Anesa Miller is a recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council. She studied writing at Kenyon College and the University of Idaho. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Anesa also has training in Russian language and literature. Her work has been published in The Kenyon Review, The California Quarterly, the Southern Humanities Review, and others. Her debut novel, Our Orbit, is a story of cultural conflict set in Appalachia in the 1990s.
Talk to us about your latest book. What is it about?
Anesa: My latest book is a novel titled Our Orbit. It’s the story of a nine-year-old girl named Miriam who loses her parents and becomes a foster child. Raised in a deeply religious working-class community, Miriam finds herself in a new world when she meets her educated, secular foster family. As Miriam’s older brothers and sister enter the story, a confrontation between the two families develops. From a broader perspective, this becomes a confrontation between fundamentalist and liberal worldviews in American society.
Tell us a bit about the book’s journey from writing to publication.
Anesa: Our Orbit began as a short story in 1997! I have never excelled at the short story form, and I was not able to publish this one in spite of submitting and revising and trying again over a period of years. One reason I kept trying was that no other story I’d ever written received more positive comments from editors (although they proceeded to reject it). One of those editors suggested expanding the story into a novel. I had already toyed with this idea, and that suggestion watered the seed. I completed the “novelization” of my original story while I studied in the creative writing MFA program at the University of Idaho.
Tell us about your path to becoming a published author.
Anesa: I began publishing poetry in 1993 and published my first short story in 2000. But I always wanted to write and bring out a novel, probably because that’s what I most enjoy reading.
Our Orbit is the third novel I’ve written, the previous two still unpublished. So I had high hopes of attracting a literary agent who, in turn, would find me a prestigious publisher for Our Orbit. I spent about a year and a half seeking an agent to no avail. In that time, I also sought professional advice on my query letter and consulted a developmental editor. When none of that got my foot in the door, I decided to self-publish.
What writing projects are you working on presently?
Anesa: I have begun a new novel with some similarities to Our Orbit. It is also an expansion of a not-so-successful short story. And I’m gradually working on a memoir of my marriage to a pioneering neuroscientist .
If you were to meet an author you admire, what would you want to know about him/her?
Anesa: One of my favorite authors is Annie Proulx. I would be very interested to know what her favorite reading matter may be, and how she mastered the short story form.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about being an author?
Anesa: Probably it’s the notion that published authors make money. I recently read that only a small fraction of those who have books currently available for sale—either from traditional publishers or other arrangements—actually profit from their work.
What advice would you give to writers who want to self-publish?
Anesa: For me, it has been essential to find help and guidance. That’s why I turned to Writer.ly and—since I’m fortunate enough to be able to invest in my work—why I hired a consultant. There are a great many variables to consider in regards to self-publishing. I would advise a newcomer to find experienced friends who can help sort out the options.