Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guest Blogger, Douglas W. Milliken

Today’s post is a bit different from what I’ve done in the past and if you’ve been following this blog lately that shouldn’t surprise you.

Mary from Mary’s Detroit Photoblog is conducting the interview at Thoughts in Progress today with author Douglas W. Milliken about his recent fiction release, WHITE HORSES. 

Here’s a brief description of the book from the publisher’s website: “A dogwood. A kestrel. A tax collector fingering the slobber from his mouth. Italian prostitutes and pirate-eyed men. Overweight Americans trapped on the fire escape, tapping at your window. A husband who cannot tell his dreams from his waking life. A wife who cannot find her husband in the arms of any lover. No actual horses. A walk by the ocean. A walk though a blizzard, freezing and lost. A house full of emperor moths and a house slipping into the sea. A hole at the base of a skull and a hole in your neighbor's backyard. Another walk by the ocean. Another solo moth. A bird that refuses to migrate in winter and a father who dies before an argument can be won. The son whose argument will never be heard. The long road that never leads you home. One hundred percent disapproval. WHITE HORSES.”

The publisher is NaDa Publishing and their website is

Now the interview.

MARY:  WHITE HORSES is so powerful. It clutches me, wrings me out, leaves me with a deep melancholy. What kinds of syntactical choices did you make to inject it with such utter sadness (or, how did you do it?)

DOUG: I don't know how I did it. I had read an interview with Gary Lutz around the time I first started writing WHITE HORSES. There was a lot of discussion on his process, which I found really inspiring. The way he writes a story like a stonemason building a wall. Only one stone can fit between all the others. Only the correct words will tell the story correctly. Any substitutes are just filler.

I know I did not come anywhere near the expert finesse of Lutz, but then again, I wasn't aiming to. I was pushed by the idea of Lutz's work, not the possibility of recreating it. I was also morbidly depressed while writing WHITE HORSES. It was a cold winter, and

the woman that I lived with was slowly falling out of love with me, which was sort of like watching a car crash in slow-motion. I was haunted by nightmares of her and my brother and all the other people I loved disappearing or being murdered or simply leaving me.

I think WHITE HORSES was my attempt to create something that might possibly make all these bad things better. Like I could weave a safety net out of words. Like I might be able to save what little I still had. I think all these desperate factors together created a sort of poetry.

MARY:  WHITE HORSES seems to be a series of dream-like yet very realistic stories. It's also very poetic. Yet it somehow hangs together, almost like a novel. How would you define it, or, would you prefer not to?

DOUG: I don't know of any succinct term that can sum up whatever literary form WHITE HORSES might be. "Interconnected short stories" doesn't seem to cut it. A patchwork novella? Whatever. I'm not terribly concerned with labeling my work. From a traditional writer-publisher standpoint, being unable or unwilling to define what you do is almost always a near-fatal pitfall.

Luckily, NaDa is not traditional by any way, shape, or means. Andy (Lyman, of NaDa Publishing) read the manuscript and immediately got behind it. There was no real talk about its potential marketability. There was no conversation as to how it should be defined. As far as either of us was concerned, WHITE HORSES was label enough.

Thanks to both Mary and Doug for sharing this information with us. I’m always interesting in finding new authors and new books to expand my reading and share with everyone stopping by here


  1. Interesting interview!

    I think writing does provide a safety net for many writers...well put.

    The book sounds wonderful. I also liked the book description with "no actual horses" in it!

  2. Mason - Thanks for being such a hospitable host.

    The book sounds interesting, and I like the description of writing as being a stonemason building a wall. I think that's very apt.

  3. Mary's questions pique my interest as much as Douglas's answers. Great interview!

  4. Nice way to change it up!!! Interesting interview and answers.

  5. Intriguing. And I'm at a loss for other words (yes, me, Queen of Blather at a loss)

  6. Mason - a delightful way to do this! And Mary great questions.
    I am very intrigued by this - I love the 'blurb' - so freeing and gives me a good idea of the writing within - why should blurbs be so similar and sound like they are written by another writer than the one that wrote the book? I also like the right stone approach.
    I will get this book.

  7. Mary, thanks so much for doing the interview for me. I really appreciate it.

    Doug, thanks for sharing your book information with us. Best of luck.

    Hi all, thank you so much for dropping by. I'm glad you like the change. You never know what you'll find here anymore do you? LOL

  8. Oh my goodness! Does this book sound fascinating or what?!! Each scenario is a book in itself! Look forward to reading it!

  9. Interesting stuff - some great imagery in this interview :)

  10. Love the book idea. and the stonemason analogy is a very good one!

  11. Great interview - thanks to everyone! Interesting thoughts about writing too - it is certainly a safety net for many of us, I'm sure.

  12. My mind flies through thoughts like that at times. I'm wondering how he ties them all together. Thanks to all of you.

  13. Sounds like an amazing, ground-breaking book. I'm not sure I want to be left with a deep melancholy, though.

    Straight From Hel

  14. Thank you very much for hosting this interview, Mason! You are so kind.

    The melancholy of the book is a deep warm human melancholy, not a down depressed kind.

    Thank you all for your kind comments!!! I really appreciate it!!!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.