If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
I suppose it would be Albert Camus, the twentieth century French philosopher and philosophical novelist. Because I could not do justice to French cuisine, I would make him American comfort food, or my best version of it: grilled teriyaki marinated flank steak, really cheesy macaroni and cheese, roasted brussel sprouts and broccoli with cashews, and a caprese salad. Then, because I do not bake, I would ask my wife to make Boston Crème Pie.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
Honestly, it is the gnawing dread that no one cares, no one is interested. With the market so complex and difficult to access broadly, I can become deflated. Then I think of sculptors, musicians, painters, and even mystic poets throughout history who left us amazing gifts of human genius and beauty without any promise of discovery, and certainly no commercial reward. The Hebrew prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah wrote some stunningly exquisite poetry in the 5th and 6th centuries BCE, and surely, they had no inkling that millennia later we would still be reading it. That evokes awe within me, and then I remember that art and ideas are gifts we give without strings.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
Hmmm. Marie Howe.
What books are on your nightstand?
Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
I am driven to share the experience of the ordinary sacred. To encounter the holy in nature, stumble upon it in an idea, or feel its presence where least expected, as in death, is compelling to me. Whether writing poetry or fiction, or in my weekly newspaper column even, I want to open up a pinhole in the veil and say, “Look! Look!” I think we share common experiences of the ordinary sacred but do not share language for it, so we sit on it speechless and lonelier because of it.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
The dash – for sure. I use it as a super-comma or parenthetically because my sentences are too complex and run-on – or sometimes they just throw up their commas and semi-colons and give up.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
I am blushing now, but that would be: The Scarlet Letter and The Catcher in the Rye (and probably many more I do not now remember).
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
The Newport Natural, Opus, Spot Coffee, Sweetness Seven, Monaco’s, and any other café that has held me in its arms and offered a sense of community for those with whom I have lived, and worked, and played.
Why do you write? The first 5 words that come to mind. Go.
To see. To Feel. To Know. (That’s six).
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
You are beloved.
Cameron Miller is the author of Thoughtwall Café: Espresso in the Third Season of Life. This fierce story rifles the turbulence of mind encountered in the twenties. Life’s third decade mercilessly right-sizes the dreams of childhood and sometimes, buffeted by forces beyond our control, diverts us completely. The narrative hovers around a tangle of friends and strangers interconnected by both serendipity and intention, and unfolds across the tables of a sprawling, urban café. Place is as much a part of this story as the characters, providing subliminal images and intrigue for the events.
Cressida Fruith, who changed her name in high school from Ruth while pulling an Emo persona over her life, is coming apart at the seams. An only child of a single parent with no extended family, she watches helplessly as her mother’s cancer progresses. Even the friendship of her oldest and best friend begins to fray. Enter Hobart Wilson, a much-maligned outcast stoner from her high school days. Infuriating Cressida, Hobart becomes her mother’s closest companion, and confessor of a secret so dark it will change her future.
Woven and twisted within the narrative by the characters and their relationships are archetypal psychological and spiritual battles, even ordinary conundrums (“thoughtwalls”) that nearly everyone encounters. More than one “Ah ha!” is seeded amidst the dialogue and action, which makes this a compelling story with real-time implications. Laugh, cry, and steam as these twenty-somethings do battle with pernicious struggles of the mind, and sometimes prevail where even Socrates and Freud fumbled.
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