Books by Bruce Miles
Interview with Bruce Miles, author of the new Climate Fiction novel, Satan’s Lapdogs.
Q: First of all, let’s talk about the title of your new novel. How did that title come to be?
The title comes from a speech a matriarch gives to Dylan warning him of the dangerous people he is associating with. I can’t say much more about that without giving away too much plot.
Q: Your novel is a bit different for Climate Fiction in that it isn’t about a dystopian, weather devastated future. Why did you take this approach?
Well, I feel that there is too much negativity in the news and politics right now, much of it manufactured for shock value or media ratings, and all of that lessens the urgency of being proactive in developing climate change responses. We are living in a dystopian culture now, in real life, and I wanted to tell a story that gives people the thought that we can change things if we all work together and put blind, debilitating, political party loyalty aside for the greater good.
Q: Climate issues are a global concern. Is your story global in scope?
No, it is United States based, a story of one man’s peek behind the scenes at the frustration and urgency many people are feeling over Washington’s lack of movement toward meaningful policy enactment. People lament the glaciers melting but they are thousands of miles away so people react like they do when they need to clean the spare bedroom, they close the door to that room and put it out of their mind until later. In this novel the point is made that people will only finally pay attention when their food, comfort, and ability to travel is adversely affected, and then it will be too late. The chance for adaptation and preparation will be past and survival of the fittest will rule the land.
Q: Has climate change directly affected you? And if so, how?
It has, but not like people living near coastal areas or in the wildfire and mudslide areas or the farmers and ranchers having to work around flooding during planting or harvesting or droughts during the growing season. Farmers are being forced to move away from crops they’ve grown for years to crops that are less affected by the weather just to stay in the business.
As for me personally, I see changes in the seasons. As a kid there was always snow at Christmas time. I remember hearing cars drive by the house with snow chains on and it reminded me of sleigh bells. Now, where I live, we don’t get winter weather until January or February most of the time and then it is ice and not snow. Seasonal weather patterns have changed enough to affect waterfowl hunters, deer hunters, and fishermen. Home gardeners are also feeling the effects of seasonal changes from growing conditions to lack of bees, butterflies, and new blights.
Q: President Trump gets only a background mention in your story. Things seem to be going to hell during his presidency, why was he not a main figure in this story?
He is very divisive on all levels and I did not want to alienate readers who still support him but need to see a different perspective on the realities of climate change. Plus, the story takes place after his time in office is over even though the damage he has done lingers; that is the only reason he is even mentioned at all.
Q: What are your personal thoughts on climate change?
It is underway, visible, real, and unstoppable. Whether is it man caused, man accelerated, just the planet going through its natural cycles, or a combination of things we know and things we don’t know-yet, we can’t stop it, but we must adapt to it. We can’t stop emerging countries from using whatever technology they have to grow, so there will always be polluting countries. What we must do is use American resources of technology, money, and ingenuity to adapt to what is coming and move away from the thinking we can stop or reverse climate change. All the money spent on government circuses and pork projects needs to be reallocated to adapting and preparing for the new normal. But, humans in general, want to have their worry free good times while the planet burns; as long as I have a nice life now, the future is a ways away, so why worry seems to be the feeling. We cannot shame or educate politicians into taking proactive actions that benefit the entire country and the general population is so hooked on reality television shows and celebrities to care about anything other than what happens to their favorite stars.
Q: Thank you for your time.
Interview with Bruce Miles about the novel DARK HEARTS IN THE FOREST
Q: What is your new book, Dark Hearts in the Forest, about?
A: It is about a man who hates his job and unexpectedly encounters an opportunity to pursue a way out of it but finds attaining the way out will not be that easy. Kit Carson's dream of escaping his soul crushing job collides with a serial killer's dream of reclaiming his position in his family's hierarchy. Kit invites four friends to an inherited century old homestead for a weekend of developing a business plan for the property and outdoor camaraderie. A careless gunshot puts Kit and his friends in the crosshairs of an psychotic killer and his clever drug making cousin. What should have been a relaxing weekend turns into a case of 21st Century southern discomfort as the group struggles to survive the deep southern forest, a ruthless killer, and each other. Dark Hearts in the Forest will leave you yearning to be in the great outdoors but looking over your shoulder once you get there. It is a novel of the 21st Century colliding with the Old South. It is a celebration of the outdoors as well as a warning that danger lurks everywhere you go. Dark Hearts in the Forest is a guy’s adventure tale whereas The Greek Fire Killings was a married couple’s adventure story.
Q: There is a dedication at the front of the book. Are they characters in the book?
A: They are not characters in the book. They were friends who died too early with too many adventures left untaken. We shared some great times together while they were alive and I thought of them a lot while writing this book. The book is about friendship that endures through good times and bad times.
Q: You included several references to songs in the story. Why is that?
