Friday, December 9, 2011

13 Questions with...Chet Williamson

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
I’m a lousy cook, so I’d either ask my wife to prepare the meal, or have it catered. And I have to confess to not being much of a foodie. But if the sky were the limit, I’d probably tailor a menu around one of the menus of The Zodiac Club, a private dining club that was the inspiration for my cannibalistic story in Al Sarrantonio’s anthology, 999, but non-cannibalistic, of course…

2. What is your beverage of choice?

Water lately, but I love craft beers and good wine.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?

I don’t own an e-reader, and really have no desire for one. If I traveled more, it would be convenient, but I love the feel of a real book in my hands. Also, I don’t feel that I own anything when I buy an e-book anymore than I own something when I buy an MP3 sound file. But a physical CD or a physical book? There you’ve got something!

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?

Oh man. I have a house filled with books, and though I try to glean, it’s tough. Looking at my shelves here in my office, I see one shelf of books on Shakespeare, Thomas Harris’s novels, the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, another long row of books on & by Lovecraft, a large section on Yeats (I’ve been working on a play about him for ages), a shelf full of Andrew Vachss’s and Joe Lansdale’s novels, a ton of reference books, some Philip Roth, Robert B. Parker, early Fedogan & Bremer books…it just goes on and on. I have literally several hundred boxes in the basement (with two humidifiers running constantly). Right now I’m reading Terrill Lee Lankford’s novels – Lee directed the Christmas With the Dead film I was in this summer, in which I get eaten by zombies.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?

I loved to tell stories when I was a kid (the stock boy in my grandfather’s little two-aisle grocery store used to tell me Poe stories in the scary store cellar), but I didn’t start writing seriously until my twenties, and came to it as the result of being an actor. I started writing shows, and when I realized I was writing full-scale stories I graduated to short stories and finally novels. I picked horror because that’s what I’d loved reading ever since I picked up issue # 5 of Famous Monsters of Filmland and those great Ballantine paperback horror anthologies published in the early 60’s.

6. What is your writing routine?

Not nearly as disciplined as it used to be. In the olden times when I worked on clay tablets, I would set myself a page count every day, and not go to bed until I was finished. As I get older, it’s hard to find material that I consider worth working on, so I’m much more slapdash now, and as a result I write less.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?

I encounter writer’s block nearly every day, primarily a self-doubt that what I’m doing is worthwhile. I just stumble on, hoping that something will appear, and it usually does.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?

I’m a fairly decent classically trained singer, and do a lot of theatre. I’ve been having some voice problems as the result of having screamed too damn hard while being chowed down on by zombies this summer, but I’m hoping that will clear up soon. Might take some extreme measures, but those are the risks of the business.

9. What was your best subject in school?

English, of course. Except for diagramming sentences…

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?

Not much. I’ve found that if you try to write according to trends, by the time your work comes out the trend is over.

11. Mac or PC?

PC. I started with a Tandy 1200HD in 1986 and have been PC ever since. The only Apple items I have are my 120-gig iPod and my iPhone.

12. Where do your ideas come from?

God, I wish I knew. I’d make them come more quickly. Usually, though, it’s from something I’ve seen or experienced, so I need to get out and travel more. Occasionally it’s from something I read in the papers or see on the news. There was a very small story in the newspaper just the other day that struck me deeply, and I think I’ll be able to get something out of that.

13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?

Write for yourself, first and foremost. If the work isn’t commercially successful, then at least you’ve enjoyed the process. The markets are more difficult now than they’ve ever been. E-books have changed everything. Along with the positive aspect of making your work more accessible, there’s also the negative aspect that everyone’s work is accessible as well. There’s so much more competition out there for the e-book dollar that it’s ridiculous, and it’s incredibly easy for one writer, no matter how good his work, to become lost amid the mass of work that’s available. Unless you’re a brand name, we’re all part of the long tail, and that amounts to smaller sales and readership, and less money. You have to be more of a publicist than a writer these days, and everyone’s doing the same thing. How to get your head above the waves that are engulfing us all? If I knew, I’d do it. And on that somewhat pessimistic note, I close. Happy writing anyway!

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