Miralee Ferrell ~ Revisited!

Miralee Ferrell heads the local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers serving the Portland, Or-Vancouver, Wa area. She is a published author in both women’s contemporary fiction and historical romance. She’s married and has two children, loves to garden, read, ride horses and sail with her husband. She was a guest on Novel Journey back in October of 2007. Miralee, welcome back to Novel Journey!

When you’re writing, whom are you writing for? What type of reader do you envision picking up your books?

That depends on the genre I’m writing. On my first book, The Other Daughter, I hoped to minister to women who’d been hurt in their marriage, felt betrayed in some way, or were struggling with their own spirituality. It dealt with a married couple who discover a young girl standing on their doorstep claiming to be the husband’s daughter.

My newest release, Love Finds You In Last Chance, CA, is a bit different. I can see both men and women picking this up, as it has more of an “old west” flavor and theme. The spiritual thread is woven through out the story, but isn’t ‘in your face’. People who love peeking into the 1800’s and love an entertaining read without getting bogged down in heavy historical details, will enjoy this story. But I believe it will also minister to individuals who might be struggling with who they are and where they fit in life, especially if they’ve had issues with acceptance.

Here’s the backcover blurb: It’s 1877 and Alexia Travers is alone in the world. Her father has died unexpectedly, leaving her burdened with a heavily mortgaged horse ranch. Marrying one of the town’s all-too-willing bachelors would offer an easy solution, but Alex has no interest in marriage. Instead, she dons men’s trousers and rides the range, determined to make the ranch a success on her own.

But despite Alex’s best efforts, everything seems to go wrong: ranch hands quit, horses are stolen, and her father’s gold goes missing. Alex is at her wit’s end when wrangler Justin Phillips arrives in Last Chance with his young son, looking for a job. But there seems to be more to Justin’s story than he’s willing to share. Will Alex ever be able to trust him? More importantly, will the independent woman finally learn to depend on God? What other books have you written, whether published at this time or not?

As I mentioned, my first release was a women’s contemporary, The Other Daughter. I’m currently working on its sequel. The working title (subject to change) is Past Shadows and is also women’s contemporary. It’s set to release fall of 2009 and follows Jeena, a secondary character from the first book. I’m also working on another historical and have started writing the third book that follows Past Shadows.

I see this is your first historical. Was it hard for you to switch from a contemporary to a setting of over 100 yrs ago?

I thought it might be and wondered when I pitched the book to Summerside if I’d be able to pull it off. I saw myself as a contemporary writer and six months earlier would have said I’d never write a historical. In fact, I pitched the story line as a contemporary, but after brainstorming with my editor, we agreed it would be better served as a historical. I loved writing about this time period and had so much fun fleshing out the variety of characters in the book to fit the old west theme. It’s not your typical ‘prairie romance’, as it does have a bit of gun play, one fight scene (but none of these are graphic), and a suspense thread. I grew up reading Zane Grey books, which colored my writing style somewhat.

What kind of special research did you do for this time period and setting?
My husband and I flew into Sacramento last summer, then drove 1 ½ hrs to our B&B on the edge of the Sierra Nevada Mtns where we stayed for 3 nights. A wonderful archeologist who works for the National Forest offered to take us another 1 ½ hrs into the mountains to visit the ghost town site of the once booming mining town of Last Chance. We’d never have found it on our own, as it’s simply a wide spot on the forest road now, with one small building. We spent a couple of hours scouting the area, taking pictures, and another few hours chatting with our guide. We poured over maps of the area, and I found books depicting the time period with scant bits of history on the town and surrounding area. A local museum in a nearby town helped with a little more information, as did the local library and our hostess at the B&B.

This is one of the books in Summerside’s ‘Love Finds You In…’ series that are set in real towns across the nation. How did you happen to end up with a ghost town set in the Sierra Nevada mountains?

I had the story line in mind, but originally planned on setting it in Idaho, as the inspiration for the main character was a woman who successfully owned and ran one of the biggest horse ranches (owned by a woman) in the 1800’s, Kittie Wilkins. Rachel loved the story but they weren’t planning any books set in Idaho for the first few releases. Last Chance was one of the titles they planned on releasing first, so we decided to set the story there.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book and were there any surprises along the way?

I loved bringing the old west to life and getting acquainted with some of the specific history of that time. And yes, a rather big surprise. We assumed that since Last Chance was in Central Ca., that it might lend itself to a horse ranch theme. It wasn’t until I started seriously researching the area that I discovered it was set high in the mountains and a horse ranch might present a problem.

I wanted to keep the story as true to the history and geography as I could and wondered if I’d have to turn the plot into a mining story, but had my heart set on the ranch theme. I dug deeper into history and discovered an old diary entry from the 1860’s, just 10 yrs before the time period I’d chosen. It stated that there was a wide plateau just a couple of miles out of town, stretching for 3 miles, and treeless. Perfect spot to put a ranch. When we visited the area we found the plateau, now completely covered with large trees. Had I not found that diary entry I’d probably have had to change the story. God is indeed good to us writer’s, isn’t He!

Do you plan on returning to contemporary, or will this be a permanent genre change?

I think I’ll be doing quite a bit of both. My next two books with Kregel will both be contemporary, but I have two books in mind that I’ll be pitching to Summerside (and others) that are set in the time period between 1900 and 1929. Not quite the old west, but still definitely historical.

Do you see yourself strictly as an author, or do you envision your career broadening in any way beyond writing?

It’s funny…when I started this journey a little over 3 yrs ago, I envisioned myself as heading more toward speaking than writing. Now, I’m writing nearly full time and haven’t seen as much happening in the speaking arena. I’m hoping to turn that around and even it out this coming year, as I approach historical societies, schools and women’s groups and offer to speak.

Are you involved in any ministries that are related to writing in any way?

I’m a licensed minister (not a pastor), serving on staff at our church part time and minister to women one-on-one with counseling and prayer. One of the reasons for writing my first book was the hope that God would use it to reach women who live in a marriage where their spouse doesn’t know the Lord, or who are raising step children and need to know there’s hope and help through Christ. All of the spiritual threads woven through my writing are there to minister to the reader. And as my writing career expands, I’m fully expecting my speaking ministry will grow, as well.

What kind of activities to you like to do, that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

I’ve been an avid horse lover all my life, but didn’t get my own horse until I was 20 and my husband bought me a two-year-old Arabian. That began my love affair with Arabs and I’ve owned anywhere from 1-9 since. My daughter inherited my love for horses and while I only have one trail horse now, she and her husband have three. Our property adjoins theirs, and we have wonderful wooded riding trails that extend for miles next to our property where we ride about 8 months of the year.

I also enjoy working in my garden and flowerbeds, as well as sailing with my husband. He’s been restoring a 51’ double-masted, live aboard sailboat for almost 5 yrs and we’re hoping to head up to the Inland Passage of Alaska within a year.

Where can readers find your newest book, Love Finds You In Last Chance, California?

At bookstores everywhere, including Borders, Barnes and Noble, Sam’s Club, some WalMart stores, Lifeway, and most Christian stores. And of course, any online bookseller that you choose. I do hope your readers here at Novel Journey will pick it up and send me a note when they finish. You can also keep an eye on future releases by visiting my web site at www.miraleeferrell.com, and be sure to drop me a note, I’d love to hear from you! And thank you, Elizabeth for taking the time to chat and inviting me here with you.