Millie Cauldron is a writer, blogger, and marketer from Eastern Europe. She currently lives in sunny and warm Montenegro near the Adriatic Sea and explores love, friendship, and love with her wife, trying to have fun and be creative in a new country, drinking coffee and eating biscuits while sitting on their balcony with a view of the mountains.
Today's interview is with Millie Cauldron, who writes with her wife, Nataly Blackthorn. They've been together for over eleven years now and Cauldron reveals all about writing - and living - love stories with their first novel now on Amazon!
What inspired you to write this novel?
MC: We love music and the show “Mentalist”. It’s a TV show about the California Bureau of Investigation, and the last season is about the FBI. We were inspired by it and decided to combine the FBI and our love for music. Also, we wanted to tell the world about problems that queer people face every day: living in the closet, creating a heteronormative image for family and work (and for producers and fans as in our book), and a constant desire to get rid of all of it and let yourself be yourself, love who you want to love and say what you want to say. Here’s how “Act Nice” was born.
What is your writing process like?
MC: When we write together, we decide what we want to say, what key topic we want to cover, and what the plot is. Then, we just start writing: I usually write one paragraph, Nataly writes another, and we repeat it until the book is finished. From time to time, we discuss how we want this story to be at this or that stage, what plot twists and what characters will make the story more exciting and deep; also, we ensure that we add all the bits every good story must have (we rely on the hero’s journey).
When I write on my own, I start with an idea and just write what I have in my mind. Then, I write up all the scenes and ideas I have and need to add later; of course, some of the scenes change and can even be removed depending on how the plot moves. After three or four chapters, I start to build the base of the book because first, I need to squeeze everything about the story from my brain, and only then can I see the whole story.
How do you approach writing your characters and bringing their relationships to life?
MC: I explore the people around me, notice how they behave, what they like, say, and eat, and how they live, and use it in my books. I often use their real names first so the character can be deeper and more real; when I finish, I change the names and see what I need to add about the characters because when you write about real people, you can miss something because you already have a complete image in your head but not on page.
Regarding their relationships, I try to imagine how I would behave in the situations my characters take part in or how I want people to act; also, I rely on the plot and the goal of the character: if he needs to learn something about himself, I don’t let him resolve his problems right after they appear, because it’s not how people act in real life. We can be shy, unsure, scared, lazy, in love (and blind because of it), so my characters also make mistakes and act silly and annoying, but they also want to be better, to find something sincere inside, to love and be happy.
In “Act Nice,” our characters are really annoying most of the time, but it’s not because they are stupid or evil – they’re just scared, broken, and don’t know how to be honest with each other because they don’t want to be hurt again. It’s not about being an asshole; it’s about defending yourself and not knowing that sometimes if you open it helps you and doesn’t hurt you – on the opposite, you can find friends, love, and acceptance after it. But you need to open up – and it is scary if you’ve ever been hurt after that.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
MC: I was a child. My mother was emotionally unavailable, and my father was an alcoholic. I couldn’t find warmth and safety in them. But in the worlds I imagined, I could. I could be an FBI agent, a magician, or a supergirl, and even if someone hurt me there, I could defend myself and be strong. I couldn’t be strong in real life; I was a scared, lost child who wanted to know what tomorrow would bring.
My books helped me to survive, express my emotions, and protect my inner self – and they didn’t gaslight me when I did it.
What is the most challenging part of your artistic process?
MC: If we speak about the overall process, it’s letting myself be a writer in general. You always have something “more important” to do now: to earn money, pay the rent, socialize, and help someone with their projects.
After we published our first book, writing became even more challenging: before, we could just have fun and enjoy the process, but now I realize that it’s a huge responsibility, and I need to evaluate every word of my book. I have yet to learn how to write first and edit later so I can write more freely and with joy. And I suppose it is linked with letting myself be the writer.
And the second challenge is that I’m not a native English speaker. I don’t speak English fluently, and it hurts! I need to write in my native language, edit, then translate and edit again. We don’t have a budget for a translator now, but we have friends who know English fluently and will help us with the next books.
But what’s good is that “Act Nice” and other stories I translated (I have a friend who is also a non-native speaker and writes LGBTQ+ stories, so I help him publish) had only a few reviews about editing issues (and I fixed them immediately). So, I believe my English became better while I translated and proofread the books :)
What do you hope readers take from this story?
MC: It’s not an average MM love story: the book has a low heat level, all the sex scenes are fade-to-black, so the focus is on the plot, struggles, and feelings. I want people to see how queers, even (or especially) artists, are forced to hide themselves, how it becomes a usual part of our lives, and how it affects our ability to express ourselves, our emotions, and be honest. Because it does affect; we are used to hiding almost everything about our daily life, and it teaches us to be closed and cold and don’t trust anyone because of the constant fear of avoidance.
It’s how I’d lived more than ten years until I came out and how I still behave when I talk to new people. I can be myself only with my family and queer friends.
So, “Act Nice” has nothing to do with internal homophobia or even external homophobia; it just shows that suppressing yourself in something leads to suppressing yourself in everything. And sometimes, because of it, you become close to people who use and hurt you and don’t open up with people who could protect and help you.
And when you decide to be open, even if it’s scary, it’s also relieving.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
MC: You do everything right. Keep going. Writing IS your safe space and the best experience you have. Let yourself enjoy it more.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
MC: I would say “Change My Ticket” by Zarah Detand. It’s cute and deep, and I think it has a vibe similar to “Act Nice.” That’s why I like it!
What would your advice be to any aspiring writers?
MC: I’m also an aspiring writer now, and I want to tell us: we’re good! We do what we love; we express our thoughts and ideas; we want to say something that we consider important and interesting to the world.
After all, we entertain and help people live more joyfully and happily. So keep going and never doubt yourself! Let yourself be, write, and shine.
And don’t let others stop you!
What are you writing next?
We have a finished novel with the working name “The Seminarian” – it’s a story about an atheistic rockstar who just wants to have fun all the time and a seminarian who tries to save his mother with the power of religion. They meet, fall in love, and start their journeys in exploring themselves, finding something that was hidden many years ago inside, and finding inner strength. I believe we will publish it this year on Amazon, but I also dream of traditional publishing. So if someone from publishing houses reads it, please contact me!
Explore the poignant story of Adam Carter, a pop icon struggling to conceal his true identity. A terrifying attack brings him closer to his bodyguard, Wayne, but their emotional baggage impedes their relationship. Emotions of fear, love, and pain collide in this compelling tale of two men fighting their demons to embrace love.
Thank you again to Millie for a wonderful interview. "Act Nice" is now available on Amazon in e-book and paperback now!