Today we’re featuring Vanessa Miller on the blog. I love the takeaway she wants readers to get from her latest novel.
Vanessa Miller’s Book & Writing Process
Table of Contents
Q: What is the title of your book and what is it about?
A: The Light on Halsey Street – It’s about two girls growing up in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn and how their friendship is destroyed by a betrayal – it’s also about becoming better rather than remaining bitter.
Publication date: September 5, 2023
Q: What genre is The Light on Halsey Street?
A: Inspirational Women’s Fiction
Q: What inspired you to write your book, and how did you come up with the idea for it?
A: My husband grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He told many so many stories about Brooklyn and how things were back in the 80s when he was a teen, that I had to write this book and I had to begin it when the girls were in their teens. So, the book spans almost 40 years.
Q: What scene was the hardest one to write and why?
A: The hardest scene for me to write was one about Dana and her mother (I can’t spill the beans on the exact scene, but the reader will know it when they get there). Vida could never break her addiction and be the mother Dana longed for, and it tore at my heart.
Q: What are some themes and tropes that are included in your book?
A: Friend to enemies, betrayal, second chances, renewed hope, forgiveness, boss women
Q: Who is the ideal reader for this book?
A: Women who love to read stories of victory about women overcoming obstacles
Q: What’s the one thing you want readers to take away from reading your book?
A: Sometimes life comes at you hard. Sometimes life isn’t fair, but we should all strive to be better rather than bitter.
Q: Plotter or pantser? Share a bit of your writing process.
A: I love to plot out my novel before beginning. In my opinion, there is less wondering what happens next if I’ve already drawn out the road map.
Q: What does a typical writing session for you look like?
A: I am a big procrastinator. So, every morning, I go into my office, sit behind my desk and begin to write. However, if I am at the beginning of the story, where I’m just feeling the characters out, I’ll write a paragraph and then check my email. Write another paragraph and then work on promo material, return calls… anything but write the book. But thankfully, it doesn’t stay that way. Once I’m into the manuscript, I can write between 1,000 and 2,000 words per day. I also do most of my writing during daytime hours.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing and publishing? How did you (do you plan to) overcome it?
A: I think the most challenging is finding your audience. I don’t believe every book is for everybody. So, you as the author, have to put in the work to get out there and meet people and find out which readers love what you do. That’s not always easy because sometimes authors tend to believe, if the person likes reading, then they should like your book. But some readers are genre specific.
Q: Why do you write?
A: I write to touch the heart and soul of God’s people. I truly believe that writing is my ministry, so I try to show God’s grace in each of my books, praying that my readers will then be able to see how that same grace works in their lives.
Writing Advice from Vanessa Miller
Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out?
A: I would tell them to first spend time learning the writing craft so they can write the best book possible. Then spend time building a readership. Because if you find the readers who love what you do, they will continue to purchase your books.
Q: What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received? How has it impacted your life?
A: Write what you love and the money will follow. In other words, don’t be a genre chaser. Just because a certain genre is hot right now, doesn’t mean it will be in five years from now.
Q: If you could go back and change one thing in your author career, what would it be and why?
A: After my mother passed away, I left traditional publishing for about nine years. I did a lot of indie publishing in those years, but my books were no longer being sold in bookstores. If I had it to do all over, I would have been a hybrid author instead of indie only, because a lot of people who used to read my books started asking why they couldn’t find my books in stores anymore. I discovered that everyone doesn’t want to read an ebook. So, I am happily back with a traditional publisher and my readers can once again find my books in bookstores and libraries.
What is one writing resource that you couldn’t do without?
A: I just started writing historical fiction along with my women’s fiction. The one resource that was very helpful was an online source that not only provides the definition of the word you are using in your novel, but also the date when the word was first used. This is so valuable to a historical writer because if you’re writing in the 19th century, you can’t add a word that wasn’t used until the 20th century in your novel. Here’s the link to one of the resources: https://www.merriam-webster.com/
Just for Fun
Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Why?
A: Spiderman powers so I could shoot webs out of my wrists and have his spider senses so I can be alert to the danger that might be around. By the way, Spiderman is my grandson’s favorite superhero, I watch a lot of Spiderman while spending time with him, so that’s where that comes from. Lol.
Q: If you were not a writer, what would you want to be and why?
A: An event planner or real estate agent
Q: What are you reading?
A: The Thing About Home by Rhonda McKnight
Let’s Connect with Vanessa Miller
Q: What are you working on next?
A: I have just finished with The American Queen, my historical that releases January 30, 2024. Right now I’m setting up ways to promote both The Light on Halsey Street and The American Queen. I’ll start writing my next novel in June.
About The Light on Halsey Street
Two girls’ lives are irrevocably intertwined the summer of 1985 in the streets of Brooklyn, New York, and neither will ever be the same in this coming-of-age story that spans decades.
In the summer of 1985, Lisa Whitaker is a church kid headed to college on a scholarship while her best friend, Dana, is floundering in the wake of her mother’s latest eviction. Though Lisa tries to help, their paths diverge. Fifteen years later, Lisa has a beautiful family and is stepping into her dream job as the director for a social services organization. Everything is going right—until her future is snatched away by identity theft. Her life begins to unravel, and Lisa wants nothing more than to see the woman responsible pay for her crimes.
When she was a teenager, Dana Jones always felt alone in this world. Her mother was addicted to drugs, her boyfriend was entering a life of crime, and it seemed Dana, too, was heading down the wrong path. The only bright light was her friendship with Lisa. Now, in the new millennium, Dana finally gives herself permission to dream—to believe she is stepping into better days. But when the betrayal of their friendship comes to light, it will take a lifetime to forgive the destruction that youthful summer in Bed-Stuy set in motion.
In this latest story from beloved author Vanessa Miller, two girls from the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, find that their paths have been woven together by the love of community and a friendship that is tested by time, betrayal and unforgiveness.
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About Vanessa Miller
Vanessa Miller is a best-selling author, playwright, and motivational speaker. She started writing as a child, spending countless hours either reading or writing poetry, short stories, stage plays, and novels. Vanessa’s creative endeavors took on new meaning in 1994 when she became a Christian. Since then, her writing has been centered on themes of redemption, often focusing on characters facing multi-dimensional struggles.
Vanessa’s novels have received rave reviews, with several appearing on Essence Magazine Bestseller’s List. Miller’s work has received numerous awards, including the 2022 Best Christian Fiction award for her novel, Something Good at the African American Literary Awards Show. She has also received the Best Christian Fiction Mahogany Award and the Red Rose Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction.
Miller graduated from Capital University with a degree in Organizational Communication. She is an ordained minister in her church, explaining, “God has called me to minister to readers and to help them rediscover their place with the Lord.” She has worked with numerous publishers: Urban Christian, Kimani Romance, Abingdon Press, and Whitaker House.
She is currently working on The American Queen (rel. January 30, 2024) with Thomas Nelson (HarperCollins).