Interview with Simon Williams

Author of Dark Fiction

 

 

 

 

 

Simon Williams has been on the dark fiction map for many years now. His writing style has been described as featuring attention to detail, great characterization; is wonderfully descriptive, immersive, and so addictive that you can’t put his books down.

So what makes him tick? Let’s see what he has to say …

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you call home today?

I guess I don’t really call anywhere home. I’ve set foot in about 50 different countries and immensely enjoyed my travelling days, although the way things are now they do seem very distant. I’m based in the UK at the moment but I’m not sure I want to spend the rest of my life here.

When I tell people I’m a Horror author, they always ask, Why Horror? Now let me ask you — Why horror and dark fantasy? What draws you to these genres?

When I was about nine I picked up a book called “The Weirdstone of Brisingamen” by Alan Garner, and to say I was hooked was an understatement. I fell into its world for two days, and immediately after that I reached for the sequel, “The Moon of Gomrath”. This author’s work turned me towards fantasy (CS Lewis also helped, although his work is very, very different, and a couple of years later I began reading more fantasy-horror oriented work courtesy of Clive Barker, who is probably the other author to have affected my most at that point in my life. I can’t think of anyone who has anything like his abundance of visionary imagination.

Describe your story-telling. What authors influence you? Who would you compare your writing to? What’s unique about your fiction?

Well, obviously the two mentioned above, but others whose works I love include Cecilia Dart-Thornton, CJ Cherryh, Tad Williams, Ian Irvine, Neil Gaiman, Alan Campbell, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Raymond E Feist… I’m not sure which have influenced me most or who I would compare myself to (such comparisons are subjective and often feel clouded by my deep love of their works).

 I guess I’ve tried to steer a line of deeply character-driven, gritty and dark storylines that could be considered broadly as fantasy- but I don’t allow myself to be constrained by genre. If I think of a character and rough idea / scenario for them and it turns out to be a completely different setting than I expect then so be it.

How does a typical writing day pan out for you?

Typical?! I don’t have a precise routine, but I try to get the social media out of the way early and late and not go back to it during the day when I’m supposed to be “working”. If I’m doing an original sketch / idea of a chapter / scene, I firstly scribble it down in a writing pad- partly because it also gets me away from the dreaded Screen. I’ll then type it up later or maybe a few days later. I’ll also work on some rough chapters on-screen. If I have a first draft or subsequent draft finished, I print it and do the initial editing in very fine red pen on the printed notes (or green for any new ideas or improvements that come to me)- again, away from the screen. I try not to be on the computer unless I need to be. We were not meant to be hunched over and staring into the light of a million pixels.

Do you self-publish or publish with a traditional press? What are your thoughts on the state of publishing today?

I self-publish for one simple reason- I’m in control. I don’t want to be at the whim of a “traditional” publisher and team of editors who insist on major changes to my work- removing chapters, cutting out characters, adding new bits… and so on until the work is no longer completely mine, or anywhere near it.

 Many years ago I did approach publishers with my first book, but the responses tended to vary between condescending put-downs and the “it’s not for us” sort of snobbery that non-commercial fantasy / science fiction has to endure. I don’t hold them against it- they’re obviously looking for works with mass market appeal, unit shifters. But on the other hand, we get one chance to make the best we can of things, and part of doing that is not wasting time on endeavours that just aren’t going to work because of attitudes or policies or whatever. It sounds simple, but do the things that work and put aside the things that only eat up time without results.

What were some early lessons you learned writing that could help other aspiring writers? What would you have done differently, if anything? What would you have done more of?

The most important lesson was that it’s absolutely essential to find your “voice” (the style and method of writing that works for you and which feels unique) and stick with it. If it feels right, it probably is- and only needs technical work and checking after that. My first book, Oblivion’s Forge, took many years to write precisely because at first it felt derivative and I needed it to be something different, something that was uniquely mine but also had my own particular stamp on it.

 Which brings me to the second lesson- don’t ever be afraid to excise and destroy chunks of your work- even if it means removing large parts of it. If you have a nagging uncertainty about how something fits with the rest of the book, remove it. Do something differently. I don’t mean destroy the text, of course- who knows, it may find a home somewhere else- but savage editing can sometimes be the springboard to inspiration.

Tell us about your most recent publication. How did you get the idea? How is this book different to any other you have written?

My newest book, Embers Drift is broadly a metaphysical fantasy but has elements of industrial noir, psychological horror, detective mystery and dystopian science fiction. I don’t go out of my way to mix things up- those elements just happened to be the ones that were required for this particular story to “work”. I guess it’s different to works such as, say, the Aona books, in that it focuses just on four main characters and how they change the world, and because it’s only a single novel (though a decent length) it’s leaner and has a more urgent pace to it.

 Like most of my work, the original ideas / seeds come from dreams, or “out of thin air”. Sometimes I don’t even remember where they come from!

What are you working on now? Tell us about your latest work.

I’m part of the way through writing the first in a new dark fantasy series which explores the nature of magic and of conflict- and there isn’t going to be a clear-cut “good vs evil” thing going on- I’m not a fan of such absolutes, I want to explore characters’ motivations, whether or not most people think of them as acceptable. What made them this way? Are they able to change- either for the better, or worse? How do the events of their lives shape them? It’s that aspect that interests me. As there are two separate worlds in these books, it’s given me the opportunity to explore themes such as immigration, but another aspect which plays a greater role than in, say, the Aona books, is organised religion and the claustrophobia and corruption endemic in the power structures it produces. The series is provisionally titled “The Heralds of Misfortune”.

 I also have a standalone book in progress- this is more a sort of cosmic horror about three demonic beings who have existed in a vast city for hundreds of years, weaving mischief and woe wherever they go, and a young man from an ancient family of magicians and thieves, who is the only one to suspect their existence.

 Lastly, I’m also working on a somewhat left-field magical realism novella- I’m not entirely certain how this one will turn out but I’m pleased with some of the concepts involved so this may see the light of day shortly.

What are you reading or listening to now?

Reading – Tad Williams’ The Last King of Osten Ard books, after which I have Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” lined up (if one book can be said to constitute a line).

 Listening – I always have a wide variety of music on my headphones. I like artists from pretty much every genre except gangsta / grime / rnb stuff, blues and modern jazz. Lately I’ve been randomly selecting albums based on the year they came out- at the moment I’m up to 2008, which means the current playlist has albums by Adoration, Armin van Buuren, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Bloc Party, Burzum, Celldweller, Cloudkicker, Cult of Luna, Daysleepers, Earth, Empire of the Sun, Filter, God is an Astronaut, Have a Nice Life, Jesu, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Marillion, Mogwai, Nine Inch Nails, Opeth, Riverside, Secret Shine, Slipknot, Steven Wilson and The Verve. (I did say it was varied!)

Anything else you would like add?

Always interested in hearing from other authors (and readers)… in fact I’m trying to go back towards traditional email based correspondence rather than using social media, although of course you can’t not do at least a few social media networks these days.

Thanks to Simon for dropping by. If you’d like to follow him or, even better, read one of his books, then here are some useful links:

Click here for his website

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/simonwilliamsauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SWilliamsAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6094097.Simon_Williams

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Simon-Williams/e/B00P0ZZYS8

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Simon-Williams/e/B00P0ZZYS8

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