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Erica Miner's Journey: From Music to Mystery
Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Tuesday, October 24, 2023


Bookpleasures.com is delighted to introduce Erica Miner, a remarkable individual with a diverse and accomplished music, writing, and academic career. Erica's journey began as a violinist, honing her skills under the tutelage of the Boston Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Joseph Silverstein. Graduating cum laude from Boston University, she continued her musical studies at the New England Conservatory of Music and the prestigious Tanglewood Music Center, where she performed alongside legends like Leonard Bernstein. Her music career reached its pinnacle when she spent two decades as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, collaborating closely with acclaimed figures such as James Levine.

However, Erica's artistic pursuits didn't end with her music career. After retiring from the Metropolitan Opera, she channeled her creative energies into writing. She furthered her expertise by studying screenwriting in Los Angeles under the mentorship of screenplay guru Linda Seger. Erica's talents in writing have been recognized with awards in prestigious competitions, such as the Santa Fe and Writer's Digest contests. Her debut novel, "TRAVELS WITH MY LOVERS," earned her the Fiction Prize in the Direct from the Author Book Awards.

Erica's contributions to the literary world extend to her series of novels, "FOUREVER FRIENDS," which explores the coming-of-age experiences of four teenage girls in the tumultuous 60s. Her suspense thriller, "MURDER IN THE PIT," set within the world of the Metropolitan Opera, has garnered praise from readers and critics alike.

Not only is Erica a gifted writer, but she's also an accomplished lecturer and poet. Her seminars and workshops have been celebrated throughout California and the Pacific Northwest, earning her top ratings as a special lecturer for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Erica's insightful articles have graced the pages of respected publications and websites, including OperaPulse.com, LAOpus.com, and the National Association of Baby Boomer Women newsletter.

In this interview, we will have the privilege of delving into Erica Miner's extraordinary journey from the world of music to the realms of award-winning literature and insightful lecturing. Join us in exploring the multifaceted career and creative spirit of this talented author, musician, and lecturer.

Norm: Good day, Erica and thanks for taking part in our interview.

Erica: Thank you, Norm. I'm delighted at the opportunity.

Norm: You have a background as a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera. How has your personal experience in the world of opera influenced your writing in 'Prelude to Murder' and the Julia Kogan series as a whole?

Erica: As the most prestigious opera company on the planet, the Met Opera comprises is its own unique world: a highly pressured artistic environment where opera superstars have been entertaining the cream-of-the-crop of opera aficionados for centuries. Standards are on the highest level. So are the stakes.

These elite audiences, however, have no idea as to the personal conflicts that occur behind all the Met's glamour and glitz.

The thousands of people who work there, all of them in different jobs simultaneously, are largely at odds with each other. Egos clash. Tempers flare.

Revealing the dark side of that world became my rationale for creating a series of operatic whodunits.

My series protagonist is a key member of the orchestra, which is the part of the Met I know best: 100 neurotic musicians, some of whom I know all too well, thrown together in a hole in the ground with no air and no light, 7 days a week, days, nights, weekends.

You see more of these people than your own families. Sooner or later, someone's going to want to kill somebody.

Literally. In addition, I witnessed any number of nefarious goings-on while I was there, which conjured up thoughts of fictional murderous chaos.

I thought if I embroidered and escalated these circumstances into behind-the-scenes murder and mayhem at this venerable institution, I could create an intriguing theme for a musical mystery series.

Norm: The combination of music, mystery, and the paranormal in 'Prelude to Murder' is truly unique. What inspired you to blend these elements in your storytelling?"

Erica: The overall theme running through the series is 'Bringing Murder and Music Together.'

I was able to capture that in the first book, 'Aria for Murder,' since it takes place at the Met, my home base. 'Prelude to Murder' is set at the Santa Fe Opera, an entirely different milieu, with which I had not been nearly as familiar.

When I spent time there researching the city's rich environment and culture for the book, I discovered among other things that Santa Fe is considered the 'ghostliest' city in the US. I sensed this presence in almost every place I explored.

