Jennifer: Jaimie Miller is an accomplished editor and writer. In addition to being one third of Willow Bend Publishing Group, she is a wife and mother of two. When she’s not balancing her time between business and family, she volunteers for local community theater and her community outreach charity It Takes a Village.
Jaimie, to date, you have published two novels, a poetry collection, and two children’s books. That’s quite a variety of writing. Which genre is your favorite to work on and why?
Jaimie: My poetry books are my favorites to write because the process is so laid back compared to the others. I don’t necessarily give myself a deadline when it comes to publishing those collections. I write poetry almost daily. I keep a notebook handy or type them into the notes section of my cell phone. It’s such an organic process. I don’t ever force poetry. It’s a cathartic, emotional genre to pen. When I have enough that I particularly like or think may make a difference to someone else, I send them over to my partners at Willow Bend and let the magic happen.
Jennifer: You wrote your children’s books for your two kids. Can we look forward to any additional children’s books in the future?
Jaimie: I wrote “Little Liam” for my son right right before he was born. When my daughter was born, I wrote “Huggable Holdyn.” I don’t plan on having any more name books for them published, but they are referenced frequently in my first poetry collection, “The Poet’s Gift.” As for more children’s books, I am working on a children’s series featuring a lovable cartoon bloodhound named Scout. The Scout series will be unveiled to the public in 2021.
Jennifer: Rumor has it that you’ll be publishing a new poetry book in the late spring. How will it be different from The Poet’s Gift? What is the underlying theme of the collection?
Jaimie: “The Poet’s Gift” is a collection spanning twenty years. There are a wide variety of themes within those pages. My new collection coming out this spring focuses on more of the heavier topics in life. The poems reference many topics ranging from mental health stigmas, love, abuse, race, etc.
Jennifer: Your first novel, Don’t Forget You Love Me, was published in the summer of 2018. Can you tell us a little bit about that book?
Jaimie: Don’t Forget You Love Me came to me in a dream. I wrote it down and forgot about it for a few years. When I stumbled back across those notes, I finally sat down and starting hammering out the details. I am very proud of that novel. Not only because it was my first published novel, but because it was something that evolved over time as I aged and experienced my own life lessons.
Jennifer: After working on a book for so long, how did it feel to see it in print?
Jaimie: I was very humbled to see it in print after all of those years. When I say it was a dream come true, I mean that literally. The opening line and overall plot came to me in a dream as a teenager. It contains some heavy topics that I believe everyone can relate to in some way or another.
Jennifer: Your second novel, The Long Way Home, was published last fall. Can you tell us a bit about that book?
Jaimie: The Long Way Home was a labor of love. I have always been interested in history, especially the history of my own family. I never got to physically meet my great-grandmother, but I feel so close to her because of the wonderful stories my own grandmother and mother have shared. My great-grandmother survived being unfairly institutionalized in Bryce Hospital, formerly known as Alabama State Hospital for the Insane. The history of Bryce will make your skin crawl. There were decades where a person could be committed to institutions and hospitals against their will for common things such as divorce, drinking, adultery, mental retardation, homosexuality, etc. My great-grandmother was committed without her knowledge due to her seeking a divorce from my great-grandfather. Mental health and women’s rights were not to be discussed in the sixties, especially in the south.
This novel takes place in Alabama during the end of the sixties. It is heavily based on the true story of my great-grandmother’s life. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the historical content is unfortunately true. Bryce Hospital was the best kept secret on the campus of the University of Alabama where it remained in squalid and abusive conditions for decades. This novel is an emotional journey through the eyes of one woman who survived while many of her friends did not.
Jennifer: Is mental health an important issue to you?
Jaimie: Mental health is a topic that is incorporated in every project I work on. I believe that we, every single person on earth, are all connected. So many people feel alone. The stigma of mental health is one that we need erased. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), the following statistics for 2019 are:
“1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34”
Mental health is a topic that many shy away from. I want to help break the stigma attached to this topic one word at a time.
Jennifer: Besides the new poetry book, what other projects are you working on?
Jaimie: I am working on another novel due out later this year. When I am not writing, I am editing projects for fellow writers through Willow Bend Publishing Group.
Jennifer: You put a lot of time and effort into creating your characters. Do you have a favorite in any of your works?
Jaimie: I truly love all of my characters. When I write, I feel like the characters really create themselves. Almost like they already exist and I am merely telling their story. Choosing a favorite character is such a difficult thing to do.
In Don’t Forget You Love Me, my favorite character is either Jane or JT Banks. They are both supporting characters, but I loved every second of their stories in that novel. In The Long Way Home, I really enjoyed writing Caroline Turner. She is the first friend and the first trusted confidant that my great-grandmother connected with in the mental hospital. Her story could be a Hollywood film!
Jennifer: Is there any aspect in any of your works that has been the most difficult to capture?
Jaimie: The Long Way Home takes place in the deep south in the 1960s. It required years worth of research. I wrote it in the style of journal entries from the viewpoint of the main character, my great-grandmother. The tone and accents within the novel change over time as she ages and experiences different stages of life. The topic of race is also touched since it is set in the sixties in Alabama. It was very difficult to stay true to the era because the sixties in the south were a time full of racism and horror. The language in the book is very raw and emotionally disturbing at times for some readers. I had to stay true to the history of the time and place which includes racism, abuse, suicide, homophobia, and mental illness.
Jennifer: Jaimie, as always, I enjoyed talking with you about your many projects today. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to experience this publishing adventure with anyone but Victoria and you. Thanks for the work that you always put into my projects to help bring them to life. I, along with our clients, truly appreciate your honesty and skill.
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