Name: John Anthony Miller
Where are you from?
I live in southern New Jersey – not far from Philadelphia. I have a degree in Nuclear Technology, but have been writing for the last few years.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My second novel, the WWII thriller In Satan’s Shadow, has been released by Endeavour Press in the U.K. and Taylor & Seale in the US.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I always wrote as a hobby, or more of an escape, but got serious about it around five years ago. I took some internet courses, one of which was taught by an editor for a major NY publisher. Everything started to fall into place after that.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When a literary agent agreed to represent me. I knew then that a publishing contract was only a matter of time.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The common theme in my novels are ordinary people who are compelled to do extraordinary things, driven by events or tumultuous times. My first two books are about WWII, but not generals or admirals or politicians, but a reporter, a history teacher, a violinist. They become heroes, just as ordinary people became heroes during the war.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I like to be descriptive, lush is the literary term. I want the reader to actually see and feel what the characters are facing. I want the reader to smell the crispness of an autumn day, marvel at a well-designed building, taste a superb cuisine – just as if they were there.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My second novel, In Satan’s Shadow, is about Amanda Hamilton, a Scottish photographer and violinist, who marries a Nazi Party official and spends ten years in Germany, immersed in one of the most tumultuous periods in human history. Her life takes a turbulent turn in the midst of World War II, when an English spy named Michael York arrives in Berlin and convinces her to betray her adopted country. Since she is a favorite of Hitler, she walked in Satan’s shadow, Satan being a symbol for Hitler.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, the message in In Satan’s Shadow is to never give up. The male character, Michael York, who is tasked with approaching Amanda, faces one obstacle after another, mental and physical, with success never quite within his grasp, but still he continues on.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The book is solely a product of my imagination, but I think all authors leave threads of their lives in what they write – places they’ve been, people they know or see or have encountered. I got the idea for the first few chapters of In Satan’s Shadow while on holiday, standing on the German-Swiss border, staring at a winding stream. I thought – hmmm, what fun could we have with this stream, maybe a fugitive, followed by dogs and German soldiers – and off the story went.
Fiona: What books have influenced your life most? a mentor?
Three authors have had a significant influence on me. James Michener who wrote epics about locations, taught me that the location of a book is a character, just as the people are, and, if described well enough, the reader will feel like he’s there. Ken Follett, my favorite author, taught me the importance of moving a story along, turning the direction or content continually to make the reader want to know what happens next. And Robert Ludlum taught me about suspense.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite author is Ken Follett, because of his suspenseful plots and interesting characters. I tend to read established writers and, except for Follett and Sebastian Faulks, they tend to be from different eras: Ludlum, Michener, Hemingway.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My literary agent, Donna Eastman. She has believed in me from day one, picks me up when I’m down, constantly encourages me. She’s fabulous.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. In Satan’s Shadow is doing very well. I have a third book set for release in October, and a 4th next March. I’m getting ready to start my fifth.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I might have added a bit more intrigue, increased the dangers a British spy faces in Berlin.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve written my whole life, but in dribs and drabs, a few chapters here and there. It wasn’t until I started to write daily it became my passion.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My next two projects, both in the publishing pipeline, are also set in World War II. When Darkness Comes, a story of the French Resistance, is slated for an October release, and I’m just completing All the King’s Soldier’s, set in Portugal in 1940, describing the murder of a British agent who obtains the German invasion plans for Britain.
Then I think I’d like to stray from the World War II stage. I find the topic of time travel intriguing, and I’m starting to plot a novel about a man lost in time, finding his way forward, but to different eras, never quite finding his own.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I tend to have several false starts when I begin a new book. Whatever plot, era, and location I choose has to interest me enough that I’ll spend a year researching it and writing about it. Sometimes I get started and something else attracts my attention and I change direction and put whatever I had originally started on my list of future books.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I didn’t for my first book, which is set in Singapore and Indonesia, but I traveled France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands for current and future books.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Endeavour Press designed the Kindle cover. Taylor & Seale designed the print cover.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part for me is getting the first 5 or 6 chapters fluid enough to form a strong foundation for the book. I write a prologue and epilogue first, like bookends, without knowing the story. Then I write the story that takes place in between.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
For me, it’s very important not to be interrupted while writing the first draft. I need continuity, and have to get everything that comes to mind on paper. Sometimes I summarize whole scenes just to get to the next one, or I’ll leave a note to myself for the second draft like DESCRIBE. The first draft is like purging the ideas from my subconscious. Other writers, like Ken Follett, are very technical and use detailed outlines. That method doesn’t seem to work for me.,
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
I think if In Satan’s Shadow became a film that either Caroline Catz or Gina McKee would be perfect for Amanda Hamilton, assuming Fiona McVie isn’t available. Maybe Cillian Murphy or Bradley Cooper as Michael York.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes – the more you write, the better you get
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I appreciate your support, and I especially like the comments my readers send me, whether they’re compliments or suggested improvements.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading a book about the mind and how it works regarding organization, procrastination; it’s fascinating. When I finish that I’m going to start a book by a fellow Endeavour author, Brian Kitchen’s Divided Empire, set in 4th century Roman Britain.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes, it was a Hardy Boys Mystery – the Viking Symbol Mystery.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
The older I get the more I laugh at small children. I think they’re such a pleasure to be around. I cry when reminded of people that have been taken from me before their time.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Yes- I would love to spend an hour with Winston Churchill. I would be very interested in how he started spy networks in Europe.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
He may not have always done the right thing, but he had a helluva time.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I’m musically inclined and play the piano and guitar as well as write songs. I’ve also worked sessions in a recording studio playing keyboards.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love Downton Abbey, Foyles War, Doc Martin, Peaky Blinders, Forsythe Saga – any British TV series hooks me
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Scrambled eggs, purple, and the Beatles
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would be a piano player
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My new novel In Satan’s Shadow: