Interview with Romantic Suspense Author Maryann Miller

A diverse writer of columns, feature stores, short fiction, novels,screenplays and stage plays, Maryann Miller has won numerous awards including being a semi-finalist at the Sundance Institute for her screenplay, "A Question of Honor". More recently she placed in the top 15 percent of entries in the Chesterfield Screenwriting Fellowship with the adaptation of her mystery, "Open Season"

Publishing credits include work for regional and national newspapers and magazines: Lady's Circle, Woman's World, Marriage and Family Living, Plano Magazine, The Children's World, Byline, The Texas Catholic Newspaper. She has published nine non-fiction books for teens, including the award-winning Coping With Weapons and Violence : In Your School and on Your Streets released by The Rosen Publishing Group in New York. She
has a short story in the All About Muse anthology, The Holiday Mixer. Her novel, One Small Victory, was a hardback release from Five Star Publishing in June 2008, and Play it Again, Sam, is a July 2008 release from Uncial Press in e-book formats.

She is currently the Managing Editor and writer for an online community magazine, WinnsboroToday.com, and does book reviews for ForeWord Magazine and two online review sites, BloggerNews.net and Curled Up With a Good Book. She also does freelance editing. Other experience includes extensive work as a PR consultant, a script doctor, and a freelance
editor. She has been writing all her life and plans to die at her computer.

Until then, Miller stays active in a number of organizations including Sisters In Crime, The Trails Country Centre For The Arts in
Winnsboro, Texas, and was a founder of The Greater Dallas Writers' Association.

She makes her home in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas where she happily plays farmer. She has a horse, two goats, three cats, and two dogs. She shares these critters and five acres with her husband and an armadillo that visits frequently. You can visit her website at www.maryannwrites.com.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Maryann! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Thanks for the invite to be a guest here, Dorothy. Appreciate that very much. I have been writing all my life and won my first contest when I was twelve years old. I won honorable mention in the Scholastic Writing Awards contest and went to the magnificent Fisher Theatre in Detroit to get my award. I felt like a princess going to a castle. The experience of being there was as wonderful as winning a prize.

My first professional gig was as a weekly humor columnist for a suburban newspaper, and I became known as “The Erma Bombeck of Plano.” From there I went on to publish and work in a number of nonfiction areas. I also did some freelance PR work, as well as doing some script editing and doctoring.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

One Small Victory is about a woman who infiltrates a drug ring and helps bring down a major distributor in her rural Texas town. It was inspired by a true story of a woman who did this in Michigan. She was a single mother with several children, had no background in law enforcement, and had just lost her oldest son in a car accident. When I read the news story about this incredible woman, I just knew I had to write about her.

What kind of research was involved in writing “One Small Victory”?

I had to do a tremendous amount of research about the various levels of law enforcement personnel involved in a drug task force in a rural setting, and that took about six months. I also had to learn about the drug business and how it operates. Luckily, I had contacts in law enforcement that could help me. I also learned about guns from my son, who worked in the armory for the Marines. For the sub plot, which deals with the grief issues, I didn’t do specific research, but I relied on my education, training and experience as a hospital chaplain. Grief isn’t the same for everyone, and it was so helpful to know that as I worked with the central characters and the aftermath of the death in the family.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

I had a fair amount of input into the design of the cover. Initially, I filled out a lengthy description of characters, setting, etc, so the artist could have that to work from. I also sent the artist a detailed synopsis of the book. When the first draft of the cover was sent to me to give more input, the picture of the woman was of someone who looked much younger than my central character. That was changed, and we all agreed that the cover tuned out great.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

It was relatively easy to get a nonfiction book published because of the years of journalism experience I have. Rosen Publishing bought my first nonfiction book on a proposal, and I went on to do nine more books with them. Getting fiction published, however, hasn’t been a smooth ride. I thought my first break into mass market fiction was going to happen about 12 years ago when I had a contract for Play It Again, Sam from Kensington. The book was to be part of a line they were doing “Second Change at Love.” Just shortly before I was to turn in my finished manuscript, the editor called me to say the line was closing. I had an agent at the time who did get me the rest of my advance, but he was not able to sell the book to another house, nor was he able to sell any of my other projects. It was always a matter of “this is really good, but it is not great.”

The fiction market in NY has been so tight for almost 20 years, it is harder and harder for a new author to get a book deal.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

It took just about a year for the book to come out after the contract was signed.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I do not currently have an agent, but I wouldn’t mind. J I think an agent can be beneficial, especially for situations like I had with Kensington, not to mention helping to get foreign sales and other ancillary sales.

Do you plan subsequent books?

I have a mystery series that I have worked on off and on for a number of years that I hope Five Star is going to buy. I am waiting to hear back from the acquisitions editor on that. The series features two women homicide detectives in Dallas, one white and one black. Back when my agent was marketing this, he referred to it as “Lethal Weapon in Dallas.” The first book is Open Season and all the titles will have “Season” as an identifier. I’m working on Stalking Season now.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I’m an all day writer. J Because of my day job as Managing Editor of WinnsboroToday.com, I start my day with updates for that. Then I do some business for myself, promoting, etc. In the later afternoon is when I may scrounge a couple of hours to work on the second book in the mystery series.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

If money was no object, I think I’d hire a full-time publicist. Arranging events and publicizing them takes so much time that I would love to be able to pay someone else to do it.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Even though they are my least favorite thing to do, marketing and self-promotion are vital. I have had a couple of signing events and have a few more planned for the fall. Because Five Star books are sold heavily to the library market, I went to the Texas Library Association Convention in Dallas this spring. I handed out some ARCs of the book, as well as tons of promotional material. I had printed 600 samplers of the book with the cover art, synopsis, publishing information, sample chapters, and information about me. In addition, I have been contacting libraries across the country, some by e-mail and others by regular mail, encouraging them to order the book. Online, I have been connecting to social sites related to books and visiting tons of blogs in an effort to get to know more people and let them know about me and the book. And a few months ago I started writing for Bloggernews.net. I do reviews for them and have had a lot of exposure as a result.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

I think success depends as much on tenacity as it does talent, so if you really want to be published, keep at it. Write, read, learn, and don’t resist a good critique. In my opinion a good book isn’t written, it’s rewritten.

Thank you for coming, Maryann. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Thank you for having me, Dorothy. It’s been a pleasure. My website is: http://www.maryannwrites.com My blogs are http://themanyfacesofgrief.blogspot.com/ and http://its-not-all-gravy.blogspot.com/ To check out my day job, folks can access it here: http://www.winnsborotoday.com

And my book can be purchased at Amazon.

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