Michael Milne is relatively new to the authoring scene, but I firmly believe that before too long he’ll have one of his stories turned into a billion dollar a year HBO series. I just hope he remembers who interviewed him right at the start… Anyway, Mike has been a friend of mine since the wee years of kindergarten, and though our paths diverted later on in highschool, he’ll always hold a special place in my heart (cue the awes), and I couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments. He’s a genius in more sense than one, and he’s a great all around guy. His talent was always going to take him places, and mixed with his adventurous spirit, it’s safe to say we’ve only see the start of his writing career. But, without further ado, enjoy his interview below.
Q: You’ve always been the smartest guy I’ve know, it’s pretty much a fact. Tell us about why you chose writing as your main skill set when you had so many top quality traits to hone and master?
You flatterer. To be honest, writing was always the most soothing and interesting. Whatever else I’ve been doing in my life, taking the time to sit down and write things out totally relaxes me. When I write about my own life, I find it orders all of my thoughts, makes me remember better, and helps me sort through my ideas and opinions. When I write fiction, I get to go on bonkers adventures far away from reality and put away life for a while. Getting good at it has mostly been by accident because it’s a hobby I enjoy, and I’ve wanted to get better and more capable at my hobby by doing it a lot.
Q: I know that you’ve been a teacher in multiple countries, mostly over in Asia. Why did you choose to head to the Far East to teach? Do you think it’s more enjoyable than teaching in Canada? Also, I know you have a tonne of stories about the kids you’ve taught, care to recant one of your famous student/teacher dialogues?
I wouldn’t say there’s anything better about teaching in Asia versus teaching in Canada, though it’s certainly different. I’m working in an international school, so teaching kids with a billion different passports can be pretty interesting. Mostly, the teaching market back home is completely nuts, and the idea of volunteering for years before someone deigned to let me work as a substitute teacher didn’t sound too good. I know tons of friends who went to teachers’ college with me who have already gotten out of teaching because there’s no opportunity to work.
Working with kids is pretty great, and the greatest thing is definitely the things they say to me every day. You find yourself in conversations you never thought possible, with combinations of words that as a grownup you’d just never have come up with. Here’s one conversation I had recently that I managed not to laugh my way through:
Child: “You’re so good at drawing!”
Mr. M: “That’s because I work hard and do lots of practice.”
Child: “Just like Franken-style.”
Mr. M: “I don’t understand. Who is that?”
Child: “Franken-style was a monster, but then he practiced very much, and now he’s totally a good singer.”
Q: Beyond going about as far away as possible for work, you’re also an avid traveler. What’s one of your favourite locations to visit? Furthermore, how did your travels inspire your writings?
I think one of my favourite countries to visit has been Vietnam. I’ve been about three times now, and it hits all the right spots: nice weather, amazing food, cool people. There’s so much to do and so much amazing history there (some of it, of course, terribly sad and dark–the Vietnam War Memorial is not to be missed). Every time I go there I have a completely different experience from the last time!
My travels definitely filter into my writing. I used to write largely nonfiction stuff about my life and my travelling, but as I’ve moved away from that into fiction, a lot of it has started to filter in thematically. I like writing about strangers in strange lands, people being far away (spatially, temporally, emotionally) from who and what they know.
Q: Yes, I finally asked a writing question…like half way through the interview with an author… Anywhoo, tell us about the story you have in the Love Hurts collection. That’s not a question, it’s a demand, Mike. I want to know everything about it.
The story in Love Hurts is called “Traveler” and it’s the story of a time-traveling cop coming home after a long job. He’s been away for months and months hunting a fugitive, but for his wife and son he’s been gone for just his regular 8-hour workday. And his whole career is like that, days and weeks apart from his family while for them it’s just like normal.
“Traveler” came out of a time when I was reflecting more deeply on what it means to be an expat, or to be someone who basically permanently leaves home very far away. I was feeling mopey about my choices, maybe, and was thinking about how time begins to feel different, like it has expanded or contracted. Every time I’d return to Canada it would feel like no time had passed, like I had changed so much but everything there was exactly the same as before. And then another time I’d return and I’d be shocked everything was so different.
Q: Love Hurts is a speculative fiction anthology, for those who might not have heard of it before. Would you say that the fantasy, or sci-fi, or speculative fiction field is something you want to stick with, or do you want to try your hand in other genres?
I’d definitely like to write more stories in a contemporary setting, but I think I’m always going to write speculative fiction in one form or another. My brain just doesn’t churn out many ideas without ghosts or lasers.
Q: With you having a story in Love Hurts, what other work do you have out for submission, or what do you plan on doing next?
I have a ton of stories out in slushpiles, waiting to be read by overburdened editors. A friend and I write stories and edit them back and forth between each other, and the way we talk about it is like finding homes for puppies at a shelter. Lots of them are out right now at foster homes, and some have come real close to adoption, but many have also failed spectacularly. You get kind of accustomed to rejection and you keep writing and keep submitting!
I have ideas for novels that have been percolating for years, but my problem was always the follow-through. I’ve tried to focus on short stories for a while to really hone crafting a story from start to finish and being satisfied with how they end. Now that I’m on sturdier ground, I have some behemoths to write.
Q: Lastly, working as a teacher, how do you incorporate your creativity into your lessons? And moreover, what community involvement do you have? Be it with your writing or artistic side, or anything in general.
Writing is one of my most favourite things to teach, so a lot of my passion comes out when I work with kids on writing. I try to show them just how exciting it is to create stories, books, poems, and nonfiction pieces for other people, I help them share their work so they can feel that little rush of excitement when someone else picks up one of their books. Art and creativity also form a lot of what I do, so me and the kids are always sketching and doodling ideas down to communicate what we’re thinking.
Being at an international school here in China, the community can be a little insular, but at the same time can also be incredibly tight and supportive. Through my school I’m involved in a ton of extracurricular activities (stop-motion film making, exploring technology and coding, doodling, writing). Outside of school I’ve been in some clubs and groups. Last year I convinced myself to learn how to play the ukulele, and during one particularly nerdy time in Korea I was regularly performing spoken word at a coffee shop. …Let’s not talk about it.
As I mentioned, he’s an incredibly bright individual. He’s full of creativity, and his hard work and determination just shows that you can accomplish anything if you just have patience and hone your skills. He’s a well travelled man, and I have no doubts that he’ll have stories for years to come based on said travels. But for the time being, you can read his latest work in Love Hurts on Amazon here.
Look for bigger things in the future from this talented and creative mind!