Name My name is Francesca Elizabeth Miller. I write Gothic Young Adult novels as Francesca Elizabeth Miller and New Adult and erotica as Lee Rene.
Age I don’t identify myself by age because it limits my audience. Let’s say I’m young spiritually and mentally.
Where are you from
I was born and raised in sunny Los Angeles.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
My family was lower middle-class, African American and I grew up in South Central Los Angeles. My parents were two working class people who adored reading and surrounded my brother and me with books. We were encouraged to explore and read. I also grew up going to films and although my parents had little formal education, their taste was quite sophisticated. We watched a lot of noir, British cinema, and foreign language films. My parents took advantage of everything Los Angeles had to offer culturally and took us on weekly visits to museums and theatres. Another great thing about Los Angeles is the number of celebrities you see on a regular basis. I spent a great deal of time in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, and would run into celebrities every day.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Wow, I have interesting news about one of my books, a non-fiction work I co-wrote several years ago. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it until I’ve signed the contracts.
As far as writing, I’m currently completing a 1950s noir set in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the world to visit. The writing has been a slow process because I’m rewriting an older novel based on the memoirs of a New Orleans butch lesbian involved in the sex trade. I changed the main character to a heterosexual young woman and removed the main subplot and several characters I’d grown to love. It was like killing a child, but I think I have a better story now.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I had my first piece, a work of poetry, published when I was in my teens. Unfortunately, I didn’t pursue writing until the last few years. I’ve had two plays produced, but my real writing began when I wrote short works for local magazines.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started writing for a small press aimed at hip young women in Los Angeles. My editor gave me carte blanche to write whatever I wanted. I suddenly found I had a following. I was a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always been interested in Gothic stories and the darker side of life. I also had a fascination with 19th century America. I went on to write two Young Adult Gothic manuscripts, but my old agent couldn’t find a publisher. I wrote another YA set in the Depression era. It did well in the old Amazon Breakthrough Award contest, but also couldn’t find a publisher. Then, I tried my hand at erotic romance, banged out a novel in six weeks and almost immediately got it published. I titled my novel The New Orleans Hothouse. It’s set in the 1950s in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans. I wrote it as a piece of erotic noir from a male point of view.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I love to write strong visuals and sensory detail. I want my readers to see the streets and alleys, smell the smells, and feel the same things my characters feel.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The New Orleans Hothouse refers to the female lead’s love of flowers, but has a naughty twist. The protagonist refers to his lover’s female bits as a hothouse.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I didn’t want to “slut-shame” so rather than writing a typical romance virgin, I made the female in the story unabashedly sexual and healthy in her love for the carnal pleasure. My character made no apologies for her past, I left out the neurotic angst I find in so many erotic tales. A couple of readers felt I made the erotic passages too contemporary and found the pillow-talk a bit too graphic, but I set it in 50s New Orleans, in a noir world and from a male point-of view. From my research of the period and the sexual action in the rear rooms, nothing I wrote was beyond the pale.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The New Orleans Hothouse describes both New Orleans and Las Vegas in the 1950s in very realistic terms. I did a great deal of research on both towns during that period. In addition, my publisher, Loose Id, assigned an editor who made sure every historical detail was correct.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Years ago, I met an older woman who had lived in New Orleans in the 50s as a teen. She was an old drug abuser, had a very hard life. She was a butch lesbian and had frequented gay bars wearing jeans made for women and a woman’s tailored shirt because she knew the police went after cross dressers. The police raided the bar and arrested her anyway. They even put her name in the newspaper. I found the story fascinating and wanted to write about it. I’ve changed it but much of the story remains intact.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I love the masters of storytelling, Mark Twain, the Bronte sisters, Robert Louis Stevenson, Daphne du Maurier, and so many more. My taste runs to Gothic novels and mysteries. The person who has most affected my writing is my beta reader, Kristin Aragon. She pushed me toward find my true voice as a writer.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just finished a advanced copy of a marvelous YA novel by my friend, Cat Winters. It’s a Gothic ghost story set in Oregon in 1921. Cat titled her book The Steep & Thorny Way and I’m loving it.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I read the genres I write. I love Gothic novels, Young Adult historical novels and crime dramas. I love the work of Jennifer McMahon, Cat Winters, Jenny Milchman, Dianne Setterfield, and Sarah Waters among others. By the way, I normally prefer female writers to males.