Interview: Joi Miner
Sometimes you meet someone and know instantly that you need to know more. Joi is that for me. We worked together last year on a reading at the Magic City Acceptance Center with the Crisis Center in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I was blown away by her and the poets she brought to the reading. She has a beautiful energy about her and has inspired me as a writer and organizer that it’s alright to push yourself even harder than you think is possible because she does and she makes it look effortless. Her updates on word counts and words of inspiration make me smile and proud that she’s doing life right. I needed to know how she did it. I’m so happy she’s a contributor to I Am The F-Bomb! and be on the lookout the next few weeks and months for more personal stories by Joi.
Joi Miner, 35, is a wife and mother of two beautiful daughters from Montgomery, AL (currently residing in Birmingham, AL). She began her career in fiction in 2014 being published in anthologies and her debut novel, Vices, was released on October 31st by Nayberry Publications. She has since released 8 more books with Shani Greene-Dowdell Presents: Side Piece Chronicles 1, 2, & 3, A Good Girl with Bad Habits 1 & 2, Magnum and Bussa: Above the Law, Magnum and Bussa 2: Protect Your King, and Pharaoh’s Gold: A Hip Hop Love Story. Joi recently released a short story with her Pen Bangaz partner and authors in the anthology, With You Is Where I Belong and her new novel A Bawss Love Story: Empress and Scar released April 10th with Shan Presents and is a best seller with great reviews.
How did you start writing and what made you want to be a writer?
I’ve been told that I’ve been writing all my life. Lol. I honestly can’t remember that far back, but I know that I’ve always been in love with words. I was the girl with a backpack full of books and notebooks everywhere I went. I’m still that girl. I used to read a book a day coming up. I didn’t have the ideal childhood, so reading was my escape. I read all genres from mystery to romance and everything in between. Being a Halloween baby, I was a huge RL Stine and Christopher Pike fan. Those books gave me an escape. I would get in trouble for hiding beneath the covers with a flashlight after bedtime, to read. I told myself that I wanted to do what they did. I wanted to tell stories that allowed people to get that escape from their lives, their realities. Even if for a brief moment, let them be someone else, somewhere else, ya know.
What made you want to write fiction and when was your first book published?
I started as a poet and that’s still my core, my root. It taught me language and how to appreciate the way words sound together and can give the simplest things so much meaning. But, in 2006, I was divorcing my first husband and my life was like one series of unfortunate events after another. I had a girlfriend who called me “Sitcom” because she said all the mess that happened to me were things you usually only saw in situational comedies. She told me I should write my story because it was almost hard to believe. Eight years later, on my birthday in 2014, that story became my first novel, Vices.
Where do you draw inspiration for your subject matter?
I people watch. But I also draw from real life; my own and that of friends and family. They all have such interesting stories. People who know me read my books and ask if I was writing about them now. Lol. Honestly, most times, I am. I love to write people the way I see them. I have such a rose-lensed view of life and hope for humanity, that I often pull from their stronger, most endearing parts, and this makes the characters relatable, because they’re based on real people. I can see a person in the car beside me at the light, dancing to a song, or crying, or having a heated phone conversation and create an entire story about them before the light turns green. My imagination is on steroids.
What is your process in starting to write a book?
HA! That’s like asking Chef Emeril Lagasse his secret recipes. The only thing that’s really consistent with my writing, though, is my formula. My writing is a math equation. I plan the total word count that I desire for the book and then do the math to determine how long it’s gonna take me to get it done. As much as I love words, Math is my favorite and strongest subject. My formula is pretty simple. I write about 50 wpm. That’s 3,000 words an hour. So, if I want to write a 50,000 word manuscript, it usually takes me about 16 hours. For most people that’s 2 work shifts. And yes, I can write a full novel in 2 days, if I have no distractions.
But, and here’s the secret ingredient… The formula only works if I sit down and write. I have to put my butt in the chair, fingers to the keyboard, and let the words come one letter at a time. I’m a flow of consciousness writer, or pantser. I fly by the seat of my pants, literally. Sometimes, I outline, or fill out a character profile interview, but not often. I do, however, create playlists for my books. I pick a theme song for each character and, if I need inspiration to write for them, I put that song on repeat. I sit down, put my headphones, and allow my characters speak to me. They tell me their stories. I can see the scenes in my mind like a movie, I just put it into words. People look at me crazy when I say I hear voices, but that’s really how it happens. Even when I outline and do the character profiles, they can switch it up on me at the drop of a dime, and I’ve learned not to give them any lip about it, either.
Writing conversation is a difficulty I have in writing fiction. How do you develop your characters enough to write conversation between them and make it sound authentic?
Well, other than actually hearing the conversations in my head, I put myself into the mindset of the people I’m writing. When people ask me this question, I tell them to pay attention to their own conversations. Dialogue is nothing more than two people talking, being transcribed. Think about how you’d say it. Reading aloud helps, too, because you can hear how it flows, and where the hang-ups are. It should sound natural. People should be able to hear it in their heads when they read it.
Do you have any mentors or people that inspire you as a writer?
I have loads of them! Some are strangers whose level I want to get on, like JK Rowling, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Eric Jerome Dickey, and Terry McMillan. Others, and these are my mentors and people I know personally, Javacia Harris Bowser is a phenomenal writer and motivator, Michael Harriot is equally as dope, we can talk about writing for hours, and my biggest inspiration is my daughter, Mango Miner (Mango isn’t her given name, of course lol). She’s a better writer than I am, by far, and constantly challenges me to level up with my writing and try new things.
What’s the last book you read?
