by C.J. Darlington
Dineen Miller Interview
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"My husband is still an atheist, but we have an amazing marriage full of love and friendship... I consider it a high calling, to be the aroma of Christ to my hubby." --Dineen Miller
In addition to writing for Spiritually Unequal Marriage, Dineen Miller has won several prestigious awards for her fiction. She’s also a C.L.A.S.S. Communicator and has been featured on the Moody Radio Network, Family Life and Focus on the Family Radio.
Married for 24 years to a guy who keeps her young, she lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two adult daughters, who surprise her daily with their own creativity.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
My first taste of writing arrived unexpectedly in the fourth grade. I still remember my first story of an Irish Red Setter who had a broken leg. The tale (or should I say tail?) was completely based upon what I’d witnessed from our apartment window when I was much younger, maybe five or six years old. That was the start. From there I continued to write short stories, poetry and reflections through high school, college and then into life as a wife and mother. I didn’t seriously pursue it as a profession until 2004. Until then it was just something I did for myself.
The possibility first presented itself when I read an ad in the back of a craft magazine calling for book ideas. I thought they meant fiction and sent away for the information packet, thinking it might be a good way to earn money and still stay home with my young daughters (feel free to laugh). In the interim, I started writing a story with the intent to write a complete book—something I’d always wanted to do. To my chagrin, the call for books was actually for craft books. LOL! By then it was too late, I was hooked! I had to finish the story and the world of writing books opened and took permanent residence in my life.
What were some of the books you enjoyed most as a kid and why?
Oddly enough, I didn’t like to read when I was a child. I don’t think anyone ever gave me a book interesting enough to hold my attention. Until the seventh grade. My English teacher was determined to make a reader out of me. He handed me a copy of Johnny Tremain one day and said in a rather frustrated tone, “Here. Read this.” I went home and started reading this amazing story of a young man determined to one, prove he was capable of more than those around him thought he was, and two, to be a man and serve his country by fighting in the Civil War. I was enthralled! I remember reading into the wee hours of the night to finish the book. After that I became a voracious reader and read everything I could get my hands on. Sometimes not the best stuff. LOL!
From that point, I read and loved books like Lord of the Flies, A Separate Peace, Lust for Life (Van Gogh’s life story), Peony, The Pearl, and Mary Stewart’s books about Merlin. I think I was drawn to characters who struggled yet persevered in their lives. I loved stories that took me from my world and brought me into theirs.
The concept of The
Soul Saver was birthed out of your marriage ministry.
Could you share with us how the idea developed for you?
My ministry partner, Lynn Donovan, and I had written a non-fiction book, Winning Him Without Words, which released from Regal Books in 2011. I was inspired by the way the movie Fireproof and the book The Love Dare worked together to “show AND tell” some very real truths about marriage. I wanted to do something similar—to somehow show that God is very present in mismatched marriages, blessing and helping the believing spouse to love their unbeliever right where they are. Just like we see Jesus do in the Bible. And to show the spiritual warfare so inherent in these types of marriages because it truly is a battle of the enemy to keep a lost soul. Marriage is our greatest example of a covenant relationship, which is intended to mirror our relationship with God. No wonder the enemy is busy working to destroy so many marriages.
You wrote most
of this book during a very tough time in your family’s
life. Did you find it to be a healing experience?
Well, I can say it definitely help me keep my sanity. LOL! When I mentioned the prophetic aspects of the story, I was referring to this. When I wrote about Lexie and Hugh’s loss of their daughter to a brain tumor, I didn’t know my fourteen year old daughter would soon be diagnosed with something similar. And the parallel of Hugh being a professor at Stanford was in place long before we found out my daughter’s radiation treatments would be designed by a physics professor at Stanford.
So it was very comforting in the sense that God prepared me in amazing ways for what was to come and then brought purpose out of all of it. In some ways we’re still seeing those purposes coming to light. It was truly an amazing journey that resulted in my daughter being healthy and well, and a book.
How did you
approach balancing the fictional narrative with all the great insights
you’ve learned about spiritually mismatched marriages I’m
sure you wanted to share through your characters?
I listened to my characters and paid close attention to how they interacted so that it would be natural. Yes, I wanted to share but not at the expense of the reader’s enjoyment of the story. Basically, I tried to imagine being either Lexie or Abby and what I would say to the other person to help and encourage.
And I trusted that God would meet each reader on those pages in whatever way He knew would be needed. That has proved to be so true! Blows me away. Some of the reader letters I’ve received, sharing how the book impacted their life, have shown me things I didn’t even realize were present in the book. That’s completely God and one of the things I love most about Christian fiction.
Writing about demons has to have its challenges. What if anything surprised
you during the process?
