A former violinist, Erica Miner is now an author, poet and screenwriter. The violin has always been an inspiration and important part of her life and her works are proof of that. In this interview Erica talks about how she first became an author, about violin music, and her novels.
Tell us about your musical background and how you became an author.
I always wrote, from the time I was a kid. When I was seven I was placed in an after school special Creative Writing program and loved it. Then when I was nine I started studying the violin, so I kind of put writing on a back burner. My dad, though not a professional violinist, was my first violin teacher. There was always classical music in the house. My dad and mom listened to it nonstop. My mom especially loved the Saturday afternoon Met Opera broadcasts. Ironic, isn’t it, that I ended up there. But I’m getting ahead of myself. When I started high school, I first began journaling, and it was a huge part of my life even after I reached adulthood. Some of those journals eventually became fictionalized into my first novel, Travels With My Lovers, which is about a woman who is a violinist. In fact, everything I’ve written since the car accident that ended my musical career revolves around music in some way, whether novel or screenplay.
How has the violin inspired your work?
In addition to the above novel, I’ve written several screenplays with protagonists who are violinists, both male and female. I just can’t seem to get away from that. It’s a huge part of who I am, and as they say, ‘write what you know.’ The only problem with that is that sometimes my characters are too close to the real me. I have to work on that.
Do you write while listening to violin music?
I do, but I also listen to chamber, orchestra and opera. It all inspires me. There are times, though, that I need complete silence in order to do the kind of wordsmithing that will be most creatively effective for me. When I’m not listening to music on the radio or computer, I’ve always got something musical going on in my head – I can’t escape it!
Who is your favorite composer? Your favorite violin concerto and why?
Oh, what a question! Okay, you’ve got to take this in the right context; there is no simple answer to that one. But overall, I would say Brahms is my ‘true love’ composer. However, as far as my ‘desert island’ pieces, that would have to include of course some Mozart, as well as Mendelssohn, Schumann, Beethoven, Dvorak, Verdi and Puccini. I guess you can see where I’m going with this. As far as my favorite violin concerto, it’s a toss-up between Sibelius and Beethoven. The latter is just the most sublime, in my opinion, but also terribly difficult to perform ‘perfectly’ – a real challenge. The Sibelius is the most passionate, and the closest to my heart. Whenever I played for someone, tried out a violin, etc., it was always Sibelius that I would play first. By the same token, the Bach Solo Sonatas and Partitas, though not concerti, are on a par with anything I would list as ‘favorites.’ I just loved playing those.
Tell us about your books and especially about Murder in the Pit? What is it about? Did you listen to any particular piece of music while writing it?
Travels With My Lovers is the story of a professional violinist in a New York opera company who’s a mom and suffers a huge loss in her life when her husband leaves her for another man. She travels to Italy, the birthplace of opera, to find herself and ends up finding trouble instead – by falling into romantic adventures with some pretty intriguing European men. It’s a fun romp to read, a great escape, whether you travel by plane, train, or armchair; but it also shows a woman’s journey of self-discovery.
Murder In The Pit is the story of another violinist – this time a young prodigy who nabs a position in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at a tender age. Her mentor, a famous conductor, is assassinated right in the middle of a performance, and her best friend is accused of the murder. She takes it upon herself to seek out the real killer, and in the process she herself becomes a target. All of this takes place against the background of a prestigious musical institution where the reader can get a rare and intimate glimpse into the workings behind the scenes. Lots of twists and surprises there, and great fun to write!
I listened of course to lots and lots of opera, studying libretti and drawing upon my ‘inner music’ as I went along – even more so when I was writing the screenplay, which is now finished and being marketed (see below.)
Do you do an outline first or do you come up with ideas as you write?
I’ve tried both ways, but especially with my screenplays (see below), I find I absolutely must outline. Of course I do come up with ideas as I write, and the outline keeps getting updated, but I really need that blueprint to keep on track, and I’m constantly referring to it as I go along.
You've also written screenplays. Tell us about this.
I’ve completed eight screenplays, in a bunch of different genres: drama, romantic comedy, thriller, et al. I am working with my Agent and Manager to market them, which as you may imagine is a huge challenge. Screenwriting is an entirely different kind of writing than novel writing, or even playwriting. It entails a great many years of studying the genres and the techniques you need to master in order to write those scripts. It’s been a great challenge for me, but I absolutely love the process. I’ve written screenplay adaptations of Travels With My Lovers, Murder In The Pit, and another novel I’ve ghostwritten, Dawn’s Early Lite, which I adapted into a screenplay called Belle De Nuit. You can read about the other screenplays I’ve written on my website.
Any more violin-related books in the horizon?
If I can get an agent and/or publisher to sign on to Murder In The Pit, I have a number of sequels in mind, which means the violinist-protagonist will be very busy solving murders! In addition, I’ve written the first four novels in a series about young high school musicians and how their daily lives and coming-of-age journeys differ from other ‘normal’ youngsters. The protagonist is also a violinist, and yes, it is semi-autobiographical. It seems I’ll never get away from that!
Do you have a website where readers may learn more about you and your works? How does one subscribe to your newsletter?
Well, since you’re asking… I’d like to invite readers to log on to my website, where they can find all kinds of info about me and my work, including a link to my newsletter. I’m on a bit of a hiatus from the NL at the moment, in order to market all of my work, but I am planning on sending out a ‘holiday blast’ issue around the 1st of December, which should be a lot of fun.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about yourself?
Wow, Mayra, you’ve been so thorough I can’t imagine adding much else. But I would like to say that I welcome emails from readers and will answer questions as best I can (within reason) about myself or my work. And if I’m allowed to suggest it, with the holidays coming, an autographed copy of Travels With My Lovers would make a great gift for your favorite musical traveler.
Writing is a wonderful creative outlet, and I feel blessed at being able to express my love for music within that form. As my kids would say, ‘it’s all good.’