Interview with author Phyllis Zimbler Miller

A hearty welcome goes out to Phyllis Zimbler Miller whose joining us to talk abou ther newest book Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders, a novel written with her husband Mitchell R. Miller.

Welcome, Phyllis. Please tell us about your current release.
Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders is a graduate of the Naval Academy and on the Navy’s pistol team as well as an electronic weapons officer. When she gets assigned to an aircraft carrier as a fighter pilot’s backseater, a missile attack on her plane leads to a mission to try to save the port of Los Angeles from a suspected terrorist attack.

She next bulldozes her way into being the first female assigned to a sub smaller than one of the large Ohio-class boomers. She is unaware that her past is about to catch up to her present in a bizarre situation she could never have foreseen.

What inspired you to write this book?
The novel Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders is based on the screenplay of the same name that my husband and I wrote and that was a quarterfinalist in the 2005 Nicholls Fellowship competition (run by the org that gives out the Oscars).

We later wrote a prequel screenplay (“A Needle in a Haystack”) because we wanted to use fiction to let people know how vital the U.S. Coast Guard is to the safety of cities with ports (such as Los Angeles, where we live). And we like the character of Mollie so much that we used her as the protagonist of this second screenplay.

Mitch and Phyllis visit the USS Midway aircraft carrier on February 1, 2007, in San Diego after attending the U.S. Naval Institute conference.

Now it is 2011 – 10 years after 9/11 – and our nation continues to have security vulnerabilities. I decided that adapting the two screenplays into a novel could both entertain and inform.

What exciting story are you working on next?
We’re interested in writing more adventures for Mollie. I want to send her off to help deal with the Somali pirates. And Mitch and I are particularly interested in China’s current aggressive focus on expanding its area of influence – Mollie might want to help deal with this.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always written. One summer when I was in junior high or high school I spent the entire summer writing a novel They Lived in the White House about the children of a President. (I might still have that novel somewhere.)

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don’t write full-time as I’m the co-founder of the marketing consulting company Miller Mosaic LLC and Mitch is a tax/estate planning attorney. We both squeeze in time to write.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I often write scenes in my head (while doing household tasks, etc.) so that I can sit down at the computer and immediately start writing when I can snag the time to write.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m over 60, and in my hometown of Elgin, Illinois, there were no professional women role models except one woman doctor. Writing was something I could aspire to; the children’s book author Marguerite Henry lived in a nearby town and once spoke at the Elgin library.

In college I got a journalism degree at Michigan State University. (Mitch and I met on the college newspaper, and my novel Mrs. Lieutenant ( comes from my experiences soon after we were married.)

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Mitch and I have written other screenplays together (see the book Four Comedy Screenplays – ), and we always have a strong female protagonist who is integral to the plot rather than just along for the ride.

Because I believe that fiction influences real life, it is very important to me to portray female fictional characters who can make their own decisions and who do not always have to rely on men.

Thank you for being here today, Phyllis. Mollie sure has a great start – I hope her adventures continue!

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