Interview with M.R. Miller

How did the Emily O'Brien series come about?
Actually, I started writing the books just for the fun of it. I never intended to let anyone else see them.
I'm an avid reader, always have been. But I found myself increasingly in a tough spot when it came to choosing my next book. I love female detective novels, but so many of the secular books go overboard with the bad language, sex and violence. But I also get tired of Christian books that are nowhere near realistic. I found myself either settling for a book I really didn't want to read or holding my nose while I picked up a book with a good story but horrible values.
I started writing something that I would like to read, realistic Christian fiction. Once I got going, I found I couldn't stop. Soon, I'd finished book one, three, four and six. (No, I did not write them in order. If I had an idea, I ran with it.). After much persuasion from my husband, I decided to finish book 2 and start publishing my own books.
What is your writing process?
I usually write on a laptop in the living room. My family is watching TV or playing video games, just hanging out. Years of working in a newsroom made me very good at tuning things out and concentrating on writing. But long before I actually write a story, I'm thinking about it a lot. I tend to plot out the major points in my head, then start writing the story, thinking about it along the way to see if I like the way it's going before I ever type a word. Once I have the whole thing worked out, then I can really push through to the end -- then the challenge is finding enough hours in the day.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I was writing stories from the time I was in junior high school but I don't actually remember them. It's called selective memory. It's a survival mechanism to protect ourselves from remembering something awful. Even as an adult, when I look at my newspaper clips from when I started as a reporter, I cringe at how bad they were. Maybe that's a little harsh, but I do immediately think of ten ways the story could have been better.
Your books are from a Christian perspective but they also include some profanity. What's up with that?
When I started writing "Vengeance Is Mine," I hit that problem right away. Emily was a new Christian. But for a long time she had worked in a newsroom and with law enforcement, which based on my experience, are both good places to develop a very colorful vocabulary. I tried really hard to write a "clean" book but the dialogue just sounded awful. I knew she wouldn't talk like that.
One of my goals with the book was to focus on an imperfect Christian. She has some bad habits and swearing is one of them. I left out any strong profanity, writing around it, but I tried to let her speak the way I thought she'd speak. I liked the way it turned out. I consider it realism.
But the profanity is not gratuitous. I hope readers see her cleaning up her act over time. Book 4, "Flesh and Blood," has a scene that addresses the contrast between her words and her faith. I also hope readers see the overall message that God uses us despite our imperfections. He cleans us up along the way.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Mostly, I think it was just figuring "Why not?" The opportunities for new writers in mainstream publishing are few and far between. That's particularly frustrating when you see books being published that aren't necessarily good, but were written by a celebrity so publishers are banking that fans will buy them. Or seeing books by established authors that seem to just be phoned in.
I didn't want to come to a point where I had a computer full of stories that no one else ever read. I decided if the whole thing was a giant failure, I could always just unpublish the books and pack it in. But, actually, it's been very rewarding and I'm glad I did it.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I don't know if "inspires" is the right word, but having a very demanding Beagle yipping at you when the sun comes up is usually a pretty good reason to get out of bed -- just to make him stop.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Ideally, I would be reading, cooking/baking, taking walks in the woods or watching (preferably new) episodes of "Sherlock." But realistically, I spend a lot of time parked in a lawn chair or on the bleachers watching my kids play baseball, listening to a band performance or going to some other school activity. And, really, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Are any of your characters based on real people?
No, but the town of Winston and Ochre County are loosely based on the place I used to live in north central Illinois. I had a much easier time creating characters than I did laying out a community so I borrowed what I already knew, taking artistic license as needed.
Also, while none of the stories are true, I do like to use things I read about in the newspaper to say, "What if?" and make up a story from there. Several of my plot points began that way.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
It's hard to pick a favorite book because I've read so many that I love. My all-time favorite would be The Bible, but here are five in addition to that (in no particular order):
1. "When Heaven Weeps," by Ted Dekker. I don't think I've ever read a more beautiful illustration of the love of God. It left me humbled.
2. "Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen. I love Elizabeth's wit and the way her relationship develops with the fabulous Mr. Darcy.
3. "Fatal Vision," by Joe McGinniss. I know McGinniss has his detractors but this was the book that made me see the power of the written word.
4. "The Complete Sherlock Holmes," by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Seriously, Sherlock Holmes was my very first crush.
