Madeline Miller has a BA and MA from Brown University in Latin and Ancient Greek, and has been teaching both for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specialising in adapting classical tales to a modern audience. The Song of Achilles is her first novel and was the winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012.
Visit her at www.madelinemiller.com
Girly Book Club: What makes a book great, in your opinion? What elements does a great story possess?
Madeline Miller: For me, I need three elements: beautiful language, transporting story, engaging characters. I like books that grip me completely, that make me feel a sense of vertigo when I try to go back to the real world, and that I will remember when they are finished.
GBC: What are you doing if you’re not writing?
MM: Spending time with my children and new kitten, walking/exercising. And, of course, reading!
GBC: Name your favourite bookshop in the world.
MM: Oh, this is so hard to pick! I have been fortunate to get to visit so many amazing bookstores as an author, and I am always in awe of their passionate dedication to readers, writers, and the written word. I make it my policy to never leave without at least one staff recommendation, and I have found many new favorite novels that way. So I feel like my most honest answer is: whatever bookshop I’m currently in! I do have a special place in my heart for my local indies, Main Point Books and the Narberth Bookshop, and, when I lived in Cambridge, Porter Square Books. They are true book paradises, and supported me every step of the publishing journey.
GBC: Physical book, e-book, or audiobook? – and why.
MM: I have never been able to read e-books, which definitely makes my luggage heavier when I travel! But for me the tactile sensation of pages and the classic book smell are integral parts of the pleasure of reading. I enjoy audiobooks as well–a good audiobook is like going to the theater!
GBC: What was your favourite book as a child?
MM: Depending on my age: Watership Down, Tamora Pierce’s The Lioness Quartet, or any Greek Myth.
GBC: We’re always on the hunt for our next great read. Recommend us a book to add to our TBR pile!
MM: Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis. It is a beautiful novel of women’s lives, which encompasses tragedy and complication, but ends with hope. I loved everything about it.
GBC: What is one movie, TV series, or podcast that you’re loving right now?
MM: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It’s subversive, smart, feminist, fun, character-driven, and playing the long game. Everything that seems at first like a classic sitcom plot point gets overturned and complicated. I am on my second watch, and marveling at the quality of the story-telling. The writers and actors know exactly where the show is going from the beginning–the clues are all there, but because you’re disarmed by the format, you don’t see them at first. I was so sad to hear that one of the beating hearts of the show, the songwriter Adam Schlesinger, passed away from Covid-19 just recently. So it’s an especially poignant moment to tune in.