Session with Terin Miller- Author of Novel” Kashi”

Terin Miller– The name is good enough to tell who he is. He is a personality in the world of writing, who plays his roles well, both as a writer and an editor. He spent many years in India being the child of an anthropologist couple. He has worked in different countries including India. His recent Novel “Kashi” is creating waves among the readers.

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1) How you entered the world of writing and when you started this journey?

I wrote my first short story when I was 7 years old. It was supposed to be an episode of a favorite television show, with my friends in roles of the other characters in the show.

2) Do you have anyone in your family who is part of this writing world?

My father was a writer. Mostly he wrote academic works, being a professor of anthropology and Indian and Tibetan studies. But he won a contest at his college for an essay when he was a young World War II veteran. The contest was called the Hopwood Award. And he liked to write fun Christmas cards and letters. He had ideas for mystery and other books that he never wrote, but both he and my mother–also a professor of anthropology and a Tibetan and Indian studies scholar–read voraciously, everything from Science Fiction to mysteries.

3) Which was your first write up and what was the topic?

My first published short story I wrote in high school about two close high school friends realizing when they parted they might never see each other again. It was called ‘Raindrops and Sunshine,” and was published by my high school as well as by the Wisconsin Academy of Arts and Science. The short story, in fact, was read and praised by the man who became my first literary agent when I was 17.

4) Who acted as an inspiration in your life?

Both of my parents–Drs. Robert J. and Beatrice D. Miller–inspired me in my life, as did particularly my high school English (Creative Writing) teacher, Elizabeth Dowling. And in my apprenticeship as a budding creative writer, the writers Loren D. Estleman and Barry Holstun Lopez inspired and encouraged me. And people overcoming adversity with dignity and grace have always inspired me, which is why I was inspired greatly by many in India as both a child and young man.

5) Life of an author is not simple, so what attracted you to be a part of this world?

The idea of transmitting images and experiences as well as ideas to others attracted me to become a writer, as did finding a means of expressing myself particularly in my junior and senior years in high school. I had not found such a means of expression I enjoyed as much as ceramics (sculpture) class or playing drums in a rock band, until Elizabeth Dowling introduced me to trying to write. Also, to be honest, at roughly the same time–11th and 12th grades in the U.S.–I became a reader myself, and thought it might be fun to try and match wits with some of the writers I admired.

6) How was “Kashi” conceived in your mind?

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As with all my fiction, a good bit of it is based on people and experiences I’ve actually known or had. I began conceiving of “Kashi” actually while processing experiences and thinking of people and situations I encountered as a language student with the University of Wisconsin Year in India in Varanasi, studying at Benares Hindu University. I was particularly struck by the difference in attitudes between the sexes, and toward sex, among foreign students such as myself and many Varanasi youth of roughly the same age from more traditional conservative Hindu families. When you are a young adult, trying to decide for yourself what you believe in, and how you wish to behave or be perceived, you can be influenced as much by your friends, it seemed, as by the tradition in which you were raised.

7) Say something about “Kashi”,  and your experience while penning down this novel?

I have been both pleased and surprised by how vivid are my recollections of not only Varanasi but also people and other places and events in penning Kashi. At a relatively young age, some suggested I appeared to have at least a near photographic memory, an ability to recall vivid details of certain things in my life. It has helped me as well as hindered me at times. It makes it very difficult, for instance, to reread something or watch even a movie or television show I’ve seen again, as i get somewhat impatient knowing what comes next.

8) What are your other passions in life?

I have many other passions besides writing. I love fishing. And I like camping, swimming, Taekwondo, horseback riding, reading, music, movies, travel, working on my motorcycle, and food.

9) What is next in your bag for the readers?

Well, there is a sequel to “Kashi.” In fact, Kashi has essentially become the first in a trilogy of books narrated by John Colson and set largely, if not entirely, in India. But I don’t want to give too much away until Author’s Empire India, my publisher, wants me to.


10) If we ask you to define in one line “how to become an author?”, what will you say?

HAhahahaha. Sorry. I just like the question. How to become an author? There’s really only one way I know of: write.

11) Lastly i will insist you to say something about yourself as an individual, your education, your family and what are your values for life?

As an individual: as noted, I admire people with the courage to endure hardship with dignity and grace. I admire survivors. I particularly admire survivors who could be forgiven for bitterness but are not, or could be expected to blame others, but do not. And because of that, I admire the heck out of women generally, but particularly in societies where they have been prevented from experiencing the same freedoms and individual responsibilities or choices of men. My mother grew up during The Great Depression in the United States. She was born the year women were granted, in the U.S., the right to vote. She wanted to be a doctor. Her mother told her “women don’t grow up to be a doctor.” So she went to work in a factory–and became a union organizer, was a riveter of Corsair airplanes during World War II, and probably was the one person most responsible for my father’s going to college after the war. I won’t ever tell my son what he can or can’t be–he’s 11 years old now, and has all sorts of interests. I can’t imagine a parent ever telling their child, as my grandmother tried, what he or she can or cannot be.
I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and South Asian Studies. Nobody ever told me I could or should or would go to college. It was entirely my decision. I became what I wanted to be–a writer. Because I wanted to. So I worked at it. I guess my belief is that you should not let other people define who you are, or who you may be. But if you don’t, then you have to come up with some definition yourself. And then, do your best to meet the definition you’ve set.
My family, and my experiences, made me who and what I am. I am a defender of the downtrodden, a supporter of the courageous, and I really don’t care what someone’s declared religion or personality is. All I care about is that other humans, like myself, try their best not to hurt others. And, in fact, when possible, to help them.
Oh. And, also, education-wise: a college degree is an indication of your level of education. But it is not the only indication. And individuals should never stop learning, or growing. In fact, reading is the gift that keeps on giving. If you can read, you can learn. And you can learn far beyond any degree awarded at any college.

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