Meet Bill Miller, author of Heroes and Hounds. Bill drops by to talk about his love of all things equestrian, what inspires him to write, and how he evolved from filmmaker to writer.
Q) Tell us about your young adult novel, Heroes and Hounds: Why you wanted to write this book and from where your inspiration came for the subject.
A) I have been an avid equestrian all of my adult life and have been actively involved in Foxhunting for most of that time. We are a drag hunt which means we don’t actually chase live animals and there is never a kill. A number of years ago, the Master of the Hunt, an elderly lady, told me the brief story about a hound that went missing for three months and was found safe and sound several states away. This was the inspiration for Heroes and Hounds and as an 80th birthday present for my dear friend, I wrote the story. It was delivered as a manuscript in a three-ring binder. I shopped the story around for a little while but I was disappointed at the results so I filed it away. (Rejection letters) A few years later, I met another author who was writing novels about foxhunting in Mississippi. We talked and she told me about self-publishing which by now had reached respectable levels. I sent her the manuscript, she read it and loved it, and encouraged me to publish. Next I looked for an illustrator which I felt would greatly enhance the project. I met a retired couple from upstate New York. She an illustrator, he a book designer. I had gotten all kinds of ridiculous quotes from others around the country but Mary and Al read the story, loved it, and wanted to be part of the project. And they didn’t want any upfront money. It took another year to bring the illustrations to life, to really rewrite and edit the manuscript and publish the book. But it was a labor of love from everyone involved and the results have been more than we ever imagined. The story itself, while based on a true incident, really took on a life of its own and is basically fiction.
Q) What was your publishing experience and how did you decide to follow that path?
A) My publishing experience has been a great eye-opener. I have worked in and around the publishing world as a filmmaker for 40 years. My start was with Houghton Mifflin and I still make educational films for them. Self-publishing has become very respectable and after being turned down by the brick and mortar companies I decided to go that route. Even a few years ago, vanity publishing, as it is called, would cost a newby author several thousand dollars and you would end up with a garage full of unsold books. Today, you can publish on demand, printing only one book at a time. I did a lot of research and narrowed the field down to two publishers, Createspace and LuLu. Research on the internet left them running neck and neck so it came down to personal response from the two. Basically, Lulu never would call me back and getting them to answer questions was very difficult. On the other hand, Createspace was always available by telephone and as the publishing date drew near I was constantly on the phone with them for one reason or another. I have been extremely pleased with Createspace, their product is very good and I have printed close to 700 books. We are running in the black as far as costs are concerned and I have actually shared a small profit with the artist and designer. (We are not quitting our day jobs.)
Q) Your background is in film and video production. Share with us how your expertise has enhanced your writing.
A) I started as a writer in television news and perhaps my greatest gift is my ability to type very quickly. Sometimes my fingers get ahead of my thoughts. As a filmmaker, I have had access to many different scenarios in life and have drawn upon them, whether it’s a cattle ranch in Texas or a major league baseball stadium in New Jersey, they have all empowered my life experiences. I am also a very visual person which lends itself to writing extremely vivid scenes that enhance Heroes and Hounds. Everyone who reads it remarks on the colorful settings portrayed in the book. Filmmaking has also given me a great opportunity to enhance my skills as a story teller. Half of the book is written from the perspective of the animals such as Hampton the Hound. This experience comes from being around four-legged creatures my whole life; caring for them and having them care for me. It is a mutual understanding and the ability to communicate non-verbally that plays a major role in the experience of the book. My next goal is to turn Heroes and Hounds into a movie.