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Monday, August 28, 2006

The Book Doctor...Crystal Miller

The last few years have been so great getting to know other writers, published authors, editors, and all those other people in our business. As with anyone, there are always a few people you just really click with. I'm fortunate enough to consider Crystal Miller one of those people I click with. She's been a great friend and I consider it a true blessing to have her on this journey with me.

I think by the time this interview is over you'll see her humor and wit and know exactly why I consider her so dear.

If you don't know her at all, here are a few things you might find interesting. Crystal Miller has reviewed hundreds of books over the last ten years and in particular in the areas of health, diet, exercise, fitness, curriculum, Bible studies, Christian living, parenting and Christian fiction. Her book review column has appeared in Montgomery’s Journey magazine (with 20,000 readers), Church Libraries magazine, and numerous other print media.

She’s the editor of Fort & Field Christian Writer’s Newsletter and has written articles for a variety of publications, such as Christian Communicator and Women of Spirit on topics including writing, conferences, health, spiritual issues, diet, exercise and parenting. She’s written for newspapers, ezines and magazines. She co-wrote a parenting column with Teena Stewart called Stayin’ Alive While Parenting Teens. (Both still alive.)

Currently Crystal works for several literary agents and occasionally editors as a first reader and book doctor while she continues to fine tune her own fiction and nonfiction manuscripts. She wrote a nonfiction women’s humor book called, This Ain’t No Glamour Detail, receiving rave reviews from editors, but didn’t have a glamorous enough platform for it to actually be published. (Where’s Chonda when you need her?)

For the last 25 years, Crystal has been married to Chris, an ER physician, and is mother to their four boys ages 21-15. Next year will bring her and her husband into a new level of parenting (and poverty,) when 3 of the 4 will be in college. Her experience as a former P.E. teacher, elementary teacher, reading specialist, apartment flunky painter, dessert girl, Wendy Lawton’s assistant interview flunky, preschool teacher, Christian school board vice chairman and education curriculum chairperson, a payroll clerk/business manager for an Interpreter for the Deaf referral group, track and field/basketball and cheerleader coach, competition trapshooter and head-on car crash survivor has served her well for book reviewing and content editing (People that survive enough trials are called experienced.)

She’s been a leader in Bible Study Fellowship, and has been the head of various children’s Sunday school departments and programs, as well as made it through many summers as a VBS leader(ask her to sing a song or cram marshmallows into her mouth—or both at the same time.) Check out her web site at: for humor, reviews and general blonde moments and her blog, for thoughts expressed in her diner, The Chat ‘n’ Chew CafĂ©.

Crystal, thanks so much for taking the time to be with us. How exactly did you get involved with the editing side of writing.

I was reviewing so much (plus attending conferences,) that editors and publicists were getting to know me. One day I got an email from an editor friend and he asked me to read a manuscript, just to get a “reader’s feedback,” since it was a book where he saw great potential. Editors do not have time to coach and give feedback to “almost there” authors. So, I not only read it, but I gave comments (rather brash for someone unpublished) of what I saw wrong with the content, various things. The editor liked it and sent my comments on to the author without revealing who I was.

I’d also critiqued/edited for author friends. My name kept popping up with editors through authors, and eventually with an agent. From there the editors and agents just asked me directly if I’d read, do editing, fixes for authors they had who needed direction and feedback. I liked doing that, and plus, I’d get paid. But see? It was all a God-incident because back when I first started writing, we learned all about how it worked in publishing. (I took a full year at Taylor University’s professional writing program, both fiction and nonfiction, with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley.)

Crystal you make me tired just listening to you. LOL. On a different note, do you have a favorite scripture you'd like to share?

I have two:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Whenever my peace is shattered, all I have to do is listen to Jesus whispering in my ear, “Take heart, Crystal!” How can you fear and grieve when you hear that? Take heart…

I'm feeling convicted here, Crystal. You're so right. Sometimes we forget to listen to those quiet whispers in our ear.

If you're like most of us, you're going to hate this question. But I have to ask. Who are some of your favorite writers?

This is a trick question, right? I mean, I love authors and almost all the authors I’ve worked with are going to be my favorites, you see. (LOL) I do love to read—essential in editing and writing. I have enjoyed almost every genre in the CBA and several in the general market, but I especially love the CBA authors. If I go naming names, well, that mean I’d have name hundreds of authors!

