Today I am joined by Michael Williams, author of the popular Dragonlance series in support of the tour for his current release Vine: An Urban Legend. For those of you not yet familiar with Michael, let’s give him a moment to introduce himself.
I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and through good luck and a roundabout journey through New England, New York, Wisconsin, Britain and Ireland, have ended up less than thirty miles from where I began. Over the past 25 years, I have written a number of strange novels, from the early Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted in the best-selling DRAGONLANCE series to the more recent lyrical and experimental Arcady, singled out for praise by Locus and Asimov’s magazines. Trajan’s Arch (2010) was my eleventh novel, the first published with Blackwyrm Press, and on this blog tour I am promoting my newest book, Vine: An Urban Legend.
I am an Assistant Professor in Humanities at the University of Louisville, where I focus on European Romanticism and the 19th century, Modernism (especially the Modern Fantastic), and early 20th century film. I am married, and have two grown sons.
Welcome Michael, tell us about your writing process?
There’s no single answer to that question. The process varies with the project. My wife has often said, though, that she begins to wonder if I’m ever going to put words to the page as I begin—there’s a long process of research, planning, turning ideas over and around in my mind.
But generally when I begin to write, the first draft comes out readily. I’m at my desk by 4:30 or 5 am and write for 2-3 hours, usually 1000 words or so a day. It’s really that mechanical. During that time I’m allowed to do nothing but drink coffee and write.
Revision, unlike to other writers, is a delight to me. You go over the drafted manuscript and notice connections you had no idea you were making, ideas that mean something different once the arc of the book is complete. Sometimes revision sends you down productive side roads, sometimes not: it’s a part of the process that is as full of peril and discovery as the rough draft, at least for me.
Is there a genre, other than the one you currently write in, that you wish you could break into?
When I think of one, I try it. I love bending and blending and breaking genres: to me, the most interesting part of genre writing is playing one series of themes and conventions up against another, and letting a novel rise from their interplay. Things like early Star Wars and Firefly always fascinated me with the way they blended space opera and western. Ridley Scott does the same thing with space and haunted house in Alien, and sf and noir in Blade Runner. It’s stuff I grew up loving, and I still like the blending—as reader, viewer, and writer.
I love the idea of blending the genres – it just makes a book more interesting and appealing to readers. What are the 5 books that have influenced you the most, and why?
Oh, my, there are more than five. Tolkien is at the top of my list: changed my life when I first read the trilogy at 14. It was then I decided that I wanted to write, that the coolest thing in the world had to be making up worlds and making them convincing, a place someone could live in.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez created a magical world closer to our own, perhaps only a step away from the back door. I liked the proximity of the real and the fantastic, how they blended with one another until it was hard to tell them apart, and how GGM tells the story with a deadpan voice that gives them both equal weight. It helped my storytelling style no end.
Oddly, Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot did much of the same. It’s American small town writ Gothic. Another example of the fantastic and realistic in play side by side, the transition from one world to another that King does pretty well, but strikingly well for me in this book.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The best place to go for the classical mythology that I love and that underpins a lot of my work, especially Vine. I love Ovid’s sophisticated and psychological take on the old myths…it’s like early mythic fiction, which is what I think I write.
Kafka’s short fiction—almost any of it, but primarily “Metamorphosis” and “The Hunger Artist”—is very influential. Guess he’s about my favorite writer at the moment, though that distinction changes constantly.
Great choices! I love discovering how books have helped to foster and form the love for creating and recording stories. Let me ask you this, if you could cast one of your works, who would you choose to play your main characters?
Let’s do Vine, since it’s the book I’m touring with.
Polymnia = Scarlett Johansson
T. Tommy Briscoe = Tom Waits
Stephen Thorne = Philip Seymour Hoffman
Jack Rausch = a slightly younger Colin Kim
LOVE Phillip Seymour Hoffman – he’s one of my all-time favourite actors! What is the first thing you would do if you woke up one morning to find one of your books on the NY Times Bestsellers List?
I’d go back to sleep.
Do you have any vices that you turn to while you are writing?
I’m already there. Pitifully addicted. Back spasms and jonesing when I haven’t had a mug in a day. But the vice becomes more vicious when I’m writing.
What do you do when you’re not writing, Michael?
I teach and sleep, basically. Most writers will tell you that writing is not only a full-time job, but a 24/7 preoccupation. My teaching and writing dovetail nicely, as both lines of work nourish the other. I love my family very much, and most down time is spent enjoying them. I’m really a private kind of person, without being a hermit or a recluse or any of those romantic things people usually associate with writers.
Please share with us the first nine lines of your current work-in-progress.
T. Tommy Briscoe (the homeless Elvis impersonator/chorus leader), begins the novel by speaking:
I have come back home, children, riding unscrupulous winds.
This amphitheatre is a wreckage now. The crew is breaking down or setting up. It’s hard to tell from standing here. But I do know you can’t paint what ain’t, so everything we build falls into geometry. The theatre is the heart of my city, the haunt of derelicts and squirrels. It’s the point of origin, the towhead in the river where the god rises out of the current, and settles, and takes human shape.
The whole world slopes to the stage. Up there is what they call the colonnade. They’s stone lions at guard by it, and up on the hill, past Magnolia and the church and the big rock there’s another statue—a girl rising up from the water like the towhead god.
And now for the moment you’ve all been patiently awaiting! Time for a sneak peek into Vine: An Urban Legend…
Amateur theatre director Stephen Thorne plots a sensational production of a Greek tragedy in order to ruffle feathers in the small city where he lives. Accompanied by an eccentric and fly-by-night cast and crew, he prepares for opening night, unaware that as he unleashes the play, he has drawn the attention of ancient and powerful forces.
Michael Williams’ Vine weds Greek Tragedy and urban legend with dangerous intoxication, as the drama rushes to its dark and inevitable conclusion.
Don’t forget to click on the cover to be taken to Amazon!
Thank you Michael! Don’t forget to join me next week when I’m joined by author, Jeff Jake!