We're having coffee this morning with Maryann Miller, a woman who's written 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% of entries in the Chesterfield Screenwriting Fellowship with the adaptation of Open Season, the first of a mystery series that will debut, in hardcover, in December from Five Star Cengage/Gale.
It's All In The Details
Title: Open Season
Author Name: Maryann Miller
Publisher: Five Star Cengage/Gale
ISBN: 10: 1594149151
You can visit Maryann at her website or her Amazon Author Page or her blog It's Not All Gravy.
You may converse with Maryann by email: maryann at maryannwrites dot com.
Good morning, Maryann, and welcome to Sling Words! Let's get started with some fun questions. Of Tess of the D'Urbervilles or the movie Pretty Woman, which do you prefer and why?
Maryann: Between Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles or the movie Pretty Woman, I would have to pick the movie. I want to kiss Richard Gere when he shows up with the carriage, and that song. Oh my gosh, I can't get it out of my head now. "Pretty woman, walking down the street...."
Joan: How appropriate since this is the 20th anniversary of that film!
What's your TV guilty pleasure? Why?
Maryann: Okay. I'll admit it. I love to watch football, although it has lost some of its appeal since the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys. My daughter once said, "Call me for the huddle." Need I say more?
Joan: Name a book, any genre, that means a lot to you and tell us why.
Maryann: At the top of my all-time favorite book list is Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. I learned more about developing characters from this book than any other. I also love Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird because in it she gives writers permission to just write without worrying about perfection in the first draft. For me it is important to turn the editor side of my brain off when I am first creating a scene and just let it come the way it wants to. Later I can beat it into shape.
Joan: Name a book that you were forced to read in school that you think was a time waste and please tell us why.
Maryann: I absolutely slogged through Ulysses in school and hated every minute of it. I know it is a classic and all well-rounded readers should love the classics, but that is not one that even flirted with my list of books I enjoyed. When I read, I need boundaries. Periods. Commas. Paragraph indents.
Joan: Boundaries! Well put. What an excellent definition of grammar. I may use that quotation in Grammar for Grownups, my online serial that's being published on Joan Slings Words, my other blog.
Inquiring Minds Want To Know
Joan: How long have you been working at your craft? Please tell us something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.
Maryann: If you count the fact that I started writing when I was eleven, I have been working on my craft a looooong time. My first published book was Coping With Cults, a nonfiction book for teens dealing with destructive cults. I got that gig based on my years of journalism experience, and the book was not what I thought my first published book would be. It was more of a job than a book from my heart, but it paid a few bills and was fun to research and write.
My childhood dream was to write fiction, and while I moved in the direction of newspaper and magazine work to earn a living, I always had a fiction project that I would work on when I got a chance.
Joan: The book about which we're talking today was what number book for you? 1st, 3rd, 7th?
Maryann: Open Season is my 14th published book.
Joan: Tell us something about this particular book: how did you come up with the title; do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line to tease readers?
Maryann: The title for Open Season came to me when I thought about the killer stalking victims, much like a hunter will stalk game. I didn't want to call it Hunting Season, and I remembered that there is an open season of hunting for some game. Perhaps hunters will make the connection. This is the first book in a series, and each title will include the word season.
I don't have a one-sentence logline, but two: Set against a backdrop of racial tension and deadly force controversy in Dallas, Open Season introduces Sarah Kingsly and Angel Johnson, homicide detectives who are unlikely and unwilling partners. When people start dying in area shopping malls, the detectives find themselves up against a killer who has his own race card to play.
Joan: Are you also publishing for eBook readers, and, if so, how did you make that transition from print to eBook?
Maryann: I have three books available for eBook readers. Friends Forever, Play it Again, Sam, and One Small Victory. I put Friends Forever and One Small Victory up on Kindle and Smashwords myself, and Play it Again, Sam was published by Uncial Press as an e-Book a couple of years ago.
I have had an e-reader for almost ten years and am thrilled that e-books are finally getting so popular. I think having books available in paperback, hardback, audio and electronic is a smart way to go. All readers have a preference, and this way we can cater to them all.
Joan: If they made a movie of your book, who would be cast to portray the characters?
Maryann: I work in a community theater and all the players here are clamoring to be in the movie for Open Season. I also have a good friend who wants to play the lead in One Small Victory. If that should ever get made, I would love for my friend to get the role. She is an incredible actress and would be perfect as Jenny. Maybe I could be cast to play her mother. We have done mother/daughter roles before.
Joan: What keeps you going when you get rejected?
Maryann: Rejections were harder to handle when I was younger and just starting my journalism career. Now a rejection is barely a blip on my radar. What is that saying about a tough old newspaper woman? I do think it benefits a writer to toughen up just a bit and remember the work is getting rejected, not the person.
Joan: What's your favorite oh, darn, I got a rejection food and/or drink to soothe the savaged ego?
Maryann: If I do feel a need to soothe my ego after a disappointment, some triple chocolate fudge ice cream sure comes in handy.
Joan: Who are your writing influences?
Maryann: I am constantly invited to grow as a writer when I read wonderfully crafted books such as The Help, Mystic River, The Black Horse, and many others that have passages I read over and over because of the use of language. I also enjoy books by Laura Castoro, Crossing the Line, Icing on the Cake. Laura is a wonderful writer, and she is so willing to share her expertise. She has been a good friend and supporter. I also have some writer friends who have persevered against physical challenges and life challenges, and they are my inspiration.
Joan: What are you working on now?
Maryann: Right now I am trying to finish the second book in the series, Stalking Season. It's close, just a few chapters to go. I am also sending queries to agents for the humorous memoir I finished this year. A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck is based on a humor column I used to write when I was known as the Erma Bombeck of Plano, Texas.
Joan: What do you now know that you wish you'd known when you started?
Maryann: Now I know how to separate the work from my ego, and it would have been helpful to be able to do that in the beginning. In newspaper and magazine work the rejections can come swift and heavy, and I really had to work to make myself send out another query when I'd get a rejection. Now I am much more pragmatic about it. Already I have received seven rejections on the memoir, but I have a list of agents to try and a new query goes out the same day I receive a "no thanks".
Joan: What's the best thing about writing?
Maryann: One of the things I love most about writing is the magic that happens on the paper or the screen when the writing is going well. Some writing sessions I start out with a rough idea of what I want to happen in this particular scene, then one of my characters surprises me. Sometimes the surprise is much better than what I had planned and I almost want to stand up and cheer.
Joan: What's the worst thing about writing?
Maryann: Editing and rewriting. Need I say more? Bring on the chocolate.
Joan: Do you have writing goals? If so, would you share some with us?
Maryann: New York Times best-seller list. Pulitzer Prize. National Book Award. Academy Award for the screenplay for Open Season. Seriously, I was just reminded in another interview that it would be good to have One Small Victory available in paperback, so that is one of the goals I would like to accomplish soon.
Joan: What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Maryann: One of the main things I like to share with new writers is the advice, "never give up." More success stories evolve out of tenacity than talent, and too many good writers give up when the marketing gets too difficult. It is also important to read and write and read and write, and not necessarily in just one genre or category. You learn a lot about craft by reading many different books and paying attention to what makes them engaging.
Joan: What's the one thing no interviewer has ever asked you about that you'd like to discuss here?
Maryann: My garden and how much working around growing things feeds my soul. I think all artists need to feed the creative spirit within and it needs to be daily nutrition. I get mine every morning.
The Last Word
Joan: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?
Maryann: I just want to thank you so much for this opportunity to share my story with your readers. It is always so much fun to do these interviews, and I hope the readers enjoy this time together.
Until next time, remember, a good book is a little vacation from the cares of life.