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7.04.2012

Summer of Indie Meets With Author Bill Miller

Today, Summer of Indie met with Bill Miller, author of Heroes and Hounds. Author Bill Miller briefly described the book as, "an adventure story about a young girl, her pony and a lost foxhound. Along the way there are many adventures, scary moments and life lessons in what it means to be a hero."

We talked with Bill Miller about his young adult novel,Heroes and Hounds, and asked for a more in-depth look.


Heroes and Hounds:

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While Carly's parents are finishing out their military tours, she stays with her grandfather on his farm. She loves watching the Riverdale Hunt Club in the fall and yearns to join them. Her own pony, Monroe, used to run with them before he became hers, but she is only eleven. So she dreams of riding Monroe chasing the fox.

Hampton is a new addition to the kennels and because one of the other hounds is injured, he gets to join in. He's really excited but he's never ran so much and he is tired. When he gets a drink at the stream, the Hunt leaves him and Hampton is lost. He is hungry, tired and just wants to go home. When he smells something yummy on the air, he follows his nose and winds up at the home of Strange Willie.

Willie is a vet who lives very basically and doesn't ask for much. Most of the children in the area are scared to death of him. At first Willie tries to shoot Hampton, but thankfully a fox leaps in the way and saves Hampton. Later, Hampton saves the fox from one of Willie's booby traps. An unorthodox friendship, but it works. When Willie's house catches afire, even though he had tried to shoot Hampton, he enters the abode and wakens Willie, saving his life.

Carly is determined to find the lost hound, but when she is out looking, a rabid skunk approaches her. Thankfully, Willie saves her life. He isn't as scary as everyone says and she sees he has Hampton. But the Master of the Hunt is looking for Hampton and Carly isn't sure what the right thing to do would be. But when one of her friends disappears, Carly knows she has to speak up.

"Heroes and Hounds is a middle-grade novel with appealing characters and several great messages. Bringing the fox and the hound to life in a new twist from the Disney version is delightful and thoroughly entertaining. Miller does a great job of keeping the reader involved in the story with many adventures. If you like animals and a clean read, pick this one up! You're sure to enjoy it!"


When asked for a brief description of himself, Miller said that he, "has been riding to the hounds for the over 40 years. For nearly 20 years he has been an honorary whipper-in for the Norfolk Hunt Club. He is also actively involved in Team Penning during the summer months. He lives on a small farm in Sherborn, Massachusetts with his wife and three horses. When not working with horses, he is an independent film director and cinematographer."
For those interested in his independent film and cinematography, his website is: http://www.billmillerfilm.com.

We asked author Bill Miller more about Heroes and Hounds, inspirations for writing, and what it's like to be an author:
Image of Mr. Bill MillerQ: What inspired you to start writing and publishing?

A: I have been an avid equestrian all of my adult life and have been actively involved in Foxhunting for most of that time. We are a drag hunt which means we don’t actually chase live animals and there is never a kill. A number of years ago, the Master of the Hunt, an elderly lady, told me the brief story about a hound that went missing for three months and was found safe and sound several states away. This was the inspiration for Heroes and Hounds and as an 80th birthday present for my dear friend, I wrote the story. It was delivered as a manuscript in a three-ring binder. I shopped the story around for a little while but I was disappointed at the results so I filed it away. (Rejection letters) A few years later, I met another author who was writing novels about foxhunting in Mississippi. We talked and she told me about self-publishing which by now had reached respectable levels. I sent her the manuscript, she read it and loved it, and encouraged me to publish. Next I looked for an illustrator which I felt would great enhance the project. I met a retired couple from upstate New York. She an illustrator, he a book designer. I had gotten all kinds of ridiculous quotes from others around the country but Mary and Al read the story, loved it, and wanted to be part of the project. And they didn’t want any upfront money. It took another year to bring the illustrations to life, to really rewrite and edit the manuscript and publish the book. But it was a labor of love from everyone involved and the results have been more than we ever imagined. The story itself, while based on a true incident, really took on a life of its own and is basically fiction.

My publishing experience has been a great eye-opener. I have worked in and around the publishing world as a filmmaker for 40 years. My start was with Houghton Mifflin and I still make educational films for them. Self-publishing has become very respectable and after being turned down by the brick and mortar companies I decided to go that route. Even a few years ago, vanity publishing, as it is called, would cost a newby author several thousand dollars and you would end up with a garage full of unsold books. Today, you can publish on demand, printing only one book at a time. I did a lot of research and narrowed the field down to two publishers, Createspace and LuLu. Research on the internet left them running neck and neck so it came down to personal response from the two. Basically, Lulu never would call me back and getting them to answer questions was very difficult. On the other hand, Createspace was always available by telephone and as the publishing date drew near I was constantly on the phone with them for one reason or another. I have been extremely pleased with Createspace, their product is very good and I have printed close to 700 books. We are running in the black as far as costs are concerned and I have actually shared a small profit with the artist and designer. (We are not quitting our day jobs.)

