Before anything else, have a look at Mindy Beth Miller's writing chops. Here's a couple paragraphs to give you a taste:
"Back on Low Gap, the sun spit out its last blast of rays over the top of Saddleback Mountain. A puddle of yellow light gleamed on the hood of the parked car. Laurie trudged up the road, listening to her suitcase knock on the side of her leg. She stared straight up at the thick, green kudzu that towered over her, the bulky forms of draped figures rising high in the air. The creek burst out of the holler and a little waterfall spewed out like a rain shower somewhere down over the hill. She could feel the cool breeze from it licking her skin.
Up at the top of the hill, she looked over in the bottom, following the echoing taps of hammer strikes. She saw the sweat gleaming on Garner's naked back under the pole light's orange glow. He was building her the view she'd always wanted. She felt that familiar gnawing at her heart and laid a warm hand on her chest. A short breath shuddered inside of her like a bird trying to unfold its wings between her ribs. She focused on all that lay ahead of her, fixing her eyes hard like two round pieces of slick coal in the dimness and willed her body onward, stepping toward his waving hand." – excerpt from "The Cost of Living" Miller's first published story(published in the summer 2009 issue of Appalachian Heritage), and the winner of the 2008 Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian Writing.
The Mexican restaurant where I sit with Mindy Beth Miller in her hometown of Hazard, Kentucky is buzzing with activity. Miller, who has already gathered publications, awards and the eye of a New York literary agent for her first novel all while still in her twenties is reserved, arms crossed in front of her on the table. Her eyes search the room, gathering details, taking in her surroundings. She is ready for our interview and, knowing her as a deliberate person as well as a deliberate writer, I start only when she seems ready.
The main character of her novel-in-progress is Cat, a Kentucky coal miner working to make a life for her family in the best way she can. But her novel-in-progress and her process as a writer is where I decide to start. I now refer to this technique as method writing. I probably did not coin that phrase, but it applies in spades when looking at Miller's approach.
SHELDON LEE COMPTON: Let's start with the big question…the book you're working on. Tell me about it. I understand you're taking on some pretty involved research to gather material and that it's an extension of your short story, "Mountain Born," which is featured in the fall 2009 issue of The Louisville Review. More.