I was captivated by the paranormal atmosphere in that fascinating city and the mysterious mountains that surround it. I couldn't resist drawing upon those elements for some of the major plot points in the story.

Norm: Julia Kogan is a remarkable character who bridges the worlds of classical music and crime-solving. What motivated you to create such a character, and how did you develop her personality?

Erica: Having played at the Met for 21 years, I wanted to tell the story from the point of view most familiar to me.

Julia is fundamentally a reflection of myself when I first started out at the company.

A gifted young violinist in her 20s debuting with the orchestra of the most prestigious opera company in the world, she is starry-eyed and hugely excited, if a bit naïve as to the political machinations that she will come across when she begins to learn about the inner workings of the opera house.

But she also is smart enough to be aware that she is trying to make her way in a difficult, demanding profession that even today is dominated in many ways by men.

The people Julia encounters—fellow musicians, conductors, chorus members, stagehands, stage managers and the like—populate this story as echoes of my own relationships with company members I knew—in some cases, more than I would have liked.

The real-world personality traits of those people who were an integral part of my daily life at this home-away-from-home that was the Met Opera formed the basis of many of the characters I created in 'Aria for Murder.' Julia becomes more sophisticated and savvier as her arc progresses, and she is thrust into a situation that demands she grow as a person: a murder investigation.

She ends up having to draw upon an inner strength she didn't know she had in order to save her own life.

Norm: The Santa Fe Opera provides a unique backdrop for your story. Can you tell us about your personal experiences and insights that influenced your portrayal of the opera house and its surroundings?

Erica: Initially it was one of my readers of the first book who came up with the suggestion to set the sequel at Santa Fe Opera.

Given that many Met Orchestra people go off to Santa Fe in the summer to play there, it seemed a logical milieu for Julia's next escapade.

I was fortunate to have a close friend in the company who provided me with access to the backstage of the opera house and to the people there, who showed me every detail of the theatre's inner workings.

I was enthralled with the vibrant atmosphere of this amazing, unique outdoor theatre and its rich history. I spent hours wandering through the campus, taking in the beauty of the desert scape, gazing at the two mysterious ranges that surround it, one of which is called 'Blood of Christ' (now there's a name that can grab the attention).

I went to performances and experienced the dramatic changes that the New Mexico weather wrought on them. I tried to permeate the story with the sense of wonder it created in me through Julia's eyes.

I once went on a vision quest similar to the one that Julia experienced. I felt this spiritual feature would add richness to the story.

Norm: The book promises intrigue, ambition, and jealousy among the opera performers. How do these interpersonal dynamics contribute to the mystery in 'Prelude to Murder'?

Erica: Detestable divas, wannabe stars, and snarky stagehands. Those are a few examples of  the classic traits that are universal for people who work in the opera.

The jealousy and rivalry among the musicians in Julia's own world of the orchestra have counterparts in the singers who perform onstage and the company members who work behind the scenes.

The characters are drawn in such a way that the reader is never sure which ones have murderous designs on others and which are friend or foe to Julia. I created all of them so as to provoke doubt in the readers' minds, to enhance the mysterious possibilities in the plot.

Norm: The book mentions the influence of Shakespeare and opera lore. How do these literary and operatic references enhance the narrative?

Erica: As I was writing, various Shakespearean quotes would pop into my head, relevant to certain scenes and situations.

I thought that creating a Shakespeare-quoting detective would be an intriguing and rather unusual way to heighten the overall interest in a murder mystery.

According to my readers, this turned out to be an appealing quality in the story. The use of opera lore is inescapable in a series that takes place within the unique setting of an opera theatre.

Like its predecessor, 'Prelude to Murder' integrates real operas as part of the narrative. In this instance, the operas are among the bloodiest and most violent in the repertoire.

Julia can't help but be drawn into the most fearsome aspects of these operas, which become very real to her due to her extreme sensitivity.

She feels every disturbing experience of the characters, and the singers performing them, with great intensity, as if their trials  were her own. This deepens the high drama: onstage, in Julia's mind, and in her relationships with the other characters.

