I asked popular genre writer and pal William Meikle to stop by the blog and answer some questions. He was kind enough to accept and what transpired can be enjoyed below!
DTW: Why don’t we start by letting everyone know what you’re working on, and any recent accomplishments you’d like to mention.
WM: I'm on the second draft of a new novel. It's a Quatermass type "British scientists screw up badly" story set in Newfoundland in the '50s and the present day during a winter storm. It features some glowing fog, a multiverse, many tentacles, a lot of beer, much snow and some stiff upper lips. It's a lot of fun.
As for achievements, I've got three main strands to my work at the moment. This new novel is book 5 of a 6 book deal with DarkFuse, and book three of that deal is coming in July. THE EXILED is a Scottish supernatural novel.
The second strand is my historical adventure stuff - I've got a Professor Challenger collection coming in May - THE KEW GROWTHS AND OTHER STORIES, and from the same publisher (Dark Renaissance) I will have three Sherlock Holmes novellas published before the year is out,
Third strand is the short stories. Mainly Lovecraftian, I have stories to come in four different Chaosium anthologies, one in a new KING IN YELLOW anthology, and one in WORLD WAR CTHULHU from Dark Regions which is shaping up to be a major event in its own right.
Busy busy busy.
DTW: I know you’ve written a ton of tales. How do you keep the ideas flowing? I’ve never noticed you getting stuck.
WM: I wouldn't write at all if the ideas didn't present themselves in my head. I find I get a lot of ideas clamoring for attention all at once. I write them down in a notebook that never leaves my side, and sometimes one of them gathers a bit more depth, and I get a clearer image. At this stage I find myself thinking about it almost constantly, until a plot, or an ending, clarifies itself. Once I've written down where the story should be going it quietens down a bit. Then, if I find myself still thinking about it a couple of days later, I'll probably start writing the actual story. At any given time I have about 20 ideas waiting for clarity, two or three of which might end up as finished works.
That's the inspiration part. And that continues when I start putting the words on paper. I've tried writing outlines, both for short stories and novels, but I've never stuck to one yet. My fingers get a direct line to the muse and I continually find myself being surprised at the outcome. Thanks to South Park, I call them my "Oh shit, I've killed Kenny" moments, and when they happen, I know I'm doing the right thing.
DTW: You’ve written a wide variety of fiction. What’s your favorite genre to write? And your least favorite?
WM: I always come back to the Occult Detective.
Nowadays there is a plethora of detectives in both book and film who may seem to use the trappings of crime solvers, but get involved in the supernatural. William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel (the book that led to the movie Angel Heart) is a fine example, an expert blending of gumshoe and deviltry that is one of my favorite books. Likewise, in the movies, we have cops facing a demon in Denzel Washington's Fallen that plays like a police procedural taken to a very dark place.
My interest goes further back to the "gentleman detective" era where we have seekers of truth in Blackwood's John Silence, Sherlock Holmes and William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki, and, mixed in with that, I have a deep love of the American PI books and movies of the '40s and '50s.
I've written numerous stories set in the late Victorian/Early Edwardian era, for Sherlock Holmes, Carnacki, and Professor Challenger. I was raised on Doyle, Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson and I love that historical period they covered in their work. It's also the time period I've come to prefer for my own writing and I can see me settling in there for a long time to come.
My own occult Detective series character, Glasgow PI Derek Adams, is a modern day Bogart and Chandler fan, and it is the movies and Americana of that era where I find a lot of my inspiration for him, rather than in the older period of Holmes et al. He's turned up in three novels so far, THE AMULET, THE SIRENS and THE SKIN GAME, all out now in print and ebook at all the usual online stores.
There seems to be quite a burgeoning market for this kind of mixing of detection and supernatural, and I intend writing more... a lot more.
As for least favorite - I don't really have one. To me it's all just writing. Counts quickly... I've written Horror, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Crime, Western and Thriller. Plus the subgenres, like ghost stories, occult detectives, creature features, sword and sorcery etc. But I don't really think of them as being different. It's all adventure fiction for boys who've grown up, but stayed boys. Like me.
Saying that, I had a stab at a straight crime novel a few years back, and while it has been published, I did find it a strain keeping the supernatural element out of it. So for me, the supernatural / weird element has to be in there somewhere, otherwise I quickly lose interest.
DTW: Having mentioned adventure fiction (and that’s what I call it too), who are some of your favorite authors?
WM: Much of my adventure loving comes from the reading I did as a lad in a small West Coast Scotland town in the early-seventies, before Stephen King and James Herbert came along.
Tarzan is the second novel I remember reading. (The first was Treasure Island, so I was already well on the way to the land of adventure even then.) I quickly read everything of Burroughs I could find. Then I devoured Wells, Dumas, Verne and Haggard. I moved on to Conan Doyle before I was twelve, and Professor Challenger’s adventures in spiritualism led me, almost directly, to Dennis Wheatley, Algernon Blackwood, and then on to Lovecraft. Then Stephen King came along.
There’s a separate but related thread of a deep love of detective novels running parallel to this, as Conan Doyle also gave me Holmes, then I moved on to Christie, Chandler, Hammett, Ross MacDonald and Ed McBain, reading everything by them I could find.
Mix all that lot together, add a hefty slug of heroic fantasy from Howard, Leiber and Moorcock, a sprinkle of fast moving Scottish thrillers from John Buchan and Alistair MacLean, and a final pinch of piratical swashbuckling. Leave to marinate for fifty years and what do you get?
A psyche with a deep love of the weird in its most basic forms, and the urge to beat up monsters.
As for the actual favorites... here's five. Ask me tomorrow and you'll get a different list :-)
- The Dwellers in the Mirage - A E Merritt
- The House on the Borderlands – William Hope Hodgson
- The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
- The Broken Sword - Poul Anderson
- The Dreaming Jewels - Theodore Sturgeon
DTW: Really excellent chatting with you, Willie. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers before we wrap up?
WM: I wrote this in one of my books, and as a personal philosophy, it’ll do for me:
Life is an opportunity to create meaning by our actions and how we manage our way through the short part of infinity we're given to operate in. And once our life is finished, our atoms go back to forming other interesting configurations with those of other people, animals, plants and anything else that happens to be around, as we all roll along in one big, happy universe. Plus, I like the idea that some of my atoms will be around to see the death of Sol. That’ll be cool.
Or as some wise men once said:
I am he as you are he as you are me And we are all together
Life is but a dream. Sshboom.