A: Enjoying music is a universal bonding experience. Music inspires, reminds, and motivates us. I hope that readers remember their outings filled with good music and identify with the characters within the context of the story. Plus, music is intrinsic to many outings whether it is a road trip, sitting on the beach, or a week in the woods at a deer camp, duck club, or family camping.
Q: You mentioned earlier that the story is a celebration of the outdoors. You have a character briefly talk about climate change, what are your thoughts on climate change.
A: I believe much like the character states, that climate change is well underway and whether it is man made, man accelerated, or we just happen to be alive during the planet’s natural cycle, we need to focus on adaptation as much as adjusting activities that contribute to climate change. Politicians and industrialists have their point of view and goals that often doesn’t jive with the average citizen whether the average citizen is a beach lover or hunter or city dweller. At some point, hopefully before it is too late for future generations, all of us have to unite to address the problem of adaptation to climate change.
Q: Both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury are mentioned in the book, do you have first hand experience with that?
A: No, not in a military context. I have had family members serve in the armed forces and thankfully they made it through their service safely. I support our armed forces and believe that our government could do more to assist our veterans in all the ways they need support. My dad served in the Navy in WWII but didn’t talk that much about it, yet he was an outspoken patriot up to the day he died. Here is a shout out to all who served on LSTs in World War Two.
Q: Your last novel was a road trip where this one is set in one location. Do you like to travel and camp like your characters?
A: The Greek Fire Killings is about a married couple racing across the country barely keeping ahead of contract killers looking to tie up the last remaining loose end in a witness. Dark Hearts starts with an untold road trip to get the five friends to the location, but the action begins once they all arrive at the cabin to camp for the weekend. I love road trips and sight seeing along the way. I also love being in a cabin in the woods. A writer can take experiences from both and incorporate those experiences into a story that other people can identify with. I hope my characters are relatable to readers but at the same time provide an adventure tale that provides escape, food for thought, and maybe even some motivation to get out and see the world in a new context.
Q: One of the statements I’ve read is: “Many novels are written set in the great outdoors but few are actually written by an outdoorsman. Dark Hearts in the Forest is written by a lifelong outdoorsman.” What is your outdoor background?
A: I grew up with parents who were organic gardeners and raised livestock from rabbits and chickens to cows. Our property bordered undeveloped land that, as a kid, considered to be my private playground. So between the two, and the Boy Scouts, it seemed natural to be outdoorsy. As I grew older I fished and hunted with friends and family then joined a deer club then a duck club. The thrill of the hunt and camaraderie with friends takes hold of you and won’t let go. I also kayak, hike, and explore our parks and monuments scattered throughout the country.
Q: You mention Bigfoot, UFOs, and other rural legends. Are you a believer?
A: I want to believe. I’ve never seen Bigfoot but I have heard strange sounds and seen indistinguishable shapes in the forest. I’ve seen unidentified lights in the sky but I don’t think I’ve seen anything from a different planet. All of these mysteries and people’s opinions about them can be shared and discussed over a campfire or a family meal. The uncertainty is what keeps the legends and myths alive and makes for good-natured debates.
Interview with Bruce Miles about the novel
The Greek Fire Killings
Q: Where did the title The Greek Fire Killings come from?
A: The title comes from the name of the Federal investigation into a global cybercrime syndicate. Greek Fire was a weapon used against invading naval forces in ancient Greece. It was a big ball of fiery goo that was launched at enemy ships to burn them. When enemy sailors attempted to douse the fire with water it only burned hotter and faster. The formula for Greek Fire was lost when the Library of Alexandria was destroyed. The Library of Alexandria was the repository of knowledge from around the known world at that time. The cybercrime syndicate was gathering knowledge then selling that information to the highest bidder. The Feds called their investigation Operation Greek Fire.
Q: Why do your books have journalists as primary characters?
A: I have a background in broadcast news from a career that I enjoyed very much. Reporters are interesting because they have access to many sources of information and often can follow interesting leads. Sometimes, while working on one story, reporters discover things that can take them in a whole new direction. This gives reporter characters an opportunity to be in various situations, plus very few people know what goes on behind the stories, which makes that aspect interesting for authors to explore.
Q: Do you think The Greek Fire Killings will be made into a movie someday?
A: That would be great! I think that novel has elements that would translate well onto the big screen. I think the mountain cabin, the bicycle versus car chase, the fire and shootout in a ghost town, and the climax would be visually exciting. Plus the human interest aspect is dynamic and relatable.
Q: Why is music such a prominent part of your stories?
A: In The Greek Fire Killings Derrick and Rhiannon listen to music on their cross country road trip; and who hasn’t been on a road trip and sung along to favorite songs or reminisced about songs from the past that meant something special to us then and/or still?
