About Maryann Miller:
Maryann Miller is an award-winning author of numerous books, screenplays and stage plays. Her novel, Open Season, is the first book in the critically-acclaimed Seasons Mystery Series that features two women homicide detectives in Dallas. Think “Lethal Weapon” set in Dallas with female leads. It has received wonderful reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal. The second book in the series, Stalking Season, also received positive reviews from the trade publications. Doubletake, a stand-alone mystery, was chosen as the Best Mystery for 2015 by The Texas Association of Authors. A historical mystery, Boxes For Beds, is a popular book on Amazon with over 100 5-star reviews.
When not working, Miller enjoys directing the annual drama camp at her local art center, as well as playing on stage now and then. She lives in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas on five acres with one horse, one goat, one sheep, on dog and four cats. Guess who rules the roost.
What inspires you to write?
What first inspired me to write when I was just a child were the books I read that I loved. I remember finishing one and thinking, “I want to write something someday that will make another young girl love to read.”
More recently, it is reader feedback that inspires me. It is such a thrill to get a note from a reader who loved a particular story, or find a review on Amazon. Not only do reviews help our stats on Amazon – some technical computer something that I don’t understand – but the kind words about our writing connects us to the people for whom we are writing. And it feels so good. (smile)
Tell us about your writing process.
I have always been a seat-of-my-pants writer, except for my nonfiction books. Those I outlined, much the way one would outline a thesis, just on a larger scale, but I don’t outline fiction. I also prefer writing fiction than nonfiction.
A story usually starts with a character, and often from a newspaper item about a mysterious incident. For instance, Boxes For Beds was inspired by a story about a woman who lived in rural Arkansas, not far from Hot Springs. When she died, authorities found skeletons of babies in her attic, and nobody had any idea how they had gotten there. There is nothing like the hint of a mystery to get an author’s brain to work on overtime.
Once I am well into a book, usually over half way, I will make notes on how the story must end, with notes on what to write to get to that end. What clues should I drop? How much should I reveal and when?
I know some of my friends who write mysteries work pretty much the same way as I do, and we know we can’t go forever without some kind of structure. It is just easier for us to start with the character and the situation and let that momentum carry us as far as it can. Then we can take the time to do the notes and create a bit of an outline.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Do I listen to my characters? LOL All the time. My work is so character-driven, I can’t get them to stop talking to me. And I do love it when I am in the midst of a writing session and suddenly one of them has taken the story in a path I hadn’t even considered. Sometimes I will go down that path, but sometimes I have to tell them, “Hey. Wait a minute. Who’s the author here?”
It is important to have that deep connection to characters, that way we make them real on the page and readers can make connections of their own.
What advice would you give other writers?
My advice to new writers is to read as much as possible, and not just in the genre in which you plan to write. Read good literature to see how the craft of writing is woven through a story. Read good books on writing for advice and inspiration. And above all, write every day, even if it is just a page or two. Eventually those pages will add up to a book, if that is your goal.
For seasoned writers, I’m not sure they need my advice. LOL However, I would encourage them to always remember why we write and the joy we get from the process.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
My first books were released by a traditional publisher. All the nonfiction was contracted before the books were written, and that was nice. I had an advance and a deadline, and the advance kept me motivated to work every day to meet the deadline. Without contracts and deadlines, it is too easy to let that writing time escape.
For three of my fiction titles, I was lucky to find Five Star Cengage who published One Small Victory and both of the books in the Seasons Mystery Series in hardback. That made them available to the trade publications for the reviews, and I am still thrilled about the starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly.
When indie publishing became popular and no longer considered vanity publishing, I decided to do Boxes for Beds and Doubletake as indie books. I also did the e-books for One Small Victory and the Seasons books, as well as paperback editions. Open Season and Boxes For Beds are also audio books, that I contracted myself. In many ways it was good to have control over all aspects of producing the books, but it also took time and effort away from writing the next book. Still, I think it was worth it.
For anyone considering self-publishing, I highly encourage you to hire a good editor. Even though I am a freelance editor, I still hire someone else to copy edit my books before I publish them. Over and over I hear about indie books that are full of spelling and grammar mistakes, and that reflects poorly on all of us. It is also important to have the formatting right, and if you are technically challenged like I am, hire someone to do that, too. Paying for editing, professional book cover design, and formatting are the three main business expenses that I incur for each indie book.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
There have been dire warning about the demise of paper books, and I don’t think that is going to happen any time soon. Many people still like to hold an actual book, even though e-books and audio books are becoming more popular.
As a writer and a reader, I am glad there are so many options for reading now. Those of us who love stories and want to snatch whatever fifteen minutes we can to read, can pull out our Kindle or Nook or iPhone and read while sitting in an office waiting room. Or while waiting in the line to pick up kids from school. We don’t always have to have the hardback or paperback book with us. And when we travel we can take so many books in an electronic reading device.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: mystery, romance, young adult, nonfiction
What formats are your books in?: eBook, Print, Both eBook and Print, Audiobook
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.