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Interview with John Winn Miller, Author Behind ‘The Hunt for the Peggy C’

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Today I interviewed John Winn Miller, author of The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller! John is one of the rare writers whom I interviewed that have been able to find a publisher! Way to go John!

In this interview with Miller, you will learn more about his routine as a writer, challenges of finding a publisher, writing strategies and more!✨

Tell us your story. What inspired you to become an author? 

I had been a journalist for more than thirty years and had always wanted to write a novel. I first wrote screenplays and when COVID hit, I turned one of my scripts into a novel.

Margo John Allison John Miller

John’s wife Margo, John, and their daughter Allison Miller, who is an actress-screenwriter-director who plays Maggie on ABC’s “A Million Little Things.”

Tell us more about The Hunt for the Peggy C, and what it is about.

THE HUNT FOR THE PEGGY C, a semifinalist in the Clive Cussler Adventure Writers Competition, captures the breathless suspense of early World War II in the North Atlantic. Captain Jake Rogers, experienced in running his tramp steamer through U-boat-infested waters to transport vital supplies and contraband to the highest bidder, takes on his most dangerous cargo yet after witnessing the oppression of Jews in Amsterdam: a Jewish family fleeing Nazi persecution.

The normally aloof Rogers finds himself drawn in by the family’s warmth and faith, but he can’t afford to let his guard down when Oberleutnant Viktor Brauer, a brutal U-boat captain, sets his sights on the Peggy C. Rogers finds himself pushed to the limits of his ingenuity as he evades Brauer’s relentless stalking, faces a mutiny among his own crew and grapples with his newfound feelings for Miriam, the young Jewish woman whom, along with her family, he must transport to safety.

When Rogers is seriously wounded, Miriam must prove she is as tough as her rhetoric to save everyone as the U-boat closes in for the kill. THE HUNT FOR THE PEGGY C is a masterpiece laced with nail-biting tension and unexpectedly heartwarming moments that any reader, not just fans of naval fiction, will enjoy.

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Tell us more about the process behind writing your book.

The idea, strangely enough, came from a dream. Several years ago, I watched a terrible action-adventure movie and kept saying to myself that I could write a better screenplay. That night, I had a dream. The next day I knew the first and last scenes and the ship’s name. That was all. I spent years filling in the blanks.

What is your routine as a writer, if you have one?

I write every day, usually in the morning and afternoon. But I don’t have a set schedule or word quota. Some days all I do is research. On other days I’ll write several pages. As long as I make progress, I’m happy. But I am obsessive about getting the history and technology right, so I footnote my drafts so I can double-check myself.

How do you develop your plot and characters? 

For the plot, I know the first and last scenes and maybe a few stops along the way. Basically, I write the characters into a corner and then figure out a way to get them out. Many of my characters are complete fabrications that I give affectations, speaking style, and a back story of sorts. I write a bio of the major characters and may use bits and pieces from real historical figures. I’m all over the place.

What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?

The writing was fun. Getting the novel published was excruciating. I sent out more than fifty query letters to agents and publishers. Most never responded. A few were nice enough to send me a form rejection email. Two publishers asked to read it. One liked it but said it didn’t fit the company’s style. Bruce Bortz at Bancroft Press and his readers loved it and bought it. It then took eighteen months to be published.

How much research did you need to do?

Tons. I had read countless books about World War II since I was young. But I had never been on a U-boat or a tramp steamer, and I knew next to nothing about the sea. As a result, I spent months reading histories, websites, historical archives, and first-hand accounts and watching documentaries and YouTube videos.

I wanted all the history and technical details–and there are a lot of both–to be accurate. I even went so far as to study wartime logs by U-boat captains so I could accurately describe the moon’s stage during each phase of the chase at the heart of The Hunt for the Peggy C.

Which part of The Hunt for the Peggy C is your favorite?

Probably the ending because it is complicated, emotional, and unexpected, but logical. I tried to make it fit the advice from famed screenwriter William Goldman, who said, “The secret to an ending is to give the audience what they want, but not the way they expect it.”

Tell us more about the publishing process behind the book.

Before publication, I recruited authors who write in a similar genre to provide blurbs. I also sent emails to Amazon reviewers and asked if they would like an Advance Readers Copy so they could give it an honest review. And I used BookSirens to gather more pre-publication reviews.

My publisher has done a lot of the publicity. But I also hired a publicist, Wunderkind PR. So, I have done radio interviews, Zoom interviews for bloggers, written Q&As for online magazines, and book giveaways with bloggers, and I’ve written articles about books and writing for such magazines as Writers’ Digest. I am hoping to do book signings soon.

What are some tools you used to write this book from start to end?

I write on a MacBook Air. I use Grammarly and PerfectIt to copy-edit and comply with the Chicago Manual of Style. I use my iPad to do research.

What authors inspired you into becoming an author yourself, if any?

I had always wanted to be a writer. As a kid, I was a voracious reader and particularly loved Edgar Rice Burroughs, Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Jack London, Frederick Forsyth, Alexander Dumas, and Ian Fleming. Later I came to admire the incredible and varied writing styles of John le Carré, Donna Tartt, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, and George Orwell.

But my favorite author is Colleen McCullough, whose historical fiction combined my love of deeply researched Roman history with a brilliant writing style.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

You can do it! Don’t be afraid. Jump right in. Be prepared to fail but learn from your failures. Just write.

What are your future plans and where can our readers find you?

I stunned myself when I immediately started writing a sequel after selling The Hunt for the Peggy C to Bancroft Press. I was even more stunned when I finished it and began the third volume with many of the same characters in different phases of World War II. I am also trying to sell a TV pilot called “Wreckage” that my brother Harry B. Miller III, a film editor, writer-director John Harrison, and I wrote.

Readers can find all about me and THE HUNT FOR THE PEGGY C, plus read the first chapter, on my website:

Have you enjoyed this Q&A with John? Let me know in the comments below! ❤️