Chet Williamson scared me to pieces in the 80’s and 90’s. I love his words. In fact, I have two limited edition works of his, being Reign and Second Chance. This was after discovering him in a $2 bin with Richard Laymon and a couple of other great American authors (sorry Chet). The problem I found in Australia was his works became almost impossible to find after that, so he drifted off my radar.
Then along comes the internet, and my bright idea to interview authors. The first thing I did was look at my autographed collection to see Chet sitting proudly along side Koontz, Lansdale and McCammon. Then I started searching, but was flummoxed when I found him on Facebook.
I asked him and within minutes I had a reply. How cool is that!
Now Chet doesn’t rest on his laurels. Oh no. He is still a very busy man. If it’s not the writing, it’s acting. If it’s not acting, it’s narrating. I should ask Chet this – would this list go on for a while?
What genre would you like to write a book in (that you haven’t yet)?
I really don’t think about that. I’ve been writing what’s called cross-genre books ever since I finished REIGN in 1990, which probably accounts for the difficulty in selling some of them. When they’re hard to define or market, publishers get a little nervous.
Where do your ideas come from? Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole construct?
Usually ideas come from a single event, or, more often, a new place that has an interesting feel. I begin to think about what events might occur in such a place, and seek out the genius loci of that particular spot. When I get a story idea, I work out the plot beforehand, doing a rough outline before I begin to write. As I get further into the book, I often find that I need a more detailed scene by scene outline in order to finish it.
When you start a new story, do you have a title for it? Does that trigger the story?
Titles sometimes come early, sometimes late. Dreamthorp was called The Little Houses throughout its writing, and it wasn’t until I discovered the actual 19th century book of essays entitled Dreamthorp that I knew I’d found not only the title but the emotional center of my own book. Soulstorm was originally The Lodestone, and the ARC had that title, but the publisher picked Soulstorm.
Do you see the future of fantasy and science fiction as bright? If so, which authors are driving it?
I think people will always be reading genre fiction in some form or other. As for individual authors, I have to be honest and say that I don’t read that much genre fiction myself. With the proliferation of self-published works, primarily ebooks, there’s so much chaff out there that it’s hard for the good stuff to rise above the sea of mediocrity.
What themes are being overused?
I don’t care if I ever see another zombie or vampire again.
Are movies of books ruining the book?
No. They never did. When someone asked the great noir writer, James M. Cain, if he wasn’t upset at the way the movies ruined his books, he merely gestured to those on his shelf and said something like, “They haven’t ruined them at all — they’re all still right there.”
· Do you see ebooks threatening traditional publishing?
Yes, definitely. On the positive side, they do serve to keep previously published authors’ works in “print,” (nearly my entire backlist has been brought back to life by my ebook publisher, Crossroad Press) and I love my Kindle as an extremely convenient way to transport and read books. On the negative side, as I’ve just said, now any illiterate chump can publish his own book and dump it into the Kindle Store, where it can get just as much attention as well-written books that were done by legacy print publishers. As a result, I see the quality of writing diminish. One has only to look at the Fifty Shades series for proof of that.
Do you prefer to read established authors or debut authors? How do you choose which ones to read?
I generally read established authors, but will read new authors if people whose opinions I respect recommend them.
What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?
The sense of otherness that’s present in good fantasy. I found it in Poe when I was a kid, then later on in Lovecraft and other writers of the Weird Tales school. And I love the kind of frisson that one finds only in the presence of masters like M. R. James — I’m a huge fan of classic ghost stories.
Can I get an autographed book? (lol)
Sure. Buy one and send it to me with return postage and packaging. Always glad to sign.
Do you have a group of people that you show a new story to? How much impact can they have on the whole story?
No. I’ve never shared my fiction with writers’ groups. Plays are another story, since drama is such a collaborative art.
Do you set yourself a word limit for each book?
Nope. It’s as long as it takes to tell the story.
Do you have a target each day?
I used to, but I don’t any more. When I started writing I steadfastly wrote two pages a day (this in addition to a regular job), but now when I’m in the process of actually writing a book, I feel as though six pages a day (1500 words) is a good day’s work. Sometimes I write more, sometimes less, but I don’t obsess over it.
Do you write constantly or have breaks between books?
Oh, many breaks. I also narrate audiobooks, and I like to work on one project at a time. So I’ll spend a week or two on an audiobook and then get back to writing. I’ve recorded my own books, and also works by Joe Lansdale, Michael Moorcock, Tom Piccirilli, David Niall Wilson, Neal Barrett Jr., and others. All available on audible.com, might I add.
Do you have characters running around your head? Do they dictate events and their histories to you?
That’s what I aim for. Once I get into a book, I like it when the characters take on a life of their own, but this usually happens after doing a lot of preparatory work finding the characters.
After so many books, how do you keep them unique?
That’s the difficult thing, and it’s why I write less than I used to. If I’m going to spend nine months to a year working on a book, it’s got to be something that appeals to me and that I think is fresh and hasn’t really been done before. If I come up with an idea and it doesn’t fit those criteria, I can’t do it, and have to search for another idea.
What is your biggest (self-imposed) time waster?
Facebook, hands down.
Do you remember the first time you saw your book in a shop?
I do. But the biggest thrill was when I sold my first short story in 1981 to T. E. D. Klein at Twilight Zone Magazine. Ted called me one night to tell me he was buying it, and I went bananas when I got off the phone. It was the biggest literary high of my life, to think that someone would actually pay me money for my fiction.
Do you read other people’s writing?
If you mean do I read unpublished work to give opinions, no. Not many writers do. It’s time consuming, and frankly, the only person’s opinion that truly counts is an agent’s or an editor’s.
Would you read mine?
Chet’s latest book is Defenders of the Faith, and is available (both in trade paper and ebook) from Crossroad Press, where you’ll also find most of hisbacklist as ebooks.
His website is http://chetwilliamson.com, which hasn’t been updated for a year, but which has information about his previous books and lots of other stuff.
Ebooks available in the Kindle Store, audiobooks at Audible.com, everything at: