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Interview: Michael Scott Miller, Author of Ladies and Gentleman…The Redeemers

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Numbers by day, words by night – Michael Scott Miller works in the business world while the sun is up and creates unique worlds for readers to indulge in, after the sun has gone down.  Mr. Miller began writing shortly after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and has had his work published in the Welcomat (now Philadelphia Weekly).  Michael Scott Miller also wrote music reviews for the Wharton Journal, during which time his wife was getting her degree there.

Mr. Miller is busy promoting his debut novel, Ladies and Gentleman…The Redeemers. While he grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey he now resides in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania with his wife and three children.

Readers can learn more about Michael Scott Miller and his work by visiting his website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Please tell us a bit about your book and what you hope readers take away from reading it.

Ladies and Gentlemen…The Redeemers tells the story of Bert Ingram, once a successful rep in the music industry, who has lost his way. Desperate for redemption, he decides to put together a band and begins recruiting musicians who have only one thing in common: the need to overcome a significant obstacle in their lives. As the story unfolds, the volatile mix of the musicians’ personalities and backgrounds threatens to derail the band, but they eventually begin to realize they have more to gain from one another than they ever could have imagined.

The first spark of an idea for the novel came to me about ten years ago when I was riding the train into Philadelphia for my job at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. As I walked through Suburban Station, I would routinely see singers or musicians performing in the corridors. I began to wonder what would happen if someone gathered together these seemingly destitute folks and molded them into a musical act. Could they come together with a music industry promoter and be turned into a successful band?

This thought stayed with me, until it finally struck me that while I might not have the necessary skills to form and promote a musical act, the idea might make for an interesting tale.

Initially, I thought the name of the book and the band would be the Subway Surfers, comprised solely of musicians recruited from the subway corridors. However, as I developed the story line, it became apparent that the story would work more effectively if the characters had a greater diversity of backgrounds and baggage, which ultimately led to the concept of the Redeemers.

I hope that readers are left feeling that their time was well spent, that they were entertained, and that they were maybe even a little inspired. There are two things that I’ve heard most consistently about the novel. One is that the story is uplifting. I don’t want to give away the story line so I won’t say much, but the sense of redemption and fulfillment that pervades the novel resonates with readers. The other is that the book is filled with characters that create powerful emotional connections with the readers.

Who are your favorite characters in the story?

There is a bit of me in most of the main characters so I feel a strong attachment to all of them. My favorites, though, are Bert Ingram and Bongo Joe.

Bert is the perpetual dreamer, the guy who will pour his energy into crafting one plan after another as he chases success, all the while maintaining an endlessly optimistic outlook.

Bongo Joe, on the other hand, is the perpetual slacker. He becomes one of my favorites because of the depth I’ve been able to add to the story through him. Despite his own lack of motivation, he embraces his band mate’s learning challenged son and becomes a tutor to him. When Bongo Joe finally gets his wake-up call, the result is one of my favorite scenes in the novel.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your book?

My favorite scene takes place when the musicians are feeling lonely and alone in Los Angeles, and are worried that the path they are following is rapidly approaching a dead end. Restless, homesick, and unable to sleep, Ethan, the guitarist and UC Berkeley student, steps outside for some fresh air. There he finds Abe, the band’s blind lead singer, sitting on a curbstone. The two have been at odds throughout their journey, Ethan aloof and elitist, Abe hostile to the world. Now, in the solitude of the Los Angeles evening, the two men have their first real conversation and begin to see much more deeply into one another.

If your current release were to be turned into a movie, who would you love to see play what characters and why?

With so much music in the story, I would love to see the characters played by actors who are also musicians so that they could play their own instruments in the film. I also think that avoiding big name actors would serve to better capture the novel’s “soul of the streets” and make the characters feel more believable.

What are your favorite aspects of writing?

The knowledge that I’ve been able to make a contribution to the entertainment world is my favorite aspect of writing. As a consumer of entertainment (books, movies, music), there has always been a piece of me that wanted to give something back. It has been tremendously rewarding for me to see that people literally all over the world have enjoyed reading the novel.

Your least favorite aspects of writing?

Writing dialog. Personally I find this to be the most difficult aspect of the story telling, being able to convey thoughts and emotions through dialog while making it feel real. My dialog took a lot more work and re-work than the descriptive passages. I think that’s why I like the scene with Abe and Ethan so much. It’s almost entirely dialog and I really feel like I nailed it.

Who are some of your favorite authors/books?

I tend to read a pretty wide range of genres, even going back from time to time to read a classic that somehow got missed during high school.

I’d have to say that Lord of the Rings (by J.R.R. Tolkien, of course) is still my all-time favorite. For his exceedingly clever wit and wonderful turn of phrase, I would rate Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy near the top as well. As a sports fan, I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Lewis’ insightful Moneyball and The Blind Side. Other favorite authors include Trevanian and Robert Ludlum. And while it may sound trite to say, I would be remiss without including J.K. Rowling here.

What are you reading right now?

I just started Wish List by John Locke. He has attained his stated goal of becoming the world’s most successful 99-cent author and is someone whose moves I follow closely.

If you could have a dinner party and invite five authors – dead or alive – who would they be and what would you serve them?

I would invite John Locke and J.A. Konrath to learn more about their paths to becoming enormously successful indie writers, James Michener in order to get an education on his masterful approach to research, John Steinbeck to discuss his use of dialog and dialect to capture a time period and mood, and Douglas Adams to entertain us with his absurdly humorous look at the world.

I love to cook, so for such a special opportunity, I’d have to carefully select some of my favorites. I think I would go with an entrée of chicken with Caribbean coconut-curry sauce, a watermelon, green onion, and mint salad, and wrap up with my signature dessert, bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce.

What is a book that you wish you could say that you had written and why?

I would have to choose the Harry Potter series, but probably not for the reasons you are thinking. I recently returned from a family vacation that included a visit to Universal Studios in Florida. As we walked through the recreated Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, drank Butterbeer, and shopped at Zonko’s and Honeydukes, it struck me what a feeling it must be to J.K. Rowling to have created something that has brought this level of entertainment to the world.

What is the greatest piece of advice (for writing and/or just living) that you have heard?

If you think you can, you’re right. If you think you can’t, you’re right.

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