Monday, January 12, 2009

Interviewing Phyllis Zimbler Miller, Author of Mrs. Lieutenant

Hello everyone,

Today I will be interviewing Phyllis Zimbler Miller, author of Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel, a fascinating tale of four Army wives in Kentucky during the 1970s. Mrs. Lieutenant was nominated for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. And Phyllis is also the co-host of the Blog Talk Radio Show, Your Military Life.

Welcome, Phyllis.

Why did you write this book?

I’d wanted to write this book ever since the spring of 1970 when my husband went on active army duty during the Vietnam War and I became a new Mrs. Lieutenant.

Only six years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, that time in 1970 just as the women’s liberation movement began was a unique time in the social history of women in the U.S. The juxtaposition of young officers’ wives facing the fears of their husbands being sent to Vietnam and, at the same time, having to adjust to getting along with women of different racial, religious, geographic and class backgrounds offered a compelling story.

What took 38 years for this story to be published?

For almost 20 years I did nothing about writing this story. Then two female producers optioned the story for a film. When they couldn’t get anyone in Hollywood interested without having a book first, I started writing the novel. By the time I’d written the first draft, they had moved on to other projects. And then followed almost 18 years of learning to switch from writing as a journalist to writing as a novelist.

And then no one would publish the story. One rejection I got was that the story was outdated because there was no longer any racial prejudice in the U.S. Another rejection was because the four women had to meet through their own jobs, say at a law firm, and not through their husbands.

Thirteen months ago I had an epiphany — I was too old to wait for someone to say yes to me. I decided to self-publish — because I knew there was a market for this story.

Did you have to buy hundreds of books yourself in order to self-publish?

Self-publishing today has so many more options than in the past. I contracted with BookSurge, now owned by Amazon, to publish the book as a print-on-demand book. I only had to buy as many books as I wanted to buy. Then people who want the book can order it through Amazon, and most of these people probably don’t know it’s a print-on-demand book.

I’d like to add that I had the confidence to self-publish my book partly because of two things: One, I’d taught copyediting at the college level and I’d always been a stickler for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, so in this respect I thought my book was ready for publication.

Two, for years friends read the book manuscript and liked it, but everyone kept saying something was missing and no one could figure out what. Thus I hired a book consultant to read the manuscript and figure out what was missing. And he did. Something seemingly so small but so important — a clear timeline so that readers could easily follow the story as each chapter is told from the POV of one of the four new officers’ wives.

These two elements — good editing and good editorial story advice — convinced me that my book was ready to see the light of day.

What about marketing a print-on-demand book?

I’m the co-author of the Jewish holiday book, SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION, which first came out from a division of a major publishing company in 1992. At that time, I and co-author Rabbi Karen L. Fox had to do all the marketing ourselves. Thus I was prepared to market my novel myself. And what I quickly learned was that the Internet has leveled the field in many areas.

In June I took a virtual book tour through, which arranged for me to “visit” numerous blogs. From this experience I gained valuable knowledge about how to market MRS. LIEUTENANT. And at the same time I dove into social media in order to promote the book. I took class after class about effectively using social media for business.

How do you use social media to promote MRS. LIEUTENANT?

After joining numerous book sites and social media sites, I’ve learned to concentrate my efforts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I connect with people on these sites and share valuable information with them. I also offer copies of my book to help promote a cause of their own. Currently the website is offering a copy of my book as a prize in a drawing of site members who submit a 500-word essay about themselves. And I arranged for the other two prizes through my contacts on social media sites.

In addition, I’m now sharing book marketing information at my site I even sell a Special Report on using social media for marketing books. The report takes newbies to social media by the hand and helps them over the threshold to this new world of possibilities. I know that, after book authors are given a start in this arena and see the possibilities, they’ll be able to come up on their own with even more ways to utilize cyberspace to promote their books.

What audiences have you found to be the most interested in MRS. LIEUTENANT?

Women book bloggers of any age have been very receptive to this story of four very unlikely women bonding in difficult circumstances. For younger women who knew nothing about the Vietnam War era, they find this story a window into a time their parents or grandparents talk about. And for women, as well as men, who lived through this turbulent period — they respond individually to looking back at a period that they may not have thought about for a very long time. For one former army wife, this story brought back difficult memories she thought had been buried forever; for a young woman blogger, the story brought her closer to a deceased father who would never talk about his time in Vietnam.

It sounds as though your book has really had an impact on its readers. I can understand why. For those who want to find out more about Mrs. Lieutenant, please visit Phyllis’s blog at, and don’t be shy – leave a comment. Or search for the book on Amazon. An excellent read.
Thanks so much for sharing this info with us, Phyllis. Sigrid Mac