Please Welcome...The Miller Brothers
What a joy to have Christian speculative fiction novelists Christopher and Allan Miller as our interview guests this month here at WhereTheMapEnds. (That's Chris on the left and Allan on the right.)
The Miller Brothers always loved creating stories and art. From early childhood, they were working together on one creative project or another.
Impacted by the books that surrounded them growing up as sons of Christian bookstore owners, they ultimately pursued degrees in computer animation in order to tell great stories. Their lives would take a different turn as God directed them into business together as web designers for ten years, until He opened a door for them into the Christian publishing world.
Working as both authors and illustrators of their books, the Miller Brothers brought their first book series to the market in 2007, the Heroes of Promise series (Warner Press). Since then, they have entered the YA Fantasy Fiction market as the authors and illustrators of The Codebearers Series, capturing the imaginations of tween/teen readers across the CBA and ABA market.
I first met Chris and Allan when the ICRS convention (then called CBA) was in Denver in 2006. We had connected via e-mail before then and I was thrilled to get to meet them in person.
I was impressed with their creative minds and good humor, plus also their obvious artistic talents. They had amazing ideas for new media and we immediately fell into one of those mind meld communications that people who don't share it find highly irritating. ;-) Happily, there was no one else there to be irritated.
We've kept in touch since then and they have made great inroads into
The Miller Brothers: AM: We just wrapped up the writing and illustrating of our second book in our Codebearers Series back in April Hunter Brown and the Consuming Fire. Now we’re working on the third book while eagerly awaiting the 9/9/09 release date.
CM: It’s also our window of time to explore other possible stories...something I personally love doing. At the last ICRS (International Christian Retailer Show) gathering, we were able to pitch a couple new ideas for YA fiction series. We’re hopeful that one of them will be picked up for this next year. Writing and creating is what we really love doing above all. It would be a dream to get to do this on more of a full-time basis if it can grow into that.
WhereTheMapEnds: What is your favorite speculative novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your favorite?
The Miller Brothers: CM: I always hate questions like this. I’m not
one to play favorites, especially in a genre as broad as this that has
so many wonderful stories to choose from.
One series that currently has captured my imagination is
Peter and the
Starcatchers, co-authored by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. As a
fellow co-author I have to tip my hat to anyone who can collaborate on
a long project together. It takes a special kind of kinship to pull it
Another reason I really love the books is that they are full of good
‘ol fashioned childhood magic--the kind that takes you away from this
world and lets you dream a little bit while you are still awake. I’m
shivering even now as I think of their description of Lord Ombra and
the cold chill that accompanies his presence. Great stuff.
WhereTheMapEnds: What made you want to write Christian speculative fiction?
The Miller Brothers: AM: Reading great stories. That’s the seed that
eventually grew into my desire to write them myself. A well-crafted
story can deliver some of the most important truths that we might
otherwise have ignored. I love how a grandly described scene, or a
simple line, can stick with you for your lifetime and continue to
inspire for a lifetime.
Personally, we’ve really felt inspired to write books with a focus on
boys (though it hasn’t stopped the girls from reading too). From our
own experience, as boys growing up with books, there was a certain
plateau we seemed to reach at around age 11-13. The selection of
great, quality books sort of mysteriously thinned out. They became
harder to find. When you look around, so many boys today do not enjoy
reading…yet. We hope to change that with the stories we tell.
CM: Of course, books are not the only way to tell a great story. Who
doesn’t love a great movie? Allan and I have always loved the unique
way that a movie can tell a story, and we frequently dreamed of being
That’s one of the original motivations for us both getting computer
animation degrees from the Art Institute of Seattle. At the time, we
thought we might make a difference in the creative marketplace working
on films. As it turns out, our big shot came in producing stories
through books, and we’ve found it very rewarding.
I think some of that visual training has really come into play with
how we approach our writing style. Many of our readers have even
described their experience reading our book as akin to watching a
movie. Who knows? Maybe someday they will be eating popcorn under the
glow of our work.
WhereTheMapEnds: I sincerely hope so! How was your first idea for a
Christian speculative novel received (by anyone: spouse, friends,
parents, agent, publisher, readers, reviewers, etc.)?
The Miller Brothers: AM: Well, my first response to Chris when he came
to me with the idea of writing a novel was, "You mean like a big,
three-hundred page book? Are you kidding?!?" Up until that point, we’d
only ventured so far as to write (and illustrate) some children books.
A novel seemed like a big jump to take.
In fact, the more we talked about the idea, the more hare-brained it
seemed to both of us. A list of reasons why we could not be novelists
started to form: we were not old enough, didn’t wear glasses with
cardigan sweaters, didn’t smoke pipes, or live in a remote cabin.
Okay, so maybe that’s a little stereotypical, but the reality was that
we both wrestled with the idea that we might have anything to add.
It might have ended there, except for the small, still voice calling
us to step out in obedience and faith. The realization that this was
more about following God’s calling than about ourselves was the
deciding factor that finally pushed us over the edge.
CM: As far as publishers’ responses, you couldn’t get much better
response than we ended up getting. Our first time proposing the
Codebearers Series to publishers resulted in two competing offers. I
still cannot believe we received that kind of attention on our first
Allan and I agree that it had a lot more to do with what God was doing
(and had been doing leading up to it) on our behalf than our talent
alone should have earned us. We are simply grateful for the open doors
that He gave us and how He led us to ultimately decide to partner with
Warner Press as our publisher. It has been a joy to work with them in
a joint effort to make a difference through the books. Heart really
makes a world of difference.
