Sixty Seconds IV with: Chris Milam

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Chris MilamRead his winning story here. Note that this is his FOURTH amazing (if not terribly unexpected; have y’all read this guy’s stuff??? SO. GOOD.) win!!! Be sure to check out his winner’s page to read his previous winning stories and interviews & then come back here to get to know him better. (Note: 4x winners aren’t bound by word count in their answers.)

1) What about the prompts inspired your story, particularly the concept of a “theater of solitude”?

My first thought when viewing the prompts was I didn’t want to use a typical film/play type theater. Paired with a prisoner, I instantly saw a man sitting alone in his house watching home movies, a man who can’t let go of the past. And when you can’t let go off the past, solitude usually follows. You become intimate with ache. Then you spiral into the void.

2) Here at FF we’ve got a pair of strong writers in you Milams. Tell us something about Brett we don’t know or that might surprise us.

I can say that Brett is a generous person. I know of an instance when he gave the pizza delivery guy a huge tip, like $50 or something. He helped an out of state friend financially and emotionally when that person was going through a serious personal matter. He’s not bashful about opening his wallet or his heart to help those in need. Also, Brett is a pretty solid Ping Pong player. He has cat-like reflexes. He morphs into a ginger puma when a paddle is placed in his hand.

3) Tell us something about YOU that would surprise us.

I cry a lot watching movies and documentaries. Seriously, I’m like a blue-eyed spigot of tears. I watched Castaway for the first time in forever the other day. The scene when he loses Wilson in the ocean… COME ON!! I crumbled.

Also, I battled an addiction for over a decade that I finally defeated about three years ago with the help of therapy and a massive dose of self-determination. 

I’m a bit obsessed with the big cats of Africa, especially the leopard, the solitary hunter. And cooking shows. The culinary arts fascinate me.

4) So you’re a writing superhero by night. Care to tell us something about your day (non-writing) life?

I live in Hamilton, Ohio, a town just north of Cincinnati. I have two children, a son and daughter. Honestly, I’m a pretty boring guy. I prefer a night at home to a night on the town. Books, music, and sports are my refuge, my escape. Netflix is my mistress. I’m always reading. Always drinking coffee. Always plotting against that formidable foe known as self-loathing.

5) You’re a proud Flash Dog, with stories in the soon-to-be-released Solstice anthologies. Give us a hint as to what we might expect in your stories there. And are there any other writers whose Solstice stories you’re particularly looking forward to reading? What’s it like, writing for an anthology?

I truly struggled with my anthology stories. As all writers know, there are times when the words just don’t materialize. The creativity is lacking. Frustration sets in. But you have to plow forward and do the best you can. I spent weeks in the revision stage trying to improve my tales. It was a draining process. And knowing I’ll be published alongside so many talented writers, I’m more than a little nervous, and a bit intimidated as well.

I guess if my stories had a theme, it would be relationships, because that’s what’s at their heart. Our need for companionship and acceptance, no matter how strange, sad or profound, is something I tried to explore.

Also, being paired with Voima during the editing process, I had the luxury of reading her stories. You folks are in for an exquisite treat; her tales are magic on the page. And we did a collaborative story that I’m proud of and hope everyone enjoys. Working with her was an absolute pleasure.

6) You’re a fairly new fiction & flash writer. Are you an avid reader? What prompted you as an adult to give writing a go?

I’ve been a reader my entire life. I remember the bookshelf at home being lined with my dad’s John D. MacDonald books, the Travis Mcgee series. I’m sure those books made an impression on me. The only writing I did in the past were saccharine poems to various girls/women. I was that guy, the corny poem dude.

What prompted me to write two years ago was overcoming the addiction I mentioned above. I needed something to fill the space. I started a blog and wrote some horrific stuff. Just awful. But I kept writing, learned from others, improved. Writing became another form of therapy over time. I was at my bottom a few years ago, and to sit here today, being a 4 time winner of Flash! Friday and having been published by some fantastic journals, is pretty damn surreal. It’s baffling because I have no idea what I’m doing. I just sip coffee in the dark and write.

7) What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written (and why)? least favorite (and why)?

I tend to hate everything I write. Every word. Every punctuation mark. But I guess my favorite story would be “Check the Fridge.” It was the first time a story felt right to me. The dialogue and flow. The humor. The underlying emotions. The story ended on the right note.

