David J. Williams Interview

With David J. Williams' The Mirrored Heavens being a strong candidate for my "Unexpected Surprise of the Year" Award, I had no choice but to invite the author to introduce himself. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

- Without giving anything away, can you give us a taste of the story that is THE MIRRORED HEAVENS?

The year's 2110; Earth, Moon and Internet (aka "the zone") are divided between two spacefaring superpowers, the U.S. and the Eurasian Coalition. For decades they've been locked in a second cold war—but as the book opens, an uneasy détente is underway . . . until the Phoenix Space Elevator (the joint construction of the superpowers) gets nuked by the mysterious terrorist group Autumn Rain. The hunt's on to find/stop the Rain before they can strike again; we focus on a number of secret agents who get caught up in that search, and in particular on Jason Marlowe and Claire Haskell. The two of them used to be lovers, but they discover fairly early in the book that their spymasters may be messing with their memories for reasons of their own. Things go downhill from there . . .

- Tell us a little more about yourself. What's the 411 on David J. Williams?

Born in the UK, now I live in Washington, D.C. I was a management consultant for a decade, and I also was co-writer on Vancouver, BC-based Relic Entertainment's Homeworld video game franchise. I decided I wanted more of the latter and less of the former in my life, but I was sick of creating by committee, so I started in on novels.

- Can you tell us a little more about the road that saw this one go from manuscript form to finished novel?

I started the Autumn Rain project in the fall of 2000. Several months later I started writing prose instead of jotting down notes, and several months after that I realized just how much my writing sucked. So I did the proverbial million words (or near enough), and emerged with a finished manuscript which sold within a year of its completion to Bantam, along with outlines for the sequels.

- What can readers expect from the upcoming sequels?

Mayhem like they've never seen it.

- What's the progress report on the next volume? Any tentative release date yet?

The next book's called THE BURNING SKIES—it's turned into Bantam, and will be released in May of 2009. (I should note, btw, that THE MIRRORED HEAVENS is a self-contained story: readers won't get to the last page and hurl the thing against a wall because it ends on a cliffhanger or anything like that. . . but there's a fuck-sized hook that'll pull you into the next book all the same)

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write THE MIRRORED HEAVENS and the rest of the series in the first place?

The U.S. military is acutely aware that the center of gravity of warfare is shifting into space. I got to thinking what this might look like several decades from now, and the world fell into place around that. Particularly if one postulates a new Eastern superpower rising to prominence at the same time as space-based weaponry reaches maturity . . .

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

Building tension.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the science fiction genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write THE MIRRORED HEAVENS and its sequels?

Most of the conventions I was consciously trying to undermine involve military science fiction. There's some great stuff out there, but there's also—frankly—a lot of jingoistic trash. I wanted to break past that and write a edge-of-the-seat mil SF narrative infused with the objectivity of a (future) historian/chronicler. Plus I wanted to combine that material with espionage, because I've always loved cold war thrillers, and wanted to set up a world of secret agents in which everybody's double-crossing everybody else. (In fact, my agent sold the book as "John LeCarre on SF crack", which I certainly wasn't about to object to.)

- The fact that there is a website dedicated to your work is an indication that interaction with your readers is important to you as an author. How special is it to have the chance to interact directly with your fans?

It's absolutely critical, because for years I dreamt of having anyone beside myself give two shits about any of this. The website (http://www.autumnrain2110.com/) was my way of taking all the notes and background material that I'd written and organizing it so that fans can see the background behind the two superpowers, the military hardware they've got, and the attack unleashed by Autumn Rain. There's some cool art up there too.

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a Hugo Award? Why, exactly?

NYT bestseller. I want to reach as many people as possible. Not that I'd say no to a Hugo . . . : )

- What authors make you shake your head in admiration? Many speculative fiction authors don't read much inside the genre. Is it the case with you?

Right now it's Morgan, Mieville, Gibson, Stross and Watts.

But yeah, to your point: most of what I read is non-fiction, specifically history. If you're just reading the latest genre material, you're not staying ahead of the competition.

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the cover that graces THE MIRRORED HEAVENS?

It absolutely matters, since people so clearly do judge a book by its cover. And I got very lucky, as I think that Bantam did a spectacular job on the art for MIRRORED HEAVENS. (Though they had an earlier version of it that showed the guy in powered armor who's on there now standing on something that looked like the planet Klendathu, and I told my editor that if they went with that one, I'd have to rewrite the whole #$# book to make it a big bug-hunt. She took pity on me.)

- More and more, authors/editors/publicists/agents are discovering the potential of all the SFF blogs/websites/message boards on the internet. Do you keep an eye on what's being discussed out there, especially if it concerns you? Or is it too much of a distraction?

I've set up Google search parameters to alert me whenever my (incredibly generic) name gets mentioned anywhere, so it's not that much of a distraction. In the meantime, I'm working on having all other David J. Williams out there hunted down and destroyed in order to make my branding efforts easier.

- Do you have any desire to write outside of the SF genre?

None whatsoever.

- With authors such as Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, Iain M. Banks, Richard Morgan and Neal Asher, British SF seems to be flourishing at the moment compared to a general downturn in the genre, particularly in the United States. Why do you think this may be?

I think there's a lot of awesome U.S. writers out there, but I'll take the bait and go on record as saying that contemporary Britain has fewer illusions about itself than the U.S. does, and that this translates into a harder-edged type of SF. Specifically, Britain has come to terms with its (now long-gone) empire in a way that the U.S. has yet to do, and it's tough to write about the future unless you understand what's going on in the present.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

It absolutely will, but the English professors and lit-crit theorists and Booker Prize snobs will be the last to #$# realize it.

1 commentaires:

Shawn C. Speakman said...

David is a stuper nice guy. I had the pleasure of meeting him and talking to him for a long time at the San Diego Comic Con this year. And I enjoyed his first book, which means I hate the nice guy all the more. *grins*