Aug 26, 2014

Interview with T.A. Miles

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?
As many writers will say, “I’ve been writing from a young age”. For me, there were two distinct points of transition that I recall growing up where I specifically realized that I wanted to be a writer. The first happened at age 11. My parents have always been heavy readers and, living in California at the time, we had the advantage of many authors traveling through on book tours. It must have dawned on me just then, speaking to people who wrote for a living that it could in fact be a career. I decided that it would be mine, however there was one stipulation to this determination I had come to with myself: I would never write novels, because I didn’t think I could ever tell a story in quite so many words as that.
The second phase of my metamorphosis from dreamer to writer happened at age 16. I don’t know why I recall the precise moment so well, but I was at the mall with my dad. We were waiting outside of a store for my mom to make a purchase. I told him with no lead in to the topic that I had decided I was going to write a novel. I did. It was awful. I submitted it for publication immediately to one of the then larger houses in the business. Rejection came swiftly(actually, it took a very, very long time to hear back from an editor).  And thus was born my determination/defiance; I was going to share stories with the world and no one was going to stop me.

Is being an Author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen? The best and worst thing about it?
Being an author was not so premeditated as dreaming of being one. I had always loved to daydream and envision fantastical things, beings, and scenarios in my mind. I never watched a movie or read a book without considering the many, many different possibilities that could have been or what I might do in similar situations(I still don’t). I would do things like stare out of the bus window during field trips, convincing myself that there were entire societies of sensational people and at least one unicorn hidden among the forests and foothills…or among the clouds, or beneath the surface of the water, or building cities amid the leaves of a solitary tree(I still do). Turning these daydreams and considerations into stories was an evolution…maybe a spontaneous mutation. In my consistent state as a dreamer and storyteller, I considered being other things(marine biologist, astronomer, dancer, violinist, etc) before ultimately deciding that those aspirations were characters talking. And that’s the best thing about writing; the characters. I love these people, even when I cannot stand what they do or they terrify me. The worst thing about writing is that the physical process of typing takes so long.

What was the very first thing you ever wrote?
The very first thing that I remember writing was a Halloween story in the third grade. The protagonist was a jack-o-lantern, antagonized by a witch who probably wanted to use him in the creation of a potion. I really don’t remember the plot, but it came with crayon illustration and in the end was the selected winner of my grade level(featured in the hallway) and my very first royalties consisted of a gift certificate for a Happy Meal.

What made you create (your book)?  How did it come to you?
Blood Lilies came to me eerily similar to the way it came to Korsten; via Analee.  I was sat in my living room at the time, listening to Delrium(pre-vocalists Delerium) and flipping through a calendar of artwork by Daniel Merriam I’d recently purchased.  It was the piece ‘Scarlet’s Flight’ that awakened Korsten’s red butterfly.  Korsten came along shortly thereafter, much calmer than readers meet him at the beginning of Blood Lilies. As often happens, I’d met him after a lot had already gone on in his life.

Who is your literary hero?
I’m not one for heroes, believing that every success is accomplished by the contributions and inspirations of many. That may culminate in an heroic moment or act by an individual, but there are many torch bearers along the way. I experience stories with that point of view and for that I tend to despise most ‘heroes’ in literature. My appreciation for the ‘secondary’ characters is usually much stronger. One of the characters who stands out the most in literature is Le Morte D’Arthur’s Tristram. So much smiting by that one.

How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
None. I like to consider that characters exist already—that they’re not created by me—and I meet them when they’re ready to talk. There are some characters I discover that I can identify with more for one reason or another or who may remind me of someone I know, but there’s never a point where I sit down to ‘create’ a character and equip them with traits. They are who they are. It’s my job to witness them and to discover all that entails.

Describe your main character in six words.
The bane of his own existence.

Describe the world you’ve created in six words.
Socially fractured, politically scattered, religiously conflicted

What scene was your favorite to write?
The scene I think about the most after writing it(which may render it my favorite) is the confrontation with Bael. I knew when he and Korsten met at that point that it was going to be a point of ‘do or die’ for Korsten, following directly on the heels of another similar moment. This was a point where he learned that his new life would have no regard for fatigue and that completing one task earned him neither trophy nor rest. He was now, for certain, an active agent in a war. And I think what I liked most about that moment with Bael was that Korsten made the choice not to be an agent of death or retribution, but of mercy. It was fun for me to write because I write unscripted(no drafts or planning) and I was as much witness to his actions in that moment as a reader.

What scene was the hardest for you to write?
I am so lost in the character when I write(they really do the writing themselves) that I never really consider any writing hard in the technical sense. The difficulty comes of experiencing the hard moments they go through. In all of what Korsten went through in Blood Lilies, his time in the prison tower was the hardest for me to get through with him. He was angry, he was exhausted, he was humiliated…it was extremely draining and emotional for him, and for me after the fact. I experience dramatic mood shifts and outbursts of emotion when I’m writing. After his experience in the tower I was as much a wreck as he was.

What are you working on now?
Blood Lilies and Blood Song are finished, so I’m currently working on Blood Reign.  It will be the final book in the Blood Wars Trilogy. Some of the things Korsten is uncovering…well, I hesitate to say too much.

Goals? Accomplishments? Improvements?
My primary goal is to keep listening to characters and putting words down. In the realm of accomplishments, I feel that with as vast a population as I have crowding into my sphere of existence, they’ve done a reasonable job speaking in turn so that I can get stories written and published(so far without threat of institutionalization). There have been times when there are just so many of them talking I get overwhelmed with who to listen to first. Raventide Books currently has nine publications out, five of them novels. We began publishing late in 2011, so I think we’re moving at a decent pace. Improvements…this is where I contradict myself. I have so many characters talking that I just want to share them all now, which means I need to write faster. That said, I have no intention of rushing them(but there’s so much that needs to get written!). I don’t know if it’s my pace or my patience with the publishing process that needs improving.

Are there any authors or books you recommend?
I feel that my tastes are a tad on the weird(unpopular) side, so when I make recommendations I don’t expect that most will like them that much, especially in consideration of the recent market. I would recommend Paula Volsky for the vividness of her environments and the variety of culture explored in her books. I would also recommend any collection of old stories from China or Japan just to give oneself a view of fairytales through a different lens than Western. The ghost stories are particularly interesting.

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
Think about characters. I do that literally every waking hour(and very often while I’m sleeping). As I type the answers to these questions, I’m carrying on active conversations with one or more characters. Only the physical act of writing is ever set aside for me. And when I’m not physically typing, I and characters enjoy taking walks more than anything else. Painting follows very closely.