Interview with Siena Milia, Fall 2014 Flash Fiction Runner Up
Read Siena's clever story Of Sound Mind and then come back here for an interview.
WOW: Congratulations on your winning entry, Siena! I thought I had it all figured out and then got a surprise at the end. I noticed on your blog that got the idea for "Of Sound Mind" from a writing prompt at Describli.com. Can you tell us a little more about that particular site?
Siena: A very good friend of mine, Laura Fredricks, founded Describli.com as a platform for writers and readers to connect and share their work through daily writing prompts and story challenges. I began using Describli as a practice realm for short fiction--to stretch my literary mind into places I hadn’t ventured. This was where the story, Of Sound Mind originated, in one of these prompts, and from there, took on a life of its own. What I love most about the site is that other authors and readers can rate your work instantly and give you feedback. It is a great place to start writing or to take a break from a larger project.
WOW: It sounds like a great resource--I'm sure some of our readers will enjoy trying it out, too. Your bio mentions you are a world traveler, and you currently reside with your family in Saudi Arabia. What are some of your favorite places you've traveled? Have any of them influenced your writing?
Siena: Yes, we have been lucky enough to travel the world and live abroad in some rather unique places. We recently took our kids, all under the age of five, on a trip through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. They rode elephants, met baby tigers, sailed the Mekong, and even saw Ho Chi Minh. We love to explore the world and experience cultures and traditions different from our own. One place we always recommend to friends is Myanmar. It is one of those beautiful, wonderfully mysterious places still relatively untouched by the outside world. Before we became parents, my husband and I lived in Tajikistan as students studying Persian. From there we traveled to Iran, a trip that not only changed me personally, but also became the inspiration for my current novel which takes place amid the 1979 Islamic revolution.
WOW: Can you tell us a little more about this novel? We want to know more!
Siena: Sometimes I say that the my novel is another one of my children. We have three small kids and another on the way--so that makes a full house! The book, and its topic are very important to me. I have spent years both experiencing and studying Iran’s historical and social intricacies and have come to appreciate and love the Persian people and culture. So much that has been written about Iran, and particularly about its revolution, is in the realm of memoir and nonfiction. I have set out to use the unique tools of fiction to open up Iran’s revolution to a western audience on a deeply personal level. The novel pries into the religious enigmas, social complexities, and revolutionary psychology that brought about and solidified the tumultuous rise of Islamic theocracy in Iran--told through the eyes of two young narrators.
WOW: It sounds very complex and intriguing. I'm curious--as an award-winning photographer, do you ever get ideas for your poetry and other pieces of fiction from the images you capture? If so, can you give us an example?
Siena: Actually, photography plays a large part in my creative process as a writer. There is the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words--I believe in this. Not a day goes by that I don’t reference my own photographs taken of the people and places that I write about. A photo can evoke as much emotion or raise as many questions as a good piece of descriptive writing. It can also serve as a jumping off point for inspiration. I often take pieces of a photo and weave that imagery into my novel, giving both nuance and authenticity. I also draw on the images that others have taken to enrich the reality and texture of my own writing. I think this is so valuable, especially when writing about a place where you don’t have immediate access to.
WOW: Do you also enjoy reading poetry as well as writing it? Who are some of your favorite published poets?
Siena: Currently I’m enjoying Ada Limon. I love the way she weaves a poetic story that keeps you riveted. I have a soft spot for books of poetry, but I also enjoy shorter pieces and I follow a number of poetry blogs that feature new poets. Sometimes you find really surprising pieces in the least expected places.
WOW: Thank you so much for joining us here today. I wish you continued success and inspiration in all your creative endeavors!