Interview: Connor Miller, Author of “CookHaus”

Connor Miller, 25, just published his third novel, CookHaus. It immediately faced some distribution problems, making it unavailable upon its own release, so we decided to take this time to get some more information about the author himself and his most recent work.

So, what happened with the release? 

In short, I accidentally clicked “publish” when there were a few final things that needed to be fixed. Most importantly I needed to include artist credit for the talented Alice Blank who designed the cover of the book. When submitting the revised text, it made the book unavailable for 24 hours, which is unfortunate (and I’m not even sure the corrections went though). Publishing is hard, but I am glad that I am learning a lot very quickly.

Well, that’s good to hear that it will be available soon. 

Yes, I’m glad as well. After the initial hype dies down I may have more time to make final adjustments but for now we just have to ride the wave. Art moves fast.

So what exactly is the book about? 

Hahaha it’s always super difficult to answer these questions as an author. Ideally I’d hire someone else to sell my book because writing it is such an in-depth experience that distilling the concept into a sentence is often a pain in the ass. But, in sum, it’s about blood, passion, and cuisine.

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You are noticeably obsessed with food and cooking. Why is that? 

I’m not a very good chef, but I really really want to be. I try as often as I can to cook and to make meals and I fail over and over again. I have this picture in my head of what I want my meals to look like, and it’s basically whatever you see on the cover of a trendy cookbook. That’s the end goal.

The reason I like cooking, though, is because it is a very sensual experience. I read a lot of books and have always thought of myself as the “studious type”, which always came with a fear of being the kind of person who tends to study life without participating in it. Cooking seemed like such a good bridge into doing something that was hands-on, fun, romantic, and nourishing. Chefs on TV are often portrayed to be such passionate people and I want to explore that facet of myself.

Interesting. Do you have any favorite chefs? 

Yes! I used to work with cookbooks and spent a lot of time reading in the “food writing” genre. The two chefs I think about the most are Naomi Pomeroy and Marco Pierre White. I heard a story about how Naomi had a pirate-like attitude towards cooking and would use her bathtub to marinate meats (this inspires a scene in CookHaus). She also wrote a brilliant little bit about the act of cooking, and how the process is just as important as the final product. If you put on your favorite music and make your favorite drink, it makes cooking a special occasion rather than a chore. I’m very interested in making certain parts of my routine sacred, and Naomi gets that.

I like Marco Pierre White because he is the quintessential “bad-boy-chef”. He is the youngest person ever to receive three Michelin stars at age 33. Furthermore, he is infamous for his temper, which made him a tabloid icon. His memoir Devil in the Kitchen is an incredibly fun read, and definitely fueled a lot of the ideas I had for CookHaus.

Tell us more about the research you did for this book. 

Well, it was very difficult to write the book because I wasn’t able to do as much research as I wanted to. I don’t know a lot of the necessary kitchen vocabulary to write the book, so my main character is also a novice and a lot of what he sees escapes him. I watched a lot of Chef’s Table on Netflix and read The Best Food Writing of 2015 by Holly Hughes (which was, to this day, one of the best books I’ve ever read). I spent time cooking with friends as often as possible, often through a show I call Cooking w/ Connor. With writing, you turn every experience into some form of research for your art, as often as possible.

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Making crepes with Nik for “Cooking w/ Connor”.

By the way, you mention your main character. His name is Connor, and it is almost clearly yourself but in a fictional setting. 

This is true. I tried writing early drafts of this book without inserting myself into the story but it didn’t work. It always felt like an uphill battle to not write myself in. Is this what “auto-fiction” is? It was a lot of fun to write myself as a character and also helped me write in a way that felt very true without being factual. But yes, the main character’s name is Connor and he moves into a house full of chefs and writes a book about it.

That’s pretty meta. 

I love meta shit.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? 

For me, writing books is always an emotional feat. It requires a lot of sustained effort and as a result it wears me down to my core and I feel very raw by the end of it. November was personally a very difficult month to get through, so early drafts of the book just have full paragraphs of me writing “I am sad” over and over again (I edited these bits out). Also, when writing, you have to be responsible about what you publish. Sometimes there are stories that aren’t yours to tell, or sometimes you have to think about the message you are sending your audience. My ultimate goal with writing is to make my reader feel less alone, and hopefully inspire them into action (these are some of the big reasons I read books). So, the hardest part is finding the middle ground between getting a ton of words down and making sure you are staying true to your audience and your goal.

You wrote most of this novel in one month, right? 

Yes, I wrote the first real manuscript for this for National Novel Writing Month in 2017. This is one of the best ways for me to write books because it has a clear schedule and a lot of online community support.

Nice! Well, what’s next? 

As far as books go, since 2013 I’ve been writing drafts of a novel set in a fictional town called Near. I’ve attempted to write this book over and over again and came very close to publishing it last year but decided that it was not ready by any means. 2018 might be the year this book actually gets written in a way that I’m happy with, which will hopefully mean publishing it by 2019.

Wow! Is your goal to write a novel a year? 

I don’t know what my goal is. I just love making things and I want to do it in a continuous way. I love the movie Holy Motors, which is kind of about being an artist in a surveillance state. As we move into a future where everything is documented, won’t it be that much more interesting to live a life that is so well lived that is could be considered art? That’s my end goal. Novels are just a fun diversion along the way.

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