Formerly a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera, I am now a full-time award-winning author, screenwriter and lecturer. I started out writing screenplays and romance and YA novels, but some “nefarious” happenings at the Met inspired me to take the leap into the mystery genre, and I’ve just released my third “Opera Mystery” novel. I am motivated simply by the burning desire to tell stories, which I’ve always done since I my childhood, when I was place in an afterschool program for Creative Writing at my grade school. The hardest part of writing for me is facing the blank page and creating something meaningful out of it. Like most other writers, my initial challenge was finding a publisher who was willing to take a chance on a subject that many people find too esoteric, i.e., opera. What I enjoy the most about writing is the process of rewriting; of honing and perfecting the language, the plot points and the character portrayals. To me, making the story as compelling as possible is the greatest reward.
Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2848001.Erica_Miner
Author email: email@example.com
Your writing journey:
My first book took 3-6 months; the second, much longer, I think about a year. Both of these were based on my journals, so the material was already there, just waiting to be mined. I admit to having just one beta reader/editor read my first two manuscripts. It was very early in my writing journey. If I had known better, I would have sought much more input before publishing those first two books. That said, the critiques that editor provided were absolutely worth their weight in gold, especially the first book, which turned out much differently—and much improved— than it would have otherwise. This editor happened to be one of my screenwriting consultants and offered to help with the books. I can’t emphasize how valuable their feedback and guidance were.
The first book, Travels with my Lovers, was published POD, so the company provided specific steps to follow and complete in order to prepare for publishing: editing, proofreading, working closely on the cover image, the formatting, etc. Since it was my first effort, it took several months, but the time I put in was totally worthwhile. The first time is always the hardest! I was totally inexperienced and had no idea what I was doing! But the result was really quite good. The second book, FourEver Friends, was with a small independent publisher, who gave me some basic guidance but pretty much left me on my own when it came to editing, polishing and the like, though the cover art was a joint effort. In fact, I was very happy with the results for both covers. Writing from the perspective of a woman in a career that traditionally had been dominated by men, i.e., that of a professional classical musician, and being utterly frank about such women’s issues as inequalities in pay, single motherhood, sexual harassment et al, was the most difficult of all. The third, fourth and fifth books have been with a traditional publisher, who was very demanding in the amounts of editing required and put me together with some fantastic editors, who helped teach me how to perfect every detail of story and character and welcomed my input on the cover art for each book.
Something very important that I learned with the first book was to stay away from writing in the first person. A number of agents I approached told me the story read too much like a memoir, though I meant it to be fiction. Every novel I’ve written since has been in third person. Again, I was inexperienced and didn’t realize I needed a marketing plan and a support network of other writers who were experienced—a big disadvantage of starting by self-publishing—and in retrospect I think I was totally unprepared. The smartest thing I did with Travels was to enter a contest, the Direct from the Author Book Awards. To my surprise, the book won the Fiction Prize! I’ve been using that recognition to the hilt ever since, and I mention it every chance I get.
It wasn’t until Travels was published that I started to connect with other writers who basically told me if I didn’t get out there and talk about my book, no one would read it! Astonishingly, I was up to the task and managed to get lots of reviews, most of them quite positive, as well as author interviews on radio shows and eventually online. But tooting my own horn has been difficult for me, and I had to really push myself to get out there and promote.
This prepared me for the books that followed, and now I feel like my “author savvy” has improved exponentially, as I have been able to schedule a number of author events such as readings and book signings. Even though my latest book, Staged for Murder, was released in the middle of this pandemic, I’ve been able to promote it virtually, via Zoom events and YouTube interviews. I feel now that my ability to promote myself grows and improves each day. Book promotion guru Dan Poynter has said that writing is 5% writing and 95% promotion. Truer words were never said.
The idea for my first “Opera Mystery”, Murder in the Pit, came to me when I was writing a screenplay in the mystery genre and was having such a difficult time with it—I truly believe the mystery genre is the most difficult to write successfully, especially from a plot point perspective—I decided to try writing it as a novel. I was able to solve all my genre-related problems and ended up finishing the screenplay and both the novel simultaneously. The book was a success with readers who like mystery and opera, and they started asking me for a sequel. Thus, a series was born. The second in the series, Death by Opera, garnered more attention and requests for another sequel, which led to Staged for Murder. In spite of the pandemic, I aggressively pursued virtual venues for promotion of the third book in the series and am happy to report that in the few months since the book’s release I already have received as many royalties as for the entire run of the previous two novels, not to mention much buzz about yet another sequel. When it comes to “the points and possible causes when your book was doing exceptionally good or bad” the reasons are pretty clear. “Exceptionally bad”—not enough promotion; “exceptionally good”—promoting till the cows come home. Dan Poynter knows what he’s talking about!
Anything else you feel like sharing:
Writing is its own reward. Telling stories, creating characters and plot points, is one of life’s greatest pleasures—but Getting attention for your writing, if that’s what you seek, is also one of its greatest frustrations. It is a constant process; but if you can succeed in being recognized, and even praised, for your efforts, it’s a great feeling. That said, you don’t have to seek recognition; just the act of writing can trigger certain regions of the brain that can have a wonderful, positive effect on your heart and soul. I especially recommend journaling to accomplish this; you can do it just for your own edification, without any judgment. What could be better?
Staged for Murder: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L748R3C
Publisher’s web page for Staged for Murder: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/StagedforMurder_ch1.html
Murder in the Pit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1606191101/twilighttimesboo
Travels with my Lovers: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1403317658/104-6936513-8919925