Sword & Silk is excited to welcome Ann M. Miller
Her novel, A Heartbeat Away From You, is a YA Contemporary Sports Romance comparable to Throw Like a Girl and Echoes Between Us.
Fearless Ali—implanted with a pacemaker—sets her sights on a return to the diamond, but her overprotective dad throws her a curveball when he enlists her childhood nemesis to keep her out of the game.
After a daredevil play on the baseball field leads to a four-minute long cardiac arrest, seventeen-year-old Ali Benton is lucky to be alive. Now she wants to make the most of her second chance—and she’s not going to let a pesky little pacemaker, or her helicopter dad, slow her down.
Between chairing multiple school clubs and working two jobs to help his single mother pay the bills, Max Delaney has got every second of every day planned. His childhood nemesis, Ali, doesn’t figure into any of them. But when her overprotective father offers him cash to keep an eye on her and steer her away from baseball, his plans change.
Ali can’t figure out why Max, the condescending know-it-all, is sticking to her side like Krazy Glue, and Max can barely tolerate headstrong Ali. But opposites attract, and before long, fighting turns to kissing. Even as sparks fly, the secrets they’ve been keeping threaten to tear them apart. When Max learns Ali’s been putting herself in harm’s way and playing ball in secret, he struggles with how to tell her father. If he tattles, he’ll lose her trust. If he doesn’t, he may lose her heart…in more ways than one.
Ann M. Miller writes young adult novels about first loves, complex family dynamics, and magic. She is the author of the Young Adult Fantasy Captured in Paint, published by Finch Books in January 2021. She grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, where the local bookmobile fed her addiction of Nancy Drew mysteries, Sweet Valley High books, and Stephen King horror. After graduating from the University of King’s College, she moved to Newfoundland, an island that makes up for its unforgiving climate with beautiful coastlines and majestic icebergs.
When she’s not dreaming up her next swoon-worthy love interest, Ann can be found playing catch with her husband and son or walking the four-legged members of her family.
An Introductory Interview with Ann
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I write Young Adult Fantasy and Young Adult Contemporary Romance. My debut novel Captured in Paint, a Young Adult Fantasy, was published in January 2021 by Finch Books. I’m the youngest of six kids, and I come from a family of baseball fans. When I was growing up, I was lucky enough to attend Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jay games. Go Jays! I’m a sucker for Han Solo collectibles, the enemies to lovers trope, and sports romances. I wish there were more books featuring strong female athletes, which is why I wrote A HEARTBEAT AWAY FROM YOU! I’m a member of SCBWI and a former literary intern. I live in Newfoundland and Labrador with my husband, son, and my two dogs, who keep me company during my marathon writing and editing sessions.
Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
A few years ago I read an article about a 19-year-old catcher in Manitoba, Canada who was playing baseball with a heart defect—and a pacemaker. I was incredibly inspired by his story, and how he didn’t let his condition stand in the way of his dreams. At the time, I was interested in writing about a strong female athlete overcoming both internal and external obstacles, so I did my research, drew on my knowledge of baseball, and A HEARTBEAT AWAY FROM YOU was born. I had so much fun creating my two main characters and devising ways in which they could help each other learn and grow.
What is your writing process? Plotter or Panster? Are you a morning or evening writer? What is your tried and true method for getting words on the page?
I’m a plotter all the way. Before I write one word of a story, I take the time to complete a full outline, including a summary of the story, character arcs, themes, and detailed scene descriptions. Sometimes I won’t even start writing until I have a working title I’m happy with! That’s not to say I won’t change my mind on certain scenes or characters while drafting, but I need a solid structure upon which to build the layers of my story.
I’m definitely a morning writer, since I’m much more productive when I’m fresh. This past year, I’ve come to rely on writing sprints using the Pomodoro method. I reach much higher word counts with this technique, and if I’m using my outline, I don’t have to stop too long to figure out what comes next!
Authors often impart pieces of themselves into their stories. Which character best reflects you? Do you share any personality traits with your protagonist?
A HEARTBEAT AWAY FROM YOU has two main characters. Ali is a feisty and carefree female ballplayer who’s not afraid to go after what she wants. Max is the incredibly smart, responsible guy who looks out for his single mom and plays it safe, always following lists and schedules and never veering from the rules. I aspire to be an “Ali” and I wish I had her energy, but I’m definitely more of a “Max.” I’m nowhere near as smart as he is, but I like to be organized and weigh out my options before making a decision. But I definitely share Ali’s attitude when it comes to believing in my dreams and never giving up on my goals.
What drew you to the YA genre as an author?
There’s a heart and emotional depth in the YA genre that I sometimes feel is missing in adult books. There’s something so hopeful and magical about adolescents finding their way in the world. They’re not kids anymore but they’re not quite adults, and I think there’s a wealth of stories to explore in the age range between 15-18. And in a way, maybe I’m trying to recapture my own youth!
If you could give your teenage self one piece of advice what would it be?
Take more chances and don’t be afraid to show your creative side. When I was a teen writer, I didn’t share my work with anyone, but now I realize how important it is to get feedback. It’s how we grow as creative types.