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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Maryann Miller - a diverse writer of columns, short fiction and novels - is here!

As a journalist and author, Maryann Miller amassed credits for feature articles and short fiction in numerous national and regional publications. The Rosen Publishing Group in New York published nine of her non-fiction books including the award-winning, Coping With Weapons and Violence in School and On Your Streets, which is in its third printing. Play It Again, Sam, a woman's novel  and One Small Victory, a suspense novel, are electronic books available on Kindle, Nook, and other e-book reading devices. One Small Victory was originally published in hardback by Five Star. A mystery, Open Season, is a new release in hardback from Five Star Cengage Gale. The young adult novel, Friends Forever, is her first book for BWL Publishing Partners. She has also written several screenplays and stage plays and is the Theatre Director at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts. Miller is currently the Managing Editor of WinnsboroToday.com, an online community magazine for a small town in East Texas where she lives on some acreage with her husband, a horse, two goats, four cats, two dogs, and a variety of wild critters that wander through.


Hello Maryann, and thank you for talking to us today. To start the interview, tell us a little about Open Season.
Wow, this is like asking a mother to talk a little about her child. (smile) Open Season is the first in a mystery series, and it started as a film project idea when I was working with Dallas filmmakers, Allen and Cynthia Mondell. They were looking for their first feature film project and asked if I could come up with a story idea that would be entertaining as well as looking at the social issue of racial problems in the city and in the police department. As happens in the film industry so often, the project never got made, but I had done so much research I wanted to use it. So I started working on the novel. I finished the screenplay as well, and it was a semi-finalist in the Chesterfield Screenwriting Fellowship.

What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?
 It's hard to pick one scene as a favourite, but I have always liked the opening scene that introduces Sarah Kingsly. She is being interrogated by Internal Affairs because she shot a young black boy in a drug bust that went bad. Her partner was killed in the bust, so this is an extremely difficult moment for Sarah.
Sarah took a deep breath and faced Quinlin in the stuffy cubbyhole of an office. The room was hot and musty. Dust motes floated in the slivers of sunshine that had penetrated the haze of accumulated grime on the windows of the old building. The scent of his cologne hung heavily in the still air. Chaps. Rich, masculine, and too easily a distraction if Sarah thought about it.

Dressed in a dark, somber suit, Quinlin didn't speak. He watched her with the careful scrutiny of a snake. A trickle of perspiration rolled down Sarah's back and dampened her white tee shirt. Shifting in the wooden chair, she contemplated the wisdom of taking off her jacket, then decided against it. He would interpret it as a sign of weakness.

She thought she was prepared for this. She'd rehearsed a million times, remembering the images, nailing down the sequence, readying herself for his opener, "Detective Kingsly, tell me what happened that night."

She recalled the moon playing tag with a few heavy clouds, casting weird, disorientating shadows on the crumbling buildings. She remembered wishing the clouds would give way to rain, anything to relieve the oppressive heat that had pounded the city relentlessly for weeks. The heat made people do crazy things.

Maybe that's why it had happened.

Have your characters or writing been inspired by friends/ family or by real-life experiences?
 Actually, a little bit of all of those. I have always had an interest in social issues so many of my stories are prompted by something happening in the world. I have also taken news stories and used them as a basis for a book, which is what I did with another book, One Small Victory. It was published in hardback by the same publisher that is releasing Open Season, and is now an e-book. Play It Again, Sam was inspired by what happened to a friend of mine when her husband decided he didn't want to be married anymore after 25 years together. She was kind enough to allow me to write about her. She often joked that she wished I could write a happy ending for her in real life.

Can you sum Open Season up in one sentence?
Embroiled in a serial murder case, Dallas homicide detectives Sarah Kingsly and Angel Johnson must come to terms with public and personal racial unrest as they track a serial killer who has his own race card to play.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
 Here you go again putting a mother on the spot. LOL. I honestly don't have a favourite, but I must say I have had more fun with Sarah than with Angel. Sarah is more like a real person and she will take a scene where she wants it to go. I have to work harder to make Angel real and make sure she isn't just the other side of a coin, if you know what I mean.

Which comes first for you – characters or plot?
Character almost always comes to me first, and some drop in almost fully developed. That always makes me think of that opening scene of the movie The Terminator, where the Terminator just suddenly appears, but my characters have clothes on.

Who is your publisher and where are your books available? Are there e-books and hard copies available?
Open Season is published by Five Star Cengage/Gale, and it is coming out in hardcover. It will not be an e-book for another year. I have a number of nonfiction books with The Rosen Publishing group, most notably, Copng With Weapons and Violence in School and On Your Streets, which is in it's third printing and has won some awards. Two other novels, One Small Victory and Play It Again, Sam are available as e-books. Five Star markets heavily to libraries, so folks can request that their local library order a copy or two of Open Season. Then of course, there are the usual retail stores that will be carrying it.

