Star Guest Interview - November 2012
Hi everyone, to begin November with a bang, I thought I'd try interviewing someone as mad as myself. Someone, who - I must confess - it was well worth the effort breaking into the asylum for.
It was an interesting experience conducting our chat in a padded room - but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves swinging about!
Yes, I'm proud to introduce you all to none other than...
Your fans will already know quite a bit about you and your books.
You’ve had a colorful past: singing in a band, selling shoes, designing military hardware, hosting a syndicated radio show, working in theater and radio production and teaching in both grade school and college, to mention just some of your previous jobs.
As an author, you’ve won acclaim for your Memory Sorrow & Thorn Series, Shadowmarch Series, and The War of the Flowers, Caliban’s Hour, Otherland – and a personal favorite of my wife, Tailchasers Song.
So...tell us something about yourself that’s a bit different. What don’t we know about you from the official bio?
I'm a hermit by choice. I have a wonderful family and tons of great friends, but I am jealous of my solitary time -- my thinking time -- and that's a reason I tend to stay up late, long after everyone else has gone to bed. I would almost always stay home than go anywhere, even the swingingest party you can imagine. (My wife is not so much of a stay-at-home, so I rouse myself to accompany her out just enough to keep her from going crazy. Well, any crazier than she already is, considering who she married.)
You have a story that came out recently, the 1st book in the Bobby Dollar Series, The Dirty Streets of heaven. What’s it about?
It's about an Earthbound angel, Bobby Dollar, aka Angel Doloriel. He's a pretty normal heavenly functionary until he gets involved in something so big that both sides are upset with him, and that's when the demons and angels really hit the fans.
What made you choose that title? And, where did the idea for your story come from?
The title was actually a replacement for my original, "Angels Rush In", which my publishers didn't much like. I made "Dirty Streets…" up on the spot to avoid extra work. That's how I roll.
Please share a particular detail about the main character.
Bobby has a lot of me in him, which is one reason I enjoyed writing the books (I've already finished his second volume of adventures and am about to start number three.) He has a sense of humor, and since he's the narrator I get to let my own sense of the absurd loose. When you're talking about how the universe really works, you have to be able to enjoy absurdity.
This story has a different style to your other books, it’s harder, grittier. Did you find this style a refreshing change?
Yeah, but mainly I enjoyed writing in a more contemporary idiom. My fantasy/science fiction books often require me to write in a less natural voice -- often the voice is the major thing that lets you know what kind of story it is. Bobby's alive (after a fact) and around now, today, and he lives in the same world we do, he just spends more time behind the scenes.
What plans do you have for Bobby Dollar?
I'd like to keep writing his books, although once I finish these first three I suspect they will be more like single volume crime/mystery books with a repeat protagonist. I want to be able to write one and then write something else without people having to wait for a necessary sequel.
How many books have you written altogether now?
Hmmm. Have to count. Three long four-volume trilogies. (I know, it's become a bad joke.) Two ordinary standalone novels and two short standalone books, one of the latter with Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Two young-adult fantasy novels (the Ordinary Farm books) with my wife, Deborah Beale. And two collections (so far) of short fiction. And now the first two Bobby Dollar, although the second won't be published until next year. What's that? Twenty-two? Sounds about right. If I wrote shorter books I'd have published twice that many.
What advice would you give to an unpublished writer?
It's always the same, because I'm no more of an expert than anyone else on selling in today's weird market of self-publishing, dying brick-and-mortar book business, etc. I tell people to read widely, and in fact to avoid their genre when they read as often as possible if they want to write genre fiction. (Otherwise you become influenced by other writers and ideas in your own genre and it becomes incestuous and shallow very quickly.) Read broadly, including lots and lots of non-fiction, especially history and science. (Yes, even if you write fantasy. ESPECIALLY is you write fantasy.) Another important thing is to write regularly, even if you don't write a great deal at any one sitting. And last, FINISH THINGS. You'll change your mind, your ideas, your style, and your skills during the course of even a single book, so if you go back and start over each time you will be creating a spiral that never goes anywhere. Finish the piece, then go back and rewrite. If you have a major idea-change along the way, make a note and continue as if you had already implemented that change for the rest of your first draft, then fix it in rewrite. Again, the idea is to learn how to finish things, not just start them.
Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
I mentioned the second Bobby Dollar book, called "HAPPY HOUR IN HELL." I'm editing that now. I also have a bunch of short stories coming out in the next year, and hope to begin a few new things as well. And my book "TAILCHASER'S SONG" is being made into an animated film, and the "OTHERLAND" books are the source of an almost-released MMORPG, expected out in a few months. There's also some other work of mine under film option, but no news to share yet.
What do you think makes your book stand out in today’s market?
Sense of humor and imagination, I think, which have always been strong points of mine (I believe.) Also, I don't just invent characters to hold places in a plot, I try to make them real and then deal with their complexity, no matter how frustrating to me ordered sense of plot and narrative.
What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?
In all the Bobby Dollar books, I think his relationship with the woman in his life is the most complicated and difficult to create, because it's one of those loves that marks you for life, and I've had one (and still do.) Fortunately, mine worked out, but that's nowhere near as likely for Bobby. But I want to stay true to those feelings, since they shaped who I am today.
Tad, thanks for that info. I'm sure all your fans will be rushing to buy Dirty Streets of Heaven - IF they haven't already got it - and are already looking forward to the sequel... BUT - let's make things a little more personal.
Give me a list od things you would love? (Anything you like…)
The only car I ever really craved was an X-type Jaguar, when I was a kid. Still sorta do.
I'd love to live in London again, and I'd also like to live in Italy for at least a year.
I'd like to live in or travel in Germany long enough to get good at German.
I like all kinds of music, from classical to show tunes to classic rock to hip-hop to death metal, and would listen to even more, even louder, except that I have to make space for thinking, and I just can't do proper book thinking while listening to Rammstein or the Wu Tang. That's when the classical and ambient come out.
My favorite movie is still probably The Tin Drum and I couldn't even tell you why. I'm also extremely fond of The Wizard of Oz and Das Boot and The Innocents and My Fair Lady. Oh, and A Fish Called Wanda. If you can see a pattern there, let me know.
What’s your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
Basketball, hanging with my kids, ruthlessly mocking our household pets.
Where do you hail from and what do you love most about your hometown?
I grew up in Palo Alto, CA., the college town for Stanford U., and when I was growing up it was the loveliest, most open-minded place to be a suburban kid you could imagine.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An archaeologist, 'til I found how how much work it was.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Getting started. That's always the tough part, every single day.
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
I don't believe in it. Sometimes a story just needs more time, or even a pause. But some writers worry that their talent will dry up, and every dry spot seems like the first knell of approaching doom. I'm not that way so it's not a problem for me. Sometimes I just have to put something aside, but that's only because it's a complicated problem that my subconscious needs to work on. (And my conscious mind may need to take it slow, too.)
Who is your favorite author and why?
Impossible to choose, really. Depends on what I'm reading and what mood I'm in. I will say that Shakespeare has given me more than just about anyone else, though.
What books have most influenced your life?
MARTIAN CHRONICLES; LORD OF THE RINGS; THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING; TITUS GROAN; GRAVITY'S RAINBOW.
How did you deal with rejection letters?
With the smug (and highly uninformed) certainty they didn't know what they were talking about.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?
That's a long story, but it had to do with assuring a secretary in Durban, South Africa that I wasn't standing in a window of the building across the street from her naked.
Do you have any must-haves while you are writing?
Reasonable quiet and minimal distractions. The occasional nap.
Can you tell us something quirky about yourself that readers might not know already?
I have an excellent falsetto. If there is every a huge Motown revival and they're short of the "ooo-oo-oooh!" guys, I'm so there.
What do you think makes a good story?
Something that makes the reader want to learn more. Afterward, something that makes the reader care about the characters.
Was it love at first sight for you when you met Deborah?
It was friendship at first sight. We didn't fall in love until we met the next time. Then it was the Thunderbolt. (Like Michael C. in "The Godfather".)
What did you notice first about her when you met?
That she was gorgeous, smart, and had an excellent sense of humor.
What has been the highlight of the last month?
Excellent reviews of the first Bobby Dollar and good health for my family.
Okay – Thanks for sharing those more personal details. NOW, lets let’s make things fun and bring out the quirky sense of humor your fans love you for:
Let’s have a drink! What cocktail best describes you and why?
If I just want a drink, it's usually a G&T or a margarita. If I want to sip and think, I might order Campari and soda or a good beer.
We enjoyed our drinks sooo much, one thing led to another and we ended up at a bar in the city. What kinda bar did we end up in? (Don’t worry – I won’t mention a thing to Deborah)
Nothing to hide. I like pubs and neighborhood bars where people talk and laugh. I don't mind sports on the TV if things are slow, but normally the (or the company one brings along) should be enough to make it enjoyable.
