Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Chris Miller

Meghan: Hi, Chris. Welcome to my Halloween Extravaganza. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Chris Miller: Well, I’m 36 years old, so in the final year of my mid-thirties (it’s all downhill from here, I’m told). I work for a water well company my father started the year I was born as my day job, but by night—and Saturday mornings—I write books! I’m married with three beautiful kids and we live East Texas.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Chris Miller: I’m a major softy is one thing. I think a good gin is the height of perfection for liquor. I really despise all political parties and the candidates they put forth. I’m deeply religious (Catholic). And I cannot stand to see—much less even touch—wet paper, specifically paper napkins, straw covers, tissues that have gotten moist somehow… I can’t deal.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Chris Miller: I read a lot of Hardy Boys mysteries as a kid, and eventually got into R.L. Stine’s Fear Street and Goosebumps books, but the first adult novel I read was The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. Man, I loved that book!

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Chris Miller: Stinger by Robert R. McCammon. Very good so far, as is all of McCammon’s work. Phenomenal writer.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Chris Miller: A little gem called Letters Written in White by my friend Kathryn Perez. She’s local too, lives in my hometown. Terrific little book. Tore my heart from behind my meat shirt and made me weep. Not suspense, not horror, not thriller. Just a well written drama with some strong elements of romance. And I loved it.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Chris Miller: I’ve always liked telling stories, and I get really animated when I do. Like idiotically so. And I would tend to embellish a lot, and it just made more sense to start telling fictional stories. First thing I wrote was an unofficial sequel to the Narnia series which would ignore everything after the first one. But it sucked hard and fast and I didn’t make it ten pages. But I was only about ten at the time. At 18 I wrote a short story. That was my first real and complete story I’d written. I’ve been on and off since then, and really got serious about it about 5 years ago, and I write as much as I can every week.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Chris Miller: I don’t know if it’s special, but it’s where I normally write, which is my front living room where my iMac is. I’ve done it at work as well when things are slow enough, but that’s rare and there’s always distractions and interruptions. It’s nice and quiet at my desk at home.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Chris Miller: I prefer to write with a glass of gin and soda with lime in front of me. I just sip it when I slow down for a bit or rest my fingers. But when it isn’t there, I feel naked, and only my wife and satanic perverts want to see me naked. Actually, not even sure my wife does. Coffee is a good substitute for this.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Chris Miller: I wrote a story called “In The House”, which is in the anthology Killers Inside. I was writing about a home invasion, which is the scariest thing in the world to me. But as I was writing, I realized that one of the villains was going to rape and brutalize the mother of the home. I don’t write extreme horror, so I wanted to insinuate as much as possible without flat out saying what was happening, you know, let the reader fill in the gaps. But in parts it just wasn’t possible. After the scene was done, I felt almost sick. I can’t think of a more humiliating and horrible thing a person could do to another person. But the story is king, and drives all the action and terror that follows. But I had to stop writing on that story for the rest of the day and go shower.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Chris Miller: The Damned Place, which was published earlier this year. I’m REALLY proud of that book. And it’s my longest one at this time.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Chris Miller: IT has been a great inspiration for me, especially in character development. The Hunt for Red October and plenty of other suspense books have inspired me to achieve a fever pitch of suspense on the page. There’s nothing better. Stephen King, Dean Koontz (his pacing in the old days, Holy Mother, was that incredible!), Robert McCammon, Jonathan Janz, Brian Keene, Ray Garton (who gave a blurb for the cover of my second novel, The Hard Goodbye), Josh Malerman, Caroline Kepnes, and a thousand others have all been big influences on my personal style.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Chris Miller: Good characters. They’re more important than the plot. You can take a ho-hum idea, but if you have great characters, you could very well have a great book. Of course, ideally, you’ll have great characters and a great story as well.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Chris Miller: Realism. Flaws. Insight into why they are the way they are. You can even love the vilest of villains if they’re properly drawn and developed. That’s a total must.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Chris Miller: Harry Fletcher and Jim Dalton are both pretty good candidates, but if I had to pick just one, probably Harry.