• West Cork Literary Festival 8-15 July 2022

Jax Miller On Writing, Editing, Music & Coffee

Writing.ie | Resources | Better Fiction Guides | Writers’ Tips

Jax Miller

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Jax Miller’s Freedom’s Child is out this week (in case you haven’t noticed – sometimes we want to get behind a book and shout about it, and this one is worth shouting about), so we asked Jax to share some of the tips and techniques she uses when she sits down to write. A unique voice, a book that “sizzles with confidence and authenticity”, in her review for Writing.ie Catherine Ryan Howard says, “Miller is the real deal and she deploys her talent with such confidence that it’s as shocking as some of the book’s most violent twists and turns that this is her debut novel.”

Jax Miller is fiesty, bright, unconventional and incredibly talented, not unlike Freedom Oliver, her central character and these are some of the key things she’s learned along the way:

1) Reading out loud is one of the techniques I find most useful. As soon as I finish a chapter, I read it to my husband. As a writer, I find when I read/write a chapter a few times over, my brain begins to to scan over a lot of it. And reading out loud helps me to catch any mistakes I might have made. See? I used the word ‘to’ twice here.

It also helps with the rhythm. Writing should have rhythm.

2) I must have music blasting in my headphones. Usually it’ll be music pertinent to the scene, so if I’m writing a real country-themed scene, I’ll listen to Johnny Cash. If I’m writing a fight scene, I have some epic score/battle music going on. That said, I have to edit in silence, probably because it’s more technical.

freedoms child amazon3) When I have the headphones are on, and I’m in my writing zone – and I should not be bothered, lest I throw the closest object on my desk across the room – I spend about half an hour to an hour (depending on the intensity of the narrative)  trying to get in my character’s mood/train of thought. I completely immerse myself (which can be hard, especially when writing a dark narrative). Then I need a proper half hour with music to ease myself out, I can’t be ripped away, it messes me up. That’s a lot of my creative process… some just call it madness.

Oh, and caffeine. I need lots and lots of caffeine.

4) When I start, the very first thing I do is write the ending. I can’t start right at the beginning, I tend to veer off course and before I know it, I’m writing a completely different story (I have too many ideas and a short attention span). Writing the last scene helps me have something to aim for, so I can get from point A to point B without hitting too many traffic cones.

5) Some argue that you should write the first draft alone, but I don’t. I have a husband and two close friends (Hi Sarah and Jensine) I like to bounce ideas off of because I find my best ideas come while brainstorming, hearing myself talk it out. After the first draft, you have to send it to an editor or to a professional to critique it (Hi Inkwell Agency). There’s no way in hell your book is ready after you “self-edit”. It’s painful, it requires you to swallow your pride, but you’re foolish to think you’re good enough to do it yourself. But do be careful not to have too many cooks in the kitchen. It’s easy to let others influence you in the opposite direction of your own ideas.

jax_age_8_book_1 small6) I didn’t start out wanting to be a writer, although I did write my first book when I was eight (it’s the prequel to Book 2!) Writing came to me when I was at a period in my life of trying to save myself and clean up my life. It started for me while I was seeing a counselor. I’d go in, guns blazing, F this and F that and F this again. The therapist was a very conservative man who’d cringe every time I cursed or told a colorful story from my past. So, he told me to write (I believe in an attempt so he wouldn’t have to hear me). It was supposed to be a journal kind of thing, but I hated journaling. Writing about things I wanted to forget never helped me, it just ticked me off. So, I wrote something fake (it’s still an existing chapter in my unpublished/1st novel, The Assassin’s Keeper). He read it in silence and I waited, wondering if there were men outside with butterfly nets. When finished, he looked right in my eyes and said “That was the best ****ing thing I ever read.” After that, I wrote more and more, writing a good chunk of my first novel in his office. I haven’t stopped since.

7) I have some bad writing habits. Ellipses. I put them everywhere. The truth is, I don’t even know how to properly use them. I just put them in when the page looks a little sad…

jax age 8 pic8) My research for my books isn’t formal – I draw from memory. Having seen a lot of the states during my hitchhiking days, I take a lot from the places that had more of an impact for me (in Freedom’s Child, I drew from my couple of years in Louisville and Goshen Kentucky, which I loved, as well as Mastic Beach, New York, where I spent most of my childhood). I take these places and then I exaggerate them. I also make them up a lot (i.e. Painter, Oregon). As far as research in other areas, it’s easy to let it bog you down and take you away from the writing process, so I only try to do what’s necessary. The interwebs in the current age are a great resource.

9) I find editing the most difficult part of writing (obviously). It’s tedious, it forces you to kill your babies (by this, I mean remove your proudest parts of the book), it’s where you take on other people’s ideas instead of your own. It’s a painful process, but a writer can’t reach his/her full potential without doing it. So is writing ‘The End,’ I always struggle with that. I form a connection with my characters and have spent months depending on their company. It’s hard to break out of that.

10) The best piece of writing advice I ever heard was don’t listen to writers’ advice. It’s too important to find the beat of your own drum, that can be a writer’s greatest asset, might be what sets you apart. It’s also good to learn to be alone with yourself. Writing can be a claustrophobic place.

And my advice apart from writing?

Not forgiving a person is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

(c) Jax Miller


About the author

About Freedom’s Child

Call me what you will: a murderer, a cop killer, a fugitive, a drunk…

There’s a lot people don’t know about Freedom Oliver. They know she works at the local bar. They know she likes a drink or two.

What they don’t know is that Freedom is not her real name. That she has spent the last eighteen years living under Witness Protection, after being arrested for her husband’s murder. They don’t know that she put her two children up for adoption, a decision that haunts her every day.

Then Freedom’s daughter goes missing, and everything changes. Determined to find her, Freedom slips her handlers and heads to Kentucky where her kids were raised. No longer protected by the government, she is tracked by her husband’s sadistic family, who are thirsty for revenge. But as she gets closer to the truth, Freedom faces an even more dangerous threat.

She just doesn’t know it yet.

Freedom’s Child has been described as:

‘A terrific read from a powerful new voice ‘ Karin Slaughter

‘Original, compelling and seriously recommended.’ Lee Child

‘Seldom has a literary creation bounced off the page with as much raw vitality … one of the standout debuts of the year’ Guardian

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