2022 Teen Writers' Rally

Interview with Caitlin Miller // Teen Writers’ Rally Day Six

Heya, TWNers! I am so sorry today’s post is going up later than expected, but I guess me failing to schedule a post was bound to happen sometime during this rally. I’m honestly impressed with myself that it wasn’t sooner. XD Okay, but in all seriousness, we’re wrapping up the first week of our rally. That means there’s only one more week left. I can’t believe how fast this last week has gone, but we’ve had SO many amazing posts, and we have another full line up waiting for you next week! So thank you for joining us for day six of the 2022 Teen Writers’ Rally. If you’re new here, welcome! We’re kicking-off National Novel Writing Month with back-to-back posts featuring amazing authors, bloggers, and more! Tune in every day until November 5th for new posts full of writing tips, advice, and encouragement. Posts are live at 6:00 EST (*cough* usually XD), and if you’re not already, subscribe to Teen Writers’ Nook via email to receive a notification when the next post for the rally is up. (Form can be found to the right if on a computer or at the bottom of the page if on a mobile device.) And as always stay until the end of the post for information about the giveaway running through the entire event!

So today we have Caitlin Miller join us!!! Her debut novel The Memories We Painted released this year, and y’all, if you haven’t read it yet, it is a book you are NOT going to want to miss. I was in near tears by the end of it, and it’s rare that a book moves me so emotionally! Caitlin is an authorly genius is all I have to say. I can already tell her writing career is going to be amazing, and I can’t wait to see all that she has in store!!! She is also the author of the upcoming historical fiction novel, Our Yellow Tape Letters. I am SO excited to share my interview with her today, so it’s time I quit talking and hand the spotlight over to Caitlin!

#1. Hi, Caitlin! Thank you for joining us today!!! I’m SO thrilled to have you here at Teen Writers’ Nook! To begin, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your books, and where we can find/follow you online?

First off, my name is Caitlin, but I generally go by Catie. I’m a college student, author/editor, and part-time English teacher in Japan. I published my first historical fiction novel, The Memories We Painted, in March of 2022. I’m currently working on my next book (also historical fiction), Our Yellow Tape Letters: A WW2 Novel, which releases in January of 2023. You can find me on my website (https://caitlinfaithmiller.com) or follow me on Instagram (@authorcaitlinmiller). I’d love to hear from you! 

#2. When did you first discover your love for writing and what inspired you to pursue it seriously?

I fell in love with writing during my early teen years, but what inspired me to pursue it seriously was when my family walked through a very difficult few years when my sister’s health crashed and she was diagnosed with a rare disease. During that time, I learned so much about suffering, where to find God when He seems far away, and how to hold on to hope when everything in me wants to give up. It was during that season of life that God challenged me to write a book featuring a main character who had difficult health struggles and wrestled with the same questions I had.

That is so inspiring! I love how God brought something good through those difficult times.

#3. What astounded me most in The Memories We Painted was your gorgeous, breathtaking writing prose. (I may or may not be slightly jealous.) While I’m sure most of that is pure talent, do you have any tips, tricks, or advice you learned to polish your prose?

Ahh, well first off, you’re so sweet! Secondly, I do have a tip that helped me to polish my prose. What I do when I’m trying to polish my prose or write creative lines is I read a book and write down one word that stood out to me. It can be an adjective to describe something or imagery that stood out to me, and then I write a sentence using that word or create my own imagery. My brain loves to recycle similar phrases or stale writing, and reading books and doing creative writing exercises really helps me! 

Oh my goodness, that is SUCH a creative idea! Ah, I love that! I am definitely going to have to try it sometime!

#4. What would you say was the hardest challenge (can be during the writing, editing, or publishing process) in creating The Memories We Painted and how did you overcome it?

The hardest challenge in creating The Memories We Painted was the publishing process. As that book was my debut novel, navigating the publishing world was overwhelming for me. I basically learned as I went and gleaned from other writer friends who had experience with self-publishing, so I definitely had help, but for a lot of it, it was trial and error and learning on the go. It was definitely a huge learning curve, but devoting time to researching the ins and outs of publishing, the necessary steps to getting my book in the hands of readers, and how to manage my budget and set goals for myself really helped me to overcome that challenge. 