But if you’re talking authors who have influenced my own style and voice--Mark Twain, Roald Dahl, Charles Schultz, Harper Lee, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Will Rogers, James Thurber and a huge amount of Southern writers from Eugenia Price, Margaret Mitchell, to Olivia Ann Burns and then, I adore James Michener, especially his Centennial—well, I really like to read, LOL. I love anything with a bit of humor and edge, which is why I currently love reading the works of Anne Lamott, Haven Kimmel, Garrison Keillor, Brenda Kinsel (a fashion author—ha!) and Deborah Paul, and while I’ve only read a few of Stephen King’s books, I really love his
On Writing book. And if you must really know—I love a good romance, whether contemporary or historical. (And if you write historicals, I’m a pushover to buy it.) But then, next thing you know, I’m reading Christian African American novels, Sci fi or fantasy (and have worked on all of these as a book doctor,) or a really good suspense or thriller.

Crystal I'd love to share a sample of your writing. Do you have something you can share with us?

I do have this portion of the first chapter of my This Ain’t No Glamour Detail: Beauty for Here and Beyond that has been on the internet. This is nonfiction. However, I am using some of my experiences from this book in my fiction.

The First Glamour Detail
By Crystal Warren Miller

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

When God created Eve, she must have been some woman. The Bible says that the man, Adam, was created in God’s own image, so we know Adam was perfect. There is probably no man walking around today who even comes close to him in appearance, demeanor, or manners. Then God went on to make this “helper” for Adam by taking a rib out of Adam’s side. He called her “woman.” We refer to her as Eve. I’m not going to dwell much on the significance, symbols or interpretations of how God made her. I’m simply pointing out here that God is good, God is perfect, and God made these people perfect. She probably would make any woman on the movie screens or walking out of plastic surgeons’ offices today look like they needed to walk right back into the office (or over to her attorney’s office.)

It’s what happened in the next chapter of Genesis, chapter three, where all of women’s glamour problems begin. Here’s Eve in a perfect world with this perfect man, and she’s not even getting wrinkles. She’s never had to go through a blemish, as far as we know. She never has had to tweeze stiff hairs out of her chin. She never has had flabby thighs or a gray hair. It’s never occurred to her that maybe she’s not attractive to Adam or that her behind might look big when standing next to a rose or the daylily. She walks around naked and doesn’t even think about throwing on a natty robe or turning off the lights, because, well you know, there’s that roll around her waist. No, Eve never thought about these things. She’s perfect.
Then, one day she’s strolling through the garden, still not worrying about any of these things. She’s never had her nail break, and never had a hangnail. She didn’t worry about her skin being too pale, dark circles under her eyes, or moles growing out of her perfectly shaped chin (the kind that makes Michael Jackson call his plastic surgeon.) She’s never even had flaky, dry skin or embarrassing dandruff. Can I paint this picture any clearer?

Wow, good stuff. I hate to end here. I'd like to share the rest. Again, thanks so much for doing this, Crystal. You're a peach! Be sure to check out her blog and her website.


Terry Whalin said...

Fascinating interview, Sabrina. I'll watch for the rest of it.

The Writing Life

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Crystal. Great interview. When I asked you for help with the ACFW forum course on writing book reviews, it took me no time at all to figure out you three assistance should be in charge.

Jennifer Tiszai said...

Fun interview. I agree with Sabrina. Listening to Crystal makes me tired too. :)

Camy Tang said...

Crystal, you rock!!!! You poor Wendy Lawton's interview assistant flunky, you. I'll beat her up for wait, I can't. She pays me.

Crystal said...

Mary--You are so funny. You are a great book reviewer and I am really looking forward to your book, Petticoat Ranch! (And the others, as well.)

Jennifer, You're kidding me, right? After all I just read about you, I look like the American Idol who is not in Hollywood...I think you have some great premises for books. Soon to be published! (And I'm a professional, so believe my said.)

Camy, Being Wendy's flunky was always an adventure! (Like the time she interviewed Gloria Gaither and I brought the batteries for the recorder...) It's not so bad. But I do know stories on her...if you need something on her.

Thank you, Sabrina, as this was fun being in the spotlight. Thanks, Terry, for reading!