Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author and illustrator Miles Nelson about his life, what inspires him to write, and the story behind his latest book release, The Forge And The Flood.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Hey there! My name is Miles, and I’m an independent author and illustrator from Durham.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
If we’re being technical, I wanted to write a book before I could write at all! I vividly remember telling my grandad what to write on sheets of loose paper, stapling it together, and then drawing the pictures. The earliest ‘book’ I remember writing was called ‘The Bird who Learned to Fly’ at age 5, and it’s about as interesting as it sounds.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I wrote my first novel at age 15. I was incredibly proud of it at the time, to the point of getting it self-published under a name I no longer go by. However, it was rather terribly edited, with flat characters and a cover which was hand-drawn by me. I won’t reveal the title, because one day I’d like to rewrite it!
My first push to start writing professionally came when I was 19 and joined New Writing North Young Writer’s group. I was too old to stick around for long, but I got along with the group so well that I began to take my first steps into the field of mentoring and facilitation. I never looked back.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
My first published work, Riftmaster, was written very quickly. I often worry that my short attention span means I’ll lose interest or forget. I had the idea for Riftmaster on the 3rd of January 2019 and finished the first draft on February 3rd. By April, I had finished my first revisions and was submitting it to agents. I continued editing alongside submission before sending it to Elsewhen Press in November. Six months later, they got back to me having loved it, and the Riftmaster we know today was Released on March the 3rd 2021, 2 years and 2 months later.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
My latest book, the Forge and the Flood, is an odd one! The idea was originally suggested by my husband in 2014. We were waiting for our meal in a noodle bar that has long since closed down. As we waited, he said “how cute would it be if you wrote a story about red pandas and otters as rival tribes on an alien planet?”
Otters and red pandas, because they are mine and his two favourite animals, respectively.
The exchange was largely forgotten until we began planning our wedding. Rather than buying each other gifts, we planned to make each other something instead.
So, in the lead up to our wedding, I spent two months writing, illustrating, and working with my Best Man to bring this lovely little novella to life. 20 copies were originally printed for wedding guests, and 2 years after I pitched it to Elsewhen.
That’s around 5 years of lying around at the back of my mind, and 2 years to bring it to publication!
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Forge And The Flood?
As mentioned previously, I wrote the Forge and the Flood on the lead up to my wedding in 2019. I was inspired by our joy and partnership. The exploration of two dramatically different families becoming one was also a big theme I wanted to include.
I snuck in many tiny references to our relationship in the book that only Chris is likely to pick up on; and the two afterwords, one written before our wedding and the other just before its release, tell a story all of their own. I hope that a fraction of the joy that inspired this book shines through to its new readers!
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Forge And The Flood?
The biggest challenge I faced when writing the Forge and the Flood was the size of the cast. The primary focus of my novels are the characters, and I knew that the familial themes would require far more, and a more intricate web of relationships than what I was used to.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
Most of my books feature two protagonists who are designed to pair together. I’m a big fan of complex character growth and relatively slow journeys, so the characters have to be perfect foils to one another in order to drive their own conflict and make their growth interesting. Dynamics may differ between books– Sienna and Indigo are life partners, whereas Bailey and the Riftmaster have a more parental relationship—but both pairings are equally close and unique in the way they develop.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
Neither the Forge and the Flood or Riftmaster really have recurring antagonists. The conflict is instead found in the relationship growth and the trials they overcome together. Riftmaster’s antagonist is not necessarily a bad person, but he represents something for the duo to overcome. His views echo an outdated status quo which he is unwilling to change; and similarly, Indigo’s grandmother, Shard, is resistant to the idea of uniting the protagonists’ species for her own personal reasons. But she does not pose a problem to the growth of their friendship.
What is the inciting incident of The Forge And The Flood?
The Forge and The Flood begins when a natural disaster drives the Ailura, a race similar to red pandas, away from the island that has been their home for hundreds of years. Across the sea, on a new island called Indigna, they encounter the Lutra, an ocean-dwelling species resembling otters.
What is the main conflict of The Forge And The Flood?
Over the course of the book the Ailura are trying to find a new habitat, with the help of a spoiled young Lutra called Indigo.
Along the way they learn that the Ailura and the Lutra may not be the perfect strangers they once thought. Friendships are formed, secrets are revealed, and the characters experience feelings they never expected.
Did you plot your book in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
The majority of the plot and character growth was meticulously planned, but there were some elements that revealed themselves unexpectedly along the way!
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Forge And The Flood need?
My best man helped with the first round of editing, and the book wouldn’t be where it is today without them. They’re a writer and editor themself, and their contribution truly made it a dream when it came both to the first limited run, and final publication.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Often, a major hurdle to overcome is a lack of confidence. Young people I work with often will describe their writing as ‘bad’ or ‘worthless’ which is something that saddens me. My philosophy is that even if you hate a piece of work, everything you do is valuable. You can learn from everything you do, and if you don’t like a piece, it means you will be closer to producing something you love the next time!
By returning to reread something later, you will often see it in a new light or marvel at how far you’ve come! But never, ever look at your own work as worthless. Everything has its part in your writing journey and everything is a learning experience, even if you never share it!
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m currently working on a couple for younger readers which, like Riftmaster and The Forge and the Flood, I’m illustrating myself. And, although I’ve loved my experience with YA and children’s books, I’d love to branch out and work on a horror story one day!
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I don’t think I could possibly be prouder of where I am today! It’s always been my dream, but I always thought it was impossible. Every time I hold my own book in my hands or flip through the pages makes it real.
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