It’s been such a long time since we’ve interviewed an artist in Upstate South Carolina and today we’re going to be talking about an art form we never have before. With that being said, let’s go ahead and hop on into my interview with a great friend of mine and the outstanding author Brittany McMillan!
I was lucky enough to meet Brittany while going to school at USC Upstate and living in Campus Edge. We became friends in no time and soon after I learned about the art form she takes part in known as writing. Like I said before though, this isn’t just any writing, Brittany writes novels and short stories and this absolutely amazes me. Of course, being a writer (of different sorts) myself, I understand that writing is a process and any form of writing takes time, patience, creativity, and intelligence, but writing a book or a short story seems like such an incredible task to take part in. It amazes me even more that Brittany loves this type of writing so much and finds her passion and best work in writing these novels and short stories.
Brittany’s love for writing came at a very young age, but even before the writing started Brittany was an avid reader. She attributes this love of reading to her mom. Brittany’s mom is one of the things that inspires her in writing due to the fact that she instilled the love of reading in Brittany as a child.
“Like I used to read all the time ever since I was in elementary school. I even remember the first chapter book I ever read which was “The Trumpet of the Swan”. Ever since then reading chapter books became an addiction of mine. There were times where I would catch myself reading and thinking: ‘What would the story have been like if the author had done this’ or ‘If I were the author I would change this or that’. It then got to a point where I was like why don’t I just write a story myself. I had been reading so long that the thought of actually writing seemed like a foreign concept that came loaded with large amounts of self doubt. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I finally ripped off the band-aid and decided to write my own story, which turned out to be a six hundred page novel that even now I’m still editing. Since then I have been writing short stories and am now in the process of writing my second novel.”
As Brittany said herself, her reading became an addiction soon after the first chapter book and I feel as though her writing took off in the same way. Once she ‘ripped off the bandaid’ and went for it she couldn’t stop. 600 pages later she had a novel.
You got a bit of a glimpse of it above, but when it comes to McMillan’s creative process it always starts off with one single idea upon which Brittany expands in many different directions to see which outcome is the best for what scenario she wants to play on and if she believes it’s something people would enjoy reading. Getting these ideas out of her head and onto paper in a solid thought is one of Brittany’s favorite parts about the writing process. It’s not just the fact that Brittany can take something in her head and put it on paper which makes it come to life, but through this Brittany is creating her own world of words for somebody else to explore and take part in. That’s what is so great about novels. The ability for a person to get lost in a whole other world! Once that has all began she tends to focus a lot on the plot sequence of the writing and most importantly character development. Character Development, however, tends to be the hardest piece of the puzzle for McMillan.
“Character development can literally make or break a story. It doesn’t matter if the plot is consistent and flawless, if the characters aren’t fully fleshed out the whole thing falls flats. This is mainly because readers want characters they can connect with, characters that leave an imprint on their mind long after they’ve put the book down, and without that the story is essentially a failure. “
We’ve talked about the start of her writing career and her creative process, however, I’ve failed to mention the genres of writing that Brittany takes part in. Miss. McMillan most takes part in writing short stories and novels that have to do with anything horror, thriller, or Sci-fi/Fantasy! In fact, some of Brittany’s favorite authors also take part in this genre of writing; think Steven King, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe, and even Jaqueline Woodson. Horror and Thriller novels are my ABSOLUTE favorite which is one of the reasons I love McMillan’s writing so much! When asked about what type of stories she created Brittany replied,
“Most of my writing consists of the Horror, Thriller, and Sci-fi/Fantasy genres. Mainly because growing up these were the only genres I read from and of course they left an imprint on me and my writing style. However when I am writing in any of these genres I always add an psychological aspect in my writing dealing mostly with the human psyche and how its reacts and adapts to certain situations, whether the person is fighting a dragon, or dealing with an homicidal sister.”
The first story I read of Brittany’s was “Symbiosis” a short story that she recently had published and a story in which you can clearly see the horror and thriller elements throughout the read. You can find “Symbiosis” published through the Writers Inc. publication sponsored by the USC Upstate Campus. Not only did this short story get published but it also won an award for Best Fiction Piece! It can easily be seen that over time Brittany’s writing has grown with her and is even something she now hopes to make a career of. It’s a bit of a life long dream of hers to become a world famous author like Steven King or J.K Rowling.