Published? Mine, A Bawss Love Story: Empress and Scar, but only because I had to edit it. I read about a book a day as an editor. But, I honestly can’t remember the last time I read for pleasure. Reading and writing for a living leaves very little time for recreational reading. But, I do have A Miracle of Catfish by Larry Brown, The Silent Waters by Brittainy Cherry, White Oleander by Janet Fitch (to reread), and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury in my luggage for an upcoming 4-day business trip. I binge read like most people binge watch shows on Netflix and Hulu.
How do you stay focused and meet your deadlines?
My focus is something people ask me about all the time. I always respond that I’m an android. My friends and family say I have a lithium battery in my back or something. Lol. But, in reality, I just have tunnel vision. It’s insane. Like, forget to eat, don’t sleep until I bang it out tunnel vision. I have a goal of retiring by the time I’m 40, so I have to push for the next 5 years to make that goal. I’ve always been a set my mind to it and make it happen kinda girl. I think it, and I can’t rest until it’s done. No matter what it is. But, the fact that I love what I do is at the heart of my focus. When it’s fun, it’s not work, and you don’t even realize how much time has passed, for real. And then, of course, there are my fans, who stay in my inbox asking me when the next book is coming. Knowing that you’re touching people is an amazing motivator.
What keeps you grounded in life outside of your writing?
My family, my friends, exercising and MUSIC. My family and I are very close-knit, and we laugh and joke with one another all the time. They remind me that I am human and I enjoy spending time with them, cooking dinner for them, and just sitting around doing nothing, or talking about whatever may be important in their lives at the time. We have dance parties and do yoga and meditate together. They make sure that I appreciate the living part of this life thing.
Then there are my friends. They’re my toughest critics, but it comes from such a loving place. I mean, they want me to win, and know that it’s impossible if they pull their punches. My friends are the best. They’re the no holds barred, you can get mad but you’ll get over it, no git that ish done kinds of people. They don’t let me get a big head, and they don’t let me do too much and run myself in the ground, either. They keep me balanced.
The gym is my refuge. I get my best ideas on the treadmill. I can sweat out my frustrations on the weights. And when I’m done, I feel like I can take over the world. My head’s clear, I feel feel great, and I’m have the strength to push through when I feel tired. I’m such a gym rat, man.
And, MUSIC is bae. Any mood that you’re in, there’s a song for it. Music can motivate you to run a mile or bawl your eyes out. It helps me stay centered. I have a playlist that I listen to when I want to get crunk and start my day, a midday pep-up playlist, and my Classical focus music for editing.
You have a new release that just came out 4/10. Can you tell us a little about this book and let people know where they can pick up a copy?
A Bawss Love Story: Empress and Scar is an urban romance about a woman who loved a man so much that she lost herself. Even through his betrayal. She meets a man who has been in love with her, but she can’t give him an honest shot because she’s afraid of being hurt again, and the fact that she’s really never let her husband go. But, when her life is in danger, she has to decide whether she’s going to live for herself, or die for love. It’s a standalone novel, 94,000 words. I had so much fun writing the characters in this novel that I’m working on a spin-off as we speak. It released in the Top 20 for Urban Fiction and African-American Urban Romance, has received great reviews, and is still holding strong on Amazon’s Best Seller List.
(Click the following link for a sneak peek of A Bawss Love Story – Empress and Scar – Joi Miner Chapters 1-3)
How many books have you written to date?
Including my poetry collections, I’ve written 14 books to date. I have 4 poetry collections, Graffitied Gypsy and Fun House Mirrors, (both out of print), Socioanthropologicfeminisms, and Outrun The Night. My novels are Vices (out of print), A Good Girl with Bad Habits 1 & 2, Side Piece Chronicles: A Durty South Love Story, Side Piece Chronicles 2: Tammy and Tyrone, Side Piece Chronicles: Delilah’s Revenge, Magnum and Bussa: Above the Law, Magnum and Bussa 2: Protect Your King, Pharaoh’s Gold: A Hip Hop Love Story, and A Bawss Love Story: Empress and Scar. I’ve also been published in two anthologies, Shades of Fear: A Charity Anthology and, more recently, With You Is Where I Belong: A Valentine’s Day Anthology.
Do you have any advice for someone that wants to write a book?
Do it. That simple. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Just sit down and do it. Don’t spend too much time planning it out, thinking about it, talking about it. Just do it. People think that I’m being sarcastic when they come telling me about their book and I ask them how many words they’ve written. Normally, they say none. To which I reply that that’s not a book, that’s an idea. A book happens when you start writing. There are so many “aspiring authors” out there. But, the only way to drop the “aspiring” is to get your ass in gear and write. The world needs your story, as only you can tell it. Stop depriving them. And, don’t worry who won’t like it. They have to read it to make that decision, don’t they? Everybody has an opinion, so please don’t take their opinions to heart. Find the lesson in it, and keep it moving. As the saying goes… “Opinions are like…” Well, you know the rest. 😛
What’s next for you?
Writing, writing, and more writing. I have 6 urban fiction novels, two contemporary novels, a historical romance, and a psychological thriller in the works. Other than that, releasing our publishing company’s authors’ works, editing, a mixtape, a clothing line, and an online magazine, are the things I have planned for this year. We have 3 authors who are working hard to get their novels ready for release in May, and writing short stories for our quarterly anthology. Our editorial company, Urban Fiction Editors, LLC, just landed a huge contract. My poetry fans have been asking for something new, so I’m planning to release a spoken word mixtape this summer. I have about 50 designs for my clothing line that’s set to release this summer. My online magazine will launch this fall. I’m a busy body and love to try my hands at new things and provide platforms for other aspiring artists.I mean, the sky’s the limit for all of us, right?
Want to know more and find out when Joi has new releases? Follow her here:
Twitter & Instagram: @joiminer
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Joi-Miner/e/B00IJQ3DTW/
Pen Bangaz Publications (Co-Owner): www.penbangazpublications.com