Interview with Melissa F Miller
What’s a typical writing day like for you?
I don’t really have a typical writing day—although I wish I did! In addition to being a writer, I homeschool my three kids, so my writing days often vary depending on what learning we’re doing on a given day. That said, I try to write early in the morning most days. My word count varies and I often “binge write” toward the end of a first draft, sometimes writing 12,000 or more words in a (long) day. Every time I start a new book, I tell myself this is the one where I’ll write a consistent, reasonable amount each day. So far, it hasn’t happened. Maybe the next book will be the magic one!
Your story premises are very intriguing. What’s your creative approach for a story?
Thanks! My approach varies from series to series, but in my Sasha McCandless series, I develop the premise of each book around a legal principle that will be central to the case Sasha takes on and a corresponding personal issue or event that happens in Sasha’s personal life. So, in Intentional Acts, Sasha has a client who may be liable for releasing customers’ private data because of the deliberate actions of a rogue employee. The case intersects with her personal life and she grapples with her husband’s decision to conceal something troubling from her (his intentional act). I find it really satisfying to merge the strands of the two plots and explore the various facets of a theme from different angles.
Do you write character arcs?
Hmm, sort of. My thrillers are plot driven, but my plots are character driven, if that makes sense. So I always know how my characters are going to be challenged and grow over the course of the events in the book, but I don’t write detailed arcs. Likewise, I have planned character arcs for my main characters over the span of a series. Mainly, I do this intuitively. But I’m currently reading Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, which is inspiring me to be explicit in my thinking about my character arcs.
Name the best virtues of Sasha McCandless in her job as a civil attorney.
Sasha’s greatest strength as a lawyer is her perseverance. She’s stubborn and determined, which serves her well as a litigator. She also has a natural ability to tease out connections between seemingly disparate pieces of evidence and to see the patterns in facts. And, of course, she can get by on very little sleep (and large amounts of coffee), which comes in handy when she has a court deadline looming!
Leo Connelly seems like a jack of all trades. Did you learn anything new about him while writing this book?
Leo’s such a fun character to write. As you note, he is something of a jack of all trades. Because he works for a fictional federal government ‘shadow’ agency, his jurisdiction and mission is wide-ranging, allowing him to coordinate with agents from so many different parts of the national security apparatus. In Intentional Acts, he’s put to an ethical/moral test. Without spoiling the plot, I can say his choice didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was that he took some smaller actions he knew might cause an issue in his marriage, but he did them anyway because he believed he was in the right. (Apologies for being so cryptic—I don’t want to give anything away!)
What kind of case is Sasha undertaking?
In this book, her client is a nonprofit organization that has two problems. One, the federal government wants it to turn over confidential user information; and, two, a former employee has leaked private user data online. Sasha needs to help them resist the information request and avoid liability for the leak. Sasha’s case intersects with her husband’s work when a man whose identity was leaked is murdered and the evidence suggests Leo killed him as part of a national security operation.
This book has great dilemmas. What was most challenging in writing it?
The trickiest bit was writing the Project Storm Chaser scenes from Leo’s viewpoint. Because I do write multiple point of views, I needed to be fair to the reader in sharing the information Leo would have. But I had to do it in such a way that I wouldn’t tip my hand and undermine the suspense as Sasha learned the truth about what was happening. There was delicate balance between revealing and concealing that I hope I succeeded in navigating!
What’s next for you?
I’m finishing up Crossfire Creek, the fifth book in my Aroostine Higgins thriller series. In Crossfire Creek, Aroostine (a former lawyer turned tracker) searches for a mother and daughter who disappeared from their home without a trace and who have a very compelling reason to stay missing.
I have four ongoing series (three thriller series and one light mystery), and I try to write at least one book per year in each series. My Aroostine Higgins thrillers and my Bodhi King forensic thrillers are both spin-offs of the Sasha McCandless series. Aroostine and Bodhi were characters in Sasha’s books before they got their own series; so even though the three series are distinct and separate, they exist in the same world. I really enjoy writing within the little universe I’ve created!
After seven years together, she knows him better than anyone. Doesn’t she?
In the newest entry in this fast-paced USA Today bestselling series, wife-and-husband team Sasha and Leo find themselves on opposite sides of an explosive situation.
Sasha’s up to her elbows in a data privacy matter. Her client could be on the hook for breaching the privacy of hundreds of customers. All because a rogue employee intentionally leaked personal information for reasons known only to him.
Meanwhile, Leo’s busy with a high-stakes case of his own. He’s been ordered to neutralize a national security threat to the country, but he has his doubts about the strength of the evidence against the target.
As Leo vets the information he’s been given, Sasha learns that federal law enforcement has an interest in her civil matter. Because they both take their duties of confidentiality seriously, neither realizes that their cases are intertwined. Until one of the affected customers in Sasha’s case is murdered … and the evidence points to Leo as the killer.
Sasha’s not about to turn in her own husband, so she tails him instead. She only hopes what she finds will clear his name, not destroy their marriage.
About Melissa F. Miller
USA Today bestselling author Melissa F. Miller is a former attorney who traded the practice of law for the art of telling stories.
She is the author of more than two dozen bestselling legal thrillers, suspense thrillers, romantic comedic mysteries, and forensic thrillers. All her work shares two common threads: pulse-pounding, tightly plotted action and smart, unlikely heroines and heroes.
Her books feature such diverse protagonists as a pint-sized attorney and mother of twins who’s trained in Krav Maga; a Native American government investigator who relies on her heritage to guide her when the chips are down; a Buddhist forensic pathologist who refuses to harm any living creature; and a trio of twenty-something sisters just starting out in their careers who find murder and mayhem wherever they go.
She’s edited medical, scientific, and technical journals, as well as educational books; clerked for a federal judge; worked for major international law firms; and run a two-person law firm with her lawyer husband.
Now, powered by coffee, she writes crime fiction and homeschools her children. When she’s not writing, and sometimes when she is, Melissa travels around the country in an RV with her husband, three kids, and their cat.
To find out when Melissa releases a new book, visit www.melissafmiller.com and sign up for her email newsletter.