I’m going to insert the whole short story of “Symbiosis” at the end of this post so y’all can read it for yourself and fall in love with everything Brittany has to offer writing wise while giving her some support on this journey to making writing her career! Here’s a bit of what Brittany had to say about short story itself.
“Well my main inspiration for symbiosis came from the fact that I am a twin as well. Because of that fact I have always been fascinated with the concept of twins especially identical twins. I’ve also had this weird obsession with serial killers so of course the idea of twin female serial killers sounded so awesome to me. Regarding Symbiosis yes there is definitely more to come. When I first wrote it I intended for it to be a short story alone but after reading it so many people voiced that they wanted more. So taking that I’m now in the process of developing symbiosis into a stand-alone novel that will offer the readers a more in-depth look into the lives and relationship between the sisters.”
As mentioned above, the short story is far from the end for Brittany. Right now she is working on transitioning Symbiosis into a novel and is also editing a novel she wrote last summer in order to get a final manuscript finished. In the future McMillan is hoping to get more of her short stories published as well as working to get “Symbiosis” and her other novel published as soon as possible.
(READ SYMBIOSIS SHORT STORY BELOW)
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By. Brittany McMillan
1. A relationship between two people in which each person is dependent upon and receives reinforcement, whether beneficial or detrimental, from the other.
2. Any interdependent or mutually beneficial relationship between two persons, groups, etc.
There you sat. Sister of mine, cheeks flushed, turning your brown skin a russet red that bled deep brown into your smiling lips. A sight you were, with the glow of the sun reflecting off your youth, bringing shame to Aphrodite herself, as your eyes twinkled seductively in the light.
I should have killed you then.
There, in that moment, my perception of your innocence was untainted like the golden halo of curls that framed your face. Giving you the appearance of a fallen angel yet to be ripped from god’s grace. Maybe if I had killed you then, there wouldn’t be this corruption of you and what you once were.
My twin, my sister of mine, born on the same day, two halves of the same soul birthed from a bleeding womb. Unnatural we were, refusing to be separated, we’d tried to escape our mother both at once. Feet first, my left one and your right, sticking from our mother’s sex, laced together like kudzu. I think even then the thought of being separated from each other was too much to bear, and there were times where I would lie behind you at night, pressing my skin against yours, wishing I could absorb in to you. Flesh melding with flesh two halves becoming one.
It’s funny how one moment can change things. How love can turn cold with the slightest tick of a clock, and oh how I loved you. More than I loved myself, more than I knew how to love. So much so that if you’d asked, I would’ve cut out my own heart and with a smile on my face watched as you devoured it. Two halves of a beating organ becoming one. But that fire I burned for you, was now mere embers struggling to stay alight amidst the cold breeze freezing my insides.
If only I’d killed you then as you sat a glorious angel in the sun, I could have saved those flames.
Sweet sister of mine. My mirror image, but even still you were more beautiful than I could have ever hoped to be. In all my dull frumpiness, there was a fire in you, a passion that electrified all who ventured too close. The seductive sway of your hips leaving a trail of musk in its wake, luring men to their deaths in the way of a siren calling a ship to carnage. I didn’t mind how you stole every room we walked into, I trailed happily in your shadow, finding a comfort nestled at your spine.
But like Icarus I’d ventured too close to your flames and ended up scorched like the countless bodies of those you left in your path.
Beautiful sister of mine. The sociopath. That’s what Father called you, Mother said you were only being a 16 year old, but Father was a doctor and he knew different. He was going to send you away, you said, to a hospital for crazies. The hopelessness in your eyes tore at me, sparking up a hate I’d never known, we weren’t to be separated it was an unspoken will of nature ingrained into our bones.
I felt no remorse as we killed them that night. I watched as you took the hammer to his head, the horror in his eyes as he woke just as the metal tip was coming down. The wet crunch of his skull as it made impact, sending a gushing spray of blood onto your beautiful face. A face screwed up in a grimace, but even you could not hide the joy I saw lurking there as you caved in our father. I fed off of it, as I smothered mother with the pillow my matricide almost completed.
With their lies they were going to take you from me. How could you be a sociopath when we were two halves of the same heart, your love for me only fueling mine for you.
I should have let him send you away. Our love was that of a parasite hiding under the guise of symbiosis. You fed off of me and I let you.
