The Next Big Thing – Ali Miller

Ali Miller

I’m very pleased to have my first guest writer on Blood On Forgotten Walls. The Next Big Thing is a means for local writers to connect with each other and share their current projects. Each writer answers some questions about their next big thing and nominates a few others to do the same. One of the people I nominated was Ali Miller, who has answered the Next Big Thing questions below. Ali’s novel sounds amazing, and I can’t wait to read it.

1. What is the title of your latest novel?

Smoke Signals.

2. Where did the idea for the novel come from?

Clichéd as it sounds it came from a dream. I had this dream about a boy who bled tears, I’m not one for mystical things really, but the image it left was so vivid I decided to work it into a short story; the story then grew and grew into something else that could only be contained and explored by a novel.

3. What genre does your novel fall under?

I’m not good with genre, I find it a bit of an outdated way to categorise books but if pushed I’d say it’s experimental.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie?

For the boy who now cries blood I’d say Paul Dano. He’d be perfect at conveying the mix of creepy and compelling the character possesses. Female protagonist is a tough one, she thinks she’s pretty streetwise and clued up but actually she’s vulnerable and a whole lot naïve. Let’s just say the casting process for that part would be a long one.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your novel?

An investigative journalist goes to report on a sect based in the Wisconsin woods who believe writing to be a sin and speech to represent God, whilst there she begins to uncover a plot further reaching than she could’ve imagined.

6. Will your novel be self-published or represented by an agency?

Agency hopefully, I don’t think I’ve got the discipline I’d need to self-publish.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

The first draft is still ongoing. I don’t like reading my work back after I’ve written which means the first draft tends to be quite a painstaking process since I’m trying to get it as ‘right’ as I can first time. Then I leave it until I can face the cringing that inevitably comes with reading and revising the draft. I’m about half way through and have been polishing as I go so hopefully will be done by the end of February.

8. What other stories would you compare this story to within your genre?

Maybe the most obvious comparison would be The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus. I feel slightly (massively) uncomfortable comparing my work to his – since he’s a big influence and handles his subject beautifully – but they’re both works exploring the anxiety of language and to a certain extent religion, so the comparison is someway justified. Also there are echoes of Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, it’s a pretty conceptual book but handled simply which is something I’ve tried to achieve. I don’t want to write something difficult for the sake of it, but there is a complexity of ideas there underneath the surface.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this story?

This time last year I was studying the MA Creative Writing at Napier University, this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, both personally and academically. During the winter months we were heavily immersed in theory, it was then I first met Jacques Derrida. His writing on Plato’s Pharmacy kick started the thinking behind the work, I became obsessed with the idea of the supplement and trying to separate speech from writing, all this thinking began to form a cohesive whole as I worked on the novel, and is reflected in the work.

10. What else about your story might pique the reader’s interest?

I’ve probably made it all sound a little bit theoretical and not massively interesting, but it has been described as a thriller and it is a pretty fast paced read. The theory is there if the reader wants to find it but it doesn’t swallow the story.

11. What’s next?

I’m trying to get some semblance of normality and sanity back after the birth of my son three weeks ago so the what next question is a little scary, but here goes. Finishing the novel by the end of the winter whilst concurrently working on a non-fiction proposal I’d like to start work on in earnest by the summer. Non-fiction for me is pretty exciting, I think writers like John Jeremiah Sullivan and Craig Taylor are breathing new life into the form and it’s an avenue I’d like to explore more.


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