That is amazing! I think it’s great that you had helped from other indie authors and took time to research the best ways to succeed with publishing. But, yes trial-and-error is usually the best learning experience from me, too. I’m someone who will usually jump right into something and figure it out as I go along, usually making a ton of mistakes but that’s how I learn.

#5. Another thing I loved about your book was the theme. Do you plan your themes before writing or do you let them come to you in the drafting stages?

I definitely plan the themes before writing my book. To me, themes are one of the most important aspects of a story, and if the themes are good, I’ll still buy the book even if the plot isn’t intricate or super compelling. What I do is I sit down and plan each character arc and ask myself, “Where is this character at Point A and how are they going to reach Point B? What are some scenes I can write where the readers can track clear development and glean from the themes?” This really helps me to have a goal. Of course, as I write the story sometimes the character arcs change slightly, but I generally stick with my Point A. to Point B plan.

I love it, too, when a book has strong and good themes! It usually overshadows anything I might not like in a book. Your Point A to Point B strategy is SUCH a good idea, and I am definitely going to try that in my own writing!

#6. Do you have advice for a writer who is worrying his/her theme isn’t strong and touching or is one readers will dislike?

This is such a relatable and real fear. When I was writing The Memories We Painted, I had days where I was worried that readers wouldn’t connect with the main character in a wheelchair or that the themes I chose to represent the book wouldn’t be relatable or strong enough to leave a lasting impact on the reader. Little did I know that some of my readers were also in wheelchairs, and it meant more than words could say to read a character who was just like them. And other readers related so well with the heavy themes of loss and pain and health struggles. All that to say, writers, don’t be afraid that your themes aren’t touching enough or won’t make an impact. It’s often times the things we’re afraid won’t make a difference make a bigger impact than we could ever imagine. Write your themes and ask trusted friends for input on how to improve them. 

Okay, I just LOVE that! SO true! If the theme of your book matters to you, reader, then it will matter to someone else out there! So write what God’s placed on your heart, but like Caitlin said at the end of her answer, you can also get trusted friends to read your book and see their opinion on your themes.

#7. What do you want readers to take away from your books?

My biggest hope and prayer since publishing The Memories We Painted is that readers will walk away with a profound sense of where to find God in their own set of struggles, whether they be physical, emotional, or mental. I want readers to know that they’re never alone, even when God feels so far away. That good can come out of their circumstances, even when it seems impossible. That there’s hope, even when your situation says otherwise. God is always, always with us, through everything we face—and He wants to meet us in our questions, anger, grief, and loss. 

 Aw, I love that! SO beautiful!

#8. Can you describe a typical writing session for you? Are there things you do that help you write faster or better (i.e. listening to instrumental music, writing at night/in the mornings, etc.)?

A typical writing session looks like going to a quiet room and keeping my phone out of reach. It’s so easy for me to pick it up when I hit a slump in writing, and then all my writing time goes to scrolling on social media. Something that helps me write faster or better is doing writing sprints. When I was writing the second draft for The Memories We Painted,  I did 500-word sprints. After I wrote 500 words, I would allow myself a short break to relax or text a friend. That way I had a goal to reach and incentive to reach it sooner!

Ooo that’s cool that you track your sprints with word counts. I know a lot of writers who will do timed sprints. Like write for 25 minutes, break for five, but I like the idea of tracking your time with words. That would be a good thing to do instead of tracking by minutes if you’re anything like me and you spend your 25 minutes, staring at your screen, waiting for when the timer’s up. Tracking through words can help make sure you’re actually writing something. That’s such a neat idea, and I love it!

#9. What is your favorite part about the writing process?

I have two favorites! The first is brainstorming the storyline. It’s so exciting to sit down with a set of characters and come up with unique character arcs for them and do plot development. I love seeing where my imagination can take me! The second favorite is the final read-through of my story. It’s so bittersweet, because it’s saying goodbye to characters that I spent months and months with, but it’s so rewarding looking back at hundreds of pages and several drafts and countless hours of time and effort.