Norm: In your book, Julia Kogan faces numerous threats to her life. What motivates her to continue investigating these murders despite the danger she's in?

Erica: In Julia, I have created a protagonist with a keen sense of justice who, unlike myself, is capable of rising above her fears to plunge headlong into a murder investigation when it involves losing, or standing up for, a person who is important to her.

I only wish I could be that brave! (That's the beauty of writing fiction: you can create a character who is the kind of person you'd like to be.)

Julia is hypersensitive, vulnerable, and empathetic to a fault: the kind of person who would rescue a kitten even if it meant putting herself in a precarious situation.

Yet, orphaned at a young age, she also has grown up with a highly developed sense of what to do in order to protect herself from danger.

All of these traits contribute to her propensity for thinking less about herself and more about the people she loves. No matter the risk, she is going to press on. It's a force stronger than herself.

Norm: Your book received praise for its blend of opera lore and mystery. Can you share some of your favorite aspects of opera that you wove into the narrative?

Erica: In 'Prelude to Murder,' I wanted to intermingle operas into the story that show some of humanity's most brutal aspects. I start right off with Lulu, an important mid-20th century opera whose characters act despicably.

The protagonist is a woman who destroys everyone in her path. Even Jack the Ripper is a key character in this work. Its depiction of murder and mayhem onstage reflect the violence that occurs offstage.

Art imitates life. I could not have chosen a better way to drive the narrative in an increasingly deadly direction. Similarly, Salome shows a kind of horrific depravity so extreme that it evokes terror in the observer.

The image of a severed head cannot help but create a profoundly frightening effect. Lucia, whose intolerable circumstances cause her to descend into madness, viciously stabs her husband to death on their wedding night.

These operas invoke the kind of atmosphere that combines the most compelling facets of opera with an overpowering sense of mystery. What will happen, to whom, and why?

Norm: You've been compared to Agatha Christie of the opera world. How does this label influence your writing style, and what do you find most appealing about the comparison?

Erica: I could not be more flattered than to be compared to Agatha Christie in any way! She is my literary mystery hero. I positively blush at the reference and am continually amazed that this quote came from a famous opera star, Richard Stilwell, for whom I have consummate respect and admiration.

Aspiring to Christie's brilliance is akin to striving to play the violin like the greatest violinist of them all, Jascha Heifetz.

I never could achieve their level in either case, but there's nothing wrong with having such great masters as role models.

When I was honing my violin craft, I aspired to play just one note as brilliantly as did Heifetz. The same holds true in my writing. If I could write one phrase as magnificently as Christie, and become remotely as skillful in my plotting, I would be thrilled.

Norm: Where can our readers learn more about you and Prelude to Murder?

Erica: Prelude to Murder is available online at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Prelude-Murder-Julia-Kogan Mystery/dp/1685124429/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=)

and Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/prelude-to-murder-erica-miner/1144067662;jsessionid=3736A2941D90DA31D36C3CF4C20C6EAF.prodny_store02-atgap05?ean=9781685124427).

It also can be ordered through my major local indie bookstore, Third Place Books https://www.thirdplacebooks.com/book/9781685124427).

Details about my writing, lectures and other activities are found on my website, https://www.ericaminer.com

Norm: As we conclude our interview, what can readers expect from Julia Kogan's next adventure, and can you provide any hints about your future projects in the series?

Erica: After a surprise at the end of 'Prelude to Murder,' Julia next goes to San Francisco to perform at the Opera—and not alone, something hinted at in the ending of the previous book. (No spoiler alerts here.)

Opera performed against the backdrop of the endless allure of the fascinating City by the Bay. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, as Julia finds out when more operatic chaos thrusts her into yet another murder investigation. But this time, she's not the only one in danger, and this ups the ante from her previous experiences. As for future projects in the series, there are possibilities for two opera companies that have expressed interest, one in my former city of residence and the other in my current one. We'll see what happens after the 2024 release of Book #3.

In any case, I wanted to thank you, Norm, for your great interview questions.

Follow Here To Read Norm's Article on Erica


 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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