Sunday, May 16, 2010

William Meikle Interview

William Meikle Interview

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?

It varies with the time of year. I get a lot of writing done over winter - I live in Newfoundland, and I don’t get out much from December to May. In the summer it’s more patchy as chores get done and walks get taken. That said, I seem to be able to write anywhere, at any time.

The only thing with me is that I rarely pull a late-nighter. For me, tiredness and writing don’t mix.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?

I outline longer works on paper, working out plots with flow-charts and diagrams usually. For short stories I tend to sit at the computer and wing it.

3: What do you draw inspiration from?

Recently I've been writing in several different genres, but I've come to realize that almost all I write is about the struggle of the dark against the light. The time and place, and the way it plays out is in some ways secondary to that. And when you're dealing with archetypes, there's only so many to go around, and it's not surprising that the same concepts of death and betrayal, love and loss, turn up wherever, and whenever, the story is placed.

I do find I'm increasing drawn to people searching for explanations for their existence while trying to solve a puzzle that is central to the story. Augustus Seton, 16thC sword for hire is rapidly becoming a favorite character. He is led down many Fortean alleys, confronting demons and witches, but also getting involved in other manifestations of the weird, from the Grey Man of Ben MacDui, to the Kilbirnie Wyrm and even encounters with the Grim Reaper himself. Seton, as he gets more experienced in the ways of the Dark Side, finds that the weird seems to seek him out for personal attention. This gives me a chance to mix history with fantasy, playing with the wide variety of tales in Scottish Folklore, and making up some of my own.

Derek Adams is another case in point. My Glaswegian detective may seem to use the trappings of crime solvers, but keeps getting involved in the supernatural.

So I've been exploring these avenues a lot recently, in the Seton stories, the Midnight Eye Files stories, in a series of Carnacki stories, and I even got a chance to have Sherlock Holmes fight a Necromancer in Edinburgh in an anthology appearance in Gaslight Grotesque. It seems there is quite a market for this kind of merging of crime, folklore and the supernatural, and I intend to write a lot more of it.

4: Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?

Simple answer, no. But I do like to do at least a thousand words every day. Most days it’s more, and I try to stop at a point where I know what is going to happen next so I have a place to start the next morning.

5: Being a self published author how do you come up with your cover art?

Actually I’m not self published. All my cover art is done by the publishers and I have only a little say in it. Thankfully I’ve liked most of what has been done with my books.

6: What drives you to chose the career of being a writer?

Most of my work, long and short form, has been set in my homeland in Scotland, and a lot of it uses the history and folklore. There's just something about the misty landscapes and old buildings that speaks straight to my soul. (Bloody Celts... we get all sentimental at the least wee thing).

But I think it's the people that influence me most. Everybody in Scotland's got stories to tell, and once you get them going, you can't stop them. I love chatting to people, (usually in pubs) and finding out the -weird- shit they've experienced. My Glasgow PI, Derek Adams is mainly based on a bloke I met years ago in a bar in Partick, and quite a few of the characters that turn up and talk too much in my books can be found in real life in bars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews.

I grew up in the West Coast of Scotland in an environment where the supernatural was almost commonplace. My grannie certainly had a touch of “the sight”, always knowing when someone in the family was in trouble. There are numerous stories told of family members meeting other, long dead, family in their dreams, and I myself have had more than a few encounters, with dead family, plus meetings with what I can only class as residents of faerie. I have had several precognitive dreams, one of which saved me from a potentially fatal car crash.

I have a deep love of old places, in particular menhirs and stone circles, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time travelling the UK and Europe just to visit archaeological remains. I also love what is widely known as “weird shit”. I’ve spent far too much time surfing and reading fortean, paranormal and cryptozoological websites. The cryptozoological stuff especially fascinates me, and provides a direct stimulus for a lot of my fiction.

