G. Wayne Miller is an American writer and filmmaker, and podcaster. He is a staff writer at The Providence (R.I.) Journal and Visiting Fellow at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, in Newport, R.I., where he is co-founder and director of the Story in the Public Square program and co-host and co-producer of the national PBS/SiriusXM Radio show Story in the Public Square.
What was the first thing you remember reading?
On my own (as opposed to being read to) that would be The Hardy Boys series. If memory serves me, the first one I read was The Secret of the Old Mill, third in the series. I still have a Hardy Boys volume, though not that one.
Who are your biggest influences?
In horror, Stephen King, of course. Also, Poe and Lovecraft.
Is it easier for you to write an article or a story of fiction?
Depends on what the topic is. Some news articles are simple and quick—others, such as investigative reporting, are time-consuming and require a level of authority you don’t necessarily always need with fiction. That said, while I love journalism, my guilty pleasure is, both short and long. May I take a moment to plug my next fiction? Thanks! It’s Blue Hill, a novel that is part thriller, part fantasy, and farce, Blue Hill is mostly a novel about who and what matter most in this short life. Publication on October 6 in print, Kindle, and audio.
What made you write “We who are his followers”?
Thinking about an apocalypse, a theme in much of my fiction—and maybe others’ notably King. And here we are in a pandemic, which is about as apocalyptic as you can get.
Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on the type of art you create?
Absolutely. I live in New England and that part of the world is reflected in many of my stories and books. But I also am influenced by where I travel (when we could travel, alas). Rare is the trip I take that doesn’t result in an idea or two... or more.
Is it easier for you to create if given an assignment or does it get in the way of your creativity?
Some assignments are easily completed, others not. Generally, I prefer to come up with my own ideas, which usually allows for more creativity.
What are your methods for creating an article/story or novel?
Varies by genre. For a non-fiction article, I usually start with what I can an anchor—a quote, scene, person, statistic, fact, theme, etc.—that captures the essence of the story. Maybe a sentence or two. From there, I roughly outline from notes, interview transcripts, or video I have shot.
For fiction, I often begin the same way and as ideas emerge, I just jot them down, with no concern for chronology or narrative. Theme is crucial. I am constantly scribbling on note cards or paper, which I then add to the story or novel file. I also like early to establish the voice. From here, I begin to write, usually outlining. This process can be short or long, depending on the story or book and other demands on my time. Longest yet? Burnt Cove, a novel I have been working on (and off, mostly off lately) for some two decades. Not sure when I will finish it but I will.
Here’s the opening:
A passerby traveling the road that descends into the village of Stonington on Deer Isle, Maine, at eleven o’clock on that cloudless morning of Friday, June 8, would have observed a scene that could have been described as peaceful and pretty. Only the latter approached the truth.
Framed by a white steepled chapel to the left and the harbor and the emerald stepping-stone islands of Merchants Row beyond to the right, the cemetery with its carefully trimmed grass and abundance of weathered tombstones presented itself as picturesque in that old-fashioned New England way. The oaks and maples shimmered with fresh young leaves in a spring that last week had turned unseasonably warm, a delightful development, all agreed, after a winter that had continued stubbornly past Easter, when four inches of snow fell, ruining the egg hunt and the sunrise services. Only the irregular mound of back-hoed earth beneath an old green tarp would have brought unpleasantness into the passerby’s mind.
A new grave had been dug. And there, next to it, was its designated occupant, about to assume permanent residence.
What have you written that you are most proud of?
In journalism, my many years of writing about mental health. My 2019 Providence Journal/USA TODAY Network story “Redemption: The Fall and Rise of Mark Gonsalves” is an example: Click Here to Read it.
In fiction, tough call. So, a tie between my first horror novel, Thunder Rise, and my next novel, Blue Hill. I would name the novel I am currently writing, but since it’s not done, I don’t want to jinx myself!
What was the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to do in your writing career?
I’m not sure it is odd exactly—and I wasn’t asked to do it, this was my idea—but a visit to a maximum-security prison to interview a man convicted of a gruesome murder. He lived mostly in isolation and I interviewed him in a large room empty of people save for guards. Creeped the shit out of me—the whole deal, location, crime, man. I left there knowing I could not write about him and I never did.
What projects are you working on now?
A new novel, as mentioned. Plus, in journalism, I am on the Providence Journal coronavirus strike team, so pretty much daily am writing about the pandemic.