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Chris Miller: A bad cover sucks. I don’t let it be my deciding factor, but it’s sure nice to not cringe when you look at a book. So far, I’ve been very involved in all my covers, going back and forth with the designer and what I wanted until we finally saw it materialize. Who knows if that will continue, but so far that’s been the case.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Chris Miller: A LOT. I’ve learned about shaping worlds and characters and learned how to listen to them and let THEM tell the story. Follow their lead. I’ve also learned a lot on the technical side of things as well as marketing and networking.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Chris Miller: The rape scene from “In the House”. It just hurt.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Chris Miller: The level of suspense and intensity to the stories. I’ve figured out how to really ratchet up the tension and take things to a really explosive, satisfying climax. Even some of the best out there seem to miss this mark sometimes. It was another of the myriad reasons I started writing myself, because this is what I wanted to read, and no one out there was doing it quite the way I wanted it done. So I’m filling that void.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Chris Miller: It’s important. Quite important. Sometimes the title comes more easily than others. Sometimes you write a line in the story and realize you just found your title. Other times it comes to you with the idea for the book. Yet other times, you have several ideas you have to bounce off people. It should convey something about the story, but not give anything away. And when the reader finishes they should ‘get’ why the title is what it is.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Chris Miller: A novel. Reason being it just feels good to finish a large scale story, especially when it really comes together and works. I can pump a short story out in an afternoon, and some that I have are in anthologies. I love doing that as well, and I’m proud of my shorts, but I’m even more proud of my longer work.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Chris Miller: I tend to call myself a suspense writer. Most of my short fiction falls into the horror category, and my longer fiction are thrillers, supernatural thriller, hard-boiled crime, and now with The Damned Place a full-blooded horror story. But even with my thrillers, they are written in a horroresque manner of prose. They always brush elbows with horror, even if they’re technically more properly labeled as thrillers. Anyone who loves suspense and can handle some gore should love my work. As for what I want them to take away, more than anything, entertainment. I have some morals weaved into the work and some things to think about for sure, but if I don’t entertain you, I’ve failed. Books should be fun before they’re anything else. And that’s my goal.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Chris Miller: The original version of A Murder of Saints was actually written to be “Christian Fiction” because it’s inspired around some things that actually happened in a youth group at a church I was going to as a teenager, and dealt with some heavy things. So I didn’t have any coarse language and it had this happy sunny ending. Then I looked at it and said, “That’s shit.” So I fixed it. Chopped out four entire chapters, put a LOT more story into what was left, let the dirty words fly, and made an ending that stays with you long after you finish. It’s the only novel I’ve written that I did such an overhaul on, and I don’t plan to do that again. Don’t need to, either, since I won’t be writing for the CF market directly again. That story may have been set around a church scandal and had some heavy Christian influences and debates in it—I am a Christian, after all—but it really wasn’t that sort of story you’d file in Christian Fiction.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Chris Miller: I have a fantasy novel finished in first draft, a suspense horror novella finished in first draft, and another suspense novella that is unfinished. I’ll get around to them eventually, I’ve just been so busy with everything else that I haven’t really given them the attention they need. One day they’ll see the light of day.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Chris Miller: A lot more horror. I’ve created a universe with all my books where all the characters exist together and sometimes cross over into other stories or are mentioned here and there. I’ve also developed a multi-verse that I plan to explore as these other novels come out and set the stage for what’s to come. And I do plan to write a lengthier comedy. I’ve done two short stories which were comedy, and they were hilarious. I’d like to see if I could manage that with something longer. Maybe a novella.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Chris Miller: You can find me on Facebook or search and add me. If you’re not a creep, I’ll add you. Twitter. Instagram. I have a patreon page as well if anyone would like to support me there. And of course my Amazon page with links to everything I have available.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Chris Miller: I just appreciate everyone who reads and gives me a shoutout, letting me know they liked the book. Or that they didn’t. Either way, those reviewers help put the book on the map and help me grow and learn as I navigate my way through this business. God bless all of you!