As for The Shootings at Summerhill High School, I believe, as one of the characters states, that song lyrics tell our history more accurately than history books. Songwriters and historians see the world differently and one is in the moment and the other has a different view. Truths and conditions of every era can be found in songs that may not be present in history books, especially revisionist history books. Listen to the social commentary songs, protest songs, songs about war, and angst filled songs, and you see a persistence of themes throughout society and time. Nothing really changes all that much, reality is given a new perspective but the truth of societal consistency remains.
Q: In The Shootings at Summerhill High School why did you feel you needed to write about such a horrible event?
A: When I wrote that novel, bullying was constantly in the headlines and public schools nationwide seemed to be mired in mediocrity or worse. As a teacher I heard many things that the general public, and most parents, were not aware of. Many of the disruptive students I taught treated adults, myself for example, as non-entities and would discuss activities they would never talk about in front of parents or grandparents. The teen angst I witnessed was a mix of needless drama (from the drama queens) and actual horrific things kids did to each other. Every other day I was shown a new fight which had been posted to the internet. Cafeteria fights, playground fights, behind the building fights, and it depressed me that so many kids thrived on the violence and a questionable fifteen minutes of fame for fighting. Many times these neighborhood disputes ended up with guns being used to settle the score. Sometimes the shootings happen at schools. Active shooter training was just beginning and our school participated in that training. All of that became the catalyst for the story. People need to think about the worse-case scenario because it could happen anywhere and anytime.
Q: So your experience in the classroom prompted you to write your non-fiction book to help parents prepare their children for public schools?
A: Between local and federal politics, local policy changes, racism, finances, and general lack of interest and discipline from students, public schools exist in a state of turmoil. By the time students reach high school age parents have distanced themselves from participating in their child’s education and peer pressure and personal drama takes the lead. Teacher to Parent Confidential is my way of trying to help caring parents who want to give their child a solid foundation to build on in the classroom and perhaps a sense of curiosity that will help their child thrive despite the administrative turmoil and classroom distractions.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a novel in which a man’s dream of escaping his stressful job is put in jeopardy by a prominent local family who does not share his dream and vision. Who can’t relate to having some opposition to their personal hopes and dreams? I hope to have it ready sometime this year.
Interview with Bruce Miles author of the novel
THE SHOOTINGS AT SUMMERHILL HIGH SCHOOL
Q. Why did you write about this subject?
A. I was a public school teacher for a long time and was immersed in the culture seeing and hearing about students' lives everyday. The kids often spoke to each other as if I was not present in the room so I heard a lot of what goes on in their lives. Bullying was and is a major part of everyday life. Some kids can handle it and others cannot. Violence is a reaction and most young kids don't have the maturity to think things through before acting. I lost students to violence and thought the novel might get parents to think and be a bigger part of their child's life.
Q: What do you think is the solution to bullying and school violence?
A: I wish I knew. A lot of blame is on our gun culture but I see fist fights and gang fights posted to the web all of the time so I don't think you can single out guns. I felt that most of the problem comes from un-involved parents who don't take the time to be a parent to show their children other means of dealing with bullies or let thier kids know it is okay to be different and how to stand up for themselves non-violently. I had a lot of students raised by elderly grandparents who did not have what was needed to guide or oversee angry teens who are stronger than them or who do not respect them.
Q: What can educator's do to help stop school violence?
A: Well, in my opinion, it is not up to educators to be parents and teach morals and citizenship. That is up to the parents. Educators have the job to teach information that helps students know how to make their way through life. Educators should not be required to teach right and wrong and civility and self-esteem. Stop putting the onus on educators and hold parents responsible for their children's actions and behavior both in school and on the street. Parents should give their children hope and vision and dreams while educators provide the means to achieve each of those things. Education policy and techniques have gone off the rails in an attempt to be everything to everybody without offending or affecting the self-esteem of anyone and that is a large part of the overall problem. There is no easy fix but parents need to be held much more accountable than I have seen over the past several decades.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share?
A: People wonder why educators leave the profession so soon and so often and wonder why the state of education is in the shape it is in. Well, when parents wash their hands of any responsibility of helping your own flesh and blood grow and have every chance possible to succeed then you get what you get. A lot of it stems from the fact that a lot of parents hated school themselves and that infects their children's perception about school. If parents would say "I wish I had learned this or that or did better in school so I don't have to do my type of job now", it might register to the kids that they have a chance at obtaining a better future than thier parents or grand parents. Once we get parents supporting sensible yet firm education policies and practices then we can work on getting the idiot politicians and ivory tower academic policy makers out of the mix, then practical reform could begin. I do have a non-fiction, self-help, reference book out for parents of young learners. It is titled TEACHER TO PARENT CONFIDENTIAL and can help low income parents embrace free or very inexpensive teachable moments for their pre-school children. Thank you.