#10. Do you have any advice, encouragement, or words of wisdom for teen writers who want to take their writing seriously?

One of the biggest words of encouragement I got on my writing journey was from an author friend of mine, Ashley Clark. She sent me a notebook in the mail with these handwritten words on it: “Never give up on your dreams.” I can’t tell you how often I held on to those words on the days where I questioned my ability to write or my calling to be a storyteller or when I fought fear and discouragement on my publishing journey. And I want to impart those words to you, teen writers: Never give up on your dreams—because dreams are worth chasing after. If you want to take your writing seriously, start today. Stay grounded. Set goals. Get words down on paper, even if it’s only a handful of them. Keep learning. And most importantly, never give up.

Wow, Caitlin. I… I love that! I could not have worded it better myself. Yes, just yes!!! Don’t give up, writers, because someone out there needs your story and the only way that person can read it one day, is if you start right now. Choose right here today that you’re going to keep writing that next sentence, paragraph, chapter, novel. One day, you’ll look back to this place and decide that every long night was worth it. More than worth it!

Thank you SOOOO much Caitlin for joining us today!!!

I hoped y’all enjoyed the interview, readers, as much as I did! If you loved this, show your gratitude to Caitlin by getting a copy of one of her books or adding them to your GR shelves. If you’ve already read them, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or recommend it to a friend! Not only is writing books hard, but trying to get your name out into a very competitive mark is just as difficult. So every bit of support means so much to these authors!

WHO’S READY FOR THE GIVEAWAY TIME?! *rasies hands* During the rally (October 24th-November 5th) Teen Writers’ Nook is running a giveaway. Three winners will be chosen and the winners will win their choice of one of the books pictured below. (Imagine anthology is also included, though not pictured.) This giveaway is open to both U.S. and international entries!

Every post you comment on during the rally earns you an extra entry into the giveaway! To enter with this post comment below and tell me: What’s one word you overuse in your writing? Like suddenly or smirked or whatever. 

Remember to tune in tomorrow for a guest post from one of TWN’s first readers, Penelope Rugan who will be sharing about her writing journey!

What’s YOUR favorite part of the writing process? Do you prefer to do sprints in minutes or word counts? Let’s chat all about it in the comments below!

Keep on being awesome and never stop writing,

Issabelle Perry

Issabelle Perry is a proud Jesus follower, an extroverted writer of historical fiction, and a homeschool graduate. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, jamming to Skillet, bullet journaling, hunting for Narnia in wardrobes, or envisioning herself wielding a magnificent sword (but due to her clumsiness, let’s hope that never happens). This self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiast can be found hanging out at Teen Writers’ Nook, a community of teen authors Issabelle co-founded in 2020. Her short story “Fairly Impish” was featured in Owl Hollow Press’s Change the World anthology, and Issabelle is the co-editor for Teen Writers’ Nook’s Imagine anthology and Grace A. Johnson's upcoming Christian romance anthology. What she’s probably doing right now is fangirling about her favorite books to random people or scanning the pantries for chocolate.

28 Comments

  • Mary

    Wow!! #3 is literally genius!!
    And, wow, the words “It’s often times the things we’re afraid won’t make a difference make a bigger impact than we could ever imagine”…that’s super inspiring.
    Also…wow. #10.
    I always feel like I learn something profound after each post by these amazing authors.

    One word I overuse in my writing when blogging or commenting is “definitely” and “totally” 😂 And one word I overuse when writing my novels would, yeah, embarrassingly enough, be “suddenly” 😆

    • Issabelle Perry

      YES! I know right! IT IS GENIUS!!!!!!
      I knowwwwww right!!! I was SO inspired after reading that, but like, it’s SO true! If we’re afraid it won’t make a difference, that’s usually because it’s so close to our heart and it means something to us. And usually if it means something to us, that means it will mean something to someone else. And I now realized I said the word “means” waaaaaaaay too many times. XD
      Awwww, girl, I am SO SO happy to hear that!!! This was EXACTLY what I was hoping for!!!! THANK YOU!!! And like ikr! These authors are just AMAZING! They have each nailed the interviews!!!

