John Ramsey Miller
Recently someone asked me what the highlight of my career (to date) was. I said it was when I sold my first novel. I’ve thought about that and the truth is there have been scores of “best” moments. Seeing my first book in a store. Writing with tears in my eyes. Seeing three of my books in one rack in an airport. And there was being nominated for peer awards on a couple of occasions. Didn’t win, didn’t much matter, still doesn’t. One of the best was having my wife toss me a line that “made” the scene and the book a lot better. The problem was why one character would allow himself to trust another after he felt betrayed by her. It was something that had perplexed the editor and my agent and myself. Finally I told my wife what the problem was and she gave me the line that made it all make sense. None of us could figure out what that needed to be, but Susan knew. Had I asked her weeks earlier, it would have never been a sleep loser. How had I assumed my wife wouldn’t know the power of love and trust, and how to put into a short sentence that was in perfect pitch for both of the characters.
One of my favorites happened when my first book was making some noise. I was invited to Denver to speak about my process, etc… to between 1000 and 2000 people at a National Kidney Foundation fundraiser, which was one of those formalish deals. I was to speak just ahead of Clive Cussler. At the opening hob-nob I had three scotches. Clive Cussler reminded me that we were at 5,000 feet. Not to worry, I hadn’t made any notes on what I was going to say so I didn’t have to fret flubbing my lines. I have never planned out what I intend to say before I stand at the podium. I talked about my childhood, early influences, and (as I recall it) I had the crowd eating out of my hand. My opening line was about being a Native Son of Mississippi and about the tradition of porch sitting and storytelling. You told a story on my porch and there had better have been interesting descriptions, setting, character development, a build up, and a punch line to entertain or amaze. I said that my uncle was a Supreme Court justice and my aunt a hopeless hypochondriac who made up stories to keep me from going outside where I could be killed or carried away. I said, “Guess which one I spent my time with.” Somehow, everything I said brought the house down. I was well oiled and the stories just appeared to me. The best part of the story (I mean how hard is it to have too many drinks and say the right things to people who are also having drinks?) was when Mr. Cussler started his talk with the words, “I’ll never follow John Ramsey Miller again.” To have him say that made me feel very important indeed, and that is a great feeling.
My favorite part of my career has always been the time I have shared with other authors and their families followed by the time I’ve spent writing.