5. "The Hunger Games" trilogy, by Suzanne Collins. I really enjoy some of the YA literature coming out, but this series is my favorite.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on the next Emily O'Brien book, "In the Presence of My Enemies." This one is still in the writing stage. But ... since I like to jump around in my writing, the rough draft of Book 6, "Extreme Measures," is already done. So my hope is that there won't be a huge wait between the next two books.
Published 2013-12-18.
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Books by This Author

Tangled Web (An Emily O'Brien novel #8)
Series: Emily O'Brien. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 86,000. Language: English. Published: November 8, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Christian » Mystery & detective
(5.00 from 1 review)
Winston High School is under cyberattack. Online videos of students and staff expose secrets and threats that begin to tear the school community apart. Reporter Emily O’Brien is assigned the story. As the media attention grows, the threats begin to escalate and Emily attracts the attention of an intelligent, but disturbed, individual working from the shadows.
Hidden in Darkness (An Emily O'Brien novel #7)
Series: Emily O'Brien. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 81,970. Language: English. Published: October 30, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Christian » Mystery & detective, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
(5.00 from 1 review)
Christopher Potter pleads guilty to two grisly murders in the sleepy town of Clarkstown, then requests an interview with Winston Chronicle reporter Emily O'Brien from his jail cell. The tale he spins calls into question what happened that night and whether he's actually guilty. But not everyone wants the truth to come out. And someone is willing to kill to keep the secret.
Extreme Measures (An Emily O'Brien novel #6)
Series: Emily O'Brien. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 81,780. Language: English. Published: October 30, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Christian » Mystery & detective
(5.00 from 1 review)
Everyone thinks Holly Brennan ran away from her problems, the biggest one being her mom’s creepy boyfriend. But reporter Emily O’Brien isn’t so sure. She sets out to find out where Holly has gone. But as Emily picks up her trail, she finds hints something more sinister may have happened. But can she prove it? Putting her life on the line, Emily is determined to find out, no matter what it takes.
In the Presence of My Enemies (An Emily O'Brien novel #5)
Series: Emily O'Brien. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 78,900. Language: English. Published: December 29, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
Carolyn Mercer is desperate. Backed into a corner, she can think of only one person to help her escape her situation – someone who doesn’t even like her, reporter Emily O’Brien. While the two may not have been friends, Carolyn’s problem isn’t one Emily can leave her to face on her own. But Emily’s intervention leads to deadly repercussions, for her, for Carolyn and for the people they love.
Flesh and Blood (An Emily O'Brien novel #4)
Series: Emily O'Brien, Book 4. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 82,370. Language: English. Published: August 15, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Christian » Mystery & detective
Reporter Emily O’Brien is back on the crime beat – and under the worst of circumstances. Her colleague is found dead, and the police arrest a friend for the murder. Emily is determined to clear Whit’s name, but she also has to cover the story of a man missing from a Caribbean cruise. Now Emily is following two murder investigations, but her questions could make her the next victim.
Foul Play (An Emily O'Brien novel #3)
Series: Emily O'Brien, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 94,480. Language: English. Published: January 8, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Christian » Mystery & detective
(5.00 from 1 review)
Two hunters find a corpse in a forest preserve, but no one can explain how Adam Wheeler died. Driven by guilt to attend a funeral in her hometown, reporter Emily O’Brien learns of his death and sets out to find out who killed her former friend and teammate. As she begins unraveling Adam’s secrets, her discoveries paint a tale of love, control and revenge – and possibly a motive for murder.
Buried Truth (An Emily O'Brien novel #2)
Series: Emily O'Brien, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 77,030. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Christian » Mystery & detective
(5.00 from 1 review)
Life could be better for small-town reporter Emily O'Brien. Her love life is lousy, her bills are piling up and she barely survived the holidays. When she picks up a teaching gig, she figures it will help her finances. Instead, her faith is challenged as she joins her ex on a hunt to find research that went missing after a professor’s suicide. And someone wants to make sure the truth stays buried.
Vengeance Is Mine (An Emily O'Brien novel #1)
Series: Emily O'Brien, Book 1. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 87,930. Language: English. Published: June 11, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Christian » Mystery & detective
(4.67 from 3 reviews)
Emily O’Brien is slowly putting the pieces of her life back together after her husband, a state trooper, is killed during a traffic stop. But an envelope she finds behind his desk convinces her his death was no random act of violence. Drawing on her years working the crime beat for a major Chicago newspaper, Emily begins asking questions about Alex’s death. Soon she finds she's also a target.