1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?
Hello! My name is Austin Miller, though most of my fans know me through my pen name, “absman420”. I’m from Upstate New York but reside in Washington, DC with my husband and three dogs.
2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?
Recently (February 22), I published my second novel, Centauromachy (Pholus Reborn Book 2). I would classify it as a light-hearted, gay, erotic fantasy-adventure novel — or is that too niche?
3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?
The novel follows Red, a young man taking his time going nowhere, who is transformed into the centaur Pholus, the not-so-famous enemy of Heracles, whose story gives us the moral “don’t shoot yourself in the foot.” Through the course of the books, as Red creates his new centaur herd and experiences battle, he becomes a good leader.
4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?
The two biggies: sex and death. I say sex only because the actual mechanics of it aren’t terribly interesting to write, and can really only go so far. Writing erotica has really taught me the “music” of writing, developing themes, building toward climaxes, surprise key changes and transitions — sex scenes are really about imagery. And writing death scenes is hard only because I’m a sentimentalist. I cry every time.
5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?
I chose to self-publish. I know that what I write is a very niche thing and don’t know what publishers would think of it, or the marketability of it. More, I want to keep control of the content and produce it at my own pace. I have “sold out” before, turned what I loved into a job, but it always comes with a cost, and often that cost is creative freedom.
6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?
This may sound strange. For me, the hardest part of my journey was admitting I wrote erotica to the public at large. I’d been writing short stories as “absman420” for nearly thirty years before I self-published. I was proud of my first novel and wanted to share it with family and friends, requiring a second “coming out” for me as an erotic writer. And just like my sexual coming out, the hype was greater than the event. If anybody objected, or has been uncomfortable, they’ve not voiced that to me (though I’m constantly trying to imagine my mom at her book club…)
7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
It just so happens that my first two novels are connected — and I’m writing a third — but it wasn’t my intent to write centaur books only. I have an unrelated novel “in the oven” and I’m considering publishing a short-story compilation.
8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?
I’d say my top three influences are: Tom Robbins, whose use of language and imagery is playful and brilliant; John Irving, whose characters exist only for the page, their unique eccentricities perfect for their plot function; and, believe it or not, Stephen King, who knows how to make a reader turn the page.
9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?
I have become a shameless marketer. I figured, if I didn’t promote my books, no one would. So I became this relentless, unapologetic P.T. Barnum type. I have shouted, I have shamed, I have paid, I have pandered — anything and everything. My friends are sick of me talking about my books… but I don’t care! But honestly, one of the things that has worked the best for me has been commissioning online artists to realize characters or scenes. It’s relatively inexpensive, they post the finished product to their page, so you add their internet reach to your own, and you get an awesome piece of art out of it. Win-win.
10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?
There’s not a lot that I actively avoid — I’m not a fan of gore, in any form. I think part of the fun of writing is taking a trope or a cliché and turning it on its head.
11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?
Someone said to me one time that “if you believe the good reviews, you have to believe the bad ones, too”. When I wrote short stories online, the feedback was immediate — many threads of conversation about this or that in the story — good and bad, opinions are opinions. Since writing novels, feedback is rare, limited to what people post on Amazon or GoodReads, and then, people only write reviews when they really like it or really hate it. I miss the feedback, but I do enjoy reviews of any sort.
12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?
I’ve worked both as a plotter and a winger — both work equally well for me, though I prefer to write toward “landmarks” rather than follow a tight plot. In my first novel, Pholus Reborn, everything was plotted — it was over-plotted. I had pages and pages of arcs and diagrams. But I think that’s because Pholus started as a short-story that I expanded, whereas Centauromachy was just me winging it, knowing where we were going to end up, but allowing the characters to inform me of the path. It was a fun experiment and I believe paid off in the end (the wedding/battle sequence in Centauromachy was plotted in my normal fashion, however. It was too big to do otherwise.) I can’t have music on while I write — it distracts me — however, I have the TV on in the background, which I can easily ignore.
13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?
The three pieces of advice that I’ve remembered most: 1) Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Mark on the Page/Writing is Re-writing. Staring at a blank page can be daunting — just start writing and edit later; 2) Start as Deep into the Story as Possible. Fill us in as we go along. Often the beginning isn’t the best place to start; 3) The Writer’s Best Friend is the Waste Bin. If it’s terrible, no one has to know. Throw it away and start again.
14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?
Since publishing my second novel, I’ve written a few short stories that were on the back burner. I’ve started the first few pages of my third novel in the centaur series, because I “see” this opening scene, so I’m putting it on paper. I’ve loosely plotted the novel, but don’t know if I’m ready to write it yet. In the meantime, I’m debating publishing an anthology of short stories. You know, quick and dirty.
15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:
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