Where Readers & Writers Connect
How much of your real life experiences show up in your fiction?
As a writer, I’m a vulture, feeding off the carcass of my life and other peoples’. Usually, it’s just bits and pieces—an experience here, a personality trait there, a deeply etched emotion, a pivotal relationship.
In The Art of My Life Henna shows up as a secondary character who grows pot in the back yard and has obviously smoked one doobie too many over the years. She is a loveable, comical character who fractures clichés much like my mother did in her waning years with Altzheimer’s. I use a funny story that actually happened. Mom insisted that while she was in the grocery store someone stole eighteen pair of her panties out of her laundry basket which was setting in the passenger seat of her car. And the would-be thief replaced her pristine grandmamma undies with eighteen ratty pair.
Starr, who has a more predominant role in the story is a repressed ballet teacher. I took ballet as a child to correct my inward-turning feet. I also struggle with repression. Starr and I rebelled from bohemian upbringings into conservatism. Starr’s hyper-critical attitude toward her son, however, I borrowed from my father’s personality. Both Starr and I heard from our fathers, “I’ll give you something to cry about,” when we cried.
Cal went to jail, had a love affair with marijuana. Close relatives have done the same. Aly fights my leftover Catholic guilt. Fish holds grudges like I do. Aly falls overboard like I did as a kid. Leaf and my late father were Willie Nelson look-alikes.
I, like my characters. have always inhabited the bottom rung of the middle class. We all drive beater cars my kids call POSes (Ahem, you’ll have to figure that one out yourself).
Because I am a spiritual person, my characters wrestle or refuse to wrestle with issues of faith.
Are there recurring themes from your life you revisit in fiction?
In The Art of My Life I focus on an adult child overcoming diminished self-esteem due to a critical parent, forgiving people who have deeply hurt us, overcoming self-condemnation when we breach our personal moral code—all issues I have dealt with.
The Art of My Life features a male main character. Where did you draw your insight from? I’ve been surrounded by guys my whole life. My closest relationship growing up was with my father, toxic though it may have been. My only sibling is male. Three of my four children are guys. My husband grants me access to dive in and poke around in the male psyche. But I’m still learning. This year’s big discovery is that most guys could care less about matching—they don’t really give a flip whether they walk out the door with brown pants, brown shoes, and a coordinating shirt. Just last week my sons told me you have to “train” a beard. Who knew?
Tell us a little about The Art of My Life.
Here’s the back cover:
Cal walked out of jail and into a second chance at winning Aly with his grandma’s beater sailboat and a reclaimed dream of sailing charters. Aly has the business smarts, strings to a startup loan, and heart he never should have broken. He’s got squat. Unless you count enough original art to stock a monster rummage sale and an affection for weed. But he’d only ever loved Aly. That had to count for something. Aly needed a guy who owned yard tools, tires worth rotating, and a voter’s registration card. He’d be that guy or die trying. For anyone who’s ever struggled to measure up. And failed.
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Barnes And Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-art-of-my-life-ann-lee-miller/1112910892?ean=2940015675597
Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t writing or muddling through some crisis—real or imagined—you’ll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her husband or meddling in her kids’ lives.