Four on the Floor with CD Miller
Four on the Floor with CD Miller
Bio: CD Miller is a fantasy and horror author. Dark Heights is his first published novel, now available from Serial Box. He is hard at work on many projects, including an epic-fantasy-remix series of novels, literary superhero fiction, and a novel of character-driven, alternate-universe fantasy.
James Gallagher: Who are your main influences, and how do they work their way into your fiction?
CD Miller: I’ll start with Alan Moore, since he’s definitely one of my top influences, though I think my writing tends to be much less political than his.
In terms of narrative structure there’s really no one better — that feeling, when you finish reading Watchmen, that you have to reread it right away because you missed so many allusions and connections — and there’s a real playfulness with the reader, the way Moore employs so many tricks and traps. Something I love to do.
The other major influence on my writing is Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For me, watching that series really changed the way I approach character, in particular how the world of Buffy, fantastical and kind of ridiculous, becomes so firmly grounded just through characterization and the stubbornness of those writers refusing to treat their characters as anything other than real people.
James: What do you find most exciting about the serial format? What are its challenges?
CD: Writing serial fiction can be stressful because each chapter or episode has to hook the reader in all over again. You can’t take a chapter off to do some world-building, like you’d be able to do in a big old traditional fantasy novel.
I don’t think it’s necessary to have each chapter end in a cliffhanger, though that’s certainly an easy way to approach it. If you read Dickens’s serial novels closely, in every single chapter he’s carefully adding one more brick to the building, and this consistency guarantees the reader’s buy-in: “Well, I need to read this serial next week to see how everything takes shape.” This kind of storytelling is in fact great discipline for any writer, and it’s a lot of fun.
James: What role has editing played in your development as a writer?
CD: Dark Heights went through professional editing at Serial Box, and it was an absolutely essential process. My early drafts tend to be spare and lean, and my rewrites usually involve adding weight and detail to the skeleton.
However, even when I was blithely happy with the finished fiction, the editing process was like a flashlight that illuminated all the dark corners where things were still underwritten. Without some objective distance from the writing, which is what an editor has, it’s simply impossible to pick up on all the elements of your story that don’t have clarity, that don’t belong, that need a little more help to achieve expression.
James: What recent books, movies, or TV series have you singing their praises?
CD: Like a lot of people, I really enjoyed Stranger Things 3. That mix of ’80s nostalgia and horror/monster fantasy is something I’ll never be tired of.
There has been a lot of criticism of Hopper’s toxic masculinity, but I kind of loved how flawed and wrong they made him. I don’t think the writers were suggesting his behavior was acceptable — rather, the opposite.
The book I’ve most enjoyed recently is City of Devils by Paul French, a snapshot of Shanghai in the 1930s. I can’t really recall reading a nonfiction book where the prose style was so aggressively tuned in to the subject material.
French’s sentences, loaded with slang from the time and place, are wielded like the sharp edge of a weapon, cutting you out of wherever you are, replacing your reality with his. What an amazing read.
To learn more about CD Miller, visit the Dark Heights website or follow him on Twitter. You can also jump over to Patreon to support CD’s writing projects.