Who are you, where are you from, and what makes you tick?
I’m Rhys Milsom, I’m from Penygraig – a little village most famous for its ice-creams in the Rhondda Valleys – but now live in Roath, Cardiff. What makes me tick? Um, I appreciate a few pints, good films and literature that you can absolutely lose yourself in. I also like cheesecake.
Why do you write? What got you started?
To be honest, writing is the only thing I’ve ever been good at. I’m crap with numbers and have hardly any common sense but since I was really young I’ve always been writing lists and stories and other things. These lists then became just stories and this led me to university, where I studied for a BA and a MA. I guess what got me started is that my parents always read to me, Goosebumps was my favourite, and reading became sort of natural to me, I guess. I much preferred reading to watching telly and even going outside – and this remains the same today.
Who are your biggest influences? Inside and out of literature.
Literature – Niall Griffiths, Charles Bukowski, Craig Clevenger, Joseph Roth, Irvine Welsh, Bret Easton Ellis, Hubert Selby Jr. Outside of literature – anyone with a good story to tell who’s been to the bottom and fought their way out.
What would be your favourite poem?
As The Sparrow by Charles Bukowski.
To give life you must take life,
and as our grief falls flat and hollow
upon the billion-blooded sea
I pass upon serious inward-breaking shoals rimmed
with white-legged, white-bellied rotting creatures
lengthily dead and rioting against surrounding scenes.
Dear child, I only did to you what the sparrow
did to you; I am old when it is fashionable to be
young; I cry when it is fashionable to laugh.
I hated you when it would have taken less courage
Top five novels/story collections?
This is a pretty hard question. There are loads of novels/story collections that I love but here are 5 that, I suppose, mean something to me or have influenced me the most:
1. Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellis
2. Song of the Silent Snow – Hubert Selby Jr
3. Crime – Irvine Welsh
4. The Legend of the Holy Drinker – Joseph Roth
5. The Contortionist’s Handbook – Craig Clevenger
Do you have a favourite song lyric?
Yeah, simply because this band has been my favourite since the first time I heard them around 6 years ago. They’re also amazing live.
Awaiting The Flood by Devil Sold His Soul
Run far – the edge of the world is crumbling
as black sets in, what will you do?
while they recite the old tales
the crowds turn into meaningless ghosts of you
I’m finding this hard to believe in
this prospect is getting out of hand
and I cannot return the lie
deception: fantasy of the damned
this night has gone
your senses desolate
a frozen rose in my chest
a map of your face
a hundred souls tonight
eternal hell will rise
I’ll open the floods
it’s all for you
they cannot rise in our way as long as we stand
your final forfeit
destiny held down
you cannot stand my fault?
but it’s all for you
running out for you
sun the greatest lie
the sky will fold with light
the tides have turned, I think we’re dead
What inspires you/where do you find inspiration most? Are there any themes you feel particular affinity for? Political, personal, etc.
I find inspiration in a lot of places but specifically in night-life, pubs, bars etc. I love listening to conversations overlapping, the amount of spark alcohol can give a tongue, watching people lose any boundaries/restrictions chained upon them from their shitty 9-5 and morph into some unrecognisable creature – when the fact is, in the morning they’ll return to their shell. I also find influence in random strangers. That might sound weird but all of us have walked past someone and thought: ‘What’s their story?’ – a lot of my short stories are based on strangers I pass on the street.
Do you have a specific technique, or routine to your writing?
Not really, I don’t follow the ‘writer’s code’ of writing for a certain amount of hours a day or writing a specific amount of words a day. That’s never worked for me. What’s the point of trying to force creativity when it comes naturally, anyway? I write when I have ideas lodged into my head and they’ve formed into scenes/chapters. I never write notes down, I always find that if I write notes down I lose some sort of momentum so I’d rather keep the ideas in my head and type them into stories on my laptop.
Where are you with your writing right now?
I’ve just sent off my novel to prospective publishers. The novel, Free Falling, is contemporary fiction based on my friends and my life but it’s also fictionalised. It’s a story about drugs, alcohol, sex; loss, love, life; and growing up when your friends grow away from you; all told through the viewpoints of several different characters who’re all friends. So, fingers crossed!
I’ve also recently had a short story published in Wales Arts Review as part of the Fictional Map of Wales series: http://www.walesartsreview.org/ill-see-you-on-sunday-james/ and have been taken on them by them as literature and cultural events critic.
What are your plans for the future? What’s the ultimate goal?
To have my novel published, maybe even get a chapbook of poetry out there and to – one day – lecture creative writing at uni.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write what you want. Don’t follow rules. If, in your mind, it’s good enough, then write it.
Make up your own question to ask yourself. I am that lazy.
Would you ever shave your beard off?
Now then, here’s a little sampler of Mr Milsom’s poetry for you to peruse and muse over…
Which glass would you pick?
Your heart beating
Driving through your veins
Your lungs pushing
A 5am wake up call,
A hazy night of smoke, beer, gin/rum/jack/vodka/
The success of a long-time goal
Or the ordinary warmth
Of your parents home
My idea of living is
Her hand locked
Around mine and nights
Where to lie
With each other
And share each other
Means more than
We could ever imagine
Love poems are overdone
But Her hand around mine
& without her
living would be