Interview: Nick Miller’s Journey
by Julija Kaselyte
Los Angeles based Nick Miller is the man behind the upcoming novel “Isn’t It Pretty To Think So?” and one of the most talented rising writers that we’ve come across. “Anything I’ve ever passionately done has always been rooted in writing.“ Nick’s passion for writing has paid off in his debut novel. Free from the doubts that plague many first time novelists, Nick is content with his choice to be a part of literature. We strongly believe in this promising young writer and his voice’s contribution to the current cultural discourse.
Julija: What did your childhood look like? Where were you brought up?
Nick: I had a great childhood but I tend to reminisce about it through a rosy filter—often to the point that it feels romanticized or illusory. I grew up in a quiet suburban area in Southern California. I spent my summers riding my bike around the block, climbing trees, and playing games with neighborhood friends. But I also acknowledged my desire to spend time alone—usually sprawled out on my bedroom floor reading books until I fell asleep. I became quite comfortable being by myself. My parents always enrolled me in Catholic schools. Some of my ideas and thoughts today still seem to be rooted in or affected by those religious experiences.
But it wasn’t all great. I occasionally battled bouts of depression. I dealt with some exhausting obsessive-compulsive traits. I also took my schooling so seriously as a young student (getting anything less than an A on my report card was the end of the world) that I became an easy target for some peer harassment. But, really, I miss it very much. Nostalgia gets the best of me sometimes.
Julija: Did you always want to be a writer? How did you come about writing?
Nick: I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. I may have had periods in my life where I tried to convince myself otherwise, but anything I’ve ever passionately done has always been rooted in writing. I simply love doing it. I started writing very young. I wrote little plays and poems at first.
Julija: Who were your mentors when you were studying at Berkeley?
Nick: I’ll never forget Carolyn Porter—one of my English professors. Her passion for literature inspired me so much. It was in her class (literature in the early 20th century) that we studied Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. When I read the last line of that novel—“Isn’t it pretty to think so?”—I was so blown away that I chose to base my ten-page final paper on it. She gave me an A–. Anyway, now that line has become the title of my upcoming novel.
Julija: Who influenced you to write “Isn’t It Pretty To Think So?”
Nick: Since I was a kid running my hands along the spines of my father’s hardcover books, I’ve been enamored with the novel and the idea of writing one. Whenever I got into reading a different writer, I became obsessed with him or her. Although my literary preferences have evolved over the years, I still get the same feeling every time I read a good novel—that is, I feel a great desire to express myself with my own words. After years of thinking about it and dreaming about it, I finally just put in the time and wrote a novel.
Julija: How long did it take you to write the novel?
Nick: I wrote the first word of my novel (which remained the first word) in the spring of 2010 and the last word (which was replaced with a new word) in the summer of 2011—so it took me a little over a year to complete the first draft. The editing phase lasted another seven or eight months and included several rewrites. I’d say it took about two years to get it all done.
Julija: Can you share a few of your experiences about the writing process?
Nick: When I was working on my first draft, I could sometimes write 2,000 words in a couple of hours. But then there were times when I couldn’t write a hundred words in ten hours. It was a very difficult journey for me (and a very rewarding one, too). Discipline was crucial. I worked long hours on my writing nearly every day for a year straight. And I guess I haven’t stopped working on it since.
Julija: Whose idea was the cover page’s design? What message does it convey?
Nick: Because I have an incredibly supportive community of creative people following my blog, my manager suggested that we offer the artists within that community the chance to design my cover. We didn’t know what to expect. So we were quite surprised and excited when hundreds of submissions rolled in. We narrowed it down together, and I chose the final cover. I wanted to go with a cover that stood out from all the other submissions, many of which were very impressive. Still, I chose my cover because it seemed different (it was painted with watercolors) and it gave me a certain feeling—the same feeling I hope to give someone reading my words. I’ve since met the artist and she’s really special. She’s from Los Angeles (the setting of my novel). She paints. She makes art. She’s cool. I’m happy with my decision.
Julija: What do you like to read? Which time period interests you the most?
Nick: When I was a young boy, I sponged up every Roald Dahl book ever written. I also got into reading mysteries: the Hardy Boys series (I still remember the smell of the pages in those little hardcover books) and Agatha Christie novels (her character Hercule Poirot was, to me, the smartest man on the planet).
I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird repeatedly. One time, after finishing it, I immediately flipped back to the first page and started reading it again. I thought it was the most powerful book ever written.
In college, I was obsessed with all the writers and poets of the “Lost Generation.” It made sense at the time. I had a little literary posse. We were in some of the same English classes. During our study sessions, we used to sit around a cheap, wooden table and smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey and pretend that we were famous writers living in Paris. It was good fun.
I got into dirty realism for a bit—you know, Fante, Bukowski, and others—but, at some point, I became less interested in minimalism in favor of more rhythmic prose. Maybe it was my affair with a few Capote novels. I guess I fell in love with the comma, the semicolon, the colon, and the em dash.
Admittedly, I’m now very much into the contemporary stuff: everything Franzen, everything Eugenides, everything Zadie, everything Foster Wallace.
I just finished reading The Marriage Plot. I just started reading A Visit From the Goon Squad. I just ordered Susan Sontag’s On Photography.
I’ll read anything really.
Julija: Are you already working on a new book?
Nick: I would say that I’m note taking. I have a few ideas for a new novel. I make sure to keep my notebook very close to me always. I get anxiety if it’s not an arm’s length away.