Interview with Erica Miner, author of FourEver Friends

Bio: Violinist turned author Erica Miner has had a multi-faceted career as an award-winning screenwriter, author, lecturer and poet. A native of Detroit, she studied music at Boston University ericaheadshotand the New England Conservatory of Music. After experiencing a variety of highs and lows in her quest to forge a career in New York City, Erica won the coveted position of violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Company, a high-pressured milieu but the pinnacle of her field.

When injuries from a car accident spelled the end of her musical career, she drew upon her lifelong love of writing for inspiration and studied screenwriting with authors and script gurus Linda Seger and Ken Rotcop. Erica’s ten screenplays, one of which is based on her award-winning debut novel, Travels with My Lovers, have won awards and/or placed in such competitions as WinFemme, Santa Fe and the Writer’s Digest.

Inspired by her journals written during her travel adventures in Europe with and without her children, Erica penned Travels With My Lovers, winner of the fiction prize in the Direct from the Author Book Awards. Erica has written both the novel and screenplay of her suspense thriller, Murder In The Pit, which takes place at the Met. Currently she is working on the next novel in her ‘FourEver Friends’ series chronicling a young girl’s coming of age in the volatile 60s.

Erica has also developed a number of writing lectures and seminars on writing, which she has presented at venues across the West Coast and on the High Seas, where she is a ‘top-rated’ speaker for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Topics range from “The Art of Self Re-Invention” to “Journaling for Writers: Mining the Gold of Your Own Experiences” and “Opera Meets Hollywood.” Her writings have appeared in Vision Magazine, WORD San Diego and numerous E-zines.

Thanks for this interview, Erica, and congratulations on the release of your new book, FourEver Friends. Tell us a bit about it.

Thank you for the kind wishes, Mayra. I’m excited about this story. It’s about four teenage girls at a high school for gifted students in Detroit in the 1960s. They bond through their passion for classical music and forevertheir raging hormones – quite a combination! Set against the background of the social and political unrest of this volatile decade, that’s definitely a recipe for intrigue.

What was your inspiration for the story?

It’s loosely based on my teenage journals and my experiences at the real high school where the story takes place, Cass Technical High School. This school, kind of like a combination of New York’s High School of Music and Art and the Bronx High School of Science, with a plethora of other specialties added to the mix, was a unique opportunity for kids of that age to ‘specialize’ in their field of interest, and ‘major’ in a curriculum of their choice. Some of the students in the Music Curriculum went straight from high school to the Detroit Symphony; that is an example of the extraordinary level of education afforded by this school. College was almost a let-down for me after that. In four years being in that orchestra, whose conductor was my mentor, an amazing Russian man who was totally devoted to his students, we studied and/or performed all of the major symphonies and other symphonic works of the great masters: Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky – I could go on ad infinitum. It was a life-altering experience for me. Even now, whenever I hear a piece I had played there, the first thought that occurs to me is: ‘I played that at Cass Tech.’ What a wonderful foundation for my subsequent musical life! AND the three closest friends I bonded with during those years – my ‘FourEver Friends’ – well, we’re still each other’s closest friends. The book is a love letter to them, and I wanted to share our story with the world. There’s so much love there!

Do you think music has the power to bond people?
Absolutely! Life is all about music, when you think of it. Music pervades our lives, influences us, whether it is classical, spiritual, jazz, blue grass or rock. Do you know anyone who doesn’t have a passion, or at least an admiration, for some kind of music? It is at the essence of our being; it’s what humanizes us.

I love books with references to classical music and detailed descriptions of violin playing. Is your book of this type?
Oh, Mayra, you can hardly imagine how huge a part classical music plays (no pun intended) in this story. The music itself is a character in the book. When preparing for my book launch last week in LA, I prepared some CDs of excerpts from the book to play at the event. I put together three CDs, and I barely scratched the surface of what is included in the book. And I have vivid descriptions of violin playing, practicing, studying, performing, you name it – from the perspective of the main protagonist, Jessica, who is a violinist in her heart and soul and the others she performs with. I’ve also written episodes describing orchestra playing, band playing, choral singing. The list goes on. I’d better stop here, or I’ll get carried away. But what an immense pleasure it was for me to write about that music that I hold dear, and all of the friends who shared it with me during that time!

What have you been doing to promote the book? Any strategies you’d like to share with our readers?
One thing I learned from my first novel (see next question) is that promotion and marketing needs to be started way before the book is published. Everything I learned from my previous experience informed my promotion so far with this one. I contacted bookstores and libraries about book signings, got the word out about the book to all of my ‘fans’ of the previous book (that’s how I was able to arrange for a book launch venue for this one), and have been tirelessly getting the word out in online networks from Facebook to my high school Alumni ‘nings’. I consider myself first a musician, second a writer, and third a business person. Some advice I remember from before was that writing is 5% writing and 95% promotion. Truer words were never said. I’m planning on going back to Detroit to do a book signing at my high school. So it’s as if things have come full circle.

This isn’t your first book revolving around music, is it? Can you tell us about your first one, Travels With My Lovers?
FourEver Friends is almost a ‘prequel’ to Travels With My Lovers, in the sense that the former gives background about the woman who has become a musician and seeks her musical roots on her European travel adventures. Having grown up and matured into a woman with a passion for music, her fervor is expressed through a passion for the opposite sex. In her travels she discovers just how international the languages of music and of love are. I think that’s appropriate, don’t you?

How has your music background influenced your writing?

Everything I’ve ever written has been informed by my musical background. Every novel and screenplay, either its characters or setting or background, centers around music in a major way. It’s who I am – and they say write what you know. So it was inevitable that music be the basis for my writing.

Anything else you’d like to say?
Part of my path in life, I believe, is to try and spread the word about classical music to as much of the world as I can. It’s my passion, everyday of my life, from the moment I wake up in the morning till the time I go to sleep – and sometimes even in my dreams. I think the lives of people who know at least a little about classical music are enhanced and enriched by it. So I’d like to continue to make sure classical music remains an important part of people’s lives – in any way I can! (Murder In The Pit, anyone?)

Thanks, Erica! I look forward to reading your book soon!

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