Welcome to the six hundred and fifty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with YA, romance / suspense thriller novelist, screenwriter and red pen session recipient Erica Miner. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Erica. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Erica: Hello, Morgen. Formerly a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, I am now based in Southern California. I actually started writing before I played violin. When I was about 7 years old I was placed in an afterschool Creative Writing program. Even then I loved the process of telling stories and have never stopped writing and taking writing classes. When injuries from a car accident spelled the end of my professional music career, I went back to writing as my creative outlet. I started by studying screenwriting and, in fact, have written screenplays for all three of my published novels.
Morgen: I wrote the beginning (102 pages) of a TV drama for the defunct Script Frenzy and found it really hard. I love dialogue but it didn’t flow like prose so I take my proverbial hat off to you. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Erica: So far I have written in the Romance, Young Adult and Mystery genres in my novels, though I’ve added Comedy, Action Adventure and others to my screenwriting body of work. I haven’t considered other genres, though I’d love to write a period piece, something from the time of bonnets and carriages…
Morgen: 🙂 What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Erica: I don’t write under a pen name, since I think mine is pretty literary (Erica Jong is one of my most admired writers). To date I have had published three novels: ‘Murder In The Pit’ (Mystery), FourEver Friends’ (Young Adult), and ‘Travels With My Lovers’ (Romance).
Morgen: I have Erica (Jong’s) ‘Fear of Flying’ but haven’t read it yet. I’ve heard it was a very controversial book so I look forward to reading it. You’ve self-published – what lead to you going your own way?
Erica: My first novel, ‘Travels With My Lovers’, was published as a POD. I had just entered the world of writing novels, and I was eager to get my name known. The technology was fairly new then (about 9 years ago), but as a result of using that I was able to get numerous book signings, interviews, lectures et al. I definitely think it led to my name being known and to eventually getting a novel published traditionally.
Morgen: Congratulations. Agents and publishers are keen on authors having a following which is another reason why there are so many of us finding our own way online. Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Erica: I’ve tried reading both paper and electronic books, but I much prefer the former. For me there’s nothing that beats holding a book in your hand; plus for a writer, well…it’s just not possible to sign an electronic reader, at least not practically speaking.
Morgen: Margaret Atwood has a remote signature machine (mentioned on http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/science-fiction-news.asp?newsnum=556) and although I’m a techie, it’s not like meeting someone in person (not that my novel’s in paperback yet). Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Erica: I really can’t choose a favourite; each book is like a different child in my writer’s family. If I were to choose a favourite character, I think it would be Julia, the young violinist in ‘Murder In The Pit’. She represents my own alter ego and thinks and acts similarly to the way I did when I first started out at the Metropolitan Opera.
Morgen: It was ‘Murder in the Pit’ you submitted for critique. I really enjoyed it. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Erica: I think titles and book covers are of utmost importance; they really speak to the potential reader from the very outset of their choice whether or not to read the book. I fortunately had input in all my titles and book covers, though a bit less in the traditional one. My husband and I designed the cover for ‘Travels With My Lovers, and the POD Company took the concept and created a design I very much like. With FourEver Friends, which was published by a small independent press, which was willing to work with me on no less than 13 versions of the cover; I’m sure that is quite unique. The traditional publisher for ‘Murder In The Pit’ allowed me a couple of cover revisions, but that’s all. I do love that cover, though, and always have been very happy with it.
Morgen: It’s important that a writer likes their own covers; it doesn’t always happen. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Erica: Right now I am finishing up a ghostwriting project of a fascinating novel based on psychic and supernatural phenomena, and am about to start another ghostwriting project of a novel that takes place in my world – the musical one. I just finished my 11th screenplay, which is based on the life of a massively famous musician who was an enormous influence in my musical life, both in my youth and as an adult professional. I have a manager in Los Angeles who is taking that project to studios and producers, along with several of my other screenplays, ‘Murder In The Pit’ among them. I also have been writing opera reviews and articles on opera for the website, OperaPulse.com and have been lecturing and doing workshops on writing and opera, all of which involve a great deal of writing and research, which I love.