Our outrageous antics got us arrested. WHAT were we arrested for?
You got arrested for doing something stupid. I got arrested for trying to explain to the police why it was a crucial way to defend against a possible alien invasion.
At our trial, we pleaded temporary insanity on the grounds of diminished maturity and it worked! We now find ourselves in a nicely padded room with a selection of toys to play with. If you can only choose one, which would you pick? – And why?
A tire hanging from a chain?
A car door, complete with working electric window?
A toy clown from the horror film “IT”?
A teddy, ready for throwing – complete with pram?
A squeaky sponge mallet?
A copy of the Karma Sutra? (Why are you looking at me like that?)
I would take pages out of the Kama Sutra, personalize them for the guards, each one explaining how fun it would be to do that to them. Then I'd sign your name.
Speedos or mankini?
I'm a trunks man, if we're talking about swimming. I'm not letting anyone see the farm until they put a down-payment on it.
Jennifer Aniston or Penelope Cruz?
They're both lovely women. Penelope would probably be easier to sneak through customs, because she's smaller.
Chuck Norris or MacGyver?
As I tell my son, yes, Chuck Norris the internet meme is incredibly cool. Chuck Norris the washed-up actor is kind of a nasty, right-wing SOB.
Blade or Underworld?
Blade, baby! I'm a Marvel man, for one thing. Plus Blade's just cooler. Too bad about Wesley and his tax problems. Dumbass.
Wine or beer?
For sipping and talking over dinner, wine. For hanging out on a hot day, beer.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Chocolate. And no, that was not why I chose Snipes over Beckinsale.
Candlelight or dark?
Depends. If it's walking through the house at night, I'd prefer some light. We have pets.
Rolling Stones or Stone Roses?
Like 'em both, but EXILE ON MAIN STREET and LET IT BLEED are as eternal as the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, and easier to reach.
Skiing or surfing?
People get hurt doing that shit.
Alien or Predator?
Alien all the way. Come on, H. R. Giger design, Sigourney and Yaphet Kotto and Ian Holm, versus Arnie, Jesse Ventura, and a much less scary design except the cool crustacean mouth? Not close.
Ferrari or Lamborghini?
As if I'd ever get to drive either one fast enough to matter. It would basically just be huge insurance bills so you can worry about getting bird-crap on a three hundred thousand dollar car. No, I survived my Speed Racer days and I'm content now to drive a minivan. I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine.
Someone once came up to me and told me they felt like being reckless. As a joke, I suggested they run really fast, straight into a wall – just to see what would happen. Guess what? They did!
What suggestion/advice have you given to others that you wish you hadn’t?
Come on over any time.
What place to travel is on your Bucket List?
Need to see China and Japan. Would like to spend a few months in Greece and Turkey. Wouldn't mind getting to the moon someday, if it's available.
What would you REALLY like to say to all those on Facebook who keep sending game requests? (Go on…Vent it! Vent it!)
After a while, I got so I didn't even see them. Now you reminded me.
Have you ever been fraped on Facebook – and did you enjoy the experience?
It won't happen to me because I log on from home and my kids and wife don't know how to use my ergonomic keyboard, which among other things has all the function and command keys switched around. When they try without asking me, they always come sheepishly up to me and say, "I can't figure out your damned keyboard." Hee hee.
Have you ever shaved a part of your body – other than on your head?
Yes. I have long, bushy elbow hair that must be kept trimmed back or else I knock silverware and dishes off the table.
Have you ever been stopped by airport security?
Apparently there's some kind of crazy bastard with my name, so I get stopped almost every time. I hope he's enjoying himself, because I'm not enjoying being mistaken for him.
Are you banned from anywhere?
Other than several very touchy women's dorms, a few cities, an odd county or two, and the big F. A. O. Schwarz toy store in Manhattan, no.
What’s the fastest you’ve driven?
In a vehicle? About 150. Late at night on the 280 freeway out of S. F. when I was young and stupid. (As opposed to now, when I am middle-aged and stupid, but no longer interested in driving fast.)
Tad, - that's it my friend. Thank you so much for taking the time to be with me today. I’m sure everyone will love this interview and remember it for a long time…I have to dash, evidently I've got a date with a prison guard!
Thanks for being such a great sport..
Remember everyone - you can find out more about Tad Williams on his website: