It’s Halloween with: Kevin Wayne Williams
I usually claim two: Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut. Both have a spare and detached quality to their writing that I admire, an underpinning of dark humor to make some truly unpalatable things go down a little more smoothly, and a tendency to focus on unlikely characters as their heroes. If I were to list my top ten novels, both of these gentlemen would make the list a few times: Vonnegut with Mother Night and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; Dick with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ubik.
What is your writing process like? What inspires your writing?
Sporadic. I write in bursts, fueled by sudden complete images of what needs to happen. Sometimes that image shifts by the needs of making a coherent story, but it’s always that picture. Everything I Know About Zombies, I Learned in Kindergarten started with one main image: Leonard Domacasse (my old bank manager, by the way) doing his damnedest to keep that door closed so the children would be safe. Once I got rolling, I was aiming for an image of the children facing bitter disappointment at the base of the Willis Ave Bridge. As each new image comes, it gets placed in a chronology: kind of a visual outline in my head, if you will. There’s some images that haven’t been placed yet, but I know they will fit somewhere in the sequels: Letitia has a long journey to make through a small, dark tunnel, and I know how Rosarita dies. Sometimes a picture will come that needs to fit in an earlier spot that I’ve already written: I curse those, because that means I have some tear-up and splice work to do.
Sometimes, the pictures need to change. The Sandy Hook shootings took place while Everything I Know … was being written, and I had to go back and revise the opening: there were some unfortunate parallels to real life. It still parallels the story of Kaitlin Roig a bit too closely, but the story had to start somewhere. It’s a shame when you have to worry about real life when writing a zombie novel, but there you go.
Other times, and other stories, it just begins playing out in my head. A Good Death is Hard to Find is a title I stole from a poem, and I saw the story once I heard the title. Yuletide Snacks is inspired by Spanish and Dutch myths.
Hunts Point Apocalypse is, in a strange sense, inspired by Hamlet and Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Tom Stoppard wrote Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the story of two minor characters in Hamlet that have to deal with Hamlet happening all around them. Everything I Know… has that feel to it, with a much larger story happening all around Letitia and the other kids, and Hunts Point Apocalypse is their Hamlet.
Where did your creative spark begin? Can you trace the path/timeline that got you where you are today?
Like many writers, I began writing at a time when my life had taken a severe downturn: my business had failed, my wife was living in a different country so she could earn enough money to keep us going while I cleaned up the mess I had made, and I just needed to hold on to something I could do and call mine, something that no one could take away from me. Today, I’m back to being a wage slave: mentally, that’s nearly worse than failing in business, so I still need to write.
When did you know writing was for you?
I’m still not sure it’s “for me”. Many describe being a writer as a form of mental illness, and I can’t argue with that.
Why speculative fiction? What other genre(s) do you write?
You can say and do things in horror and fantasy that you can’t in more true-to-life genres. A Good Death is Hard to Find may remain forever stillborne simply because it is a realistic novel set in modern times. I can’t find a way to make the story of a middle-aged man wrestling with his decision to commit suicide in a way that leaves the world a better place readable: it remains so grimly depressing that I can only write a few pages at a time and I doubt anyone could read it straight through. Take that same concept of “noble suicide”, dress it up in alien clothing on Betelguese Nine, and you may have a fascinating and readable book (although I still doubt it would be uplifting).
How can people connect with you?
I maintain a blog at www.motthavenbooks.com, and that’s the best way to talk to me. I keep an e-mail address posted there for anyone that wants to have a more private discussion as well.