Today’s author interview is with Michael Graham. He is the author of our new release, Cheer Up! The Life and Ministry of Jack Miller.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Bayou La Batre—a coastal fishing village in southwest Alabama. From the age of six, I worked in the net shop of the family seafood business threading needles with twine for the workers who repaired the nets on a fleet of shrimp boats in between their trips. We really didn’t have spare time to speak of, and I still struggle with understanding that concept as an adult. Every summer, holiday, and school break (including college), my siblings and I would work in some capacity for my father’s business. My favorite job was the three summers I spent as a teenager on the Silver King III—a charter fishing boat that took parties from around the southeast to the Chandeleur Islands to fish for three- and four-day trips.
- When did you first want to write a book?
Actually, I stumbled into writing a book. It was not something I ever dreamed of doing. As I look back, I learned to write after I graduated from college. I was supposed to work for the family seafood business developing the international side of things—or at least that was the plan. Dad, however, did not have an assistant of his own, and since he was the boss, in reality I became his personal assistant—which mainly involved writing all of his correspondence. Though I chafed against this work, which was outside the scope of my assignment, it was in the school of writing and editing my father’s letters, projects, brochures, and specifications that I actually learned how to write.
- Which writers inspire you?
My wife, Vicki, is the one who really got me into reading. Until I met her, I didn’t have the time or patience to be a reader. Now I am reading, and thinking about what I’ve read, all the time. Easily, my favorite writer is Mark Twain. I simply love the way he turns a phrase and makes me laugh so often. Among Christian writers, I greatly enjoy C. S. Lewis, Tim Keller, John Piper, J. R. R. Tolkien, Paul Miller, and of course Jack and Rose Marie Miller.
- What inspired you to write this book, about this topic?
In 2015, I had gotten permission to access the Jack Miller archives at the PCA Historical Center in order to research a paper on corporate prayer and leadership. After I finished the research and wrote the paper, I emailed the Miller family to thank them for granting me access and strongly suggested that they engage someone to write Jack’s biography. When I wrote that email, I had never considered in a million years that I would be the one to write Cheer Up! Fast forward six months, to a doctoral seminar I had with Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which was when he first learned about Jack Miller and recommended that I write a biography on his life and ministry while so many people Jack had influenced were still alive. I knew that Jack’s biography needed writing, but I also assumed I would be the very last person in the world to write it. I’m still amazed at how the sovereign Lord brought together such a team of people to make Cheer Up! a reality.
- Do you have a specific spot where you enjoy writing most?
I am intense and often find it hard to relax and focus. When I worked on the Silver King III, I would haul my mattress from the forepeak down in the bow of the boat and place it on the deck next to the anchor bit. I loved falling asleep listening to the waves pat against the boat’s hull at night. The same sense of calmness comes when I am on a balcony of our vacation rental in Panama City Beach listening to the waves break against the shore, which is where I wrote almost all of Cheer Up!
- Other than the Bible, do you have a favorite book?
J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
- Favorite sport to watch?
College football; Alabama Crimson Tide. I had the privilege of playing for several years before being injured.
- Favorite food?
A toss-up between New Orleans shrimp boil and South Indian dhaba (roadside) food.
- Tea or coffee?
Definitely coffee brewed in a Swedish Moccamaster coffee maker.
- What famous person (living or dead) would you like to meet, and why?
Jack Miller—so I could talk to him about Cheer Up!, everything I learned from him, and especially all the important things I missed.
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