      LOL GIRL SAME HERE. I HAVE FOUND MY TWIN. XD I overuse definitely and totally ALL. THE. TIME. Hahahahaha, suddenly is SUCH a hard word to avoid. XD It’s like it just demands to be used. XD
      Thank you for reading!!!

  • Ellie

    Oh wow, I loved these tips! I think writing until you’ve gotten a certain amount of words instead of by time is smart, cause I’m definitely guilty of zoning out during my Pomodoro timer😁
    And my favorite part of the writing process(right now) is character interviews, or outlining when I have a long time to do it. Not a huge fan of pre-NaNo outlining cause I’m not good at outlining quickly😁

    • Issabelle Perry

      YAAAAY I AM SO GLAD ELLIE!!!!!! Caitlin had AMAZING advice in this interview!!! Yes, I totally agree!!! I’ve never done that before, but after reading Caitlin’s interview, I am definitely going to start doing word sprints than timed sprints. Hahaha, you’re not alone, sister. I am SO guilty of that, too. XD
      YES!!! Character interviews are SO much fun!!!! I’ve been learning to enjoy outlining more myself. 😉 Hahahaha, the pain is real. XD I was hoping to do a pre-NaNo outlining for my next WIP, but I ran out of time to do it, so my new NaNo goals is just to brainstorm and finally outline my next novel. XD
      Thank you for reading!!!

  • Lillian Keith

    Ah, I sympathize with the steep self-pub learning curve *sighs*. But it’s so rewarding when you persevere and get to the other side.

    (And can I just say, I love planning out my book’s themes ahead of time too?!)

    Thanks for another great interview, guys 🙂 I think my favorite part was Caitlin sharing about the encouragement she received from her friend.

    • Issabelle Perry

      Aw, I’m sorry to hear that you had a bumpy start with self-pub. *hugs* But I’m glad you persevered, and I have to agree that, no matter what stage of the writing process you’re in, it is SUPER rewarding to persevere and accomplish your goals!!!!

      (YESSSSSS!!!!!!! That is AWESOME!!!! I do a bit of both planning ahead and then seeing where the story takes me!)

      You’re welcome! Thank YOU for reading!!!! Oh my goodness, YES I LOVED THAT PART TOO!!!!! It was SO inspiring and encouraging to me!!!!!
      Thank you SO much for reading, Lily!

      • Issabelle Perry

        I KNOW RIGHT. I LOVED THEM TOO!!!!!!!!

        Aaaah, girl, we are in the same boat! Twinsies!!! I overuse “just” ALL. THE. TIME. It’s like my go-to word for any word. Actually, as I’m going through the fourth draft of my WIP, I’m noticing just how many times I use the word “just.” WHY IS IT SO HARD FOR ME TO USE ANOTHER WORD????!!! (LOL, girl, you should totally do that!)

  • Rylie

    I love Q and A numbers three and ten!! We can’t give up! I’m REALLY excited to read The Memories we Painted!!

    I overuse smiled. I think. ya, smiled. XD I gotta google some synanons for smiled now. *already overuses it in the comment*

    • Issabelle Perry

      YESSSSS I LOOOOOOOOOVE CAITLIN’S ANSWERS TO THOSE QUESTIONS TOO!!!!!!!!!!! She was just spot-on and had SUCH great advice and encouragement!!! YES WE CANNOT GIVE UP. If writer’s gave up when the road got tough, then readers would run out of books VERY quickly! EEEEK GIRL THAT BOOK WAS AWESOME!!!!! I hope you’ll enjoy it! Maybe have a tissue or two handy. 😉

      Aaaaaah GIRL SO DO I. And smirk, grin, chuckle, and laugh. Obviously my characters are happy a lot more than I realize they are. XD Hahaha, let me know if you find any good ones!!!!! LOL.

