An Interview with ARK Author, Jesse Miller **Excerpt-Giveaway**

Jesse Miller
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Common Deer Press
Date of Publication: May 15, 2018
ISBN: Hardcover ISBN: 978-988761-08-4
Paperback: ISBN: 978-1-988761-07-7
E-Book ISBN: 978-1-988761-09-1
Number of pages: 162
Word Count: 45k
Cover Artist: Ellie Sipila

Imagine the son of Cinderella and Noah. That's Alabaster Ash, professional window washer and amateur foot fetishist, thrall to his three physically fit, brutally aggressive stepsisters.

After polishing foot after foot of glass in the gingerbread city of Candyland and cleaning up after the “wicked stairmasters,” he haunts the bars and streets looking for love and appreciation -or a really nice pair of feet.

Like it or not, Alabaster finds himself reliving and reimagining his parents' lives as he roams from bar to bar, from thrill ride to stunt show in the linguistic funland that is ARK.

An Interview with Jesse Miller

Welcome to JB’s Bookworms with Brandy Mulder
Tell us about your newest book.

Hello! ARK is the intoxicating journey of a mild foot fetishist just out of step with the rest of the world. Imagine this is the story of the extremely fictional son of Cinderella and the star of Genesis flood narrative, Noah. Alabaster Ash, that’s his name, is a window washer thrall to his 3 fit, yet brutal stepsisters. After polishing windows and cleaning up after his “wicked stairmasters,” he haunts the bars looking for love, or a nice set of feet.

Writing isn’t easy. What was the most difficult thing you dealt with when writing your newest book?
Well, I spent years and years writing and rewriting the book and then another 2 plus years trying to find a home for it. What I’m interested in writing isn’t particularly in the mainstream, not as I perceive the world anyway, and it’s been hard to find someone to take a chance on such an offbeat project. I commiserate with my creative writing students this way a lot—writing is hard. Writing is living with a stomach you’ll never satisfy. Writing is the work of the magician staring at the abyss of the blank page and trying to make something appear there without transmogrifying it too cruelly.

But the real challenge for me was when my original publisher went toe tag city. It’s not as though I hadn’t felt real pain in my life before that, and I’m not interested in traducing anyone, but that was a particular kind of pain, a designer pain, a boutique kind of pain—something like the crushing pain of being disabused about Santa Clause amplified by million, I suppose. 10,000 hormonal battery acid adolescences all lived at the same time is how I experienced it.

Tell us a little bit about your writing career.
I am the author of 2 novels, Unwrap Your Candy and ARK, both available from the good people at Common Deer Press. I am not a terribly prolific writer and I’ll probably be dead by the time I finish my 4th novel.

They say Hind-sight is 20/20. If you could give advice to the writer you were the first time you sat down to write, what would it be?
Yikes, I guess that is kind of the young/old paradox I see in a lot of my students, the what you know now, vs. what you knew then. It’s like the ROTAR at the fair, it spins faster and pins you down, sits a heart attack on you as the floor falls out of view. Do you know this ride? That’s life a lot of times, at least as I experience it anyway. And if there was a way to bottle the raw enthusiasm in your early writing self and somehow inject that—a kind of artistic stem cell—into your older self after you’ve paid your dues, and paid your rent, and all that you continue to owe, I think it would be a kind of antidote, a way forward. “Don’t give up” is probably an easier chestnut to polish.

What was your most difficult scene to write?
The ending of the book. I remember years and years ago after wrangling a super-massive revision together, going over it a million times, and thinking of it like I was standing on the edge of the diving board, hanging ten, trembling a little before it was time to jump in the pool. Everything in the process of writing the book suddenly then felt to be prologue. I remember thinking I had then next day off, and I wasn’t going to leave my apartment, wasn’t going to leave my desk, wasn’t going to sleep until I had a sketch of how to land the book.

And then when I wrote the ending, it, unavoidably, slapped me back to the beginning of the book to revise—the ending was really just the beginning, it turned out. I think it was another 6 months of work after that.

Are themes a big part of your stories, or not so much?
I think I understand what calls to me, though, as I’m ever fond of saying, the eye can’t see the eyeball. Sometimes, I hardly know what I’m doing until someone (usually my wife) helps me understand it. My wife IS my reader, the person I’ve been writing for all of my life, even before we knew each other. Sex and death, those are the things she tells me are the themes that emerge. I suppose I also dabble in the apocalypse.

