From teaching creative writing and publishing workshops, to writing short stories, poetry, and novels, Sheila Peele-Miller is not afraid to follow her passion. Co-founder of the annual New Bern (North Carolina) Literary Festival and Book Fair, she also has written articles for Style-ology magazine, contributed a short story titled The Devil’s Poison, for the The Shattered Glass Effect, co-hosted an African American Read-In in Chicago and Detroit, and under ADIRA Books, a company she founded, published three novels; Painted Picture released 2004, Daylight Coming released 2006, and now out, Prey for the Wicked released September 2010.
Interviewed by RYCJ/OEBooks November 2010
* Congratulations on your work and starting your publishing company. What inspired you to start your publishing company?
Thank you, Rhonda. In the beginning of my journey, I sent out query letters to basically every agent I could find representing my genre. After receiving loads of rejection letters, I decided I wasn’t going to let another person determine if I was going to become a published author. So I researched self-publishing and released my first book, Painted Picture, through a well-known Print-on-Demand company, which was very expensive. After networking with a several other authors, I learned I could do the same things for myself that the POD company did, I researched even further, thus Adira Books was formed.
* I see you have three novels published. What are the major themes of each novel? And what inspired the novel?
All three of my books center around women in diverse and often critical situations. What I want readers to grasp more than ever from my work is that all of us go through things- some more than others. And it’s so very hard to give up on ourselves. In Prey for the Wicked, my main character’s life was one bad turn after another- but she had to make up her mind that she was sick and tired of running and that she wanted some answers – the truth. But in order to do that she had to learn how to trust her own judgment.
In Painted Picture, there’s a young bride that learns a cold hard lesson in love, respect, and honor while in Daylight Coming, there’s a lesson to be learned in regards to the choices one makes in times of desperation.
* Speaking writer to writer, I find the experience of writing each novel different. Was it like that for you? Did one story just come at you, but another you had to revise... many times? Or, perhaps, which one was the easiest to write, and how so?
I agree that writing each novel is definitely different. Painted Picture was the easiest to write. The story had been on my mind for years before I even considered putting it down on paper. Painted Picture also contains bits and pieces of actual events that took place in my life. Daylight Coming flowed from me as well because with both books, I could relate to my main characters’ plight more because I either knew or met someone with a similar story so it was easier to tell their stories straight from my heart.
Prey was most difficult and my main character, Janeen Cooper was more of a made up person. I also had my plot in mind, but made the big mistake of writing my beginning and ending first then tried to tie in the middle. That is something I would never do again because I wound up having to go through several rewrites, revisions, critiques, and edits before it became a finished product I could be proud of.
* Have you gotten any questions or comments about your novel that made you think?
Other than, where do I get my ideas from, the one question I get more than any other is: why does my main character have to go through so many trials and tribulations. I think not only does drama on top of drama make all books an intriguing read, but in life some of us often do go through more than others- but in the end it’s all about how well we bounce back when life knocks us down.
* I’m curious, as I haven’t yet read the book, but I’d like to know the meaning behind the title Prey for the Wicked.
I chose the name because that is exactly what my main character was in this novel, prey, for some devious people who took advantage of her youth, good looks, and her grief for their own selfish reasons. You see and hear about it every day. And it’s all done in the name of greed.
* I’m also really interested in reading Painted Picture. From the synopsis I can already see you’ve painted the husband (Derek) with quite a bit of character. So now I’m intrigued to know how you handle creating your characters. Do you create characters that you ultimately want your readers to understand, and eventually like? Or do you handle this in another way?
Derek, just like the majority of my characters are modeled in my mind by someone I know in some capacity. I visualize all of my characters, the way they walk- talk – their gestures – manner of speaking. I know everything about them both good and bad. And I try to make them into real people the reader is either going to love or hate. As for Derek, he is definitely a character, rough around the edges and he did some things in Painted Picture that had many of my readers ready to hang him. But I wanted them to also understand where he had come from and for them to see that he was man who loved his wife, but just didn’t know how to love her even though it doesn’t justify some of the actions he took in the story.
* What is your view on including explicit mature themes in novels? (It doesn’t have to be in your own. I’m asking in general.)
I think like anything else, it’s at the author’s discretion and a matter of preference as well as plotting.
* Which do you enjoy most, or find the easiest to handle? Developing characters, scenery, or the plot?
Characterization is easiest for me. I know who my story is going to be about long before I start writing it. As I mentioned earlier, I model most of them whether it be habits, features, demeanor or dialogue by someone I know except in the case of Prey for the Wicked. Those are my most made-up characters- but it was still very easy. I love to delve into the darker side of people and paint a vivid picture of people my readers can either relate to or imagine.
* Off topic, what are your favorite romance movies?
Pretty Woman and Boomerang, especially the part where Halle Berry tells Eddie Murphy, “love shoulda brought you home last night.” Minus a few words.
* Also, what are the influences that inspire you?
People of exceptional strength like all of the women I have dedicated my books to. Each one has been faced with life-threatening illnesses. Two have passed on but were fighters to the very end. But two are still living and walking miracles, my niece, Hamidah and my neighbor, Rebecca.
Success stories. I love it when those deemed weak, hopeless, cast aside, etc become victorious in some way, large or small.
* And for the big question... Having established your publishing company, I’m sure there were a few learning curves. Please share at least one lesson learned for anyone thinking about publishing.
There are several lessons to be learned when starting any kind of business and I think two of the most important are to believe in yourself and your capabilities and to do your research. And if I may be allowed to add one more, to never give up on yourself. Persevere.
* And last but not least, please share how you support aspiring and emerging writers.
There is plenty to be learned in the business of writing. I strongly believe in encouraging my fellow writers and sharing what I’ve learned thus far. I’m always online researching information about writing, editing, publishing, etc, learning as much as I can so if I can, I might be able to help someone as I have been helped. I also teach memoir, fiction, poetry, and publishing workshops.
Sheila, thank you for granting OEBooks with this interview. Again, congratulations and stay blessed.
Thank you Rhonda and continued to success to you as well.
Prey for the Wicked Blog Tour Schedule
Shades of Romance Magazine Blog
Todays Book on the Train
The POV Lounge Authors Chat 8pm EST
The Sharvette Mitchell Show @ 6:40pm EST (347) 945-5907
Sol Searching Radio Show @ 8pm CST (347) 989-1786
Sol Searching Blog
Shades of Romance Blog: Are You Reading This
Notorious Spinks Talks