An Interview With Alex Miles

Hello folks, today I am really excited to have Alex Miles over for a chat.  Regular readers will already know that I am a huge fan of Alex’s début collection Glory and Splendour.  This is nor only Alex’s debut collection, it is also the lead title from the new publishing house  Karōshi Books, which is a partnership between Johnny Mains, Peter Mark May and Cathy Hurren
Hello Alex, how are things with you?

Hello Jim. Thanks for offering me this interview. I’m excited. I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m feeling pretty jolly about it.

Before we get down to the nitty gritty, can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

I’m a twenty-five year old living in London. I write short stories and work as a business analyst for a music company. I like writing, painting, reading, casual philosophy/debate, acting, myths and games. I am a bit lost as to what I want in life.

Can you describe yourself in five words?

Shy, friendly, lazy, debate, tea.

And can you describe the person you would aspire to be in five words?

A good and happy person.

Six foot seven, big lad. Do you ever get bored of being called big fella and such like?  I know I do.

No, I don’t mind. Although sometimes people bring it up themselves and then point out they know someone taller, as if to say “I noticed you’re tall, but I can beat that.” Also trouser shopping, so much misery.

You’re only 25, and yet you listen to Radio 4, how many cardigans do you own?

I’m an old man at heart. I like all the shows where experts talk about some massively important culture thing I’ve never even heard of. Though to my own horror, I do sometimes find I’m accidentally listening to gardeners’ question time.

You are a business analyst for a music company.  What exactly does this entail?  Please tell me you don’t have anything to do with Stooshe getting a record contract.

Lots and lots and lots of exciting spreadsheets. Working out what people should earn, working out what they did earn, working out how many times they complain about what they earn, putting in place systems to let them complain about what they earn more effectively, having meetings to discuss all the failings in the systems allowing to complain about what they earn. So yeah, it’s all about the music really.

Are you a music fan, if so what do you like to listen to?

Not too much of an enthusiast. But have a few favourites: Ennio Morricone and Hans Zimmer are both fun to listen to. I get obsessed with a single piece of music, often it’s a sound track to a film, listen to it fifty times, then get bored and go to the new flavour of the month.

Do you ever get jaded working in the music industry?

No, I’m not important enough. It’s just zombiefied me.

 As well as writing you also enjoy painting, what style of painting do you do?

Almost always portraits of early 20th century people, in black and white acrylic. Colour is far too tricky. Also black and white has the same effect as in films; it makes everything classier for less expense.

How does the sense of satisfaction differ between finishing a painting and finishing a story?

I think it’s easier for the painter to judge if end result is any good or not, that is, does it look like what it’s damn well supposed to be? In writing, I find I do so much revising that by the end I can’t tell if it’s worth anything.

I also hear that you like to act, why did someone who has so much creativity in them end up doing a maths degree?

Following the line of least resistance. I’m a little too risk adverse for my own good. I like the deductive reasoning of maths, and the on/off logic. All you need for maths is a pen, a big piece of paper, a suitable computational device (a brain will do) and lots of time. You don’t need to cut up half the Alps.

I see that that you were brought up much like myself in a religious family, and as I have turned your back somewhat on religion.  What caused this turn around, or is that too personal a question?

I think I left for emotional reasons and stayed away for what I hope are logical reasons. But I think it’s pretty hard to judge my own motivation. The drive for these things is not straight forward. The geographical location of birth seems to trend political, philosophical, and religious positioning much more powerfully than, say, a reasonable argument.

Do you think your religious views have shaped your writing in any way?

Yes. I really want to write more about religion, but I self censor a lot, maybe more that I should. I think there are interesting themes there, but because I’m unsure of my position I don’t like to write about it. Also, even though I don’t believe in it, I have this weird Hadephobia, I think that bleeds in to the write sometimes. I really have confused feelings when it comes to religion.

Why do you write?

It’s a good question. I don’t really know. The reason depends on what time of day it is. It may just be that there is something stratifying about having someone listen to you.

And do you actually enjoy writing?

“I hate writing. I love having written”. Dorothy Parker.

There are some authors who think that writing should be a battle between you and the words and that if you find it too easy you are not doing it right.  What are your feelings about this?

For me the end product is what’s most important and you can get there by whatever means works. My take on the above statement is you probably shouldn’t write what is obvious to the reader, which likely is what comes to you first and easiest. That probably true in most cases, but I can image some genius putting down witty, meaningful and unexpected words at first draft with ease. Not me though, it’s all about the endless slog of rewriting

How do you go about writing, do you know what you want to write about before you sit down and write?

It’s a bit chaotic. Throughout the day I write down any ideas that come into my head, along with anything people say 
that sounds like good dialogue. About 1/100 things I write down isn’t complete tosh, I take a bunch of those smoosh them together and then write some sort of plot around it.

And who would you say has been the biggest influence on your writing

That’s a hard one. I like Orwell, and would love to write like him, though I don’t think I do. I really like Dali, Magritte and Bosch and have always thought it would be great to have a story with the same mood those pictures have. I have never managed it though.

I’ve just finished your short story collection, and I am hard pressed to describe your writing, in terms of genre.  How 
would you describe it?

Thank you, I take that as a compliment. I think there is a fantasy and horror touch in them. Some of those stories also fall into steampunk, comedy and gothic. I think labels are useful, but naturally people are going to try and write in the grey areas. I try to do something a bit weird and unconventional.

And on a similar note who do you write for?  Do you have a particular type of reader in mind when you write?

I know I should think about target audience, but to be honest I don’t much. I normally write what I think I would be interested to read.

Your debut collection is being released by Karōsh  Press, how did you come to work with Johnny, Peter, and Cathy?

