Inspired by the work of Alex Colville, the linked stories in K.D. Miller’s Late Breaking form a suite of portraits that evoke the paintings’ looming atmospheres and uncanny stillness while traveling deeply into their subjects’ vividly imagined lives. Throughout, the collection bears witness to the vulnerability of the elder heart, revealing that love, sex, and heartbreak are not only the domain of the young, and deftly rendering the conflicts that divide us and the ties that bind.
Husbands and wives struggle to communicate, romantic relationships flare and falter, parents and children navigate their complicated feelings, older women struggle with diminishing status in a youth-obsessed culture, while the threat of violence haunts young women and girls. Yet as the stories intersect and the characters’ lives are increasingly entwined, fear, guilt, estrangement, and the fact of death are met by courage, redemption and the fragile beauty of love, in all its myriad guises.
Brilliantly observed, both tender and tortured, and in no way afraid of the dark, these stories confirm K.D. Miller as one of our best and bravest writers.
In a linked collection that presents the secret small tragedies of an Anglican congregation struggling to survive, All Saints delves into the life of Simon, the Reverend, and the lives of his parishioners: Miss Alice Vipond, a refined and elderly schoolteacher, incarcerated for a horrendous crime; a woman driven to extreme anxiety by borderline-abusive sex; Owen, “The Shitblood Man,” who, lost in the woods, loses himself in a fit of rage; a receptionist and her act of improbable generosity; a writer making peace with her divorce, and more. Effortlessly written and candidly observed, All Saints is a moving collection of tremendous skill, whose intersecting stories illuminate the tenacity and vulnerability of modern-day believers.
PRAISE FOR ALL SAINTS
“Standing at the centre of K.D. Miller's touching and intimate collection of linked stories is, unfashionably, a church. All Saints is not just the setting for the habits and rituals of this motley group—parishioners, priest, passersby—but the central image that gives these stories their poignancy. As obsolescence threatens the church, it also puts in peril the connections each character has to others at the very time the world so badly needs human connections. All Saints is a moving and soulful book.”
When Brenda Bray, better known to the world as Rae Brand, author of the popular Elsinor Grey mystery series, returns home to Hamilton, she is set upon by vivid memories of the fall of 1962 when she struck up an intense relationship with a classmate, and together they sought to track and catch an escaped serial killer believed to be hiding out on the escarpment. Brenda and Jori search for this elusive murderer, their friendship twisting as the weeks pass, becoming tautly fantastic and pre-adolescently sexual, eventually resulting in real tragedy. As the story of their brief time together unravels it becomes apparent that the headlines about Jori's disappearance only touch on the truth, and that Brenda must finally face up to that youthful friendship and its results if she is going to discover any peace.
The Other Voice is a collection of stories that hover on the threshold between innocence and corruption, secrets and revelations, sanity and madness. When evil makes an appearance, it is the kind that, in the words of Herman Melville, “shares our bed and eats at our own table.” A young woman searches for the moral link between herself and a notorious murderess. A fatal accident destroys the innocence of a child who witnesses its aftermath. An elderly Titanic survivor has built a life of lies which threatens to collapse when the submerged wreck is discovered. A woman’s fragile sanity is shattered by a move to a socially claustrophobic rural community. These and other scenarios are guaranteed to produce Emily Dickinson’s “zero at the bone.” The Other Voice is indeed a departure for author K.D. Miller, but one that reflects a lifelong attraction to the eldritch, the disturbing and the dark.
Holy Writ, my third book, was released in March 2001. It explores the relationship between creativity and spirituality.
I believe we are by nature worshipful creatures. We sense in our bones that there is something bigger and better than our immediate circumstances, and we want to know and be known by it. I believe the creative impulse, the desire to make beautiful things, is a desire to be at one with our own Creator. I remember the first time it occurred to me that writing fiction might be the way I pray. I don't remember the circumstances - where I was, whether I was alone or talking to somebody - but the sensation of several pennies dropping at once is one I'll never forget: So that's what compels me to write. And why traditional forms of prayer never work for me. I had suspected for a long time that the creative and spiritual sides of my nature were at least related to each other. But with that realization, I began to wonder seriously if one in fact was the other. Typically, I put the wondering in writing.
Holy Writ is neither a theological treatise nor an ad for Jesus. I lack the mental muscle for the former, and as for the latter, haven't an evangelical bone in my body. It was never my intention to act as an apologist for my particular religion. If anything, I think I set out to discover just how I manage to live with that religion, and whether or not I can continue to do so. At times it felt like marriage counselling, which can on occasion end in divorce. Holy Writ is neither a self-help book nor a writer's manual. It doesn't tell a prospective writer how to do it or where to sell it. I'm still working those things out for myself. Just as baptism didn't automatically render me Christ-like, publication has done nothing to solve the eternal problem of the blank page.
Holy Writ is one writer's exploration of how, in her own experience, creativity and spirituality relate to each other. Its approach is entirely intuitive, and I do not presume to speak for anyone besides myself. It is my hope, however, that the book will appeal not just to writers but to anyone who has an interest in the writing life. By the same token, while a reader of this book need not be at all 'religious,' I hope that what I have written here might resonate with any faith to which they do subscribe.
This is a book of linked short stories. Philip Marchand, Toronto Star Books columnist, included it among his Best of '99: Books. Give Me Your Answer also received a Toronto Star review.
"I know I'm hitting paydirt when I'm convinced that if what I'm writing is published, nobody will want to have anything to do with me, ever again."
From "To Canaan and Back: Introducing K. D. Miller" by Melinda Burns in
Canadian Notes & Queries, No. 56, 1999 published by The Porcupine's Quill