Are there any upcoming signings or appearances you’d like to mention?
I will be doing a launch party for Open Season in January, but a date and place has not been set at this time.

Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone?
I do not currently have an agent, and I consider myself a self-marketer as opposed to a self-publisher. I literally sent out hundreds of queries to agents and editors over a span of years before Open Season finally was accepted at Five Star. It was the same for One Small Victory. Play It Again, Sam was originally under contract with Kensington when they were publishing the To Love Again line that featured older characters finding new love after being divorced or widowed. Just as the manuscript was to be turned in, Kensington dropped that line. I had an agent at the time and he was able to get me the rest of my advance. I still had the rights to the story and eventually sold it to Uncial Press as an e-book.

Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
 The initial plotting is done on paper. I like to use a five-subject notebook and have one section for characters, another for plotting, another for research, and another I use for notes as I am writing. Once I have a sense of the characters and how the story will start, I turn to the computer where I do all the writing.

Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
I don't set specific goals when it comes to fiction. If I'm thinking about word count, that becomes a distraction as I'm writing. Unlike so many writers who can write while listening to music or even watching television, I work best without anything extraneous pulling my mind away from the story.

What are you working on now that you can talk about?
 I am working on the second book in the Season's series. This one is Stalking Season, and it has a rather unusual killer. Can't really say much about that, as it will hopefully be as much of a surprise to the reader as to the detectives when they discover who the killer is.

What is your writing process like?
It is important to get facts and details right, so I do a lot of research for every book. I also like to scout locations so when I am writing a scene I can see where it is taking place. In terms of plotting, I do a broad skeleton of an outline so I know the major plot points of a story, but then I do let the characters take the story where they see it going. When I started Stalking Season, I really didn't know how I was going to start the first chapter, so I just started writing thinking I would have Sarah and Angel returning to the station. I had no idea that Sarah was going to try to stop a man from jumping off the overpass. But it worked and was a good way to introduce the central characters.

How long does it take you to write a book? 
 It takes me forever to write a book. LOL Seriously, some of my books have taken two or more years, while a couple others only took a year. That's not counting the nonfiction books I've written. Those were done in less than a year. I've published 14 books in all, the most recent in fiction are Open Season, One Small Victory, Play it Again, Sam, and Friends Forever.

How did you get into writing?
When I was about 11 years old, my girlfriend and I decided that we would be writers and become rich and famous. The rich and famous hasn't happened, but I did start writing then and have never stopped. Another writer I know once said that writing isn't what we do; it is part of who we are, so it is not like any other job.

Are you working on another book?
As I mentioned, I'm working on the second book in the mystery series, Stalking Season. I took the prologue and turned it into a short story and that is featured on Suspense Magazine. Maybe folks would like to go there to get a taste of the story http://www.suspensemagazine.com/EscapingRaul.html

What advice would you give aspiring authors?
I would encourage aspiring authors to read as much as they can in a wide variety of genres. It is amazing what one can learn about craft from reading with a critical eye. It is also important to write every day, even if it is only a page. If you do a page a day, at the end of a year you will have a first draft of a novel.

What is your website and/or blog where readers can learn more?
Website: MaryannWrites - http://www.maryannwrites.com/
Blog: It's Not All Gracy -  http://its-not-all-gravy.blogspot.com/
Blog: The Blood Red Pencil  - http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2010/01/things-that-drive-editor-crazy.html
Fabebook: http://www.facebook.com/Maryannwrites
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/maryannwrites

Books by Maryann Miller:
FICTION:

OPEN SEASON
Mystery 2010

ONE SMALL VICTORY
Suspense - e-book 2010, hardback 2008

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM
Woman's Novel - e-book 2008

FRIENDS FOREVER
Young adult novel - coming Jan 2011

THE ONE O'CLOCK NAP
Short story on Kindle 2009

THE HOLIDAY MIXER
Anthology of Mystery
ISBN: 1-933582-90-1
The Last Dollar by Maryann Miller.

ONE TOUCH, ONE GLANCE ANTHOLOGY
Sweet Romance Stories
Short story: A New Love


NONFICTION:


COPING WITH CULTS (out of print)
The Rosen Publishing Group
ISBN: 0-8239-1178-0


COPING WITH A BIGOTED PARENT (out of print)
The Rosen Publishing Group
ISBN: 0-8239-1345-7

DRUGS AND DATE RAPE
The Rosen Publishing Group
ISBN: 0-8239-2064-x

DEALING WITH THE POLICE
The Rosen Publishing Group
ISBN: 0-8239-1875-0

DRUGS AND GUN VIOLENCE
The Rosen Publishing Group
ISBN: 0-8239-2060-7

WORKING TOGETHER AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE
The Rosen Publishing Group
ISBN: 0-8239-1779-7


YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
The Rosen Publishing Group
ISBN: 0-8239-1697-9

CAREERS IN HOMEMAKING AND PARENTING
The Rosen Publishing Group
ISBN: 0-8239-1901-3




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