Who are you?
Hi! I’m Jonathan R. Miller. I work full time in marketing communications at a tech company in San Jose, and I also write books — an odd mixture of sci-fi and fantasy stories with a side of social commentary. Because I have a full-time job, I have to squeeze the book writing in whenever I can, which I’m okay with. For me, this balancing act is a normal part of working as an author.
What do you write?
My marketing job often involves writing — for the company’s website, social media, press releases, blog, and more. It may sound strange, but I do enjoy it. I appreciate the opportunity to be creative, even if I don’t get to choose the subject matter.
When I’m not doing that, I write fiction. My goal is to create layered stories that offer commentary on issues of inequality while still being entertaining. The characters tend to be my focus. In fact, sometimes I’m so enamored with the characters and their emotions that I neglect other important story details (e.g., world-building, plot explanations). I feel successful when someone reads something I’ve written and feels less alone, more connected, than they did before.
The book that really got me started writing was American Dreams, by Sapphire. Two other books that motivated me along the way were Room, by Emma Donoghue, and The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. There are more, but those are a few. I’m also really inspired by the work of artists, filmmakers, and musicians.
Do I love fiction writing? Yes and no. I can’t say that I always love the process, honestly. For me, it often feels like a neverending string of failures that I need to push through. The joy comes later, when I finally say what I’ve been trying to say (or at least, I get close enough that I accept the work as complete). But it takes a lot of trying and failing to get there. Now, is writing fiction worth the effort? Yes, absolutely. No question. I can’t imagine NOT writing fiction.
Where do you write?
Anywhere. If I have a free moment, wherever I am at that moment is where I write fiction. For example, before the pandemic hit, I would leave my laptop open on the passenger seat of my car and write while I was stopped in traffic, waiting at red lights, on my way to work. I would also write at my cubicle during lunch breaks. I don’t have a dedicated space for writing fiction, but so far, that’s been okay. I’ve been privileged enough to be able to “repurpose” whatever space I happen to be in.
When do you write?
Writing fiction is something I do daily, whether I want to or not, inspiration or no inspiration (I don’t wait for anything in particular). For me, there is a lot of starting, editing, and starting over again. A lot of deleting stuff that reads terribly. A lot of self-berating (How can I continue to be so horrible at this?). A lot of internet breaks. As mentioned, I work full time in marketing communications for a tech company, and I’m also a spouse/parent, so writing fiction is something I fit into whatever free time I have, which isn’t a lot. My writing process ends up being pretty ugly, honestly. A desperate habit. But, again, it’s completely worth the grind.
Why do you write?
More than anything, Black people inspire me. I write for us. Although I’m mixed and white-passing, I still consider myself a part of that word — us. At the peripheries, but still included in a small way. I’m proud of the people I come from. All I see is beauty when I look. While I don’t pretend that my writing can change the realities of inequality in America, I hope that my writing means something to those who grapple with these realities. I hope it helps inspire people to keep on going. If I can connect with anyone who feels isolated and targeted, I count that as a success.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
The only solution I’ve ever found for writer’s block is to make writing habitual. If I commit to writing every day, no matter how I feel, eventually I break free.
Bonus: What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
Family time. I count the cats and the dog as part of that, by the way. Movies and video games are always a bonus.