Candi Miller Interview
Posted on 31 July 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to novelist Candi Miller
Tell us something about your background.
I did a degree in journalism in South Africa then went on to work in advertising, as a copywriter, for more than a decade - in South Africa and America. I can confirm that advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on!
In the UK I did a bit of feature writing for home interest magazines while dabbling in short stories, some of which enjoyed modest success.
I’ve just completed my first novel, Salt & Honey, after ten years of tinkering with it: writing, rewriting, researching, starting over, being rejected, abandoning and finally resurrecting the ms…..your readers know the process. Mine was the usual agonising route to publication, but I think I did shoot myself in the foot several times along the way, (more about how not to on my blog: http://saltandhoney.blogspot.com) so I’ve probably hobbled forward more slowly and painfully than most.
I’ve tutored creative writing for six years now and love the work. The writing students, adult or undergrad, are inspiring. I learn as much from teaching them as I hope they do from me. In my novel, Salt & Honey, the protagonist comes from a tribe who have a custom called Hxaro , a system of mutual gift exchange. Hxaro is what tutoring writing is for me.
Currently I teach Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton.
How did you start writing?
In my early twenties, I walked in on my boyfriend in bed with another woman – a woman much older than me. As I stood appalled I realised I was more fascinated by the detail than I should have been under the circumstances – for example, she sprang naked from his bed, breasts and belly sagging, and the first thing she did was put on her very large, very dark sunglasses. I raced home to write up the scene.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
Nadine Gordimer writes my South African life, as I never could.
Keri Hulme’s controversial Booker winner, The Bone People was seminal for me. The way she creates new words or ways of writing familiar ones, excited me, as did her themes.
I think Margaret Atwood is the greatest structuralist writing today. I believe structure is the most difficult technique we writers must master, so big-up Maggie.
Finally, I love the exuberance in Salman Rushdie’s writing. For me, it’s like spending time with a clever, show-off, hyperactive child – both engaging and exhausting.
How did you get your agent?
The agent thing is embarrassing. I haven’t been able to get one at all. In fact, it’s doubly embarrassing because I wrote a chapter in the ubiquitous The Creative Writing Coursebook called “Agents and How to Get One”. I must have tried close on 20 agents without success over the years.
I wish I could rewrite that chapter now. I’d call it “Publishers and How to Get One.”
Tips in my blog.
What's the worst thing about writing?
Sitting on your bottom, all alone in front of the keyboard, for days, months, years on end.
And the best?
Not caring, because the writing is going so well.
Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.
My novel launched on July 29, so that remains to be seen. But one of the reasons I’ve set up the blog is to get response. Talk to me, readers.
What was your breakthrough moment?
Two moments. The first when I pulled Salt & Honey out of the bottom drawer after a three-year hiatus and found myself enjoying the story.
The second when my publisher, Tom Chalmers of Legend Press, said he really liked it. I was so thrilled I asked him to marry me. He looked relieved when he discovered I was already married, but of course he was gallant about it.
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