Ten Knives Interview with Chet Williamson:
[Chet Williamson] I'll tell you the names of some writers whose new books I always try and read, because they do some things better than I do, and not only do I enjoy their books, but I also think I can learn from them. One is my friend, Joe R. Lansdale, who is very popular in Italy. Joe is a consummate storyteller, and has a very distinctive voice, which is something I think I lack. I'm more chameleonic, and I feel that my style changes depending upon my subject matter. And Joe's voice is always there, no matter what he writes -- that's a quality I greatly admire. Another is Andrew Vachss, the American crime writer, who also has a very distinctive voice, and a true authenticity, which is another element I find my work occasionally lacks. Martin McDonagh, the Irish playwright, writes plays that are shocking and funny, and he's a master of dialogue. While I think my dialogue is one of my strong suits, it's always rewarding to read such excellent dialogue and to see what goes into the making of it.
Knife 2) Has ever something happened in your life that made you think give up writing?
[Chet Williamson] Every day. The markets are getting more and more difficult, and the midlist, which is where I've dwelt throughout my writing career, is practically dead. There are the bestsellers at the head, and the rest of us who used to make up the midlist are now the long tail, getting less and less attention and money. So when I write now, I have to choose something that I'm going to enjoy writing, since the final work may not be commercially successful, so at least I'll have the pleasure of the creative process.
Knife 3) Which compromises did you have to accept for commercial reasons?
[Chet Williamson] At one time I did a number of film and game work-for-hire books: the novelization of The Crow: City of Angels, another original Crow novel, Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller (based on a computer game), and several novels set in the TSR game world. Although they were fun, they didn't increase the readership of my own original novels to any great extent, and I look at them now as time pretty much wasted.
Knife 4) Is it very important to win literary prizes? Does it help to sell?
[Chet Williamson] I don't think it can hurt. I've been shortlisted for the MWA's Edgar, and several times each for the HWA Stoker and the World Fantasy Award. I won the International Horror Guild Award in 2002 for my collection, Figures in Rain, and really noticed no change in sales as a result (in fact, the 500-copy Figures in Rain is still in print from the publisher, which is discouraging). Still, it's nice to be recognized.
Knife 5) When you have no ideas for writing, how do you bring down yourself and whom do you phone to?
[Chet Williamson] A lot of times I discuss the markets and writing with Joe Lansdale (Italian collectors might be interested to know that Joe wrote the introduction to Figures in Rain) and Andrew Vachss, another friend, but no one can get you out of a writer's block funk except for you.
Knife 6) What do you think when you read your country's best seller rankings?
[Chet Williamson] Usually it's the same old same old - there are occasionally some good books that make the list, but often they're just commercial potboilers by the usual suspects.
Knife 7) What do you reproach to American publishing? What are its limits?
[Chet Williamson] When I started publishing in the mid-1980s, there were agents, editors, and publishers who were willing to take a chance and build a writer, sticking with him through a series of books until a readership was built and the author proved profitable. This was the midlist, and it's practically nonexistent today. I've approached editors and agents with books they think are wonderful, but that they don't feel are commercial enough, so are not willing to take a chance on publishing or even (in an agent's case) submitting them. It's discouraging, and that way of doing business has only gotten worse. I don't blame agents or editors, since agents don't want to waste time trying to sell books that no one will buy, and editors don't want to risk a flop. Still, the bottom line is the main thing -- if a genre book doesn't have the possibility to be a blockbuster, it probably won't find a home in a New York house.
Knife 8) How many times have you refused to participate to a no-profit project?
[Chet Williamson] There have been a number of times. Most recently I've done a short story for an anthology in which all royalties went to a children's health service, and I've donated items for charity auctions, but it's very time consuming to write something well and not spend a lot of time on it, and our time is literally money. People need to understand that freelance writers are not paid for their time when they contribute to a non-profit.
Knife 9) What did you do right after signing major book deal?
[Chet Williamson] My first book deal (a two-book deal for Tor) was very rewarding, but I didn't do anything special. I just kept writing the next book.
Knife 10) Final question: Whom to (or to what) would you throw a knife?
[Chet Williamson] I wouldn't. There are things, especially in American politics, that drive me insane and make me furious, but I'd never throw a knife at the people responsible, though I might think daggers at them!
Chet Williamson has written in the field of suspense and fantasy for a quarter century. Among his novels are Second Chance, Ash Wednesday, Soulstorm, Lowland Rider, McKain's Dilemma, Reign, Dreamthorp, and The Searchers series. His books have been translated and published in France, Germany, Russia, Italy, and Japan. His latest novel is Defender of the Faith (2011)
Over a hundred of his short stories have appeared in such magazines as The New Yorker, Playboy, Esquire, Twilight Zone, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and many other magazines and anthologies. Figures in Rain, a collection of his short stories, won the 2002 International Horror Guild Award. He has been shortlisted twice for the World Fantasy Award, six times for the Horror Writers Association's Stoker Award, and once for the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award. Web Site Figures in Rain eBook and Audiobook by Crossroad Press Works on Amazon
HWA Co-ordinator Italy
Read the Interview in Italian
Buy "Defender of the Faith" by C. Williamson on Amazon