Cold Rock River – Author Interview – J.L. Miles

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cold-rock-riverPaperback Writer is joined today by author J.L. Miles, author of the southern fiction novel, Cold Rock River (Cumberland House Publishing). She is on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion!



In 1963 rural Georgia, with the Vietnam War cranking up, pregnant, seventeen-year-old Adie Jenkins discovers the diary of pregnant, seventeen-year-old Tempe Jordan, a slave girl, circa 1963, with the Civil War well under way.



WIN A GIFT CERTIFICATE: As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors’ blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner(s) will be announced on our main blog at on October 30


J.L. (Jackie Lee) Miles, a resident of Georgia since 1975, hails from Wisconsin via South Dakota. She considers herself “a northern girl with a southern heart.” Her paternal grandfather was christened Grant Lee by her great-grandmother in honor of the many fallen soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. Ms. Miles is a former D.I.A.L. Systems Engineer for Baker/Audio Telecom, one of the premier forerunners of voice mail. In addition to systems application, she provided voice tracks for several major companies, including Delta Airlines and Frito-Lay Corporation.

You can visit her website at




Hi Jackie Lee Miles


Welcome to Paperback Writer



Paperback Writer: (PBW) Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?


J.L. Miles (JLM)   Cold Rock River was inspired by an incident in my own life. Like Adie’s sister Annie, my baby sister Vick choked on a jellybean when she was twenty months old. It was the week following Easter and we three older girls had our little baskets squirreled away. Our mother insisted we weren’t to drag them around the house, but she was gone for the evening and our daddy let us roam about, baskets in hand, to our hearts’ content. I don’t recall that any of us actually gave Vicki a jelly bean. More likely she picked on up off the floor. I do remember I panicked when I saw her put one in her mouth, and I tried to grab her. She started giggling and running as fast as her little legs would allow. The next thing I knew, she was choking and her face was blue. She survived, but as I grew older I was very much aware of how our lives would have changed had she not. One evening, lying in bed, something made me think of it; how fifty years had passed and yet the memory of that night was still as raw as fresh-skinned knees. I closed my eyes, ready to drift off, when I “heard” the opening lone of what became Cold Rock River. I got up to write it down, so I wouldn’t forget a single word. I was still at it the next morning. I had forty, maybe fifty pages. I realized then that this young, beautiful, delightful creature, who I chose to call Adie, might have something to tell me worth hearing. And if I was quiet and listened closely, maybe her ghosts would help me purge mine.



(PBW) Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?


(JLM)I consider myself an organic writer from the start, in that I hear my characters voices when a story first begins and follow it from there without an outline. When I get to a certain point where I know where the novel is headed I usually follow an outline at that point forward. I understand there is no tried-and-true method, but following an outline does help insure that you know where you’re going. It provides for less rewrites.


(PBW) Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?


(JLM) Initially, Cold Rock River was to be the story of Adie Jenkins, seventeen and pregnant and unmarried during the early 1960’s. I know today if you’re in her condition, they throw you a shower. In those days they threw you out. I decided Adie would do some chicken farming to feed them when it became apparent Buck wasn’t going to be one she could count on. I went to the library to research Georgia chicken farming and stumbled onto the Slave Narratives. The complete collection— which contains more than two thousand first-person accounts—is housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. They were commissioned by President Roosevelt during the depression years, in order to record the journey of those freed slaves still alive. Writers ere sent across the nation to search for them. Their accounts are as fascinating as they are poignant. Over the years, there’s been a good deal of controversy as to their accuracy, based on the fact that some of the freed slaves were fearful or perhaps suspicious of the government—brings to mind “forty acres and a mule”—and hesitant to speak candidly regarding the treatment they may or may not have received at the hands of their sometimes still powerful former masters. The collective consensus is that somewhere amidst the vast amount of material lies the truth. After months of reading, reviewing, and re-examining all of the narratives I could locate, Tempe’s portion of Cold Rock River emerged. Her story, based on what I found, is remarkable. Everything that Tempe experiences was lifted from the lives of actual people who wore the chains and bore the scars of slavery. I won’t ever forget her; nor am I able to forget those I ‘met” through the narratives, who bravely shared their life stories so that Tempe could tell me hers.


(PBW) Do you have a process for developing your characters?


(JLM) Before I develop a character I “hear” their voice. After that it’s a matter of listening to them to see what they have to say. From what they say I can flesh them out and find out just who they are. It’s an ongoing process as a novel progresses.


(PBW) It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?


(JLM) I guess you’re asking if my characters are real people. All I can say is that they are real to me, but I’m not writing memoirs—not yet anyway! But I do try to tap into my experiences with people in a way that portrays what I call truths of the human condition. If, in that process, I create characters my readers identify with, I’m very happy. I’ve done my job.


(PBW) What is your most favorite part about this book?


(JLM) When Adie discovers why she can’t marry Murphy when Buck comes home from the Vietnam War minus and arm and a leg. When she writes Murphy the letter to tell him that they just met too late, it broke my heart. In the letter when Adie writes, “I can never leave Buck. I want my children to grow up knowing the promises we make are meant to be kept,” I actually cried as I was hammering away at the keyboard.


(PBW) When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?


(JLM) I already had a publisher by the time I had written this book. Even so, it was a five year journey without a paycheck. So I was blessed to have a publisher waiting once I finally finished it.


(PBW) What struggles have you had on the road to being published?


(JLM) There is an interesting story as to how I got published.