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have three more chaptesr to complete in my latest New Orleans noir then I start a contemporary thriller set in Northern California. I also intend to do a polish on a Gothic YA set in 19th century Massachusetts that I couldn’t sell.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I’ve managed to find a writers’ community on Facebook and started one from the now defunct Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, ABNA. We’ve kept in monthly contact for six years, brought together by our love of writing. We try to support each other. I also have two friends who are pros who critique my writing, and of course, Kristin, my beta reader.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’d like to see it as my career in the future. I have two friends who make their living as writers and it’s something I hope to pursue.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I wish I’d known how important it is to utilize digital media. My old agent insisted I use Facebook, but I wish I’d learned the ins and out of Twitter and Google + earlier. Every writer has to use it now.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It grew out of my love of telling stories as a child. I wrote little stories as a little girl, even created a book, but dropped it when I got to college. I wrote plays but wish I’d actively pursued writing novels.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My story is a New Orleans noir set in the French Quarter when the police regularly raided gay bars. The protagonist is the daughter of a woman who runs a gay bar. We see everything through her eyes, the darkness of the city, the music, the erotic vibe, the decadence of the underground sex clubs that were part of the scene in the 50s and 60s. It also has elements of romance. I really loved writing it.
I have two Young Adult Gothic thriller set in 19th century New England that have yet to find a publisher. I’m still working on them.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I have distractions in life and find myself wandering away when I should be writing. The holidays are hard because I have a large family that depends on me. Sometimes I resent when I have to pull away from my writing to be social.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
The book that blew me away was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Stetterfield, a Gothic masterwork. My only issue with her is that it took her six years to finish her next book. I love her writing.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
With the exception of one, all of my books are located in cities other than Los Angeles. I do make sure that I only write about cities I know like Boston and New Orleans. I do plan to write about San Francisco, another favorite city, in the future.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher, Loose Id, has a team of talented artists who work with them. An artist/writer named Syneca Featherstone created my cover.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I’m used to writing in the first person, but this story is big, with several subplot, and a fascinating antagonist. The large story pushed me toward writing it n the third person. I had to be very careful to focus each chapter from one POV. It’s interesting to try it and I plan to write more in the future.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned the importance of liking the subject I work on. The more you like it, the better.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read only the best and work with good beta readers. If you are writing for an American market, become familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style, the publishing industry bible. I always think it’s best to use an outline and got great advice from a friend of mine – consider the outline your first draft. I also learned from friends who make their living as novelist that writers often sell their next book based on their outline.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Women are more powerful than they think.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. The story resonates with me to this day.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Operatic music can bring me to tears, and the comedians, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, make me laugh.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Dame Elizabeth Taylor, a woman who lived her life “her way.”
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
“She wrote well” – I’ve spent so much time learning my craft. I hope I find a larger audience that likes my work.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I love music, art, computers, and I’m addicted to home decor
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love classic films, especially noir and Pre-code. I like darker cable shows like Breaking Bad and genre television like The Walking Dead and Penny Dreadful.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Living in Los Angeles, I grew up eating a lot of different cuisine, Mexican, Korean, French, Creole, but my favorite is Japanese. My favorite color is red, my musical interest quite varied. I listen to classical music when I write, Ravel, my favorite.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I continue having all kind of jobs; however, my dream would have been teaching at a community college or working as an editor.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have three facebook fan pages, https://www.facebook.com/TheDivaAndDoctorGod
I also have boards on Pinterest http://pinterest.com/gothicimp/boards/
I’m on Google + https://plus.google.com/u/0/115489761620342610717/posts and at
Please connect with me on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1414244-francesca-miller
My romance name is Lee Rene and I have a page – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11363327.Lee_Rene
I’m also on Wattpad at http://www.wattpad.com/user/FrancescaMillerAutho