Most novels offer something for us to relate to. Emily Mills, local author of “The Fix Up,” hits the same idea but explores a theme more resonant with college students.
“At the core of it, it’s a story about a woman just trying to get her shit figured out,” Emily Mills said in an interview.
However, “The Fix Up” has an edge: It’s a tale of life on the streets for one young woman who was recently released from prison.
“[She] is basically just trying to figure out a way to get her life back together, and falls in with a couple of street punks,” Mills said.
Once she leaves prison, Chapel, the main character, finds herself having trouble escaping the pitfalls that led her there in the first place.
“She gets herself into these situations where she has to do these really terrible things that she doesn’t want to do,” Mills said, revealing that Chapel “ends up being a drug dealer, but she doesn’t really want to be, and she’s not particularly good at it.”
“The Fix Up” is a novel full of intrigue and suspense, with supporting characters including street punks, drug dealers and “double-dealing” cops. It comes as no surprise, then, that the novel has elements of noir.
“I don’t have people chomping cigars and wearing fedoras, but there is sort of a noir-ish feel to it in that there is a central mystery, and there are all these players around it who have their own stories. It is a little bit dark and a little bit funny at the same time,” she said.
However, the novel didn’t come entirely from Mills’ imagination. Chapel was created in two short films by Mills and her friend, Rob Matsushita.
“The short films are a pretty good mix of being very, very dark but also very, very funny,” Mills said. “I wasn’t originally sure what I was going to write about, but I wanted to write something with a central character where you’re sort of inside her head. … I started writing and I realized that it would work really well as a back story for this character.”
Mills also discussed how the medium of a novel lent itself well to further exploration of the character’s background.
“I thought it would be really interesting to think about why this person ended up where she was and where she came from and what led her to be in this place,” she said.
Also propelling this novel was Mills’ participation in National Novel Writing Month, which she described as a “kick-in-the-pants” sort of challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. It may seem like a daunting task, but according to Mills, the keys are practice and sticking to a schedule.
“If I wrote yesterday, it’s easier to write today, instead of putting it off for a few days and then coming back to it because you sort of fall out of the habit, and I fall out real hard when I do,” she said.
Even though she follows such a regimented schedule, Mills is pretty relaxed about her writing process.
“[I] just take out the notebook or take out the laptop and sit in a place where I can’t be super distracted and just force myself to go,” she said, adding she also prefers writing in a coffee shop to working at home, so as to avoid the temptation of falling asleep.
Yet, when it comes to writing, Mills said she always knew it was what she would wind up doing for a living.
“I actually remember writing a sort of comic book in kindergarten. It’s just always been this compulsion of mine to tell stories,” Mills said. “There’s lots of other things that I like to do, but writing has always been one of the central things; whether I was getting in trouble in class because I was writing, or finally was able to sell articles, which is very cool, it’s just always been there.” Mills now works as a freelance writer in Madison and her work has appeared in several local publications.
When she’s not at her computer or huddled over a notepad, Mills can also be spotted playing in two local bands, The Shabelles and Aporia. While she was with Aporia for four years, she has been playing drums with The Shabelles for about a year and also has plans to start up a new band.
“I’ve been playing music in Madison ever since I came here in 2000; I’ve been playing drums since I was about 9,” she said.
Additionally, Mills also experiments with photography, and her photos have appeared in local publications. Her talents extend further still into the blogosphere, where she posts her thoughts about music, art and politics, among other topics, on her blog, The Lost Albatross. While she mainly blogs about anything that interests her, her focus lies on local material.
As a Renaissance woman in her own right, and with so many ties to Madison, Mills is passionate about her surroundings.
“The people, and their tireless dedicaton to the continued improvement of their city through art, recreation, education, local business and local food,” she said.
Inspired by the completion of her first novel, Mills says she definitely has plans to publish more full-length books.
“There are two other novels that I’ve been sitting on for years now that are much longer and much more involved, and I never quite finished them. This was actually great, this inspired me, like, you can actually finish something, you can actually publish it and show it to the world. It’s a whole different experience, and when you actually finish, it’s pretty cool,” Mills said. “But I would like to write one that I spend more than a month on.”
“The Fix Up” is available for purchase in Madison at A Room of One’s Own, or, as Mills likes to call it, “a real live book store.”