My least favorite would be “Savannah Smiles,” a violent tale about a psychopath who kidnaps, tortures and kills a Girl Scout. Just senseless and gratuitous mayhem. Garbage. But he does eat her cookies at the end, the Savannah Smiles, which is still kind of funny to me.

8) You’ve said you’re a big Stephen King fan. What’s your favorite work of his, and why? He’s famous for representing his genre well, of course; what writerly things does he do really well? what could writers of other genres learn from him (or from any of your favorite writers)?

Stephen King was an influence on me in my younger days. I can remember reading Christine as a kid and I was like a possessed Plymouth Fury? Yes, please. Hard to say which one is my favorite because I love so many. Thinner, The Green Mile, Needful Things, Different Seasons and Misery would all rank highly on my list. The author Walter Mosley said it better than I can; he praised “his almost instinctive understanding of the fears that form the psyche of the American working class. He knows fear and not the fear of demonic forces alone but also of loneliness and poverty, of hunger and the unknown.”

My tastes have changed over the years. I’m more inclined to submerge myself in the prose of Donald Ray Pollock, Cormac McCarthy, and Khaled Hosseini these days.

9) What’s next for you in your writerly life, now that your stories for the Solstice anthology are done?

I would love to attempt a novel of some kind. Just about everyone who urges me to write a book would prefer I write a memoir type thing, based on the experiences from my pretty insane past. Places I’ve been. People I’ve met. Addiction and all its tentacles. The malignant tumor that is depression. There’s definitely a story there but reliving your mistakes and whatnot isn’t the easiest of endeavors. Shall see. But I prefer to write fiction.

10) Anything you’d like to add?

I think you deserve a shout out, Rebekah. You give us creative weirdos a place to play. You provide a platform for all of us to hone our craft, to grow as writers, to support and encourage one another. Without Flash! Friday, I’d probably still be writing nonsense like “Savannah Smiles.” Thank you. You are cherished by everyone.

Oh, one last thing. If you’re reading this, Mr. David Shakes, please consider revealing the whereabouts of Karl Russell. Unburden yourself, mate. Salvation can be attained. Your soul can be redeemed. It’s up to you, sir. Karl’s bones deserve a proper burial. {Editor’s Note: Karl, if you’re reading this, know you are loved. And remembered.}

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17 thoughts on “Sixty Seconds IV with: Chris Milam

  1. What a wonderfully honest and enlightening interview. A very well deserved fourth win for a fantastic writer. I’m really looking forward to checking out Chris’ stories in the upcoming #flashdogs anthology.

  2. Chris, I loved reading this glimpse of the real you, which is just as fascinating as your writing (and you know I’m a big fan). Thanks so much for sharing.

    And tell Brett that I challenge him to a game of ping-pong… 😉

  3. Really looking forward to reading your work in the flashdog anthologies (and, of course, that collaborative piece with the wonderful Voima). Your story this week was amazing- a masterclass in how it’s done.

  4. I agree with Marie–masterful story. Your writing just gets better and stronger. Thanks for this great interview—inspiring and honest. Such a pleasure working with you!

  5. Thanks for sharing a small piece of yourself with us, Chris! Loved getting to know one of the brilliant minds of FF a bit better. 🙂

  6. Great, open, honest interview. I really enjoyed getting to know you a little better. And I completely appreciate someone who cries at movies. Me, too. (The worst was when I was pregnant, and I’d cry at sappy commercials. Those silly 30 second spots intended to sell me something could make me bawl like nothing else.) I love your willingness to acknowledge addiction and depression. Claiming those demons helps take away their power (at least for me).

    • Thank you, Margaret. I tend to hide from from my past, maybe a little embarrassed or afraid of being judged. But it’s a massive part of my story and sometimes you have to reveal yourself for better or worse. We are who we are. Such is life.

      • People always comment on how open I am – with the good and the bad. I’ve always been surprised by that. Why shouldn’t we be open? I appreciate people willing to be raw and honest. Good on you.

  7. Okay Chris. I will come clean. I don’t know where Karl is. You know, it was dark, raining, high hedges…isolated fields all tend to look the same.
    In truth, don’t know what happened. Strange to miss someone through their writing and shared tastes. I hope he’s doing okay, getting whatever needed sorting sorted. His Flash Family is here if and when he needs us.

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