I was playing computer games (don’t judge me) and played with this guy online for a bit, I chatted and sent him some stories, he sent them to his mum, who sent them to Michel Parry, who sent them to Johnny. So whenever I procrastinate with video games I reason I may be productively helping my writing.

How daunting is it knowing that your debut collection is also the debut publication from them?

No, just happy to get published.

Prior to signing with them, had you shopped the collection around much?

No, the collection didn’t exist at the time I approached Johnny, it was just one story. He was the one who suggested a collection.

I’ve just finished reading your collection, and I was blown away by the sheer brilliance of it.  Do you have a favourite in the collection?

Thank you for the compliment. I think Glory and Splendour has the best central idea out of the collection.

 My two favourite stories are Hitting Targets, and Glory and Splendour.   I would like to chat about Hitting Targets first. 
Did you always set out to lace this wonderful story with so much humour? 

Yes. This was always to be a humours story. I don’t think the plot could have worked otherwise. It goes  after the Sweeney Todd & Little Shop of Horrors kind of feel (There are some quotes from those in the story). A lot of it comes from silly things I hear around the office. For example a friend told me in the civil service they had to spend their budget or it got reduced next year. At the end of one year they hadn’t used up the furniture budget, so they all went out to buy this useless furniture and packed it into the office rooms until no one could get in. I love that kind of thing.

How hard was it to balance the humour, with the horror, the pathos, and the terrors of a loveless marriage?  The story could so easily have turned into a farce, but you kept the overall tone of it pitch perfect. 

It’s funny I always thought of it as a bit of a farce, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. Obviously the story is not meant to be realistic. Humour I think is a good sweet and sour mix with pathos, particularly a loveless marriage and the workplace. I don’t think comedy and horror are opposite ends of the spectrum.

Would I be right in thinking that, as with the rest of the stories here, there is more than just a story to tell?  There is a message behind the story?  If there is what was your message?  Do you use your fiction as a means to explore your passion for philosophy?

I like philosophy a lot, but I’m quite undecided on a number of issues. At the moment in fiction I try to keep it ambiguous. I think stories shouldn’t be lectures on philosophy. But they are opportunities to pose odd scenarios that challenge ideas we might have. That view may change.
For example the “euphoria machine”. That’s a scenario where you are given an artificial paradise that exists only in your head, and you cease to react to the real world and leave behind traditional humanity. It’s not too hard to base a story round that kind of trade off.

Glory and Splendour is a wonderful gothic tinged story.  I take it you don’t believe in looking at the world through a pair of rose tinted glasses?

Well that story has a character who literally has those glasses. I think almost all humans have powerful delusions that pervade our lives. Sometimes these are helpful and stop us despairing; sometimes they are harmful and stop us taking practical measures. I don’t have any problem with “rose tinted glasses.” I just  think I have the opposite.

I really enjoyed how the story was completely self contained, with glimpses of the rot and ruin the rest of the world was succumbing to.  So much so, I would love to see you expanded the world into a more expansive work of fiction.  Have you ever considered expanding one of your short stories to a greater length?

I have considered it. Perhaps brevity is strength for stories like these. Sometimes knowing less about a subject that makes it more interesting. My answer is perhaps, but I would need to spin them in a slightly different way. I have always wanted to write a novel, but it is a different ball game.

I loved every story, however Deep Stitches, did cause me to have an “eh” moment the first time I read it.  Yes, that’s right folks, even though I didn’t get the ending the first time, the Alex’s brilliant story telling made me want to go and reread the story straight away.  There is a subtle twist ending to this story, or did the story just go over my head?

Thank you. It does have a twist and some people tell me they can see it coming a mile off and some still don’t get it after I explain it to them.  The ending for that story is one of the most reworked things I did, dropping in and taking out clues. You can look for the twist or you can just read the story at face value.

I will be reviewing this book, and the short review would be “buy it now”, but here is your chance to sell to the book to the readers.  The stage is yours, why should the readersbuy your book?

 I’m not great salesman but ok… Everyone who has read the book has says they thought it was amazing. I think the stories are different than anything else that is out there at the moment. I would like to believe that they are fun and will make a reader think. Reviews have been awesome so far also.

So what does the future hold for you?

I hope more stories and maybe a novel. I am looking into going into some acting to, but I need to get on that.

Alex, it has been a pleasure chatting to you, and I really must thank you and the guys at Karōshi Press for giving me the chance to read this book ahead of it’s publication.  Do you have any final words for the readers

Thanks Jim for the time. And thanks to readers for listening to me witter on about this book. I don’t have any words of insight so can I just plug one last time? It’s out on kindle now, paperback in September. 

You can purchase the Kindle version of the book by clicking the links below 

Glory and Splendour is the stunning new debut collection by Alex Miles and heralds a new voice in weird fiction. Introduction by Michel Parry, who says this is a significant first book. 

Muscular prose and a twisted imagination combine to make these tales special and disturbing. I was particularly impressed with ‘The Judge’, which has a powerful and nightmarish inevitability about it, but also the stories are very good indeed. Alex Miles is a bold new talent, exactly the sort of injection of fresh blood that the weird fiction scene needs! – Rhys Hughes

Glory and Splendour is a remarkable debut from a young writer. Clearly tapping from the same vein as Thomas Ligotti, Alex is already a writer with an emerging voice all his own. Miles has produced a collection of great verve, originality and integrity. – Simon Bestwick

Glory and Splendour is an apt title for this collection as it is both glorious and splendid. I urge you to purchase this book when it is released it was a pure joy to read, relish and savour. – Ginger Nuts of Horror

Karōshi Books is run by the award-winning editor Johnny Mains, Peter Mark May of Hersham Horror Books and Cathy Hurren, a production editor at Routledge.


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