Come and meet author MaryAnn Miller! She very graciously agreed to be interviewed for this blog, and I was delighted to have found such a talented, promising, and creative an author.
A diverse writer of columns, feature stories, short fiction, novels, screenplays and stage plays, Ms. Miller has won numerous awards including being a semi-finalist at the Sundance Institute for her screenplay, A Question Of Honor. Her work has appeared in regional and national publications, and the Rosen Publishing Group in New York has published her non-fiction books for teens, including the award-winning Coping with Weapons and Violence In School and On Your Streets. A romantic suspense, One Small Victory, was released in June 08 from Five Star Publishing, and Play It Again, Sam was a July 08 e-book release from Uncial Press.
In Play It Again, Sam, John’s announcement that he wants a divorce catches Samantha Rutgers off-guard. She never suspected there was anything wrong. Sure, the sex was scarce, but they weren’t newlyweds anymore. And if communication was suffering, it was only because John was working so much. She never dreamed it would come to this. That’s the main reason their daughter, Melissa, blames Sam for the split. If she’d paid more attention, she would have realized Daddy was unhappy. The estrangement with Melissa devastates Sam almost as much as the divorce. It seems her only allies are her son, Eric, and her long-time friend, Margaret, who encourages Sam to come to Dallas after the divorce is final. With Margaret’s prodding, Sam starts to rebuild her shattered life. She returns to college to finish the art degree she put on hold so many years ago. She takes a job as a receptionist at a small ad agency that offers the possibility of moving into a creative role when she finishes college. And she meets Frank Reynolds, the head of Marketing and Public Relations for J.C. Penny. Definitely not enjoying the forced celibacy of the past six months, Sam has an immediate physical reaction to this charming man with silver hair, but needs battle with an older value system that had taken her to her wedding night as a virgin. Plus, she is working hard to establish herself as an independent woman, and Frank likes to run things, including her. Relationship issues take second-seat when Sam discovers that Rhonda, one of the artists at work, has taken a project Sam did for school and used it for the Penny’s campaign. Sam had trashed it in a fit of anger after a fight with Frank, but the problem is in proving it. When she is finally able to expose Rhonda, Sam realizes that she has become a strong woman, capable of success in her own right. If Frank can accept that, there might be a future for them together. A wonderful romantic at heart, Frank is generous with roses and surprises, like a candlelit dinner in the middle of the ice-rink at the posh Galleria Mall. He also waits patiently for the moment when Sam is ready to step into a new physical relationship. And even though he says he will try his best to honor her independence, Sam can’t quite make the leap of trust.
That’s when he plans the neatest surprise of all....
Describe your workspace for us, that little corner of the world where you meet with your characters!
I have an office with windows that look out on the back part of my property. Sometimes I have to stop working to watch my horse do a "run around." Every now and then he gets frisky and tears through the back pen. The goats are smart and go into the small barn until Banjo is done flexing his muscles.
Here on my desk I have a computer, printer, etc, that are surrounded by stacks of papers and books. Sometimes it is also covered with one extremely large cat, John, who decides he wants to nap here.
My office also has two bookcases. One is filled with books, some fiction and some reference, and I have books literally falling out of bins underneath a small table. A huge roll-top desk holds supplies for scrapbooking, as well as some writing-related supplies. On top of the rolltop is a beautiful carousel music box that my husband gave me a long time ago, and the top of one of my bookcases is filled with Seraphim Classic Angels. Each one has something to do with an interest of mine -- horses, painting, music, writing, reading. My husband gave me those, too. He must love me. :-)
Two walls are decorated with awards, pretty cards, posters of Hollywood stars and NYC postcards. One wall is decorated with pictures of horses.
What inspired you to write Play it Again, Sam?
Play it Again Sam was inspired by what happened to a friend of mine. In fact, the opening is pretty close to how it actually happened when my friend's husband said he was leaving. My friend was kind enough to share the difficulties through her whole ordeal of divorce and rebuilding her life, and she told me I could use her for a character in a story. She often kids me that she wishes I could write her a happy ending like Sam had in the book.
How do you find precious time to meet your characters in their world?
I have to make time to work on fiction. I am busy with my regular paying job as Managing Editor of http://www.winnsborotoday.com and I do a lot of promoting for my books, so that doesn't leave a lot of time for new creations. But this year I made a vow that I would work a little bit every day on a new book. So far, I've managed to get it done most days.
Tell us about your hero—who he is, what makes him irresistible?
One of the qualities about Frank that draws Sam, in addition to the physical attraction, is Frank's sense of humor. It's a little bit dry, yet endearing, and she has a similar sense of humor. They both enjoy making each other smile or laugh, and having fun together is an important part of a relationship. Also, Frank is spectacular at creating romantic moments. Not many men would plan a candlelight dinner in the middle of an ice rink, and the suprise he plans at the end of the book is priceless.
What have you enjoyed most about writing?
The actual creative process is at times such an incredible high, it defies description. All writers will nod reading this, because we have all experienced it. That moment when our muse is working overtime and the words are just flying on the screen. If only every day could be like that. :-)
The other thing I enjoy a great deal is interacting with readers. It is a thrill to get a note or an e-mail from someone who just read my book and loved it. Wanting to create something that people would enjoy was the main reason I wanted to be a writer, and it is wonderful to find out people are being touched in some way by my words.
What was the most valuable advice you ever received in your journey as an author?
Liz Carpenter, former Press Secretary for Lady Bird Johnson, once told me never to say "no" to an opportunity. I got my first PR job by heeding her advice. I didn't know a thing about how to create annual reports and other in-house publications, but I accepted a job and then went to experts to learn how the work was done.
Another piece of valuable advice was from a writing instructor who told the class that the best way to learn to write was to read, read, read, then write, write, write. I can see how my writing has improved after years of following his advice.
Where can we get Play It Again, Sam?
The book is available online as an e-book. The best place to order it is through the publisher http://www.uncialpress.com/books/playitag/playitag.html
Where can readers hear more about you and your works?
I have a Web site -- http://www.maryannwrites.com as well as a blog http://its-not-all-gravy.blogspot.com/ I am a freelance editor and contribute regularly to the Blood Red Pencil blog http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/ That blog has lots of good editing advice for writers.