About Mike Millard:
Mike Millard, a veteran journalist with roots in the Pacific Northwest who has written and edited for newspapers, magazines, wire agencies and websites, worked in Asia for more than two decades and has traveled widely in Europe as well. After a tour in the Navy during the Vietnam War era, he lived in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, went to rock'n'roll shows and attended City College before obtaining a degree from the University of Oregon and another from Syracuse University in New York state. In his early years he worked as a logger, an oilfield roughneck, a farmhand, a miner and a janitor in a Las Vegas church with beautiful stained-glass windows. While living in Japan and Singapore, Millard immersed himself in the traditional cultures of the East and their burgeoning economies as well, wrote two mostly forgotten books and made some lifelong friends. He now lives in the Seattle area, where the local deer enjoy grazing on a flourishing garden he tends with his wife, Miwa. Their son, Emerson, is a software engineer.
What inspires you to write?
I began writing a memoir not because I felt my life was particularly exciting or was of more interest than the lives of many I'd met along the way, but because I had no choice. It was the only thing I was allowed to write. I had tried a novel, a thriller set in Singapore, where we'd lived for almost 12 years — me, my wife Miwa and our son Emerson. While living in Asia for more than two decades working in media — newspapers and wire services — I had managed to write two books that were published by ME Sharp. One was set in Japan and dealt with the trade frictions of the '80s and '90s, while the other concerned terrorism in Singapore and Southeast Asia after the 9/11 attacks in the US. They were generally used as secondary textbooks for university classes and not widely read. In attempting the novel, I found myself often writing about my psychedelic experiences in San Francisco in the late '60s and early '70s, though they had little to do with the subject matter of my "thriller." Still, these images kept appearing in the forefront of my thoughts, scratching at the door like a cat who wanted to go outside. So after finishing a rather strangely shaped novel and throwing it in the dustbin, it was obvious that the cat had to be let out. Thus, for that reason alone, not a conscious decision on my part, a memoir was born.
I had struggled with the the meaning and expression of psychedelic experiences over the years, usually finding them too elusive to capture with my nets of words. Tame ordinary occurrences and meanings are not easy to render into clear sentences and paragraphs, so the wild birds of the collective unconscious had eluded me for decades. I tried, and failed. Repeatedly. They remained beyond my conceptual abilities and skills as a writer, so I let them be and pursued various jobs as an editor of other peoples' stories and the occasional author of my own. It was an interesting life that enabled me to travel and live in foreign places far from my small-town origins in Oregon. I read widely in an attempt to understand the larger context of my inner experiences, and by the time I tried to write my novel, my thoughts and views had coalesced to the extent that they simply took over my creative intentions. I had to write a memoir, it had to feature crossing psychedelic frontiers during the heyday of the Haight-Ashbury, and the meanings found there had to relate to our present time. I began the project well before the presidency of Donald Trump, but his dangerous ascent to power made it clear what shape my work-in-progress should take and spurred me to write.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
Hemingway for clarity, Joyce for style and symbolism, Hesse for access to the collective unconscious… Also Lawrence, Kesey, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky
Tell us about your writing process.
Every so often, something will happen that seems to urgently need light shone on it or the consequences will be dire.
I wrote a book about trade problems that were destroying American jobs when I lived in Japan, and one about terrorism in Southeast Asia when I lived in Singapore. Now, having returned home, I’ve written one called ‘Love in the Time of Trump’ about our unfortunate situation in the United States and the growing threats to our survival as a democracy and a people.
So I suppose you could say that I have an idea first, one that seems so urgent that it simply must be written about. From this small but dense center I expand in whatever way that I can, seeking inspiration wherever I can, adding more and more pieces until I have a sizeable block of copy. Then I attempt to form that block of copy into a narrative until I’m satisfied that it is flowing in some sense, connected internally by ideas if not in a sequential way.
I repeat this procedure and add to the copy until it has reached book length, or manuscript size, although for some reason I generally write small books rather than longish ones.
When I have reached this point, the real editing begins. With ‘Love in the Time of Trump’ I went through the manuscript eight times over several years, adding material, striking out pages or whole chapters until I was relatively happy with the finished product. This particular project was two-fold in a peculiar sense in that I was almost finished with it when Trump was elected and I realized I had to add a gradually expanding section on that unfortunate development and bring the two threads—psychedelic memoir and Trump’s presidency—together in the last chapters, because they formed a dangerous counter-point of values.
What advice would you give other writers?
Write about subjects of vital importance
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I had two previous books published by a traditional house, made very little money and thought that since my latest is a different sort of project anyway, it would be interesting to dip into online publishing and marketing. New authors? It's really too early for me to offer meaningful advice, because my online experience is just beginning. So far, however, I am enjoying having full control over the endeavor.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think that obviously, digital self publishing is the future.
What genres do you write?: memoir, journalism
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.