  • Joy C. Woodbury

    The Memories We Painted is another of my favorite books, and Caitlin’s writing style is exactly the kind I wish to imitate. She’s an amazing author!

    Hmm, one word I feel like I overuse in my writing is “then.” It tends to slip in when it’s not needed, and when I’m editing, I often have to cut all those unnecessary “then’s” and other filler words.

    • Issabelle Perry

      AAAAAH SAME HERE SISTER. I LOVE that book. I was in near tears at the end and Josie was SUCH a gem! I loved her determination and strength!!! I KNOW RIGHT. Me too, sister! She has a gorgeous prose and me is jealoussss. XD SHE REALLY IS!!!!! I totally agree!!

      Aaaah the aggravating case of “then” I see. XD Yeah, that is a hard word to avoid sometimes. Hahaha, girl, the filler words are about my un-doing. I did not realize how many times I used the word “just” until I started the fourth draft of my current project. No human should use one word that many times. XDDD

  • Gemma

    Amazing post as always! When I first started writing I used the word “turned” or the phrase “walked up behind me” so much that it’s become a running joke between my mom and I!

    • Issabelle Perry

      AWW THANK YOU GEMMA!!!!!!!! Okay, turned is a word I use like so. many. times. I even annoy myself now with how many times I overuse that word. XD Hahaha, that’s hilarious that you and your mom have a joke about that. XD I love that!

    • Issabelle Perry

      AWW YOU’RE SO WELCOME MARY!!!!!!! Thank YOU for reading!!!!!! I have to agree that Caitlin had just some amazing tips!!! I loved them!!!! AAAAH GIRL YESSSS!!!!!! I am sure you will LOVE it! You must let me know what you think after you read it!!!!! Hahaha, you’re welcome!!! <3333

  • Emma

    #3, 6, and 10….love those. <33 And I enjoyed reading y'all talk about themes, that was so helpful and encouraging!!
    Oooo and sprinting in word counts is such a great idea!! I'm totally going to have to try that sometime!! Thank y'all so much for such a wonderful interview!!

    One word I overuse is probably "sighed." *shakes head* That's always my go-to when I don't know how a character should respond so he just…sighs. XD Really need to work on that lol. XP

    • Issabelle Perry

      I KNOW RIGHT. They were some of my personal favorites too!!! <3333 Aww THANK YOU!!!! I am SO happy that you enjoyed it!!!! YAAAAY GIRL THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS HOPING FOR!!!!
      I know right! I love that! It's so perfect for someone like me. YESSS!!!! Girl, we should try that together sometime!!! Awww, you're SO very welcome, sister. Thank YOU for reading and commenting!!!!!!

      Hahaha, sigh is such a tempting word for me to use. I think my go-to for character responses is usually either a smirk or a shaking head thing. XD I have no idea why. Writing is SO hard sometimes! *sighs* ;P LOL, we all do, sister. It happens to the best of us. *pats you on the back and offers chocoalte*

  • Corrie.S.P

    That is soo cool that she teaches english!!!!
    I think that no matter how “overused” the words “don’t give up on your dreams” are, they still mean an important thing. Do let go of what you want to do with your life. And trust God to use those dreams for His work!
    Timed by words is a great idea!!!
    What’s one word you overuse in your writing? Like suddenly or smirked or whatever: Hmm….. I would say the word “and” but I’m trying to structure my sentences better to not use it as much
    What’s YOUR favorite part of the writing process? I like seeing my work done. Finished. Capoot. Ba-done. Wheeeee!
    Do you prefer to do sprints in minutes or word counts? I write till I can’t think of anything else to write or I get bored.

    Question: Some of my comments on the very first posts are not coming up, were they sent correctly?