Morgen: My goodness, you sound so busy. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Erica: Given all of the above, I do manage to write every day, though admittedly I try to take weekends off now and then. I’ve not yet suffered from writer’s block, but since I probably have more stories to tell than years left in which to tell them, I’m too much in a hurry to let writer’s block get in my way (famous last words).
Morgen: 🙂 I’m the same. I have a dozen 80-side display books filled with newspaper cuttings and I’ve never yet needed them. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Erica: When I first started out I just ran with my ideas. ‘Travels With My Lovers’ was created that way. But with more complicated genres such as Mystery, I now find that creating an outline is my first and most important step on that journey. I tried writing ‘Murder In The Pit’ without a clear plan and it really backfired on me. Since then I won’t write any fiction, whether novel or screenplay, without first writing a detailed outline.
Morgen: I hadn’t until I started a crime series and it just became character sketches (although I’m only 50,000 words in) so I’m going to plan the series. Of course it won’t stick to the plan, especially when the characters take over. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Erica: The above notwithstanding, I have a different method entirely for creating and developing my characters. For names, I think carefully about the person and which name would be appropriate, but often I’ll go with whatever pops into my head. As far as the characters’ behaviour, I try to think carefully about their roles in the story and how they relate to each other in their actions and thoughts and feelings. I think that is what makes them believable, staying true to their approach to life.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Erica: I also do copy editing, so actually I am constantly editing myself. Writing of course improves as one does it, but there are so many pitfalls re typos, grammar, syntax et al. And I believe ‘perfect copy’ is the number one criterion if you want to submit your work. That said, when I give my Journaling workshops, I always emphasize the importance of not editing oneself; but of course Journaling is a whole different writing entity.
Morgen: Regardless of self-publishing or going the traditional route, a book should be the best it can be, although we still find errors long after the (well-known authors’) books are printed, don’t we? Do you have to do much research?
Erica: It depends on the project, but generally yes. I like to be as authentic as possible, whether fiction or non-fiction. And I find I learn so much about my subjects, even with the writing about music, which has always been my ‘comfort zone’ so to speak.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Erica: I prefer third person. After I wrote ‘Travels With My Lovers’ in first person I vowed I’d never do that again (unless, of course, someone chooses to publish the sequel). With a story as personal as that one, I found that agents and publishers were wont to call it a memoir, which it definitely isn’t.
Morgen: Genre can be a sore point between authors and publishers / agents, with the latter overruling the former in most cases, and cross-genre… used to be a big no-no but I think the edges are softening. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Erica: I started out writing poetry before I attempted any other writing, and I have files filled with my poetry, which I think provides insight into my inner person. I’ve also won an award in a poetry competition. I’ve written short stories, and though I’ve never done anything much with them, I find them very useful as writing exercises. As stated above, I have written and continue to write articles for publication online.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Erica: Hope springs eternal. I’m quite sure many if not most of my screenplays will not be seen on the screen, but that’s because the odds of getting a movie made are so huge. I do hope that my novels, especially the sequels to FourEver Friends (originally intended as a series) will see the light of day… eventually.
Morgen: As long as you’re happy with them, there’s nothing stopping you self-publishing. And You Tube has revolutionised the movie industry (online anyway) so you never know on that score… Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Erica: It seems I’ve had almost nothing but rejections since I’ve been writing full time. But I had practice for that when I was doing auditions for orchestras. The key is never to give up. Or as I like to tell any aspiring writers who ask my advice: KEEP GOING.
Morgen: Absolutely… if you want it badly enough. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Erica: I don’t have an agent right now, but I did have a couple of them in the recent past. I do think that they are, if not vital, then a key component in author’s success. Of course it depends how you define success. It certainly is much easier to get attention from a publisher if you have an agent – a good agent, that is.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Erica: I do most of my own marketing. As marketing expert Dan Poynter has said, “Writing is 5% writing and 95% marketing.” Truer words were never said. Branding oneself is extremely important; and in fact, had I known more about the process before I began writing novels, I would have realized how important it is to have a marketing plan in place before you start a project. For writers starting out, that is always my first advice.
Morgen: That makes me feel better about spending the last two years (one of those full-time) working on the blog far more than my own writing. 🙂 Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Erica: My favourite writer’s quote is from Barbara Kingsolver: “There is no perfect time to write. There is only now.”
