Two Books and a Movie from a Checkered Family History

March 08, 2021 Tom Kranz Season 2 Episode 3
Two Books and a Movie from a Checkered Family History
Show Notes Transcript

Kevin D. Miller's family tree provided inspiration for his two historical fiction novels, one of which details a real-life murder in his family and is soon to become a feature film. His latest book is inspired by his great great grandparents' interracial marriage during the Civil War era. Kevin, a web developer and part-time actor with a silky voice, is a totally delightful and informative guest.

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Tom Kranz  0:16  
Hi, everybody, and welcome back to the independent author podcast. I'm Tom Kranz, I appreciate you downloading my episodes. And I hope you'll continue to do so because these shows get more interesting as we go along. Especially when we have guests like I have today. Instead of hearing me yammer on all by myself, like a monologue, we're lucky to have author Kevin D. Miller. And we're going to make sure we say Kevin D. Miller, because I'm just guessing there's about a million Kevin Miller's out there, right, Kevin?

Kevin D. Miller  0:45  
Absolutely, it's like one of the most common names out there. And so I've made sure I put the D in there to kind of distinguish myself a little bit from the other authors named Kevin. 

Tom Kranz  0:55  
Kevin has two books available. We're going to talk mostly today about his most recent book, which is called White Skies, Black Mingo. But those of you who are fans or semi fans, or soon-to-be fans may know Kevin, for a previous book he wrote called Heart of Steel. What I find fascinating about this is that both of these books appear to be based on kind of revelations that you had about your family, and about family backgrounds. First of all, did this information come to you later in life? Or is this stuff you've been carrying with you all your life?

Kevin D. Miller  1:29  
It came later in life, Tom. I did not know my last name wasn't Miller. It's actually a Polish name, Puchalski. And my grandfather had taken a kind of a deep dark family secret to the grave with him that my father didn't even know. And we just discovered this a few years ago, long after he had passed away. He and his siblings had a pact to keep the tragedies scandal a secret where my great grandfather was murdered. And it's it's a pretty wild story that Heart of Steel is based on. It's got about probably about, you know, 80 to 90% true, I had to fill in the blanks where, you know, I didn't know the history of it and stuff. But it's an incredible story. 

Tom Kranz  2:12  
Wow, that's amazing. And I read somewhere here where it was kind of on the way to becoming a film. Where does that stand right now?

Kevin D. Miller  2:19  
It is. it's on its way to becoming a film. A production company named gkg productions here in Hollywood. A great actor, producer, director, a friend of mine and Kevin Sizemore, I gave him the book, just saying, hey, you know, would you read this for me? He read it for me. And then he came back and said, Dude, I want to option this book and turn this into a feature film. So we are putting together a trailer right now to go with the package. We wrote the screenplay. And we're pitching it to studios and investors. And that's the process it's in right now. But it'll eventually make it to the theater or Netflix or wherever we can get into. 

Tom Kranz  2:58  
That's really awesome. Folks, you heard it here. Heart of Steel unless of course, they change the name and confuse the hell out of us. We'll see. So um, you found out about this about the fact that your name wasn't really Miller. So how old were you when that happened?

Kevin D. Miller  3:15  
I was in my 40s.

Tom Kranz  3:17  
Oh, wow. Yeah, that's pretty late in life to find out something major about your family than.

Kevin D. Miller  3:23  
It is. Yeah. It's pretty late in life. And it just shocked us all. You know, it shocked my dad as well. You know, he just passed away last November, 86-years old. And he did not know that. But he wanted to write the story. But he, he asked me to do it for him. So I did. And I was it was an honor to be able to, to hand him an autographed copy of the book. And he was very thankful and appreciated. 

Tom Kranz  3:49  
That's really awesome. And it made its way up quite high on the Amazon bestseller list, I see.

Kevin D. Miller  3:54  
Yeah, one of the categories hit number one, other categories that made the top 10. So it's done really well. And it's still selling books, it's still doing real well. It still maintains in the top 100 in the categories, it's classified in. So, it actually won a bronze award at the Readers Favorite Book awards. And a five-star award from Readers Favorite as well. So it's, it's an award-winning book.

Tom Kranz  3:54  
So this is the real deal, folks. If you haven't read it, you better read it quick before the movie comes out. So you can say you heard it first. So you gave us kind of a hint and teased us a little bit about the story. But let's let the readers you know, actually go and read this thing so that they can get the full picture. And in the meantime, White Skies. Black Mingo is again, I get that it's based on I guess is it your great grandparents?

Kevin D. Miller  4:48  
Yeah, it's my great great grandparents. It's inspired by I mean this is a story of historical fiction, but it's inspired by my great great grandparents. She was Native American. She was of the Ohio Seneca, they referred to them as Mingo in those days, and are kind of an independent group of Native Americans from the Haudenosaunee Nation, which we knew as the Iroquois. And he was a son of Irish immigrants. And this is during the Civil War, the setting takes place in the 1800s in Ohio country. And it's inspired me because I thought, you know, you got a, you got a mixed marriage there in a time, you know, that's, you know, it was illegal for Native Americans to marry, you know, whites and, you know, and I'm my what, my wife is Hispanic, I'm in a mixed marriage myself, and I thought, you know, what, this is a great story, and I want to write a story about it. So it's, it's inspired by them, but it's historical fiction, most of the story, you know, I have a few facts in there, but probably about 95% of it is, is just creativity.

