Author Q&A: Illness inspires book about author’s life

The title of the book says it all. Bill Miller is the son of a coal miner’s daughter and he has the stories to prove it.

Miller has published a book detailing his life growing up in Brown County along with stories about his mother, Virdie “Birdie” Mae Kidd Williams Miller, who was the daughter of William Kidd. Kidd worked in a coal mine in Harlan County, Kentucky — and is who Miller is named after.

The book “Son of a Coal Miner’s Daughter” covers Mil

ler’s life in Brown County from 1940 to the present. It also includes stories about Brown County pre-World War II, the Bean Blossom grade school, Helmsburg High Schoo

l and growing up on a farm. Miller also shares stories from his time at Franklin College, Eastern Illinois University and as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in 1963.


Through his own story, Miller writes about his mother and how she overcame a difficult childhood to build a life for herself and her family. Miller also dedicates his first published work to her.

Miller returned to Brown County in 1973 after working in Indonesia, Thailand, Micronesia, Kingdom of Tonga and the Philippines.

This is the first book he has written, but he plans to write more, he said.

“It was a challenge, but one worth the journey, and a learning experience. (It was) the fulfillment of a longtime goal,” he said.

Bill Miller
Bill Miller

Q: What inspired you to write it?

A: A sudden onset of illness, transverse myelitis. I started the book the third day in the hospital. It took two-and-a-half years to write and two-and-a-half years to edit and publish it. My long-term goal is to share interesting life stories.

Q: What’s your day job?

A: Retired, but I keep up the farm at Browning Mountain.

Q: What are your connections to Brown County?

A: (I was) raised in Brown County and lived here from age of 3 years to forward.

Q: What’s your writing ritual? In what environment do you work best?

A: Anywhere, anytime. (I write) long-handed in journals. When I wrote the book, it filled five journals. It was 948 pages. I edited out 20,000 words when I had it typed.

Q: What’s the last book you read? Do you have a favorite?

A: “The Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy is my favorite. I’ve recently read “Fire in the Water” by James Alexander Thomas, “Lights Out” by Ted Koppel and “Naked Greed” by Stuart Woods.

Q: Where can people buy this book, and for how much?

A: Fallen Leaf Books in Nashville, Viewpoint Books in Columbus, Barnes and Noble in Bloomington, and from me. In the future it will be offered at the Brown County Historical Society. It is $26.95 for a paperback copy.

Q: Do you have any book signings or related events planned?

I did a book signing at a Brown County High School reunion June 25, but I plan to schedule more book signings here locally in the future.