Featured Interview With James Nathaniel Miller II
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
Greetings from Central Texas! It’s only 94°F outside my window this afternoon—about the same as last week. I’ve kicked off my boots to enjoy a few quiet moments at my computer while I share with you my story.
Becoming a fiction writer wasn’t even on my bucket list. I am a past contributor to Communities Digital News, a Washington-based news source, and I’ve written a few articles for The Liberty Beacon Media Group, but My professional life has been spent mostly in the aviation industry. I have over 8000 hours as a pilot-in-command, and I have founded two aircraft refinishing companies, but my story would not be complete without telling you how and why, at the age of 66, I became a fiction author and wrote my Cody Musket series.
Our companies supported outreaches to destitute people around the world, and even sponsored a chaplaincy program in a Texas facility for troubled youth. But I became burned out after so long and decided to sell my enterprises and retire. That’s when the real trouble started, the beginning of a sixteen-year-long wilderness in my life.
First, we lost 80% of our retirement in the financial markets crash of the year 2000. After that, I lived in a state of depression and panic for several years. It was a type of PTSD, I realize now. As a Christian believer, I tried hard to trust God through it all, but eventually I didn’t even trust myself any longer.
Thereafter, I failed at everything I tried.
After sixteen years, I was so defeated that I could no longer see any purpose for my life. I ran out of options, and the boredom coupled with failure was killing me. I reached the point of wanting God to just take me home.
Through it all, my wife Carla was a rock. She never wavered in her trust for me or for her Lord. She’s my hero. I wish I were more like she is. She seemed so unaffected by the turmoil, but I was a mess.
After I came to the end of my proverbial rope, something miraculous happened. Was it an answer to prayer? I wasn’t sure at first.
One night, out of nowhere a story invaded my head about a US Marine pilot who . . . well you get the picture—Cody Musket, a man who has reached the point of desperation, who meets a heroic woman whose faith is unbreakable.
The story grew in my head for months, but it never occurred to me to write a book. (Doofus!) I even asked God to take this story out of my head because it was disrupting my life. Finally, after about six months, I told Carla about the story. I told her I was gonna go crazy if I didn’t at least write it down. She said, “I think you should.” That’s it. “I think you should.”
I began to write feverishly and could not stop for two years. I studied hard to learn how to write fiction. No Pit So Deep, The Cody Musket Story was released in 2016 as a stand-alone novel, and I have now expanded this saga to a four-book series with a combined 440 customer reviews from around the world, many of which reveal lives that have been impacted. The first book has been on the Kindle #1 Bestseller list twice, and has won several awards, including a bronze medal in the 2017 Readers Favorite International Book Awards.
So, there I was, just a few years ago, thinking my life was over, and feeling abandoned. But if my life had not slowed down to an agonizing crawl, I would never have written this story. If I had achieved the retirement I had always dreamed about, I might have missed a greater destiny.
I have learned that God can have a surprise waiting even when things seem hopeless. Where we may see an ending, maybe He just sees a brand-new place to start.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I began to read books when I was about 10 years old. I read Johnston McCulley’s Zorro, which had a big impact. The Zorro character was heroic and honorable. Another book which captivated me was Ode to the Big Bird, a WWII first-hand account by US bomber pilot Bert Stiles.
I “graduated” to comic books during my teen years. (smiling)
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
I like reading books which deal with deep matters of the heart. Wild at Heart by John Eldredge is one of my favorites. Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton and Lisa Worthey Smith are great writers.
When I write, I don’t use a timetable. For me, inspiration is not something that can be tamed or timed. Here is my personal mantra: Try to write better but fewer books. I feel that many authors may sell themselves short because they are rushed, thinking that the more books they write in a given amount of time, the more popular they will become. That only works if your finished product is the very BEST you can produce. Our modern culture is held hostage by time. Time can be a tyrant, ticking away like a relentless metronome in your mind, robbing you of your best creativity and inspiration.
Inspiration for me is when I can see a scene unfolding in my head like a motion picture. I simply write down what I see and hear. All authors are not the same. I am just sharing my experience.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
To introduce No Pit So Deep, The Cody Musket Story, I am going to ask Cody to share from his own point of view. (Yes, he’s a fictional character, but he doesn’t know that!)
So, here goes . . .
–Hello everybody. I’m Cody Musket. Much of my story was inspired by real events, so even though I’m a fiction character, it doesn’t seem like fiction to me. I’m a former US Marine F/A-18 pilot who met with unfortunate circumstances in Afghanistan, but was blessed to eventually become a major-league baseball player.
I first saw Brandi when I was a rookie with the Astros. Our team was in Pittsburgh to play the Pirates, but the Friday night game was rained out, so I went to a movie. I was about to implode. The military secrets and memories I was holding inside were destroying me. Baseball had become my only refuge.
When Brandi walked past me in the theater that rainy night, she reminded me of sunlight and better days. I didn’t wanna stare at her, but I couldn’t help myself. The O2 rushed right out of my chest. She wasn’t the least impressed, but I followed behind her at a distance. That’s when it happened.
These three guys in ski masks came from nowhere and tried to abduct her. Well, I totally lost it. Witnesses said I was . . . like, completely out of control. I still don’t know what kept me from killing those guys, and I had no idea why they had targeted her.
Even Brandi was afraid of me afterward, but she was as curious about me as I was about her. We became friends, then gradually she saw how messed up I was. I figured she wouldn’t want anything to do with me after that, but . . . I could see she was a caring person. Then, she told me her father was a decorated marine and a Purple Heart winner.
Brandi was a single mom who wrote investigative reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She had exposed a child-trafficking ring, and she had a price on her head. I fell in love that first night with this brave woman who risked her life to save children, and whose father had won medals for courage in battle.
We were now both on the syndicate’s hit list, but as we pressed on through the crisis together, I learned that Brandi was a woman of great tenacity and deep faith. she helped me discover that Jesus has a style of His own, that He’s in a class by Himself. I mean, the things that happened in Afghanistan . . . the people who died because of me . . . I didn’t know people like me could be forgiven and even healed.
See, I thought I was in a pit so deep that even God couldn’t find me, but Brandi . . . she never gave up on me. She knew how to listen to God, and she loved me too much to leave me in that pit. The underworld figures who sought our lives were no match for her prayers, and, as they say, the rest is history.
Many incidents in my phenomenal story were inspired by real events and real people. The story is both gritty and glorious. If you look carefully, you might even find yourself hidden within the pages.
Okay, so now you’ve heard from Cody, a chisel-faced former marine with freckles and sandy hair from Big Rock, Texas who plays third base for the Astros. Brandi, a Pennsylvania girl with dark hair and blue eyes, is a single mom and investigative journalist who has exposed a trafficking ring. She is part African American with scars from her own past, and she has a three-year old daughter, a heartthrob who is able to wrap Cody around her little finger.
Brandi is both gutsy and tender. She fights back tears as Cody trusts her with his story about the gut-wrenching incidents in Afghanistan which have remained hidden from the public, but she is tougher than a steel hammer when she stands against the demons of Cody’s past who attempt to destroy him in his post-traumatic mental abyss.
“A love story not soon forgotten.” -TopShelf Magazine
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