Tom Kranz  5:51  
I gotcha. But still, if you're gonna stay true to the period, you must know, you must know something about that period.

Kevin D. Miller  5:58  
Yes, a little bit of research, took a lot of research time, it took a lot of research on the Civil War took a lot of research on areas of West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, I was born in Canton, Ohio, so I do have some familiarity with that area, took a lot of research, you know, just on the Native Americans, I wanted to tell this story through the eyes of a young, you know, a 12-year-old girl named Kateri, her English name is Margaret Davis. And I wanted to tell a true, you know, from the point of view of Native Americans, and you know, a young woman so. So that's kind of how the story is told in unfolds.

Tom Kranz  6:34  
Well, I can't wait to get all the way through it. I do know what doing research is like. So The very first book I wrote some years ago was about a story that I helped cover in Philadelphia back in 1985. And even though I was there, and in a lot of it, all of it is through my point of view, I ended up doing you know, this was before the internet, this was the mid-80s. So I went to the freakin library, you know, the free library of Philadelphia, I made a million Xerox copies of testimony and looked up microfiche of newspapers. And, you know, I know it's not that clumsy today as it was then. But doing research is time-consuming that requires, you know, a commitment because you're doing it because you want to get it right. And then you have the onus of getting it right. And I found that you know, the research was really almost two-thirds of the battle. Once I had the research though, the book almost wrote itself, I don't know, what's your experience, but I just thought it was. And I'm sure you'll have the same experience of doing researches is hard and lengthy.

Kevin D. Miller  7:42  
Yeah, no, I totally agree with you, Tom absolutely. And you have to do the research, and you have to get it right. You know, for your readers. And then yeah, you're right. The story kind of then starts to tell itself starts to write itself when you do your research properly.

Tom Kranz  7:58  
Now, I'm intrigued that you wrote your first full-length book in your mid-40s. So Had you ever written before in any way, shape or form?

Kevin D. Miller  8:06  
Yeah, and let me clarify that Tom, I learned of my last name in my 40s. But we, you know, took a few years to do it. I'm actually 63 years old. And I wrote this book, too, you know, in 2019. Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. Yeah. 

Tom Kranz  8:21  
No, it's cool. Hey, welcome to the club. I'm 66. And I wrote my first novel four years ago, so welcome. Never too late. So you decided to sit down one day and turn off the TV and just said, I'm going to write this thing?

Kevin D. Miller  8:36  
Yeah, I did. My dad handed me a lot of documents, but we found some newspaper, the way we discovered is it was at a funeral and some newspapers from 1920, you know, were handed to us from some cousins of ours, that were doing some genetic stuff. And it just, it was eye-opening. I use those, you know, newspaper articles for the first part one of the book to really, I really wanted the investigation of, you know, the murder to be, you know, very accurate and stuff and it's written like a novel, it's not a document or anything, you're gonna live the story through the eyes of my grandfather. Okay, you know, it's written, you know, close POV through his point of view, you know, so the reader is the character I like to write through.

Tom Kranz  9:14  
So how long has White Skies Black Mingo been on the market? Has it been? Is it relatively recent or no? 

Kevin D. Miller  9:19  
Yes, it was published by headline books in West Virginia, in November this past November, so it's just recently been released. It's doing well it won a gold Mom's Choice Award recently won an honorable mention in the New England Book Festival for best general fiction, just won a Reader's Favorite five star so it's, it's doing really well and winning a lot of awards. And the audiobook is in process for both books. We'll have audiobooks out this week on White Skies, Black Mingo is narrated by a wonderful voice actress named Melissa Han. She's doing a great job. We can't wait to hear the whole book and stuff. But yeah, we're looking forward to getting that out. 

Tom Kranz  10:01  
Great. Well, I'm really tickled that I got to meet you even though it's all over audio-only here. I will be plowing into White Skies, Black Mingo. And then I'm going to have to go back and read Heart of Steel because I want to make sure I know what that's about. 

Kevin D. Miller  10:15  
Yeah, and you can find both links to both those books, Tom on my website, which is author Kevin Miller.com.

Tom Kranz  10:24  
And both books are available on Amazon.

Kevin D. Miller  10:29  
Yes, sir. They're both available on Amazon. White Skies is also available at Headline Books, and audiobook coming soon.

Tom Kranz  10:41  
So once again, the current book is called White Skies, Black Mingo, the author is Kevin D. Miller. And remember that name because you're going to be seeing a lot of it coming soon following his book, Heart of Steel, and we only hope that they keep that name because it's actually a great name. Kevin, thanks so much for being with me. And we will hopefully talk again soon.

Kevin D. Miller  11:04  
Yeah, it was my pleasure. And I look forward to that, Tom. Thank you. 

Tom Kranz  11:07  
All right, man. Take care. Thanks.