire you everyday?
Ann Lee Miller: I’m finally “getting” that God likes me, enjoys me, just the way I am in my flawed state. I am His little girl, and He loves to watch me twirl, and giggle, and just be me.
Annabell, I have to tell you again what a totally awesome name you have. Ha! You do an insightful interview, too. I haven’t had so much fun talking about myself in—well, I can’t remember when. Thanks for hosting me on your blog, sweetie. And I can’t wait till your book comes out!
Annabell: Thank you so much to Author Ann Lee Miller for a great and fun week of hanging out and getting to know her better! And thank you SO MUCH Ann for your AMAZING support!! *BIG HUG*
God, Boys and Real Life Special Week