The Delicate Nature of Healing: An Interview with Novelist Wendy Paine Miller
A couple of years ago I was blessed to meet author Wendy Paine Miller, a writer to watch. Her novels (The Disappearing Key, The Flower Girls, and The Delicate Nature of Love) are original, hope filled, and refreshing. And the writing is excellent.
Her latest, The Delicate Nature of Love, released in February of this year, and I connected with it right away in part because the book has several themes in common with The Hope of Heaven. Our books are completely different stories; in fact, Delicate is a novel, which reminds me of one more reason I love writing. Writing, no matter what type, holds the power to touch universal needs and struggles and joys in all of us.
Wendy recently shared with me about the process of writing The Delicate Nature of Love, where the idea began, and how her own experiences helped develop the characters and story. I think you’ll enjoy her insights. . . .
Me: Thanks for taking time to share with readers, Wendy! First off, what are the main themes of The Delicate Nature of Love? Why those themes?
WPM: Not giving up. Unexpected connections. Letting go. Grief. Depression. Alcoholism. Suicide. Some heavy hitters, I know.
I’m drawn to exploring real-life issues women face. These themes unraveled organically, but I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t a light and fluffy read. I’ll also share how encouraging it is to hear form readers that despite tackling such serious issues, people aren’t depressed after reading Delicate, but rather filled with hope.
Me: Tell us more about the book: How long did you work on it? How easily (or not!) did the characters form in your head? Did you have a clear vision at the beginning, and does the finished product line up with that first vision?
WPM: It took me about three months to write and several more months to edit (with the help of my critique partners and an editor I hired).
The story came to me not long after Robin Williams committed suicide. I felt overcome with emotion and knew I needed to pour my feelings into something. And so along came Zoey. The characters in Delicate introduced themselves, then set up camp in my mind.
I usually have an idea of where I want the story to lead but as has happened in the past, the characters like to remind me that they run the show.
Me: As the author, how do you relate to both Emma and Zoey?
WPM: I relate to Emma’s love of refurbishing furniture. And there’s been a time or two I’ve identified with her struggle to cope with tragic life events.
And Zoey. Man, that child climbed inside my heart. On some levels she’s fearless and endlessly inquisitive, while on others she’s fiercely introspective and at war with her own thoughts. I can relate to her deep bond with her dog, her desire to feel understood, and some of her mental anguish.
Me: In your words, how does healing happen?
WPM: Healing starts with raw honesty. I remember lying in a hospital bed, years ago, mumbling over and over, “This sucks.” I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to walk in the room and tell me I shouldn’t be saying that, and I shouldn’t view my situation that way. It did suck and there was something initially healing about calling that out.
After honesty comes a loosening. This happens in many forms in response to many different circumstances. But ultimately, it’s learning to let go of whatever it was that helped to define you.
Once the first two have taken place, all that’s left is taking one brave step after another.
Me: How do we as caring friends/family contribute to or unwittingly hinder someone’s healing? Our own?
WPM: We skip step one. Or we try to mask honesty for others. It’d be like if someone stepped in that hospital room and tried to convince me and themselves that what I was going through didn’t suck. There are hundreds of ways we hinder someone else’s healing. A few that come to mind: encouraging friends or family to numb their pain, belittling the situation, allowing someone to wallow in victim behavior, etc.
Me: Any personal connections you’ve had to depression or suicide in people you’ve cared about?
WPM: I have a mentally ill sister who’s attempted suicide more times than I care to go back and count. I’ve also known dozens of women and a few men who’ve struggled with depression at some point in life. I’ve come through some rough seasons myself. The themes in Delicate hit close to home.
Me: How can we hold on to hope when life feels as if it has bottomed out?
WPM: This is where faith comes in for me. In my weakest hours, I clung to even the smallest seed of trust that there’s a loving God who cares intimately about me. And my future. I desire so much for others to know this hope. It’s changed everything for me and for others I’ve encountered.
Me: Any hints about your upcoming projects?
WPM: I’m halfway through a new novel at the moment that’s unrelated to Zoey’s story. I’m in love with the concept, and have spent hours chasing down the characters whenever they feel like being elusive. I hope to release this one in the fall.
I also plan to release #2 of Zoey’s story, The Precarious Hold of Love next spring.
Me: Thanks a bunch, Wendy. Readers, you can connect with Wendy Paine Miller and her writing here. . . .