Donald Miller broke out eleven years ago with his bestselling memoir Blue Like Jazz (Thomas Nelson, 2003), which has sold more than 500,000 print copies according to Nielsen BookScan. He went on to write Searching for God Knows What (Thomas Nelson, 2004), an exploration of connecting to Jesus without the trappings of an ordinary church; To Own a Dragon (NavPress, 2006), ruminations on growing up fatherless; and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, about his struggle with writer’s block (Thomas Nelson, 2009). After a five-year break from writing books, Miller is back with Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy (Thomas Nelson, Jan.), chronicling his ongoing quest “to risk being myself with another human being,” which led to his first marriage at age 42.
Stepping out of book publishing for five years is a long time. What does it feel like to be back?
It feels good. I enjoy writing when I feel like I’ve got something new to say and it isn’t forced. A typical cycle for me is that I go through a hard time, find my way out of it, then write a book about that journey.
Scary Close leaves us at your wedding day. How is married life a year later?
Much of the difficulty in marriage hasn’t hit us yet. For the first few months, we were waiting for reality to set in but it hasn’t. We don’t have a very dramatic relationship. We like to walk the dog and read books and go out to eat. And we have friends over. I’ll call you when we have kids. That might get dramatic.
Much of what you write about—authenticity, a willingness to be vulnerable, and a desire to relate to other people without manipulation—were hallmarks of the 1960s. Do you think the culture at this time needs to hear that message again?
I do believe some ideas are cyclical. So maybe that explains the returned energy to authenticity. But I love that culture is making this shift, even if it doesn’t last. That said, I hardly believe we are an authentic culture. Hopefully this book pulls us back into the reality that unless we are brave enough to be truly known, as we are, we risk suffering in public isolation where people are impressed with us but don’t really know us.
Any new book projects on the horizon?
I have a brand-building process that I take companies through based on helping them tell their stories. The next book will be called StoryBrand (Thomas Nelson, publication date TBA) and will be an entertaining ride through building your brand and telling your story. It’s quite a creative book and I’m hoping it’s a fun and different slant on the average business book.