Today I welcome Billie Milholland as my guest author in the spotlight!
Billie Milholland’s first published works were non-fiction, written for Harrowsmith Magazine, Western Producer and various weekly newspapers. Then, back in the day when they still published fiction, Western Producer published one of her short stories (literary fiction). Soon after that C.B.C. Radio produced a few more (literary fiction). Her first attempt at longer fiction – a time travel romance was published as a five part serial in a big city daily newspaper. Everything she’s published since falls under the wide umbrella of Speculative Fiction. Billie is a two-time Aurora Award winner, the first for “Women of the Apocalypse” (Absolute Xpress – 2009) then for “Bourbon and Eggnog” (part of the 10thCircle Project). Recently she has been featured in two anthologies: Small Seven’s Secret in Tyche Book’s “Ride the Moon” and Green Man, She Restless in EDGE Publication’s “Urban Green Man” . As one of the contributors to “The 10th Circle Project”, she wrote both short and long fiction, as well as fictional newspaper articles for the fictional newspapers in the fictional Cities of Hope & Glory. She is one of the Apocalyptic Four (currently Eileen Bell, Randy McCharles and Ryan McFadden) with a novella, Autumn Unbound in “The Puzzle Box” (EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing).
Her day job pays the bills, her writing keeps her out of serious mischief and when she finds time she makes mixed media art, gardens and takes photographs.
SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:
#1: Why do you write?
I don’t know what I think about things until I move my thoughts around on the page, so partly my writing is a conversation with myself. That might have been satisfying enough, except for the curse of what-if mind. Chasing what-ifs often results in story. Then there’s my love of embellishment, which usually leads to a serious case of fiction. I confess, I’m an information junkie. Bottom line: weaving quirky bits of information into story is an addicting kind of fun!
#2: What was your earliest writing experience?
Writing stories for the kids I babysat when I was an early teenager. Because they wanted to know what happened next, I kept writing. It didn’t occur to me until many years later that a person might actually get something published.
#3: Describe a day in your writing life:
I’m an early riser. I like to write soon after waking up when my dream life has not quite faded and my mundane life is not yet in focus. Because I have a day job I don’t always get an early morning scribble. When I don’t, I try to take a long lunch in a restaurant and scratch away for a couple of hours in a back booth. As often as possible, I stop at a random coffee shop on the way home from work, mainline caffeine and write for another hour. I edit at night when my brain has lost interest in creating new stuff, but is perfectly content to reshape old stuff.
#4: What authors influenced you and how?
Three writers influenced me early. Everything written by Pearl S. Buck was forbidden when I was a kid, because she wrote about heathen Chinese and concubines, so of course I read all her novels at least twice. She made an exotic culture as familiar to me as the small town Alberta culture into which I born. I wanted to be able to do that. Then I discovered Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Also forbidden, because it was about adultery & Communists. Also devoured by me, reading by flashlight under the covers. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 opened my mind to story that had purpose beyond simple entertainment. It was possible to entertain while making a social and/or political statement.
#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?
Dog-on-a-bone persistence. Early in my writing life I took a workshop from W. O. Mitchell. He drove home the importance of sheer, stubborn doggedness. “Never give up!” He said it over and over like it was a commandment from on high. I believed him and that advice has saved me more times than I can count. I’ve learned that it is important to write every day, even if it’s drivel. It’s shocking how soon you get rusty if you don’t keep up the practice of writing. I take every writing workshop, seminar and instruction I can afford. I’ve discovered there’s always something new for me to learn about how to be a better writer. I don’t know what I don’t know. The only way to discover what I don’t know that I don’t know is to mill around and sweat at workshops with other writers.
#6: Describe your writing method:
I’ve always been a chaotic pantser. Now & then I gave in to panic and dedicated brief, desperate moments to outlining. More recently I’ve exerted serious, deliberate effort to try to learn how to outline. The results so far have been positive. My outlining method is still messy and unruly, but because, even at this rudimentary level, it has proven useful, I’ll keep at it.
#7: Tips for aspiring writers:
- Grow a thick skin, because you must have feedback in order to perfect your craft. Don’t hand your work to somebody to read and then say, “Please be kind.” Real kindness for you would be a blunt, clear response to the words you’ve strung across the page. Expect your ego to take a beating. It needs it. Slap on a bandage and write more words.
- Don’t believe feedback from your friends and family. They will either love or hate everything you write, on principle. Let them support you in other ways.
- What you have to say is important, but your word combos are not precious, no matter how much you adore them. Be willing to toss out even your most glorious sentences and phrases for the sake of clarity, for the sake of your story.
- Keep your day job.
- Read everything. Read poetry. Write poetry, at least once.
- Read outside your comfort level.
- Give yourself experiences outside your comfort level: solder something; make a soufflé; if you’re a jock, go to a ballet – or better yet, take an interpretive dance class; if you’re artsy-fartsy, watch boxing, go to a rodeo, milk a cow; crafty? – do math; stiffly analytical? – paint a picture.
Check out Billie’s novella “Autumn Unbound”, the 2nd in The Puzzle Box, by the Apocalyptic Four (AKA Eileen Bell, Billie Milholland, Randy McCharles and Ryan McFadden), available from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.
What if Pandora wasn’t the one who opened the box, releasing pain and suffering into the world? What if she was framed? Autumn Unbound is a story about how that scenario might play out when old gods come down from Olympus and try to get their way in a contemporary setting.
Buy it Now:
Connect with Billie:
Fan email address: firstname.lastname@example.org