Interview with Allan Miller – Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow 3

Tonight, I’m privileged to wrap up the March CSFF tour with an interview with Allan Miller, one of the Miller Brothers, who took time out of a very busy schedule to first agree to a last-minute interview and then to thoughtfully answer my questions about art, allegory, homeschooling, and more! I really enjoyed my conversation with Allan, and I hope you will as well!

Here we go:

Rachel: Once I was a few chapters into Hunter Brown, I found myself impressed by the big issues you tackled. Actually, they made me uncomfortable: I really didn’t like the idea of looking into a mirror and seeing an evil, black-eyed face looking back. What was it like writing such heavy issues into a children’s book? Were you ever tempted to water them down or make Hunter morally better than he really is?

Christopher and Allan MillerAllan: Good! We wanted to make you squirm! Well, just a little anyways… One of the points we wanted to be central in the story of Hunter Brown was the idea that doing good and being good are two entirely different things. So many books and movies today inspire us do good — and somehow that is what saves the day. “If you just find the hero inside yourself…” we hear. Sounds nice, but the problem with that is that it’s a lie that sells us short of the scary truth: we’re not good, and nothing inside us is going to save us. We need something greater to redeem us. That’s the powerful message we wanted to challenge our readers with. The Hunter that readers first meet is not a terrible kid, but he’s clearly not perfect — he’s just a “not-as-bad-as,” “good enough” kind of guy. We think readers relate to that quality of Hunter — we all want to think of ourselves as being good, even though we know we’ve fallen short. That’s when we try to become good. The real adventure is in finding out how big of a problem that really is.

Rachel: There’s a debate going on about Christian art: some feel that Christian art can’t preach a clear message without losing its quality as art; others feel that the message is the whole point. Where are you on that spectrum?
Allan: More and more, we are becoming convinced that you can’t separate the message from the art. Every story has a message behind it — no matter how hard a person might try to hide it. In our opinion, we’ve got the greatest message on earth to tell. We’d be wasting our time if we didn’t. As we do, we hope our work reflects excellence in creativity (again, we’d be wasting our time if we didn’t do that too!). In the end, I think that’s the combination that will truly inspire others.

Rachel: Related to the above question, I’ve heard Hunter Brown criticized as “paper-thin allegory.” In your view, what is the purpose of allegory? Is allegory any good without a clear message?

Allan: Actually, we take that criticism as a compliment of sorts. While we certainly don’t want a “beat you over the head” experience (never pleasant, though at times effective), we more importantly don’t want the message lost or left wide-open to interpretation. Allegory should convey truth in an instructve way. Hopefully we’ve achieved a balance to allow our readers to enjoy the story in a way that also lets the truth sink in over time. Time will tell! 🙂

Rachel: The famous writer question — which I won’t ask! — is “Where do you get your ideas?” But in a book as heavily allegorical as Hunter Brown, I’m curious as to what came first. Did you begin with a message you wanted to share, a world you wanted to create, characters whose story wanted to be told?

Allan: Thank you for sparing us! 🙂 It started from a childhood love of a “tissue-paper-thin” allegory that impacted us greatly… Pilgrim’s Progress. The images and concepts it brought to life about our spiritual journey as Christians was something that inspired us all throughout our lives. We give that story a couple nods in the early parts of Hunter Brown if you look for them. After that root inspiration, defining our message came next, and the rest quickly dissolves away into the mushy realm of the creative process where worlds and characters come to life in a way even we don’t fully understand.

Rachel: You guys have a whole lot more going on than just books. Your company, Lumination Studios, promises to develop “Books, Graphic Novels, Musical CD Products, Web-based Products, Animated Films, Games & Toys.” That represents an impressive array of talents and interests on your parts! Can you tell us about what’s in the works now? What upcoming products are you most excited about?

Allan: Beyond continuing our Codebearers Series (Book Two, Hunter Brown and the Consuming Fire, is slated for 9/9/09), we are also working on completing our other series, the Heroes of Promise children’s books. The other non-book mediums are works-in-progress (like a kids’ musical of “Gid the Kid”). As long as Chris is alive, there will be plenty of ideas swirling around for us to pursue. One developing property combines modern-day youth, time-travel, mystery, and early-American history. Another is a new-format book that we’ve dreamed up to function as part story, part puzzle. We’re getting nibbles from publishers on that one and really hoping it gets picked up. Someday we’d love to produce some animated movies (our first love), but we’re on hold with that pursuit for now. Until then, we’re so grateful we can use our talents in the books we write and illustrate.

Rachel: As a homeschool graduate, I was delighted to discover that you were homeschooled through your latter school years as well. How did those years influence your career direction? If you hadn’t been homeschooled, do you think you’d still be doing this?

Allan: It’s hard to say “what would be had we not…”, but we can’t imagine how we would have gotten here without the gift of homeschooling. One of the greatest gifts of homeschooling (besides the closeness it gave our family) was the chance to explore our strengths beyond what “normal” school would have. Our teacher (Mom) had the great wisdom to allow us to pursue our interest in art within our daily school projects. We explored animation, sculpting, and creative writing. Our science studies turned into illustrated children’s books. It was a great way to learn and grow. The extra time together also helped us foster a stronger bond as brothers which, of course, has been a big part of allowing us to work together.

Rachel: Allan, one of my favourite parts in Hunter Brown is in your special thanks section: “My big brother, Chris — dreams are great, but so much better when they are shared. Keep dreaming big with me … just give me time to catch up every once in a while.”

It’s rare to see brothers who dream together in this day and age, and I’m inspired by your example! Thanks for sharing some of your journey and message with us!






5 responses to “Interview with Allan Miller – Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow 3”

  1. Rachel Avatar

    That’s awesome! I don’t think I knew that. I really enjoyed the way you involved her in your own posts.

  2. Wade Ogletee Avatar

    It’s wonderful that the Miller’s took time out of their busy schedule to answer our questions. I held a shorter interview with Allan, myself.

    By the way, my wife and I homeschool our daughter.

    God bless,


  3. Crista Avatar

    Cool interview.

    I was critical in my review of the book, but I did appreciate the message and the portrayal of the main character as an “antihero.” And allegory itself is certainly nothing to be criticized…after all it’s a bit self-defeating to hide your message… 😉

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