Chris Miller is a native Texan who has been writing from an early age, but only started publishing in 2017. Since the release of his first novel, A Murder of Saints, he has released a novella – Trespass – another novel – The Hard Goodbye – a single short story – Flushed – and has been inducted into multiple anthologies, including the acclaimed And Hell Followed from Death’s Head Press, where his story “Behind Blue Eyes” appears alongside stories from Wrath James White, Jeff Strand, and The Sisters of Slaughter, just to name a few. He has another new novel coming soon, the first part of a trilogy of horror, and will be featured in more anthologies throughout the year. He is happily married to the love of his life, Aliana, and they have three beautiful children.

A Murder of Saints

Sophie Fields is a little girl tortured by her memories of Damien Smith, a much-loved and respected church elder with a secret lust for the unmentionable. After his misdeeds are covered up by church leaders, she climbs to the roof of her house and jumps to her death, right in front of her shocked brother, Charlie.

Twenty years later, detective Harry Fletcher is still haunted by the personal demons associated with the church cover-up. After losing his faith, his wife, and now his partner, Fletcher learns that Charlie Fields has come back to town with one mission: to kill everyone responsible for his sister’s death. It is Fletcher’s job to track and stop the crazed killer. But as it becomes clear who the main targets are, Fletcher finds himself in the midst of a moral quagmire. Although he sees justice in Charlie’s crusade, the killer seems to be taking out others not responsible for his family’s destruction. As Fletcher and his new partner battle each other in a test of ideology and limits of the law, the real demons show up and change everything.

The Hard Goodbye

As the old axiom goes, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

John Savage realized that too late. 

Following the biggest job of their lives, John and his small crew think they’ve got it made. But a lawyer, a junkie, a crooked cop, Savage and his girlfriend have unknowingly opened Pandora’s Box. And they won’t know it until it’s too late. As the brutally tortured bodies of their partners come to light, tensions rise all the way to the screaming, chaotic conclusion of this bloody crime thriller. 

High risk brings high reward, but the safe bet is usually the smartest. Stick to the plan, or get ready for the hard goodbye.

Trespass

An adrenaline pumping, nerve wracking, intense thiller that will leave you breathless. Frank took his son hunting and what was supposed to be a pleasant time of bonding turned into an absolute nightmare. Out in the middle of nowhere, on their own property, They stumble upon a group of trespassers trying to get rid of a secret so damning they’re willing to kill anyone that sees it. Get ready for a relentless page turner as Frank dares to fend off the assailants, while racing to get his son help before he bleeds to death.Chris Miller tells a story that any father could relate to. Trespass has what it takes to be a thriller best seller.

Flushed

You’ve had a bad day before. We all have.
But Marty is in a whole other level of shit.
Literally.

Following a drunken night of sex with the office secretary, Marty’s guts are rebelling after his personal hangover remedy, nachos with jalapenos and hot sauce.

Marty has to go. And he’s got to get across the office to do so. Standing in his way are Nikki, the secretary from the night prior, Brad, the vape enthusiast douche, and possibly even his boss. The office door is always open, after all.

Join Marty on his trek, like a vulgar Lord of the Rings. The distance may be shorter, but the stakes are just as high.

The Damned Place

A small town with dark secrets. A house hidden in the woods that holds horrors unimaginable. Four friends on summer break fighting off a group of bullies dead set on ruining their summer of fun. The little town of Winnsboro has buried its secrets beneath years of history and faded memories. But, it’s about to be unearthed releasing ancient creatures as a budding psychopath blooms Will they survive what comes for them and possibly the world or will The Damned Place end it all?

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