If you’re anything like me, you have an addiction, well…
Here is a new interview as part of the “Transitions” project. I do not know what I would do without Twitter. It has opened so many doors for this blog, including the introduction to Miles Cressman, an up-and-coming fiction author who has released several books that can be found in paperback or Kindle on Amazon. I have a lot of respect for people who strive to achieve beyond what they are comfortable with and can relate to Miles’ story of wanting something more than what is typically expected of a day job.
What a delight to share this interview with you!
GAB: Tell me about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?
Cressman: My name is Miles Cressman, and while I work in hospitality as a day job, I’m a self-published independent author of four novels: a series entitled, A Paean to Dreams.
GAB: How does the book writing process flow for you?
Cressman: ‘Fits and starts’ is probably the best way I’d describe it. I like to say that it’s the Muses calling out to me to write something, and to an extent it is, but the other side of the coin is motivation. My day job ranges from tiring and stressful to boring and droll, and that affects how I am after work, which is my primary time to write. One of my main inspirations as a writer is George R. R. Martin, who wrote Game of Thrones and its sequels, along with other novels and short stories before that. He described his writing much like a gardener sows seeds – he knows the beginning and ending to a work that he starts, but the process of getting from point A to point B is the tricky part.
I’ve never been great at outlining something that I’m about to write, and this was true even for my college essays back when I was an undergrad at the University of Oregon. With my writing process, I take a kernel of an idea that seemingly strikes me at random, and I run with it from there. I come up with the ending through daydreams, regular dreams, conversations, or imagery I come across through music or art.
GAB: What inspires you to come up with your material?
Cressman: My main inspirations come from people I connect with, music, videogames, movies, and most importantly, other stories. I love the way other people write and speak, and all too often I find myself inspired to create a story just from a snippet of a conversation or from a particular line in a novel or a lyric from a song. For example, my upcoming short story collection, No Tomorrows Left in Shadow, is a line lifted directly from a trip-hop song called, “Face the Waves” by Crustation.
My first novel, The Dream Metropolis, was culled from multiple influences at once. I had recently seen Inception for the fourth or fifth time back in 2010 and I decided that the dream worlds that Christopher Nolan conceived were still problematic in their logic and seemed superficial at times when it came to the concept of dream realities. I took that idea and expanded upon it within the series, which for the vast majority of its plot takes place within dream worlds, each of which are reflective in some ways of reality, sewn together by thousands of dreaming imaginations. To that end, I was also inspired by the videogame, The Void, which came out in 2009; it’s a bizarre Russian title which follows a lost soul in some sort of hellish purgatory, who must carve his own place in this otherworld and find a way to transcend its confines through the use of the world’s only primary resource: color. Color becomes the method with which you solve puzzles, combat foes, keep yourself alive, and in turn the color you use changes the world around you because each color has its own world-defining characteristic. It’s a bizarre, fascinating game that feels like nothing else that has been created before or since.
I was also influenced by my father’s passing away in 2009, which helped define some of the major plot points of the latter two novels in the series. And finally, there’s an instrumental song called, “What Does Your Soul Look Like? Pt. 1 [Blue Sky Revisit]” by DJ Shadow, from 1996, which I’ve used every time I begin writing anything. It’s a soothing, but melancholic trip-hop song with mournful horns and a slick live drum beat. However, what really got me was one of its sampled lines, “And why should we… want to go back where we were, how many years?” It made me think about dreams, and how they can sometimes be a resurrection of a once-lost memory. Many characters in these books engage their pasts with hostility, and in turn their pasts haunt them and keep them moving backwards instead of forwards. I came to realize that the philosophy I was conjuring up while writing the books was that no matter how much your past seeks to hold you back, you have to always keep pushing forward, even if it hurts more than anything else.
GAB: Who is your target market and at what point do you begin to market your book?
Cressman: My target market is primarily readers who are hungry for something truly different. The series I’ve created doesn’t follow traditional narrative paradigms and is formed through an entirely abstract foundation. Much like how dreams will often shift from one scene to the next without a clear path, so too does the plot of the series. Events that transpire in The Dream Metropolis may not be fully answered all the way until The Dream Reprisal, as the crux of the narrative intentionally plays the long game with the reader, hoping that the ultimate reveals will make the journey worth the taking. The series incorporates numerous elements of speculative fiction: horror, science fiction, fantasy, noir, philosophy, et. al. However, because it has so many elements glued together, it’s not an easy affair to put the series in a particular genre.
I began to market the novel shortly after writing Metropolis, but decided to finish the series before really going gung-ho with marketing pushes. I’ll be doing two promotions in October; first will be a $0.99 run on October 8th for The Dream Metropolis, and then towards the end of the month I’ll (hopefully) be doing a five-day-long free promotion for it as well. I’ve even compiled all four novels into an anthology which is only available on the Kindle for the time being, though I hope to release it in paperback once I generate enough interest in the series.
GAB: To what extent does your personal life influence the fiction you write?
As I mentioned earlier, my father’s death in 2009 really put things into perspective for me. I had written personal short stories before he passed away, but it was only after his death that I really felt emotions so powerful that they couldn’t be dealt with in a simple manner. Only through putting them into words and sentences was I able to do something truly cathartic. As I wrote A Paean to Dreams, I began to realize with the final two novels that I could incorporate memories from my own life, albeit somewhat sensationalized and altered so as to not be mimetic, and the final two novels became much more emotional, much more raw. One thing I like to tell people going in is that the final two novels are very reflective of my life without my dad, as well as a lot of troubling moments I’ve had in the aftermath with relationships and life in general. A Paean to Dreams started out as a novel about others dreaming of a life much better than their own, but evolved into describing the dreams I have, and the dreams I wish to have, of my own future.
In other personal ways, my life as a gay man has shaped how I describe relationships and has especially influenced me in my creation of LGBT characters. More than a few of the characters in the A Paean to Dreams series are gay, bisexual, or lesbian. These characters either struggle with their desires and fight their past lives, or give in wholeheartedly and accept who they are. The series uses duality as a focal point to create parallels between many of the characters, and one of those dichotomies is of the self. The person we show the world, and the person we are inside, are often two very different people and lead to internal strife when they should seek union. I plan on writing a gay romance novel in the next year, because I feel like the next generation of gay youth and young adults need writers and thinkers who are willing to give them an outlet to express themselves, or at the very least, the vigor to be who they are – to be proud of their difference from others around them – without fear of judgment.
GAB: How has a period of change helped move you closer to your goals?
Cressman: By the end of November, I’ll be getting less hours and transferring to a different position in my company, and I see that as a really golden opportunity to throw myself into my writing again. Time is always the enemy. I find myself in a tug-of-war with it, and now I see a bit of a release in terms of my schedule and my free time. Going back to the previous question, my father’s death was the defining prime mover in the genesis of The Dream Metropolis and its sequels. It would later come to define the plot of the final novel. These big moments in my life are what give me the impetus to keep writing.
GAB: Where do you see yourself in three to five years?
Cressman: Ideally, I’d hope to see myself as an author enjoying enough success to live comfortably off of the revenue and readership. I’m not a man who dreams of being on the New York Times‘ bestseller list or anything, but I want to work to get to a point where I can quit the quagmire of a 9-5 day job and focus entirely on my art and my passion for writing. In even further idealism, I’d like to be married, but that’s a variable I will never be able to predict accurately.
About Miles Cressman:
Miles Cressman was born in Arizona, but raised in Portland, Oregon, where he grew up enjoying complex fantasy and humanist satire such as Kurt Vonnegut. While attending the University of Oregon, he started work on his first full-length novel, The Dream Metropolis, in 2010, which would later go on to be part one of a four-part series entitled, A Paean to Dreams, with its final, conclusive novel released in June of 2013. His first book series largely focuses on the nature of dreams within a philosophically abstract world, about characters who dream of better lives while simultaneously battling their own troubled pasts.
Miles graduated the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Arts in English in August of 2011, and now works on novels in his spare time. He has been featured in the Eugene, Oregon-based literary journal, The Watercourse Journal, and has a short story featured in the anthology, Kindle All Stars: Resistance Front, which also features the talents of Bernard Schaffer and multiple award-winning author Harlan Ellison.