Father wasn’t enough for you. Getting away with it, with our story of the “late night intruder” wasn’t good enough for you. You wanted more, and in you awoke an appetite that was insatiable. Body after body piled up, men, and women, but mostly men. Some had their reasons, a wrong look, or a bump in the hall, but others were just for fun and you sliced through them only to be hungry for more when you finished.
Sun shining golden, hazel eyes sparkling bright, I should have killed you then. Before you had a chance to ruin us.
What was it about him that you despised so? Was it because even in your shadow he saw me, he chose me. Bright teeth a beacon of light he reached into your spine and pulled me out unbeknownst to you. It was then that I knew what it was like to be seen. I was there, Sister, always by your side but you never saw me, not like he did. Not in the way his eyes appraised my body up under the layers of clothing. He peeled me open with those eyes, exposing me in ways that I’d never been before. Like how his lips would curve over my name “Alyssa”, reminding me that I had one in the first place. See to you I was just Sister, a name I loved and reciprocated, but from your lips it felt like an empty title, ridden with burdens that’d collapsed my sanity.
You walked in on us just as we released and he exited me, spilling drops of my virgin blood, red on the white cotton sheets.
Jealous sister of mine. Never had I seen your eyes go so dark, a crippling rage shaking your slender limbs. I knew what would come next and I didn’t stop it. Choosing instead to leave him to a fate at your hands, because as I said once before I would cut out my own heart for you and in a way that’s what he’d become. Naked and exposed I sat there as you gutted him wasting his life’s blood.
You were swift in your attack, he never saw it coming.
Those warm parts of me mourned him, but that was nothing compared to the joy it brought me to see the happiness in your eyes, when the last of his blood had stained the sheets.
Smiling, I watched as you devoured a piece of my heart.
As always, there I was ever faithful in your shadow, cleaning up your messes, studying 8 years of forensics just so I could do it perfectly for you. All I asked in return was to be at your side. Sometimes, like then, you would even let me watch, but my bloodlust was quenched with mother’s death. So I looked to you instead, the fire in your eyes as you burned through them was all I needed to sate the emptiness in me. Because you see like you something in me was broken, missing, and I found those parts in you. My wandering half. The only thing able to fill in my empty spaces, but you filled your spaces with their blood, and I was there to help you do it.
Maybe if I’d loved him more than you I would have killed you right then, but there was nothing I loved more than you.
Until there was.
A part of him stayed with me, a gift. His seed. It grew in me, blooming slowly like a flower, stretching and pulling taut at my skin. I hid it from you as long as I could, until I could hide it no longer, when it began to bulge like a ripe plum from my thin frame.
You shrugged when I told you. “We’ll just get rid of it when it comes,” you answered without a care in the world.
What I didn’t tell you was that this growing seed had started to fill my empty spaces. That this life growing in me had taken a place in my soul that I’d only reserved for you. No, if I’d told you that you would have cut the flower from my belly right then and there, shredding it like you’d done its father. You were the other half of me, surely in time you would feel that the life in my belly was a part of you too.
She bloomed from my womb in a flush of meaty red, and for first time there was something in the world that I loved more than you. Her smell, her skin, the soft silken bush of her hair tickling my nose as she slept on my breast. These were the things that began to fill up my empty places. No longer did I seek to be in your shadow. No, my little flower needed the light so that she could grow and be strong.
Hateful sister of mine, I could see you lurking in the shadows of our home, watching in jealousy as I nurtured and watered my little flower. Angry that for once my attention wasn’t turned towards you. I’d hoped you grow to love her as I did, but the green eyed monster under your skin wouldn’t let you, and I knew me and my little one would have to leave for a place outside of the darkness of your shadow.
Maybe if I’d left sooner things would have been different sister of mine.
I should have never taken my eyes off of her.
But I was tired, the long nights and early mornings, a small nap wouldn’t do any harm. Just for a few minutes I told myself as my eyes started to close shut. When I woke up the smell of beef stew crowded my nose. I smiled, beef stew was my favorite and you knew it. You were dashing around the kitchen, setting the tables wearing a brown apron, a look that was uncommon on you, especially since you’d never stepped foot in the kitchen. That was my territory.
“Come, come” you ushered me over when you saw me sitting up trying to clear the sleep from my vision. Instinct however drove me to the crib towards my flower but you grabbed my shoulders and steered me to the kitchen table instead.
“Now don’t bother her she’s sound asleep, come eat and celebrate with your sister”.
Alarm bells should have been going off in my head but I was too focused on the fact that for once you were looking at me, seeing me, your eyes lingering on mine for more than the usual split second. Your hand was warm just like your smile as you led me to the table. Sitting me down you went to the stove, bringing over the steaming pot of stew.
“What are we celebrating” I asked you. In response you shot me a knowing look reeking of sugar. “Your leaving of course”
My stomach dropped then because how did you know, I’d kept it secret from you for months, and more importantly why weren’t you mad. You slid a piece of paper next to my plate of steaming food. It was a copy of the lease Id signed for a new apartment.
“Oh loosen up I’m happy for you” you laughed at my tense form.
My eyes found yours, trying to find the truth in your words. When I didn’t say anything you gestured down to my plate
“well go on eat, I made it especially for you. Our last supper together should be special”
Could this be happening, was I right, were you finally coming around and seeing reason. Your life of blood and death was not meant for my flower, surely you could see that now. With a small smile I dove in, letting the food slide warm and salty with flavor down my throat.
“Did you forget to trim the fat again” I was half way through my plate and though the food was delicious, the meat was becoming difficult to chew.
“I decided to try something different, why is there a problem?”
“Just a little gamy is all, what meat did you use, please tell me isn’t the duck again” I mumbled mouth full as I stomached another fork full between my lips.
When you got quiet I looked up and it was then that I noticed that your plate was empty, instead you were leaned forward, a hungry look in your eyes watching me eat.
Those alarm bells I had neglected came blaring in like a million sirens.
Terror ran through my bones as that grin stretched up your face like a Cheshire cat, begging me to ask you that question again.
What kind of meat was this?
She was too quiet, my flower, she should be up right now crying for another feeding.
What kind of meat was this?
My eyes caught sight of the white prepping bowl you used for cutting. Rimmed about the edges was a red so bright and unnatural compared to the light pink blood of pre-packaged meat?
What kind of meat was this?
The food in my mouth turned sour as my teeth ground against something hard. I pulled it out slow, dropping it into my palm with a hard thump. It was small, but I recognized it from the countless times I’d kissed her tiny little hands. A finger, a leaf cut from my little flower by the savage beast grinning at me as I devoured my own heart.
I should have killed you then. But I rushed out with a sickness that ravaged my soul, as my stomach emptied out my little flower from the same womb that birthed her.
Days passed, then months, as my sanity fought to redeem itself amidst the horror you’d done to me. Tortured, I sat in my dark corner of the world, my love for you transforming into a hate so potent, that I swore before my time was up, you would pay for what you’d done.
Sister of mine, the butcher. I see you now walking down the street, hanging over his arm, wooing him with those eyes of yours, those same eyes that would watch him bleed out tonight. I stepped from the alleyway, you stop and so does he. He looks between us two, we look alike I know, but I shine brighter than the darkness in you.
You tell him to leave, and with your Cheshire grin you saunter to me. “I knew you’d come back Sister, you need me, face it and stop being stubborn”
Even now you feel no remorse, you cold dark thing. I raise the knife too quick for you to see and plunge it deep into your heart, feeling a gush and crunch of bone as I make impact. Eyes widening you fall hard to the pavement, breaths coming shallow now.
“Alyssa” you whisper into my eyes, much in the way that he did, unlocking the numbness in my heart. Oh sister of mine even now as you lie dying in my arms, my soul calls out to you. You were right about one thing, I couldn’t live without you, I didn’t know how. May be if I’d killed you that day in the park, our parents watching as we laughed and played, the sun shining on you making you golden. Then maybe I could’ve found a way.
Pulling the knife slow from your chest I sliced the thin skin of my wrists, feeling a release as the blood began to rush out.
Like when we were kids I curled up behind you, basking in your warmth as I tried to absorb my flesh into yours.
Going dark our life’s blood pooled around us like a bleeding womb.
Two halves of a soul finally becoming one.
Thanks for sticking around to learn a little bit about the author Brittany McMillan and everything she is trying to accomplish with her art form in the Upstate South Carolina area! If you have any questions for Brittany you can leave them in the comments below! Also be sure to give her Instagram a follow @brittanytaylorr_ to keep up with her on more of an everyday basis.
Like always, thanks a million for your support, and I’ll see you back here soon with a brand new post (: