Thursday, January 28, 2010

Interview with Erica Miner

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 the New England Conservatory of Music. After experiencing a variety of highs and lows in her quest to forge a career in New York City, Erica won the coveted position of violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Company, a high-pressured milieu but the pinnacle of her field.

When injuries from a car accident spelled the end of her musical career, she drew upon her lifelong love of writing for inspiration. She is the author of two novels, the latest of which, FourEver Friends, chronicles the coming-of-age of four teenage girls in 1960s Detroit. Erica says,"Writing is my passion, whether it be novels, screenplays, poetry or essays. I have so many stories to tell, and I’m thrilled at the thought of other people enjoying them."

Read on for this talented author's insights about the writing process, life lessons she has learned through writing, and advice for writers of all ages.


How did you get the idea for FourEver Friends?

I originally wrote the book as a "love letter" to my three best friends from high school in Detroit and to the school itself, Cass Tech, which provided us an astonishing education. Back then the "Motor City" was a thriving, vibrant place, with an amazing public education system and tons of smart, talented kids. Of course the city has fallen on hard times these days, and so I thought writing a book about its days of glory and the all-important friendships that were forged there might be a compelling way to let people know about this wonderful place. The book is also a window into the 60s, a time that Baby Boomers look back to with nostalgia and subsequent generations have been curious about – a very timely subject for adults and teenagers alike!

How did you first discover your love for writing?

When I was 7 years old and in elementary school, I was placed in a Creative Writing class in an after school program for gifted kids. This was about a hundred years ago - ! - but I still remember the joy and passion I felt for the writing, even back then. I started journaling when I was 13 and just starting high school. Those journals formed the eventual basis for my novel FourEver Friends, and also for my novel Travels With My Lovers. Since then I have journaled and studied writing, even when I was a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The love for writing still continues.

What is your writing routine?

I do try to write every day, even if only a few words or sentences. My violin teacher used to counsel me to practice every day, even if I only had 15 minutes. I try to keep to that discipline now in my writing. The best time for me is late morning, after I’ve taken care of all my ‘drudge’ activities and my mind and body are totally free and willing to concentrate on the writing. I write almost exclusively at my computer, which is located in our loft upstairs. That’s where I feel completely apart from the rest of the world, which is what I need in order to do my best work.

Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self about the writing life? What is your biggest advice for writers just starting out?

That is a wonderful way of putting it – to advise "my younger self." Both she and other writers starting out could benefit from two maxims that I try to keep in mind re: writing. The first is to educate yourself and avail yourself of all the writing tools and wisdom that you can find out there; the web is an enormous resource for this. The second is simply to "KEEP GOING."

What is the editing process like for you?

Brutal. For me it’s like practicing and perfecting a piece of music. I go back endlessly and try to make the language - the "notes" - as beautiful, compelling, and succinct as possible. I try to keep in mind Oscar Wilde’s famous comment about spending an entire day putting in one comma and then taking it out. Every word and punctuation mark will count toward making the writing shine. I just do my best to accomplish that.

What "life lessons" have you learned through writing?

If there’s one "life lesson" I would focus on, it would be that no matter what you choose to do in life, you will experience difficulty. Someone once said anything worth having is going to be some trouble. I try to remind myself that no matter how much criticism and rejection you get, ultimately you need to dust yourself off and KEEP GOING. I learned that as a young violinist trying to make my way in the music world. The same holds true for writing. Have faith in yourself and in your talent, find other people who believe in you, and KEEP GOING.

What's next for Erica Miner?

I was fortunate enough to find a publisher, Twilight Times Books, who believed in my story for a suspense novel, Murder In The Pit. The book is coming out this May, and I want to share my excitement about it with your readers. Information about the book will be posted on my website, http://www.ericaminer.com, as it becomes available.