I started as a writer in television news and perhaps my greatest gift is my ability to type very quickly. Sometimes my fingers get ahead of my thoughts. As a filmmaker, I have had access to many different scenarios in life and have drawn upon them, whether it’s a cattle ranch in Texas of a major league baseball stadium in New Jersey, they have all empowered my life experiences. I am also a very visual person which lends itself to writing extremely vivid scenes that enhance Heroes and Hounds. Everyone who reads it remarks on the colorful settings portrayed in the book. Filmmaking has also given me a great opportunity to enhance my skills as a story teller. Half of the book is written from the perspective of the animals such as Hampton the Hound. This experience comes from being around four-legged creatures my whole life; carrying for them and having them care for me. It is a mutual understanding and the ability to communicate non-verbally that plays a major role in the experience of the book.

Q: Can you tell us more about the characters in your book?

A: All of the animals, both four-legged and two-legged, are imaginary but based on friends I have know or met over the years. I have been riding horses for over 50 years and have horses, dogs, cats and various other animals have shared their lives with me. I have been an honorary whipper-in with Norfolk Hunt Club for the last twenty years and in doing that job have gotten to know many of the hounds up-close and personal. So Hampton, the lead dog in the story, is an amalgam of many of the hounds I have known over the years. His personality really comes from a dog I got from the pound when I graduated from college a million years ago. He was a great dog, part Beagle, part unknown with a wonderful personality and great quirkiness. His portrait still adorns my living room wall. Much of his personality is reflected in Hampton’s inner thoughts. My little dog would do wonderful and unexpected things, had a vocabulary of over 100 words, and I had many people convinced the brown spot on his white back moved up and down according the temperature of the day. I remember one day I was up on my brother-in-laws roof helping fix the TV antennae. (anyone remember those). I looked around and there was my dog up on the roof with us He had climbed the rung ladder two stories to join. I almost expected to see a tool belt strapped to his waist. Another time his foot was nicked by a car and he ran three blocks to the ocean to soak his foot. I think that’s where I got the background for Hampton soaking his foot in mud. Another time we were driving off with two other dogs in the car. He jumped on the hood and starred us down. He wouldn’t be left behind. So yes, the animals in the book are based on real life.

Q: What's next for you?

A: I am currently working on a movie for the web called Cowboy Spirit which will be an original script. We plan on shooting it next summer. You can learn more about it at www.cowboyspirit.tv.


Q: Can you tell us what it's like to be a writer?
A: Writing is a job, just like going to the office nine to five. In order to be successful, and by that I mean finishing your project not necessarily writing a bestseller, you must be disciplined. You need to work at your writing job every day. It can be fifteen minutes of eight hours, but be consistent. Have a plan, a goal that you set for yourself and keep a log where you can chart your progress. Your goal can be 500 words a day, 3,000 words a day or what ever you set for yourself. And it’s okay if you miss a day or two, but if you find yourself not sitting down to write for a week or two, then you must reassess your commitment to writing or finishing your project.

I like to write early in the morning or late at night, when the phone isn’t ringing or the chores around the farm aren’t calling me to interrupt my writing. I also like to write for a solid, uninterrupted period of time, usually about two hours at a time. After that, my brain goes numb and I have to refill it. This is easily accomplished by mucking stalls or taking the dog for a walk. I write very quickly and my first draft is usually horrible. I don’t worry about grammar, spelling or sentence structure. I just type as fast as my ideas and story development come to me. Then I let it sit for a day or two, or even a month, and revisit my writing to clean it up, rewrite and assess where the story is going.

There are times where I, like every other writer, has writers block. Not much you can do about that so learn that from time to time you will be mired in a blank brain. That’s the time to take a long ride on your horse, motorcycle or anything else that will take you away from the stalemate with the computer.

But keep at it. If you have a story to tell, it’s going to come out. And remember, there are great editors out there who will keep you honest in your writing. Don’t be afraid to use them.
You can find author Bill Miller online at:
Independent film and cinematography: www.billmillerfilm.com

Author website: www.heroesandhounds.com

Upcoming web movie: www.cowboyspirit.tv
On Twitter: @millerfilm102


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