Morgen: I love that. Back in a while… er, almost now. 🙂 What do you do when you’re writing?
Erica: I try to get exercise of some kind every single day; in fact, I don’t ‘allow’ myself to sit down at the computer until I’ve done my daily routine. We writers are sitting down too much as it is, so I am committed to getting my body moving when I’m not writing.
Morgen: I sit down far too much, although having a dog to walk two or three times a day and an old racecourse up the road helps. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Erica: I am on Facebook, and I’ve found it tremendously valuable, both for making connections in my field and also for making personal connections, which are fun and pleasurable, but can also lead to other professional connections.
Morgen: It certainly can. I love the social networks, different ones for different reasons. I just need to curb my time spent on them! Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Erica: My website, http://www.ericaminer.com, has comprehensive information about my background, books, my screenplays, and my lectures. I also post regularly on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/erica.miner1) and on my Facebook book page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Murder-in-the-Pit/146017895437089).
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Erica: I love doing writing workshops and am available to do these on a number of topics, including Screenwriting (I am booked for an intensive in Seattle this winter), Journaling, and Mystery Writing.
Morgen: Thank you, Erica. Great chatting with you again.
I then invited Erica to include an extract of her writing and this is from ‘Murder In The Pit’…
Still breathless from her near-disastrous encounter at the sign-in sheet, Julia headed toward the women’s locker room but stopped short when she heard raised voices coming from Abel’s dressing room. Even with the door closed, she could clearly discern the identity behind the voices and what was being said – or rather, shouted – behind the door, with its “Maestro Trudeau – Do Not Disturb” sign prominently posted.
Positioned by the door, Julia listened, becoming increasingly anxious as the voices escalated in volume.
“You son of a bitch, you said you’d leave her out of it!” Sidney yelled.
“For God’s sake, keep it down, Sid.” Abel lowered his voice. “This is a worst case scenario, I had no choice.”
Julia was aware of the personality conflict between the hot-headed Sidney and the self-assured Music Director. The on-going clash between these two ultra important men in her life disturbed her to such a degree that she was constantly on the lookout for some insight into why they insisted upon grating on each other’s nerves.
“Over my dead body.”
Julia gasped and leaned in closer.
“And if I find out you’ve done something stupid,” Sidney continued, “I’ll — ”
“I’ll write a whole new finale to your opening night!”
“The trouble with you, Sidney, is that you think you’re too damned important,” said Abel. “Let me remind you that no one is indispensable around here. Now get the hell out of my dressing room. We’ve got a show to do.”
And a synopsis of the same book…
Sheltered young violinist Julia is traumatized when she witnesses the assassination of her mentor, a famous conductor, on the podium of the Metropolitan Opera. But it is when her best friend Sidney is indicted for the murder that Julia is forced out of her protective shell and into the dark corners and hidden hallways of the Met to find the real killer. Then, she not only discovers an opera house full of secrets, intrigue and danger but comes face to face with her own inner power.
Violinist turned author Erica Miner has had a multi-faceted career as an award-winning screenwriter, author, lecturer and poet. A native of Detroit, she studied music at Boston University and New England Conservatory of Music. When injuries from a car accident forced Erica to give up her career as violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York, Erica turned to her lifelong love of writing as her creative outlet. Several of her screenplays have won awards, and her journal-based debut novel, Travels with My Lovers, won the Fiction Prize in the Direct from the Author Book Awards.
Erica’s suspense thriller novel, Murder In The Pit, which takes place at the Met, has garnered rave reviews. She is currently at work on the next in her FourEver Friends Young Adult novel series chronicling a young girl’s coming of age in the volatile 60s and 70s.
In addition Erica has developed a number of writing lectures and seminars on writing, which she has presented at various venues across the West Coast and on major cruise lines. Topics range from “The Art of Self Re-Invention” to “Journaling: Mining the Gold of Your Experiences” as well as Mystery Writing and Screenwriting. Her writings have appeared in Vision Magazine, WORD San Diego, numerous E-zines and such websites as OperaPulse.com. Details about Erica’s novels, screenplays, seminars and interviews can be found on her website, http://www.ericaminer.com.
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