Daniel Miller on "Old Wives' Tales"
It's a new year, a new website, and soon, we'll have a new issue, but we haven't completely left the past behind. Over the holidays, we took some time to speak with Issue 66 contributor, Daniel Miller, about his flash piece, "Old Wives' Tales," and here's what he had to say:
What first sparked the idea of your piece, “Old Wives’ Tales”?
I’ve always been interested in Old Wives’ Tales and other types of folklore, so it seemed natural to draw from those kind of stories in my own fiction. One particular Tale sparked the vignettes, though: the idea of a girl shaving and shaving and eventually suffocating in her own hair as it became thicker and thicker.
How did you go about choosing the tales? I, myself, remembering hearing most of these when I was younger. Would you say it was mostly the result of personal experience (from hearing them, yourself, when you were younger) or research?
This was actually much harder than I expected it to be because some stories I wanted to write seemed to fit the description of an urban legend, or some other kind of folktale. I was familiar with and had heard most of them, but I had to do a bit of research to find the Apple Splitting tale. Whether through classmates or my mother, I definitely have heard of and even feared most of these tales.
How and why did you decide upon the style and structure of “Old Wives’ Tales”? How do you think the piece benefits the most from it?
I’m pretty sure flash-fiction is all I know how to write, so that confines my structure a bit, and I wanted to write about as many tales as I could, so vignettes seemed really natural for the piece. I think it benefits from such constraints because the piece really forced/allowed me to forget about plotting and focus of imagery and style!
Some writers have some really weird methods. Is there anything you feel you absolutely have to do in order to get in the mood to write? Do you feel you have an established process?
I have such terrible writing habits, but I try to get out about 250 words per day when I’m working
on something. I do have a weird superstition, though. I can’t title a story or save it with a titled name before its finished or I feel that I’ll never actually finish it. I also can’t let anyone read any of it until a draft is done for the same reason.
Were you reading anything at the time you feel inspired your writing? Or do you have any go-to writers who motivate/inspire you?
Oh man, this is a tough question. I had just finished Joseph Aguilar’s hybrid collection, Half Out Where, and his work always leaves me wanting to write. Other go-to writers who remind me how fun and strange writing can be: Alissa Nutting; Matt Bell; Kelly Link; Diane Cook.
What’s your favorite line from the piece?
“The children are bright and red and crisp-skinned, falling from the tree onto the grass below.”
Daniel Miller lives in Missouri, where he is finishing his MA in Creative Writing. His work has appeared in Heavy Feather Review, Whiskey Island, Zone 3, and Puerto del Sol among other places, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
For more information about Daniel and his work, you can go to his website: www.danielscottmiller.com and follow him on twitter: @danielmiller01