January 29, 2014
Few writers can crawl into a character’s head like Mary Miller. In her 2009 short story collection, Big World, Miller’s protagonists were predominately young women in their twenties. With her new novel, The Last Days of California, Miller channels fifteen-year-old Jess, trapped in the back of the family car with her secretly pregnant sister Elise, embarking on a road trip from Montgomery, Alabama to California. Their father’s goal is for them to arrive within four days so they can be among the last American families to be raptured. Along the way, he encourages the family to witness even though “He didn’t really want all 7 billion people on the planet to be saved. We wouldn’t be special then. We wouldn’t be the chosen ones.”
Miller is a recent graduate of the University of Texas’ Michener Center for Writers. She’s returning to her native Mississippi in the fall to serve as the Grisham Writer in Residence at Ole Miss. We discussed fantasizing about fundamentalism, writing realistically about teenage sex, and why she can’t quit Mississippi.