WhereTheMapEnds: What is your favorite speculative genre to read? To
write? If they’re different, talk about that.
The Miller Brothers: AM: My favorite genres to read would probably be
spiritual warfare and supernatural thrillers. I guess I’m just a fan
of anything that attempts to pull back the veil and let us see into
the reality of the spiritual battle being waged around us at any given
I’ll never forget reading through
Frank Peretti’s books as a youth and
the impact they made on me and my view of life. While I might not
fully classify our Codebearers Series as one of those genres, the
storyline certainly has hints of their influence.
WhereTheMapEnds: How would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
The Miller Brothers: CM: I’m very encouraged by what is happening in
Christian speculative fiction, particularly in the YA market. We’ve
heard it reported that the #1 growing category for booksellers--both
in CBA and ABA--is the YA fantasy fiction genre.
Much of that surge is certainly due to the recent widespread interest
that books like Harry Potter and Twilight sparked. When we visit
schools, private and public alike, we can see it in the kids' eyes:
they’re excited about reading again.
And now all of those readers are hungrily looking for the next great
series to engage with. It’s a terrific time to be introducing
speculative fiction…there’s an audience!
WhereTheMapEnds: May it be as you have spoken! What have you seen that
encourages you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or
The Miller Brothers: AM: Over the last few years that we’ve been
engaged with the Christian marketplace, we’ve seen publishers continue
to take more risks. And face it, speculative fiction is always a risk.
I mean, how can something that’s called “speculative” be anything but
a risk, right?
Seriously, though, the door has been opening up for more
“outside-the-box” creative efforts, and publishers seem to be
genuinely embracing the unique ways that speculative fiction can
inspire, teach, and reach Christians and non-Christians alike. They
really seem to be getting it.
WhereTheMapEnds: Again, may it be. So, Chris and Allan, what advice
would you give to someone who aspires to write and publish Christian
The ideas, dreams, and talents that you have are given to you as a
gift from the original Author. Let Him use them. That means
persevering and waiting. We can say from experience you can never go
wrong when you let Him lead.
CM: Another practical tip: network. Get involved with other authors at
writers' conferences in your area. We all need each other for
encouragement along the way…and you never know where those
relationships will lead. Our path to becoming published wound its way
through many circuitous routes of relationships. So don’t be afraid to
make an effort to know and be known by other people in the industry.
WhereTheMapEnds: Great advice, you guys. What's the best book or
seminar on fiction you know?
The Miller Brothers: CM: Now, we were not paid to say this, but…we’ve
The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction
written by none other than Jeff Gerke (Marcher Lord Press). It’s
packed with practical lessons that have been great for keeping our
Most recently, the chapter “Profanity--The Debate” was extremely
helpful to us as we worked through a similar touchy subject one of our
character’s backstories brought up: namely, how do we handle someone
with an alcoholic past in a Christian youth fiction? We needed the
character to be real in their struggle while not unnecessarily
offending readers. Jeff’s thoughtful perspectives helped us find the
balance we needed.
WhereTheMapEnds: Garshk! [blushes] Thanks, gents. Okay, what’s the
best part about writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?
The Miller Brothers: AM: The lives changed. It can be as simple as
hearing back from a parent about how their son, who never liked
reading before, now cannot stop reading after being introduced to one
of our books.
Even better yet is when we hear from a reader who was able to take a
truth from our story and translate it into their own lives--like one
boy who wrote us to say how a certain line from our fiction, “By his
fear, a man appoints his master,” helped him when battling his own
fears and really made a difference for him spiritually.
It’s times like these when we are reminded of what an amazing platform
we have been given as writers to influence our readers… and humbly
reminds us who deserves the credit for the ultimate success.
WhereTheMapEnds: That's terrific! What writing project(s) are you
working on now?
The Miller Brothers: CM: Some really cool ones! We are working on an
“interactive novel” concept that compels the readers to steer the
narrative based on key decision points. The whole story plays out like
a maze and riddle that readers have to unravel to beat. There’s a
whole “graphic novel” element to it told through illustrations too.
AM: We’re also developing a futuristic story based around American
history. It’s like they say, “Those who cannot remember the past are
condemned to repeat it.” It’ll be mostly speculative, with a dash of
WhereTheMapEnds: Sounds very fun. What’s a cool speculative story idea
you’ve had lately?
The Miller Brothers: If we told you we’d have to kill you.
WhereTheMapEnds: What are you, chicken?
The Miller Brothers: No.
WhereTheMapEnds: Yes, you are.
The Miller Brothers: No, we're not.
WhereTheMapEnds: Then prove it.
The Miller Brothers: Fine, we will. It’s a short story written from
the perspective of a sword, if you must know.
WhereTheMapEnds: A sword?
The Miller Brothers: CM: Yes. But not just any sword, mind you, it is
a sword that offers unimaginable power to whoever bears it. As you
might expect, once word gets out about its power, the most wicked and
vile men seek to claim it.
Ages pass during which the sword is abused and used only for evil.
Because of this, the sword wants desperately to find a place to hide
from mankind. It gets its wish…sorta. But I won’t spoil the ending.
WhereTheMapEnds: That actually sounds pretty cool. And, you know,
thanks for not killing me.
The Miller Brothers: No problem.
That's All for This Time
What a great interview, huh? Thanks again to Chris and Allan. Be sure to visit the Miller Brothers online.
And if you missed the previous months' interviews with other speculative authors, including Frank Peretti, Jerry Jenkins, Karen Hancock, Tosca Lee, and Ted Dekker, you can read them here.
And be sure to come back next month for an interview with another mover and shaker in the world of Christian speculative fiction.