Interview with Amber McMillian, author of The Running Trees

In The Running Trees, Amber McMillan’s third book, the author gambles within the genre of fiction itself, with a collection dominated by character voices rather than a deep dive in the pool of narrative. Below, we chat with Amber about researching authentic dialogue by listening to strangers, revisiting her characters in future works, and some of her favourite short story collections.


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About the book…

A striking original, deftly humorous collection of stories that considers the quest for truth: how we come to it or alternatively avoid it. A fervently comic debut, The Running Trees leads readers into a series of conversations — through phonelines, acts in a play, and a rewound recording of a police interrogation — to reveal characters in fumbling bouts of brutality, reflection, isolation, and love. Read more >>

Interview with Amber McMillan

All Lit Up: When did you decide that you wanted to write a book with so much dialogue?Amber McMillan: I found dialogue to be one part of my writing that needed work, so I set about focusing on it somewhat exclusively. I spent time listening to strangers talk to each other: on the bus, in line at the grocery store, on their phones when we shared the sidewalk for a minute or two… I wanted to get the cadence of natural speech buried deep in my ear canal so I could draw on it to make these fictionalized conversations. ALU: Do we live in the post-over-share world now? Is anything really shocking anymore? Surprising?AM: I think there is, yeah. I think we’re still surprised, maybe even shocked, when we fall in love or have a baby or lose someone. We are no doubt living in a new world in the sense that we have this vast and democratizing platform – the internet – to contend with, but I’m not convinced necessarily that the kind of access it allows for, has in some way created nihilists of us all. ALU: What characters from The Running Trees might you want to revisit later in your career?AM: It hasn’t occurred to me to revisit any of them in some future story, but if I had to revisit one, it’d be one of the cats. ALU: What are some of your fave short story collections? AM: It goes without saying there are many beautiful stories and story collections, many more still that I’ll never read, so having said that, I can think of a few very special books. The Stories of Tobias Wolff, which is actually a collection culled from three previous Wolff collections, but in this case, you get all the greats in one book. The uncategorizable A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt and Something for Everyone by Lisa Moore – what a beauty, my god. Anything by Alice Munro. Obviously.

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Amber McMillan
is the author of the memoir The Woods: A Year on Protection Island and the poetry collection We Can’t Ever Do This Again. Her work has also appeared in PRISM internationalArc Poetry Magazine, and the Walrus. She lives in Fredericton.