Tobias was a complete surprise. I started writing him as Nate’s mentor and intended he play a vital role in keeping Nate grounded. Then as I was writing those early scenes, he suddenly revealed himself. I had to sit back in my chair and pray. Literally, “God, are you sure about this? Please let this be your leading and not my overactive imagination.”
From that point on, Tobias became an element to show the spiritual warfare that is real in our lives. Plus, I realized that Nate wouldn’t be able to have a mentor like I had planned and stay entrenched so deeply in the lie he believed.
Your character Lexie is an artist, and so are you! How much else of you
is in Lexie?
In many ways, Lexie is much like I was when I was just starting to understand what it meant to be spiritually mismatched. My husband is still an atheist, but we have an amazing marriage full of love and friendship. I’m the one who has changed the most—the one God changed first, which is how it works in mismatched marriages. I consider it a high calling, to be the aroma of Christ to my hubby. And knowing God is the one in control of our future and that He has a plan for my marriage and my spouse gives me the freedom to love my guy and enjoy our life together. I don't have to worry.
Lexie’s on that same journey in the book. She’s beginning to understand that God wants to love her husband through her and to bless her marriage in amazing ways.
your favorite way to express your creativity in art?
That’s a tough question to answer, because I define art differently than some. Or at least I think I do. I believe we’re all creative and however we express that creativity is art to us. So for me, writing is definitely one way, and so is graphic design. Like each scene plays an important role in creating a complete story, designing a layout is much the same. Each element plays a part in creating a complete image that sends a message. I kind of see them as encapsulated books. LOL! And I love it when a piece falls in place almost accidentally and gives you an even better design or story than you anticipated. I have a feeling someone out there totally gets what I’m saying.
Who do you consider your writing mentor and why?
I think ACFW and my local writers’ group (San Jose Christian Writers) have been my mentors. Through the loops, conferences, meetings and connections I’ve made both professionally and personally, I have wonderful critique partners who have become my best friends in life, I have an agent I adore, I have support and encouragement from my local pals and I’m always learning from these wonderful groups of people committed to a dream. So many people have fed into my writing life, and I hope I get to do the same for others—that’s an area that’s just starting to bloom. As we say in our Spiritually Unequal Marriage community, we are on the journey together. :)
the number one thing about those in spiritually mismatched marriages
you want them to
They’re not alone. That’s where our Winning Him book starts and it is life changing to know you’re not the only one walking this road. The S.U.M. ministry is rich in community, just as God planned. We are stronger together. When we hold to that truth and seek that support, lives are changed dramatically. And so are marriages. It’s wonderful to witness!
What do you think is the biggest misconception Christians have about spiritual
warfare, and how do you address it in your story?
I read a Barna survey from 2009 that basically said that almost half of the Christians polled didn’t believe Satan existed, despite the evidence in the Bible. So that’s probably the biggest one right there, believing that the enemy isn’t real. He’s done a good job of fooling us—I used to be fooled too.
Tobias is the tool I used to show that evil is real and very present. But it’s not stronger than God (something I had to learn as an adult because no one told me otherwise), and we have the power through our salvation in Christ to live in victory. The disciples were able to cast out demons and evil by standing firm in their faith in Jesus. Ephesians 3 tells us the same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. We don’t walk in victory because we think we can’t. God says we can.
How would you describe The
Soul Saver in one sentence?
Hmmm, had to think long and hard on this one too because there’s so much to Lexie’s story and her journey. But I would describe it this way: The Soul Saver is about letting go of our expectations, our pain and even our lives, and letting God show us how He takes it all and turns it into dreams we never dared to even dream.
What is the biggest struggle you have as a writer?
Finding time to write! With the growing demands of our ministry (it’s always about the people and how we can help, encourage and pray) and marketing The Soul Saver and myself as an author, it’s getting harder. I have to set aside certain days of the week and keep them slotted for writing.
And then there are times that I have to accept that I won’t get a lot of writing done due to more important issues to do with family, our ministry, or the blessing of a book release and trust God to help me make sense of it all. I’m a very task oriented person so I need God’s constant help in this area. LOL!
Describe yourself in three words:
This is the cringe question, right? The one that makes me want to go crawl back into my office and shut the door. LOL! Believe it or not, I prayed for a couple days to figure out how to answer this: Inspired for God.
Yes, please! I just created a free e-book called The Making of The Soul Saver as a gift for anyone who joins my mailing list. The book contains 38 pages packed with the stories behind the story, pictures of my setting inspirations, an interview with heroine Lexie Baltimore, what’s happening now (three new scenes with the characters!) and more. I promise to guard all email addys with my publishing career and to only show up occasionally in your inbox. Just go to my website (www.DineenMiller.com), sign up and the thank you window will pop up with the link to download it.
And thank you for having
Portions of this interview first appeared as an article in the Oct/Nov 2012 issue of FamilyFiction Digital Magazine.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.