Chuck Miller and I have kind of a mutual admiration society going on here. I met him online after I connected with the amazing Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Publishing. We actually exchanged stories and have been friends since. Ever since I’ve changed up how I do interviews, I’ve wanted to have a chance to talk to Chuck. He graciously agreed. In here we talk about writing (of course) and some of our approaches to our work, as well as the X Files and comedy.
Joshua Pantalleresco: So what is going on with you exactly at the moment?
Chuck Miller: Well, I’m sitting here on the computer right now. I’ve been watching some old X-Files episodes this morning and working on my Sherlock Holmes novel, which is coming along well.
JP: Nice. Loved the first five seasons of X Files in particular. Great show. That would be interesting to see again today.
CM: There is talk of a new show.
JP: Really? It’d be neat.
CM: I don’t think it’s anything official yet. I’d like to see it though.
JP: Me too. I love shows that kind of explore that stuff. You ever watch Fringe?
CM: No, I haven’t seen that.
JP: Season 1 has a bit of that x files vibe. It’s a neat show. Were you a big holmes fan before or after writing him?
CM:I’ve been a Holmes fan since I was about eight years old. Always wanted to do a novel.
I did a short story for Airship 27 last year, and now I’m doing a whole novel. Of course, I made extensive use of Holmes in the “Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires” trilogy, but the novel I’m doing now is a more traditional thing.
JP: Holmes is an interesting character. I remember loving the character alot when I read a Study in Scarlet back in the day. I actually wish Doyle had done more novels back then with him. I liked the longer stuff in particular.
So you doing the classic Watson PoV?
CM: Yes. I enjoy getting into that voice.
JP: any real surprises in writing holmes that you didn’t expect?
CM: Not really. I did put in a couple of “real-world’ guest stars, which I have become addicted to doing with the Black Centipede. In this one, Holmes and Watson meet Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle. It deals a little bit with how Watson and Doyle established a working relationship to start publishing the Holmes material.
CM: I think it goes back to Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld novels, which I really loved. The premise there is this strange planet where everyone who has ever lived on earth is resurrected, and he was using people like Mark Twain and Sir Richard Burton and others. I really liked that. I’ve always been interested in history. And then there have been quite a few Sherlock Holmes pastiches where he meets real people. Nicholas Meyer did that with “The Seven percent Solution” and “The West End Horror,” and there have been many others. I love the idea of fictional people interacting with real ones.
JP: First off, I love To Your Scattered Bodies Go. I haven’t read the rest of the series, but I loved Farmer’s concept. That’s a cool world that would be fun to play with.
CM: They did a short story collection at one point, in which other writers played with it.
JP: It’d be fun to play with. Everyone’s there. It’d be neat to have someone like Gandhi meet someone like Genghis kahn. But yeah, it’s a great world. So why do you like fiction and non fictional characters meeting?
CM: Well, there are a lot of people in history that I find fascinating. I can’t really know them as such, but I have developed strong ideas about what they were like as people, and by putting them together with characters I’ve created, I can explore that, see how they interact and what they do. Two of the most fascinating to me are Amelia Earhart and William Randolph Hearst, both of whom have become regulars in the Black Centipede stories.
JP: So if you could meet any of them, it would be those two?
CM: I’d like to meet them, but there are a lot of others too. It would be difficult to choose just one or two, if I somehow had the option to do that.
JP: History has a lot of cool characters. For me; Jesus, Leonardo Da Vinci and Martin Luther King/Gandhi would be the first ones I’d want to meet. Da Vinci for me I think would be first only because with what I do, I’ve found myself learning a lot of different things pursuing my dreams. Da Vinci was a renaissance man. I think I’d ask him if he developed the same way with his gifts. Always wanting to do one thing, and just end up doing a bunch of things you never expected.
CM: Yeah, that seems to be pretty much how life works.
JP: Yeah. It’s cool but sometimes it’s like, man, I just wanted to write stuff you know? I actually have that on my business card.
CM: Sure. That covers plenty of ground. You can do all kinds of things with it. To me, it seems like the best use of the abilities I have.
CM: It kind of is, yeah. I always wished I could do it, but as far as actually picturing myself doing it for a real publisher… For a long time, it didn’t seem like something that would actually happen, but now it is.
JP: It’s always neat when stuff like that comes true. So what’s your creative process like?
