Today, we have with us author Anesa Miller. Anesa will share a bit about herself and her latest book, Our Orbit. Thanks for joining us, and take it away, Anesa!
BIO: Anesa Miller is a recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council. She studied writing at Kenyon College and the University of Idaho. Her work has been published in The Kenyon Review, The California Quarterly, the Southern Humanities Review, and others. Her debut novel, Our Orbit, releases from Booktrope of Seattle in June 2015. Anesa currently divides her time between Ohio and the Pacific Northwest.
Who is Anesa Miller? Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Wichita, Kansas, which was traditionally called “The Air Capital of the World.” Thanks in part to those local industries, I was obsessed by the Cold War: The Soviet Union wanted to bury us and outlaw private property like toothbrushes and socks! As a girl, I created a comic book about a group of women pilots who smuggled Russian dissidents out of the USSR to Alaska. Later on, Russian literature came to fascinate me. I wanted to write a novel of social issues in the tradition of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
What made you decide to write OUR ORBIT?
My novel embodies a lot of my own heritage in fictional form. Both of my parents were the first in their families to attend a university. They came of age in the Depression and went through some very hard times. Nowadays, that era is far enough behind us that we regard it with curiosity. But in my childhood, painful memories were avoided. Over the years, I came to understand that my mother’s parents moved “from pillar to post” and finally lost their home altogether. Their three kids were sent to live with distant relations. Of course, everyone suffered setbacks in those days.
Learning about my background was an enlightening experience. It inspired me to look deeper into genealogy and history. One of the things I discovered is that a tiny village in southeastern Ohio still bears the name of my mother’s family: Warnock village. My ancestors had a dairy farm in that region. I have since visited and found the site of their farm and the church some of them attended, not to mention a beautiful countryside! So understanding our Appalachian roots became an important part of creating the story of OUR ORBIT.
They say that life imitates art, but in my experience, it often works the other way. Have any of your life experiences inspired characters or plot elements in Our Orbit?
Absolutely. The prosperous farming family in my novel represents an ideal part of my heritage that never lost land or homes in the Depression—never had to give up the family dairy. And the poor father who starts a salvage business represents the part that lost everything.
Do you have a favorite scene from Our Orbit? Why do you like that scene?
Naturally, I enjoyed writing all of it! The scene towards the end where the young foster mom, Deanne, makes peace with her own mother meant a great deal to me. Secrets kept for many years are finally acknowledged, and the power of denial passes away. That scene incorporated my own emotions and was redemptive to write.
But another few episodes that I especially enjoyed hark to my high school days. The character Becca Weaver is a good Christian girl, who often turns to her favorite teacher, Mr. Deluca, when she wants advice. Or when she just wants to air her thoughts to a laid-back listener. Mr. Deluca teaches biology and is more liberal than Becca’s family, but there’s a sympathy between the two of them and good communication.
I’ve received some criticism of these scenes: a suggestion that it’s inappropriate for a male teacher to meet with a student in private and hear her “true confessions.” Maybe I grew up in a more innocent time than we live in today. In the novel, I tried to re-create the sense from my own schooldays that, if you can’t tell your family everything, there’s another adult willing to listen. A teacher who understands. I hope most readers will relate to that.
What has being a writer taught you about writing? About yourself? About life?
Journals have always been an important form of self-expression for me. When I have a problem to deal with, or something is gnawing at my subconscious, I hardly know what I think about it until I’ve had a chance to write down some reflections. The move from self-expression to communicative writing—work intended for others to read—makes me feel like a grown-up at last! But both types of writing offer many learning experiences.
And just for fun, what was your favorite toy as a child? Do you still have it?
I loved Madame Alexander dolls—the 8-inch Wendy was my favorite. And when I say I “played with them,” I mean those dolls were swinging from the treehouse, swimming in ponds, and getting their hair cut. No posing in nice dresses inside a glass case for my girls! Few mementos from my childhood are still with me, but sometimes I run across a doll at an antique mall that reminds me of those days. So I’ve started a small new collection.
One other thing just for fun: I noticed that you love Victorian houses so here’s a photo of a house from 1880s Ohio. As you know, my book is set in Ohio, and this is the typical style of old brick home that could represent the Renard’s historic house in Our Orbit. The region is known for ceramics and fine clay, which is partly what those bricks were made from.
Thanks you very much for hosting me on your blog today!
OUR ORBIT is available through all major online retailers. These links are available now, but iTunes and others should be coming soon:
And by order from most brick-and-mortar bookstores!
Readers can always find Anesa at: