‘All things considered I should be dead. Since I’m not I’m enjoying the ride.’
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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?
I’ve always been fascinated by the art of storytelling. I started writing horseshit when I was a kid. By the time I was a teen I’d gotten good enough that my high school used one of my scripts as a play. By college I was getting printed in some local papers. By my twenties I was getting published in local music magazines and then it all took off.
Are there any authors or artists who influence you?
Too many to mention. I read everything. I recently re-read Isaac Asimov’s Secular History of the Bible (1 &2), ploughed through Gravity’s Rainbow by Pynchon, three series of steam punk shorts by various authors and a set of shorts by Octavia Butler. I don’t like reading about what I know, I prefer to learn something new every time I crack a cover.
Tell me about your series.
The Brittle Riders, Apocalypses are Funny That Way.
That’s the title and tag line respectively for those playing along at home. It’s the story of a future Earth where AI has been banned, since it tried to take over the solar system, and humans are regressing. They have learned, after meeting an alien race, that faster than light travel isn’t possible and the stars are denied them. Into this world a scientist named Edward Q. Rohta emerged. He developed a way to make human/animal hybrids. Since they weren’t fully human he had them listed as property. Slaves would be a better word. Eventually those hybrids, called gen-O-pods ™, rose up and killed every man, woman, and child on the planet. The Brittle Riders is the story of what happens next.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Not many. I have Goptri of the Mists, which is the prequel/sequel to The Brittle Riders in progress. I had a novel called Bob The Destroyer which I have completely revamped into Bob: Sins of the Son and am now making that into a graphic novel with the artist Soybean Rii. The original Bob, I felt, was too clichéd. I liked the dialogue and some of the scenes, but hated the character and plot. Now, revamped into a story about the son of Death trying to be a superhero in Chicago I feel I’ve got something fresh. Pestilent, a graphic novel I wrote based on characters created by Gary Mac of Gee Comics, is in production and Alokia The Kaiju Hunter, the first teen oriented thing I’ve ever done, just finished character design and is headed into penciling. I have a few shorts that haven’t found a home yet but hope springs eternal.
What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?
I laugh at the petty gods who think they can do this. Right now, in Chicago, the public library system is celebrating Banned Books Week. They posted a list of 100 books at Chipublib.org that have been, or continue to be, banned. I’m pleased to note I’ve read them all.
Tell me about the principal characters in your books. What makes them memorable?
Well, they’re fun, and down to earth, in their own way. Geldish, the ring leader, is a dude who had all his flesh eaten off by a mutant virus and survived. He developed strange powers after the incident and is widely, and rightfully, feared by all. R’Yune is a Wolfen, a human/wolf hybrid, who is a mute and a weapons expert. He’s in love with N’leah, a coal black succubus who’s bald, and she’s a violent killer who escaped a life as a sex slave thanks to R’Yune. Then there is Sland, a human/badger hybrid who is a foul mouthed killer who likes to drink excessively and is happy to kill anything that gets in his way. They are all kept sane by BraarB, a Llamia (think centaur meets armadillo) who was orphaned, taken in by a queen, and is both a deadly fighter and skilled negotiator when needed. Simply put, I created a group of characters I’d like to drink with.
Indie, or traditionally published – and why?
I’ve kind of got the best of both worlds, I’ve been regularly published by indy companies that use traditional methods. I loathe self promotion, and I suck at it, so I like letting someone else do the heavy lifting there.
It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?
As I noted above I read everything so I would have to agree. Writing, like any craft, needs to be honed and you can’t do that if you don’t have a legitimate baseline as to what is, and is not, good.
Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.
It’s a solitary art so you have to remember to make time for other humans to be allowed into your life. The one thing which used to kill me was the rejection letters. Each felt like a stab in the heart. But, as time went on, I realized they’re part of the learning curve. Once I grasped that I stopped worrying about trying to please people I didn’t know and, instead, concentrated on putting out the best possible product I could. It’s been a huge relief for me and I find my writing has gotten better as a side effect.
Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?
I create a rough plot and then let my characters tell me where they want to go. So, in that regard, I guess I’m a pantser. I know authors who script every chapter, every scene, before they attempt to write. I couldn’t do that. I like creating a personal relationship with my characters, not owning them. I, literally, talk to them as I write to find out what they are, and are not, comfortable with.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
All the fucking time. Bar names, people I’ve met, flotsam and jetsam that’s been lodged in the dark corners of my mind that I think needs a home, all sorts of stuff.
Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.
I used to play music all the time. A couple of injuries to my hand have stopped that. But I still listen and happily sing along. Fortunately I have a decent voice, I’ve been on a few records and not been shunned, so it’s not as irritating as it could be to anyone around me.
What are you writing at the moment?
Answers to this interview.
What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?
I know a few self published authors who are amazing. But all have had the benefit of being part of a traditional publishing scheme first. Too many authors who self publish skimp on editing and it shows. Tenses get mangled, points of view whip radically from one character to another, names vacillate between nicknames and formal names, and so on. All stuff a real editor would catch. Don’t even get me started on vanity presses. They are where money goes to die and authors’ dreams are exploited mercilessly.
What is your favourite genre to write, and why?
Well, dystopian sci-fi seems to have become my home. I like the freedom it gives me. I can create a universe all my own and then dig for little shells of hope beneath the shifting sands of doom. That said, I’ve had a lot of fun writing horror and Kauju books, so I’ll keep my options open.
If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?
Probably not a good idea. The whole premise is to kill all humans and I am, very much, a human. But, if I could do so without being eviscerated on sight, I would love to hang out with the beings who live there. As I noted above, they are beings I would like to drink with.
If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
I don’t know if I would want to. My life has been very non-linear but all that I am comes from the experiences I’ve had. Changing any of that might make me a different kind of writer. Actually, back in the day, it wouldn’t have taken much to steer me into mommy porn. So maybe it’s best I leave things be as they are.
Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?
I like upbeat music. African folk, especially from Ghana, 80’s Goth, any metal, Ukrainian folk music, Klezmar, dub step, trance, you name it.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That what I write could have real world implications. A buddy of mine works for JPL and he read an early version of The Brittle Riders. In book three, without giving away anything, I had written about a possible way to achieve faster than light travel. A misnomer, I knew, but I thought I had the basics right. I was wrong. Epically so. He wrote me and calmly noted that my method would blow a hole in the solar system so large that it would wipe out everything from Venus to Jupiter, and all the stuff in between. Which would include us. He sent me an alternative, which I used after rewriting a third of the book to make it fit, and life moved on.
Tell me three unique things about you.
1) My eyes change color with my mood. They range from slate gray to bright green.
2) I have enough metal in my left leg to set off some metal detectors.
2) I once sky dived naked in December. In Chicago. Into the lake. I nearly died, but I had fun.
Bill, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!