Phil Mills Jr. first came up with the idea to write a book after an incident as a junior at Auxvasse High School.
Instead of writing a book report, like his teacher assigned, Mills said he made up his own story and wrote the book report about it. When the teacher gave him a good grade for it, he thought, "Maybe I could put a sentence together."
The Auxvasse native now lives in Atlanta, Ga., and his first book, "Where a Good Wind Blows," was recently released by Shalako Press. The book came out as an audiobook first and was named a Finalist Award Winner for Best 2010 Western Audiobook by the Western Writers of America. Mills said he submitted it to the Western Writers of America audiobook team "just to get it out there."
"They loved it and decided to take it."
Now the printed version is available. Mills calls the western novel "historical fiction" because "it didn't happen, but it could have." Set in the late 1800s in eastern Wyoming, the book is about fighting for justice on a lawless frontier and two young people discovering a love for the land and each other through difficult times.
Mills said his favorite part of the book is how the characters have to adapt to a changing world.
"We all face change and challenge," he said.
Mills' brother-in-law, Steve Lierheimer, of Mexico, read Mills' manuscript before it was published. Lierheimer said he had the opportunity to critique it and ask questions.
"It was a lot of fun to read it, you know, from the very beginning," he said.
Lierheimer said he and his wife, Paula, both read the completed novel just before it was sent to the publisher.
"It's just a great read," he said. "Paula and I both love to read and for (Mills') first book, he just did an outstanding job."
Already working on a second book, Mills said he hopes his second one won't take seven years to complete, as his first book did. Mills and his wife own and run Mills Floral Company in Atlanta, and he said it's difficult to find time to write when working full-time. He traveled to Wyoming and Nebraska to do research for "Where a Good Wind Blows." Now he has a trip planned for Montana to research for his second novel with a working title of "Feast to the Wolves" about a blizzard-filled Montana winter in 1886.
Mills said authoring a novel is something he'd always wanted to do and wants to continue it now.
"I don't find it any work at all," he said. "I think it's really fun."
Mills was a 1967 graduate of North Callaway High School, part of the first class to graduate from the school. In 1971, he graduated from Westminster College with a sociology degree. After graduating, he wrote for The Fulton Daily Sun-Gazette until about 1974. He also wrote for MFA's Today's Farmer magazine in Columbia for eight years before moving to Georgia.