    • Issabelle Perry

      I KNOW RIGHT!!!!!!! That’s one of the best job options out there in my opinion!!!!
      Yes, I totally agree!!!! It’s something that even though we say it a lot, we still need to be reminded of it a lot, too!!!! Amen, Corrie!! You’re SO right. We should trust God to fulfill His plans for us even when it looks like right now that that could never happen.
      YESSS!!!! I LOVED THAT IDEA TOO!!!!!!
      Hahahaha, ya know, I’ve never thought about how we could overuse the word “and” but you’re SO right. I probably overuse it too, now that you mention it. Definitely need to keep my eye out for that… YAAY!!!! That’s awesome that you’re working on fixing that!!! You’ve got this!
      Hahaha YESSS SAME HERE. It’s great to look back at what you’ve done and give yourself a pat on the back. ;P
      Oooo that’s a good plan, too!!!! I usually write until my brain can’t process a coherent sentence. XD Then it’s time to take a break!!!

      Oh, yeah, sorry about that! They did go through, I had just gotten behind on answering comments for a moment, but I think I’m all caught up now. If you don’t see your comments now, then one or two might’ve not gone through. <333333
      Thank you for reading!!!!

      • Corrie.S.P

        I think you would also have to know the language of the people you were teaching. But so rewarding when you talk to the person you have taught and they answer back in the language you taught them!!! Ahhh!🤩

        No problem! I just wanted to make sure they were going through. The only one I see that has not been moderated yet is on day one I believe. And ofc the last few days.
        No apologies allowed! I know the task of moderating comments!! Terrifying!🤣 Yet a blast😉

        • Issabelle Perry

          Yep, I imagine so. Or else teaching them would be extremely complicated. XD YESSSS I BE SO!!!!!!!!! I can only imagine how cool the experience of that would be!!!!!

          Awesome!!! Yep, I totally get that. If I don’t see one of my comments has been approved, I get nervous that it didn’t work! Sometimes WordPress just doesn’t work well for us bloggers!!! Yep, Kat has been a bit behind on comments, too, but I’m sure she’ll get to that one soon!!!!
          Aww, thank you for understanding, girl!!! Hahaha, couldn’t have said it better myself!!!!! Yet, I do so love chatting in the comments section!!!

  • Katja Labonté

    “All that to say, writers, don’t be afraid that your themes aren’t touching enough or won’t make an impact. It’s often times the things we’re afraid won’t make a difference make a bigger impact than we could ever imagine.” I needed to hear that… I really relate to the worry about themes and the impact they may or may not make. <3 This is such an inspiring post and I can’t wait to read your books, Caitlin!

    I definitely overuse “then” in my writing… like WAYY TOO MUCH and I am working on it. XD Also, my favourite part of the writing process is having people read my stuff and enjoy it (does that count)? Or maybe it’s the surge of exultation that comes when everything clicks together and I know I just did something totally genius (ha, ha). Or maybe its just the joy of getting my thoughts into expressed, readable form, or bringing to life the characters I love. I don’t know. I just love writing. xD

    And finally, I do both sprints and word counts and it totally depends how I'm feeling or what I am writing.

    • Issabelle Perry

      Yes, girl, I 100% relate to you. I struggle all the time with worrying about my themes not being strong enough or people won’t like them. Kinda why I asked Caitlin that question! And her response was perfect!!! I’m SO glad it touched you, too!!!

      Hahahaha THEN IS SO HARD TO AVOID SOMETIMES. Haha, you’ve got this!!! YES THAT SHOULD TOTALLY COUNT. I didn’t even think about that part, but I do so love it, too! There’s something rewarding about having someone read something you’ve worked so hard over for the first time!! Hahaha, oh, yeah, that’s a great moment too!!! Aww, girl, I can totally see your love for writing, and that is amazing!!! I love how passionate you are about it!!! Girl, you keep it up!!!!

      Ooo that’s awesome that you switch it up and do a little bit of both!!!

  • K.R.Mattson

    I’m usually very self conscious about repeating words, so it doesn’t happen a lot to my knowledge, but if it were, it WOULD be smirked, and, he, or the. Those count, right?😜

    • Issabelle Perry

      Yep, I feel you sister. I try SO hard not to repeat words, though I just realized recently how I’m not doing as good of a job as I believed with this. XD Hahaha I overuse “smirked” and “and” All. The. Time. LOL, yes, they definitely count!!!!

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