Star interview: poet and novelist Kei Miller
Forward Prize-winning poet Kei Miller has written one of our novels of the year with Augustown, out on 14 July. Read our exclusive interview with Kei in the August issue of Writing Magazine. Scroll down to find out more about Kei and watch videos of him reading his poems.
Kei Miller on...
• The writer’s continual process of discovery:
‘I still think I’m discovering what I’m going to write. As a kid, the writer that most inspired me was Sidney Sheldon. I thought I was going to write these revenge sagas. Cheesy soap operas. But the project of what I want to write keeps transforming itself.
• Accepting what kind of writer you are:
‘One of the things I’ve had to come to terms with is 100% I’m a writer. With certain kinds of experiences and a certain kind of mind. This is the kind of fiction that I write. People who can think complicated thoughts through fiction – I’m jealous of that kind of writer.’
• The way a character can reveal itself to the writer, and surprise its creator:
‘Ma Taffy? Who is she based on? I hadn’t thought about it but she is probably the first character that honestly came to me, sentence by sentence. When the rats got to her eyes I did not know how ‘til I wrote that sentence. As the sentences came I knew who she was. I don’t think I’d ever quite done that before.’
• How he writes:
‘This is the tenth year that I’ve been published, about ten books in ten years. It would seem as if I’ve been writing every day, but that’s not so. It comes quickly when it comes but in my mind there are huge fallow periods. When I’ve written a poetry collection I won’t write poetry for two years. I’m disciplined when I am writing. Even when I’m out and chatting and drinking, I’m thinking “what would that character do next”?’
• Teaching creative writing:
‘I do enjoy teaching – which is a surprise. I really did think that the only thing I can do is writing. One of the things I like about teaching is that you can give very specific advice about very specific problems.’
• Advice for writers on finding, and reading books that will change the way they see the world:
‘Read read read. It’s standard advice. I’d always tell people not just to read a lot, but to not waste time reading what people are telling them to read. Part of being a writer is finding what energises you. What blows your own mind. I’ve seen would-be writers struggling to read a book someone tells them is great and I think, why waste your time on that? There is something about finding the books you fall utterly in love with and reading them again and again and thinking about the nature of the magic in that book and why it affects me. You discover something in your own craft. You genuinely have to discover your own reading list on your own. The very specificity of who you are – find the book, the author, that blows your mind, and then understand the magic.’