Hayley Kirley interviews NKU professor Andrew Miller about his experience at NKU as well as his writing. Miller describes his creation of the creative writing program, his writing style, and his plans after leaving NKU.
HK: You created the creative writing program here at NKU. Can you give some context on how that process began?
AM: When I started at NKU we had 3 writing courses: intro to creative writing, one fiction writing class, and one poetry writing class. They were sharing screenplay writing with the theater department—that was it. When I was hired in 2000, I decided that I wanted to teach more than what was offered. Even before I got hired for the full time job, I created what we still use—the ENG 358 course. I eventually wound up using that class to pilot creative nonfiction before it became its own class. We still use it today; I’m teaching it right now, ENG 358—writing the superhero. At the same time I was adding classes I also said we needed to have more faculty members. It didn’t make sense to only have one faculty member commenting on their creative stories. I was trying to build a program that students would want to take but also what we were able to teach; play it off of student interests and faculty strengths.
HK: Can you explain your writing style?
AM: I don’t know if I have one writing style. I have a couple modes I write—there are all kinds of different things I write. I write contemporary fantasy, poetry, often mythological, but also some very personal writing which tends to be borderline creative nonfiction/poetry. I also have humor. So there are several different writing styles that I write in depending on what I’m writing for and what I want to write at the time. Sometimes I might start one way and then it turns out the other way. It all depends. There are a lot of themes that come up; water is a big theme that comes up a lot. More recently I’ve been deliberately exploring a lot more gay and lesbian characters in my writing. It also depends on what I’m writing. My poetry is a bit different than my fiction. I do humor in my poetry as well.
HK: How do you write to the reader?
AM: I don’t know if I write to the reader. Very seldom do I sit down and write to a reader. When I sit down to write, I write to me. Normally, I write what I want to write. As a reader I know what I like to read so I have that reader in mind; me as a reader but not necessarily them as a reader. I don’t sit down and say, “who am I writing this for?” Mostly I write for that reader in me.
HK: On your blog you write that you often write “speculative” pieces (science fiction/fantasy). How do you think that this kind of writing deepens the meaning of your writing?
AM: Part of it deepens the meaning. I use a lot of mythology because a lot of mythology speaks to so many different things to everybody–it’s the reason it’s been around for a long time. Again, though, that is the inner reader in me–that’s what I like to read so that’s what I like to write. I think the genre doesn’t determine inherent quality. One of the criticisms often used against genre fiction is that it’s formulaic. I see the same things in contemporary realistic fiction and literary fiction. In speculative fiction, yes, there are some people who follow formulas but there are some people who far exceed those formulas. Mostly the reason why I use ‘speculative’ elements is because it is what I like to write or like to read and what I’m interested in. Frequently, I also bring that into the art world—trying to imagine what if these characters existed now and what would they be doing. I just think that’s a fun exercise to do.
HK: Do you have any direct influences on your work?
AM: I have always been interested in mythology. I have always been using mythology. With mythology, I try to go back to the source material—you can never capture how they were worshipped—but the abilities you can use and then their characterization. I want to make them recognizable in the mythic aspects. I also think it’s interesting to take the mythic and make it human. Most of the time the gods never acted like humans or they acted like the worst of humans so then I try to write them as if they were more sympathetic.
HK: What are your plans after leaving NKU in the Spring?
AM: There are a couple of things I want to do. One is doing more writing. I want to explore some other artistic avenues like photography or something along those lines. I want to do something that’s individual arts. I also bought a business recently. I collect animation art, comic art, and I’m thinking of opening up a gallery of animation and possibly doing workshops there. It’s in the West-side of Cincinnati in Green Township right off of 74 Harrison.