CM: The way it is now that I’ve been doing it for a while is that I come up with different situations and then put these personalities I’ve created into them to see what they’ll do. Some of them have really taken on a life of their own, and they can surprise me.
JP: I think it’s one of the best things about writing. The journey your characters take you on. So do you outline heavily or go with the flow?
CM: I make outlines, but I usually end up going in a different direction. I like to have some structure to begin with, but I’m flexible with it. If I get a better idea later, I will go with it.
JP: I’m that way too. Usually the characters know the best direction. Any limitations are on me. So what’s out right now and what’s coming up for you?
CM: “Black Centipede Confidential” just recently came out. I really enjoyed that one. I piled on the real-world guest stars. The vampire Moriarty has come to the city of Zenith to raise hell, and he has his own version of the Injustice Society: The Order of the Sunless Circle, which includes several Depression-era bank robbers like Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde, H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West, and a couple of folkloric creatures, the Bell Witch and the Loch Ness Monster. To counter this, the Black Centipede has a little gang of his own, which he calls the Invisible Round Table: Amelia Earhart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and a few others.
Also, I just finished up the first story arc in “The Journal of Bloody Mary Jane,” which is a Pro Se Single Shots series. Coming up next in that will be a Vionna Valis & Mary Jane Kelly short story, a new Black Centipede short, and after that, I’ll be introducing a new character, the Red dagger. he’s a sort of spinoff from the second Centipede novel, “Blood of the Centipede.” And I’m also working on the second Bay Phantom book for Airship 27.
JP: Sounds epic. i actually get a whole kick out of bonnie and clyde working with a vampire. Sounds like you had a lot of fun doing all this. Tell me a bit about the Red Dagger, and I think we got an interview.
CM: That’s what I strive for. I figure if I don’t enjoy doing it, there’s no reason for anyone else to enjoy reading it.
The Red Dagger is actually Lancelot Cromwell, the actor who portrayed the Black Centipede in “Blood.” He is a sort of composite of the worst of the Hollywood “bad boys” from the 30s. Totally incorrigible, a drinker, womanizer, etc. And, after his experience with the Centipede, he decides he needs to become a masked adventurer. But he has some very unrealistic ideas about the whole thing. He confides in his manager, who already has a full-time job keeping Cromwell out of trouble, and this just multiplies his problems to an astronomical degree. After a couple of disastrous outings, the Dagger finds himself up against a genuine Fu Manchu-type criminal mastermind, and that’s when it gets REALLY interesting…
It’s basically a comedy, but there will be some dark moments.
JP: it sounds like it So does comedy come easy to you? Sorry, I know I said it was over, but if it is, I’d be a little jealous.
CM: Yes, I think there needs to be some humor in everything. Most of my favorite things are funny on some level, like the Nero Wolfe books. That mainly comes from the interaction of the characters, and I try to do that with my own stuff. The Centipede has several foils, like Stan Bartowski and Percival Doiley. And Vionna Valis and Mary Jane Kelly play off of one another, as do Jack Christian and Dana Unknown. These relationships are at the core of every story.
You can deal with some very dark and uncomfortable topics if you’ve got some humor in there to help it go down smoother.
JP: I agree with that. I did a short story about dealing with death and an imaginary friend to cope. I had a hero that can’t be seen or remembered, so I made the kid that had the imaginary friend his foil. It added some fun to some grim stuff
CM: That’s the best way to do it. I think the reader can process it better than if you just slap him with something awful.
JP: Grim in itself sucks.
CM: Right, because the whole point is getting past it with some of your hide intact. I may put a character through hell, but he or she is going to have some reason to survive it, and they will come through somehow.
JP: or else how are they relatable in any way? If you can’t laugh about something, kind of hard to go forward.
At some point, I’ll have to interview Chuck again about comedy. In the meantime, all the books mentioned and advertised here can be picked up anywhere you can buy books. I encourage you to check something out from here. Chuck writes with a dry wit that is funny and revealing all at the same time. He’s very fun to read and you should check him out for yourself.
Chuck has his own blog at http://theblackcentipede.blogspot.ca/ in which he talks about his works and other neat things. His facebook page is located here at https://www.facebook.com/chuckmillerauthor and finally he has the coolest twitter handle in the universe @drsivana99. I want to thank chuck for his time and hopefully we’ll do this again soon.