I first became aware of the work of Marietta Miles when I read her brief piece Tell Her for Out of the Gutter Online. It is without a doubt the purest, most intense example of the form I’ve ever encountered. If I were a creative writing instructor, I’d assign this short blast of heartbreaking noir as the perfect example of economically constructed yet comprehensively conceived flash fiction.
By that time I already “knew” Marietta via Facebook, since I’m hooked into a vast network of authors online (as you should be, if you’re trying to get your name out there, too – nothing is more comforting to the struggling writer that the solace of your industry peers). But what you see isn’t always what you get when you actually delve into an author’s work. Appearances can be deceptive.
However, while she is a very friendly, accessible, funny and genuine human being in social media, her artfully crafted fiction is phenomenally bleak and painfully realistic, obviously somewhat inspired by some of her own personal experiences.
The first question I asked her references the fact that while there are many, many female mystery writers, the ratio of male to female hardboiled noir authors (an important marketing distinction, take note) remains pretty lopsided, at least from my limited perspective.
Now let’s meet the very talented Marietta…
Do you feel a special responsibility - or burden - being a female crime writer in a male-dominated field?
I don’t really think about it, actually. Probably because I don’t distinguish myself in that way. I don’t see myself as a female writer. I do see myself as a new writer. A new writer with writer friends who’ve helped me and supported me and my greatest responsibility is to not fail them.
My subject matter is often female-centric but that is because, you know, I’m a chick. My father was a figurehead but not around very much, so my sister and I were really raised by my mother. I have two daughters. Might as well be on Paradise Island. Throw a rock and you hit a girl. That being said, I am immersed, daily, in the turbulent pool of womanhood and I have a big interest in helping my girls survive and thrive.
I do, however, try to be careful in how I portray violence and abuse because, at least in ROUTE 12, it shouldn’t be titillating or arousing. In that manner, I have a responsibility to victims of crime and abuse. I have to give them a voice, in a way. I have to be respectful and truthful.
How would you define “noir” fiction, and what makes yours qualify?
I see noir fiction as stories of people pushed to dark corners. Flawed characters, flawed circumstances and what naturally follows. Noir is what happens when the everyday turns upside down.
The characters that populate noir stories are their own worst enemies. They can’t get themselves out of the ugly situation they are in and actually sink deeper. It can be pessimistic. I don’t think noir can have a truly happy ending. I think it can have a best-case scenario ending.
I think my stories fit into this definition. A lot of my characters cause their own problems but there are certainly examples of innocents caught in the middle. I think characters write their own endings with the choices they make earlier. I think my endings certainly fit the genre in that respect.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
When I was much younger I wrote stories. I hated my own voice, though. Everything sounded whiny and insincere. I was just too young to have much to say, I think. I tried to be very scary and serious and it came out very wordy and dramatic. Makes me want to stick my head in the sand. Ick.
I think I write a little bit all the time, imagining what’s going on in the lives of all the people around me. The backgrounds I come up with for people are probably a darker than real life. I hope so, at least. I end up creating characters I’m very attached to and I become very invested in them. It’s like having friends but not having to be likable.
What are your influences, literary and otherwise?
Scary. Horror. Zombies and monsters. Blood. Guts. Gore. When I was a kid I loved reading horror. Stephen King. Peter Straub. Joe Hill. When I moved out on my own and lived in “the city” I started reading more crime and thriller. Which made sense, I think. I was living single in D.C., Los Angeles, and NYC. Jim Thompson. Thomas Harris. James Ellroy. Horrors of the big city.
I’m a Kindle gal so if I have a hard copy of a book it’s a favorite. Shirley Jackson. Flannery O’Connor. Joyce Carol Oates. Kate Chopin. Those are a few in my collection. A few weird titles, as well. THE COMING PLAGUE. EBOLA. I love diseases. Very graphic and disgusting.
What’s next for you?
I’m very lucky. Down and Out Books is publishing my new book, MAY, in January. Right now, I’m working on all the things that need to get done so they can promote her and get her all cleaned up and ready for debut. In addition, I’m organizing the local Noir at the Bar events and that is a lot of fun. I get to meet and experience new writers which is good for me. I’ve also been given the opportunity to contribute to The Thrill Begins and Do Some Damage blogs. Plus, working on the follow up for MAY.
Thank goodness summer is coming.
Marietta Miles' shorts and flash can be found in Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Flash Fiction Offensive, Yellow Mama, Hardboiled Wonderland and Revolt Daily. Her stories have been included in anthologies available through Static Movement Publishing and Horrified Press. She is rotating host for Noir on the Radio, Dames in the Dark and contributor to Do Some Damage Writer’s Blog. Her first book, ROUTE 12, was released February of 2016. Her latest novel, MAY, will be released in January of 2018 through Down and Out Books. Please visit her blog, Twitter or Facebook for more stories and further information. Born in Alabama, raised in Louisiana, she currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two children.
PHOTO: MARIETTA MILES