So, there’s that, and the fact that I was grew up with the sixties explosion of popular culture embracing the supernatural and the weird. Hammer horror movies got me young, and led me back to the Universal originals. My early reading somehow all tended to gravitate in similar directions, with DC comics leading me into pulp and to finding Tarzan.

Mix all that lot together, add a dash of ZULU, 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 the shit out of monsters.

7: Do you own an ebook reading device?

Not at the moment. I plan to get one when cash permits though. I’ve only recently left the UK and am still finding my way around the North American consumer electronics market :-)

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?

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 Rice-Burroughs I could find. Then I devoured Wells, 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.

And I like work that mixes the above genres. William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel (the book that led to the movie Angel Heart) is an expert blending of gumshoe and deviltry that is one of my favorite books.

I’m currently re-reading Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood -- one of the greatest fantasy novels ever, a thing of wonder and great beauty.

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?

I enjoy them if they’re well done, and have bought books on the basis of good ones. And my publisher has done one for my next print publication which is pretty cool, so we’ll see how that goes.

10: What are you working on now that you can talk about?

I’m working on a newAugustus Seton story. Over the years I've written many stories set in my native country, in particular in the Watchers series where I got a chance to examine the Jacobite Rebellion in a new way -- by having Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the whole highland army, as vampires. It let me look at how the people south of Hadrians Wall viewed the "demons" from the North, and how they would react to an invasion.

That series was written ten years ago now, and ever since I've been itching to write some more historical fantasy set in Scotland. Going back to earlier times allows you to say things about Scottish culture without knocking people over the head with a "message".

I've toyed with several ideas, but it was only last year that things started to firm up. It took the death of two of my favorite writers to give me a kick. David Gemmell's muscular swordplay and Robert Holdstock's grip on mythic archetypes and the importance of history mixed in my head and gave me a sword-for-hire in 16th Century Scotland.

The late 1590s were a time of turmoil. Scotland was on the verge of many changes that would shape its future, from religious reformation, to the union of the crowns with England. But in many ways the country was still rooted in its medieval past, and fear of witches and demons was still a large part of everyday life. Seton confronts demons, both internal and external, as he wanders on the fringes of history.

Robert Howard has covered similar ground with Solomon Kane, but I wanted Augustus Seton to be more of a pragmatist, a man set on his path through having succumbed to his baser desires, and now forced to pay the penalty. Seton's antecedents are characters from my teenage reading: the aforementioned Kane, Moorcock's Elric and Corum, and, possibly the main one, Gemmell's Jon Shannow, the Jerusalem Man, forever seeking personal redemption.

I also wanted Seton to be a seeker after truth, continually trying to find ways to explain the supernatural events that shaped him. This will lead him down many Fortean alleys, confronting demons and witches, but also getting involved in other manifestations of the weird, from the Grey Man of Ben MacDui, to the Kilbirnie Wyrm and even encounters with the Grim Reaper himself. Which brings me to more of Seton's antecedents - occult detectives, like Carnacki and John Silence, through to Karl Kolchak. Like these others, Seton, as he gets more experienced in the ways of the Dark Side, finds that the weird seems to seek him out for personal attention. This gives me a chance to mix history with fantasy, playing with the wide variety of tales in Scottish Folklore, and making up some of my own.

My goal here is to attempt to blend fact and fancy such that the reader can't be sure if they are dealing with myth or history, folklore or things plucked from my mind. And yet again, there are antecedents from which I've drawn. Scotland has produced several writers willing to weave the country's history and magic into their stories, from Stevenson's Kidnapped, Walter Scott's romantic fancies, and John Buchan's taut thrillers. Stevenson in particular manages to provide fast paced entertainment that also educates even as you're carried along by the sheer page-turning brilliance of his plotting and the solidity and truth of his characterisations. That's what I'm striving for with Seton.

He's still a character in development. The four stories in the first collection (out now on Kindle) were his first adventures in what I hope will become a long and wild career of monster smiting, demon slaying and general mayhem with a bit of history thrown in.

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