What are you working on now? Is there a release date planned?
I just wrapped up my spring teaching; this has been really challenging semester and, as is the case for many writer/teachers, the end of the semester usually swallows up most creative time and all human-person time. The end of the semester often is an iron curtain which separates teachers from their humanity. However, soon! Soon I’ll return to full human form and then I’ll be turning my attention to the novel I’ve been working on for, Jesus, like a million years, though I probably couldn’t even describe it to you at this point. It’s about a guy who constantly gets passed over for things. It’s a bit of a language-y book drawn from the same vein as ARK, but if ARK is mostly about a kind of euphoria, a kind of intoxication, the book I’m working on is more focused on the subsequent hangover.

Most writers were readers as children. What was your favorite book in grade school?
I was gaga for those book fairs as a child, where they’d haul in a kind of traveling circus of books you could buy. That kind of materializing of BOOKS is something I don’t know if these damn kinds today can really appreciate! And get off my damn lawn! But back to the books, this sudden mothership could just descend and it was like you were being abducted in the cosmos of reading—a wonderful feeling. Anyway, I was really in to those Judy Blume books—Superfudge and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing were a big, big deal. I read and re-read Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret at least as many times as the others and loved it. My aunt was a librarian and when she’d come to visit, I’d set up a little makeshift rolodex, kind of dewy decimal system with notecards containing strange taxonomic details about the books, and she’d inspect my literary collection, approve, and that felt really good.

What are your plans for future projects?
Find a way to deal with work-life balance. The world is a cold cruel place for writers and artists. And at some point about 10 years ago I found my way into academia. I love teaching writing more than anything I’ve ever done, but, of course, academia can be absurdly cutthroat, and it will often take all the time you offer it. My future project is me, to figure out the right balance.

Is there anything you would like to add before we finish?
Ultimately, this book wants to spin you around 30 times on the dance floor and shake up the bottle of champagne everywhere and listen to Prince and shout until the sun crawls up the sky. It wants to get you drunk and dance and party like it’s 1999, and then take a long, long look in the mirror with you the next morning. Are you free?

Good luck with your newest release, and thank you for being with us today. 
Keep scrolling for an excerpt from ARK


Ground squirmed past the windows, shuffling racks of bones and skulls under the soptoil as clouds crept along the horizon. On the bus, all the windows let in cold air and hung like a racked row of ice cubes in a tray, but I barely cracked the bottle.

Out I poured when the doors opened, unable to feel my legs, unable to see the ocean, but I could smell the salty marsh marching wet blue harridans, swiping and batting the spit, pushing the blood and saltboxing up fatjuices into my sinuses.

Jammed a kwata in the belly box and engaged the line.


–I’ve arrived. I’m here.

–That’s great. I bet a little walk will feel like a little slice of heaven, eh?

–I suppose.

–Well, I’ll leave the light on for you, Buddy.

I slid on my gloves and tried not to flinch at the sudden mustering of prickly discs skipping to my face. I leaned in hard and clacked through town, blackened and boarded and unblinking, barely wicklit. Smatter rooms to let. Ingrown hairs. Offseason. Unseasoned in the savorless in and out drag of the tonguetide. I dashed through a carless parking lot and into an astralamped glass meadow jotting down quivering blue starlight ink- puddles into suckshifts of snowhunchbanks humpbacking the outermost stretch of tideland. To the left, a skit of cloven unguals stirred it seemed, crunchy, but I only got half an ear worth and couldn’t noctoscop the goings-on of could be caribou or elk or deer bowing their head, bowing their head before the almighty peering down hard and in, like the retractable Polton and Crane lamp in the dentist’s office that hangs my mouth open.

Inside the blackness, the stickiting, ricketing pickets of thickets wiggle on their dicot studs without me seeing, while they shot out the other side and stitched a black curtain against the edge of the rest of the world. I clacked another mile stretch as brine wafers tickled my ears and swizzled my nos- trils while Lawrence Welk drift popping jollyjawdropping orbs uncorked across my field of vichy.

Estrella’s was a lighthouse, though not the vertical variety. But it glowed.

Light hung out over the glass and flabbed fat, hotwhite dough out the sides as I took up her street. This was another gingerbread house, hundreds of miles from home, though this one in earshot of the beach. I rang and rang and rang and then just opened the door.

About the Author

Jesse Miller is the author of Unwrap Your Candy and the forthcoming ARK, both available from Common Deer Press. He is a Visiting Assistant Lecturer in English at the University of New England. He lives in the great city of Portland, Maine with his wife, two cats, and dog. Jesse roots for the Red Sox.

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