I went to this book conference. At the reception I literally bumped into Ron Pitkin, the president of Cumberland House Publishing. He was kind enough not to notice I spilled his drink and asked what I was working on. When I told him fiction, he promptly replied, “That’s a crap shoot.” Definitely not what I wanted to hear. I mean, I’d paid good money to come to this conference and he’s raining on my party, big time. “Well,” I said, “that’s too bad, because I have a dynamite opening line.” I was prepared to walk away, when he gently took hold of my elbow and said, “So what’s your opening line?”


“The morning I died, it rained.” Keep in mind this was long before The Lovely Bones.


“God! I want to see that book,” he said, doing an about face.


“Ah, I don’t have a book,” I said. “I have a great opening line and a hundred pages.”


He asked if I had it with me. “Of course. I’m getting it evaluated in the morning. It costs forty-five dollars.”


He told me to give it to him, he wouldn’t charge a thing. I immediately went to my room and brought back the pages. I had a prologue, and the last chapter and the epilogue along with the rest of it. It wasn’t finished, but I knew where it was going.


Mr. Pitkin thanked me and went on his way. Come Sunday morning with the conference over, everyone was checking out. I spotted Mr. Pitkin making his way toward me and thought, oh-oh, this is where he’s going to pull the rug out from under me and tell me to get a real job. To my surprise he handed me the manuscript and said, “I want this and I want it yesterday. Go home and finish it!” 



I figured if I took forever to finish it he’d never even remember that he liked it. I stayed up and wrote around the clock for the next five days, took the weekend off, stayed up again and wrote around the clock for the next five days and sent it off to Mr. Pitkin. I marked my calendar for three months, thinking it might take that long for him to get back to me. I started in on my second book. Just like all the books on writing said to do. The following Friday evening my phone rang. I answered. A voice said, “This is Ron Pitkin at Cumberland House and we’re going to bring your book out in hardback.” I said, “Ya? And I’m the tooth fairy.” And I hung up on him. The reason I did this is that the only person other than my husband who knew I’d sent off the manuscript was a good friend of mine who can mimic any voice he’s ever heard. He’d been going to this conference where I’d met Mr. Pitkin for years and has heard him speak many times. It had to be this friend playing a joke on me. Not a very funny one either. I wasn’t amused.


I went upstairs to comb my hair and put some lipstick on. My husband was starving and wanted to go and get something to eat. Poor thing, he probably was starving. I stopped cooking when the kids left home and I took up writing. No sooner did I get to the bedroom when the phone rang. This one has caller ID, the others don’t. I leaned over and saw CUMBERLAND HOUSE flashing on the screen. I’d hung up on Mr. Pitkin for real!

I picked up the handset, leaned into it and barely whispered “Hello?”


“What’d you hang up on me for?” he said. “Ah, it’s a long story, a very boring story,” I said.


“Well, we’re bringing out your book in hard back and bumping back our memoir piece on Dale Earnhardt (he’d been tragically killed), to make Roseflower Creek the lead book. What do you think of that?”


I was hyperventilating and finding it impossible to speak. I did my best. “Didn’t you say fiction was a crap shoot?” I asked


“Yes—and it is,” he said.


“Then I think your crazy or my protagonist got herself a miracle. What do you think of that?”


Mr. Pitkin laughed and said he’d be seeing me. This is a true story and a pretty amazing way to get published.



(PBW) What has been the best part about being published?


(JLM) Meeting all of the fans who read my books! They bring me so much joy.


(PBW) What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?


(JLM) For me it’s not acceptable to simply write good stores. I feel compelled to include a gift with the writing; something readers can take with them that may make a difference in their life or the lives of those they love. It’s not enough to be entertaining. I need a reason or a purpose for the entertainment. It can be subtle and unobtrusive—I much prefer that it is—but it needs to be there.  I like to write good stories that warm hearts and question brains, then, add a little extra. It’s hard to put into words. I write poetry—not for publication, just for myself. I once wrote about what it was that I wanted to do with my life. It ended with, “Share truths, touch hearts, bring joy.” That’s what I’d like my writing to do.


(PBW) Do you have plans to write another book?


(JLM) After spending five years on Cold Rock River, I took a respite and wrote my Dwayne Series, a three-book southern anthology that’s two genres removed from what I have been writing. It’s Chick-Lit. I call it Grit-Lit, and it’s provided a nice respite.  It features Francine Harper, who is under felony assault charges for shooting at her husband Dwayne and his stripper/lover Carla from the Peel ‘n Squeal. Francine discovers her strengths and reclaims her dignity via a trial and many errors. The first book in the series Divorcing Dwayne debuted April 2008. Dear Dwayne arrives on the shelves April 1st, 2009 and Dating Dwayne will follow. I know it sounds backwards, but if you go to and check out the synopsis to the series under Divorcing Dwayne (scroll down), it all makes sense.


(PBW) Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?


(JLM) It has been a wonderful vehicle and I highly recommend it!! My ranking on is remarkable because of this tour.


(PBW) Where can readers find a copy of your book?


(JLM) All fine booksellers have access to it if they don’t have it in stock and can order a copy very quickly. Or readers can order on line at, barnes& or at


(PBW) Do you have a website for readers to go to?


(JLM) Yes, please visit the website at

And write to me at


Thank you, Jackie Lee Miles (aka J. L. Miles) for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.




COLD ROCK RIVER VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ’08 will officially begin on October 1 and end on October 30. You can visit J.L.’s blog stops at in October to find out more about her latest book!

As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors’ blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner(s) will be announced on our main blog at on October 30!


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