WMU Alumna Pens New Bestselling Novel
Christine Doré Miller, a native to the Battle Creek area who graduated from Western Michigan University in 2007 with a degree in Advertising and Promotion from the Haworth College of Business, recently wrote a best selling novel titled Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed.
The novel brings real life, raw, and relatable experiences about teen dating violence to life with eloquent storytelling and character development. Miller, who now lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and their two children while working full-time as a senior marketing manager for a large media company, said that she wanted to bring attention to the epidemic of teen dating violence as she herself had experienced it first hand. During her time at WMU Miller was director of the campus Peace Center, active in the Progressive Student Alliance, Students Against Sweatshops, the Living Wage Campaign, Women's Equality, Ad Club, Student Entertainment Team, Kalamazoo Homeless Action Network, and worked full-time as a receptionist at the Kalamazoo Planned Parenthood. I was fortunate enough to connect with Miller and ask her some questions about her creative journey. Below you can read a transcription of what we discussed.
What’s your earliest memory of wanting to become an author or write a book and how did you take that thought and manifest it into becoming a bestselling author?
I have always loved using the written word to express complex feelings. As a kid I would write short imaginative stories with talking animals and eccentric characters, as a teen I got really into dark, dramatic poetry (which would probably make me cringe to read now, haha), and then after college I started taking creative writing classes on the side which got me into the world of prose. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to become a published author so I cannot even tell you how excited and grateful I am that this has become a reality. I tried writing books in the past but never connected enough to a story so was never able to finish anything because it always felt too forced. But once I dug deep and found the right story inside of me and mixed that with LOT of persistence and hard work, I was able to get there.
What specifically drew you to write about the topic of dating violence?
I'm a survivor of teen dating violence and now, as an adult looking back at that experience, it's shocking to remember how many people around me at the time, peers and adults alike, did not know how to handle it (myself included), despite all of the red flags and obvious, public displays of abuse. Because of that, I always assumed that either A) I was making it a bigger deal than it was, or B) it happened so infrequently in our society that it wasn't worth widespread awareness and education. That caused me to minimize my own experience which only further amplified the long-lasting effects of that trauma. After years of therapy and support groups, I was able to realize through my own research and professional help that this is a MASSIVELY common problem in our country. NPR recently reported on a new study that proves 60% of adolescents have been the victim of abuse from a dating partner. This is a staggering statistic that nobody is talking about. Bullying has become a well-known and heavily discussed topic, thank goodness, but for some reason, if the bully and the victim are or were involved in a romantic relationship, people tend to look the other way. And it can be worse for teens because adults tend to minimize young people's stories due to their age and lack of experience, but it's very, very real and can lead to horrific outcomes. When I realized how NOT alone I was a survivor of teen dating violence, it became my mission to educate the public, spread awareness, and offer hope to fellow survivors. The only artistic strength I have is writing, so I decided to build my story around this topic, and Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed was born.
What are your long term goals for your creativity and writing career?
Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed is my debut novel so I think my natural long-term goal is to become a more established writer by publishing more novels. That is hard to do considering I also have a full-time career in marketing and two small children, but writing is truly a passion of mine so it's something I intend to make the time for, even if that means writing my flashlight when everyone else is asleep.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope that in five years I am still a happy, successful mom, wife, and career woman, but I'd like to have at least one more novel published by then and be more actively speaking out against dating violence, whether it's through speaking at high schools, working with nonprofits, or just continuing to tell stories to raise awareness.
How did you manage to find a publisher and truly find your own way in a competitive industry?
That may have been the hardest part, and I know it sounds cheesy, but "never give up" is the best advice I can give when it comes to pursuing your dream. This was my first book, so any publisher would've had to take a chance on me since I was NOT a sure bet when it comes to potential sales. But I believed so deeply in my story and the characters and the work that I persisted, despite many, many, many rejections. I heard everything from polite form letters to cruel judgmental rantings to sometimes just no response at all. I just kept reminding myself that even if I got a million "no" answers, all I needed was one "yes." I also spent this time being open and humbled to the process, constantly refining my manuscript, getting feedback anywhere I could, and deciding where I was willing to make changes and what parts of the story felt integral to the integrity of the piece.
For those who are reading this that are starting their own writing journey, what is some practical advice you would offer that they could implement?
It all starts with a good story, and readers can tell if your story is forced or if it feels authentic and honest. That doesn't mean it has to be from your real life, you can have a story about aliens and talking dogs that feels honest if the emotions are relatable and the descriptions are palpable. Don't think about the publishing part at the beginning, just focus on getting a manuscript that you are really proud of. Once your draft is complete, get a group of beta readers in your prime demographic to go through it. I had several groups of teenagers read my manuscript and offer me feedback on what does and doesn't resonate with modern youth. They made suggestions on everything from the wording of specific dialogue to overall character development, which is incredibly helpful to me. I took their feedback very seriously and made some heavy edits before shopping it to publishers. Once it comes time to find an agent or publisher, it's important to develop a thick skin, not take any rejections personally, and just keep pushing on to the next. Whenever I would get down about it and feel like it was never going to happen, I would Google a really famous book and find out how many times it got rejected before it became a huge success. It made me feel better to remember that everyone was new at this once. Make sure you do your research to find which agents and publishers represent your genre and would be a good fit for your story and then query the hell out of them all. It just says one "yes."
Is there a second book coming?
The short answer is "yes!" But I don't have a timeline quite yet. I'm still in the outline stages so I don't have much specific to share yet as nothing has been solidified. What I can say, though, is that Andrea has a long road ahead of her and so much more to learn, especially when it comes to love, friendship, and finding herself, so there's a lot left to tell!
BUY THE BOOK: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1773399489/
Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed comes during a time when one in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of abuse from a dating partner. This is a figure that far exceeds the rates of other types of youth violence. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, or if you have questions about abuse, please call 1-866-331-9474 or visit loveisrespect.org