Reader’s Entertainment is excited to have science fiction author, and publisher at Crossroads Publishing David Niall Wilson on the blog. (We’ll have an interview with David about his publishing house next week!) Welcome David, we’re excited to have you on Reader’s Entertainment. First, tell our readers a bit about yourself. Where you’re from, where you live? Is writing your full-time job?
Happy to be here. To start, I’m from a small town in the Midwest, Charleston, Illinois, which would barely exist if not for Eastern Illinois University. From there, I joined the US Navy to escape, followed that trail through San Diego, Europe, Norfolk, and landed (after retirement) here outside of Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
If any readers really want to know what it’s like living in rural North Carolina, I have documented that pretty thoroughly in some of my novels, starting with The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature. Even coming from a farm town in Illinois I have to admit that this place was a revelation – of sorts.
I live with another author, Patricia Lee Macomber, who I’ve been with for nearly two decades now, our daughter Katie (also a published author) four inside cats, one outside cat, a dog, a chinchilla, a three legged turtle and a canary… currently.
My full-time job is IT Manager and Security Officer for a contracting company. My second full-time job is CEO of Crossroad Press… Writing is why I do those other things… it’s my escape.
How long have you been writing?
I have called myself a writer all of my life, but when I was young, I mostly wrote lyrics and poetry, and a few short stories. It wasn’t until the late 1980s when I took the Writer’s Digest course, “Writing to Sell Fiction” – and things took off from there. I sold my first short story around 1987. I’ve been writing fairly steadily ever since, with about 200 published short stories (mostly collected by now) and a pile of novels.
I know you’re a Bram Stoker Award winner, can you tell us about those works?
I’ve won it twice. The first time was kind of ironic. At the time, I was president of the Horror Writer’s Association. One of the award categories was “professional achievement in horror poetry,” a thing I did not believe to be a thing. I think poetry that is written with the intent of being “genre” poetry is a bit iffy to start with, and I know only one man who made a living as a professional poet (and that because he was poet laureate of NC and a college professor). Anyway, that year I was published in a collection with two other poet / authors – Rain Gravesand Mark McLaughlin titled The Gossamer Eye. The three of us won the poetry award that year.
Later on I sold a story collection to Sarob Press in the UK – Defining Moments. One of the original stories in the collection was titled “The Gentle Brush of Wings.” The collection was a finalist that year, but I lost out to Peter Straub (hard to argue with that) but the story won the short fiction award. Pretty proud of that.
Can you give readers a look at a typical writing day?
I wish there was one. Since I’m also CEO of Crossroad Press, an IT Manager by day, have a family, a lot of pets, etc… I write between the cracks. Lately I either leave the story open at all times, and write in bursts, or start at about 8:00 PM and write steadily for a couple of hours. I have been known to absolutely binge and write huge chunks at a time, but generally I try to get my one to two thousand words a day.
Tell us about your latest release? Where the idea came from? Perhaps some fun moments, or not so fun moments?
My most recent release is the novel Gideon’s Curse – set outside my fictional town of Old Mill, NC. It’s historical, supernatural, and hopefully hits some serious nerves for readers. The story starts just after the reconstruction, when a preacher named Gideon Swayne makes his way from Illinois to NC to serve the spiritual needs of the freed slaves. He is not welcomed by the white farmers and plantation owners, but manages to survive, for a time..
The novel covers his life there, his love affair with a former slave and sort of swamp witch, their children, and the horrible final confrontation this all brings about with the folks at the Pope Plantation.
Then the novel shifts forward, a couple of generations to another young man named Gideon, who is the foreman on that very same Pope plantation. I tried my best to make the history real, and in some places it’s very gritty. The reviews have been amazingly positive… but it was hard to write. There are scenes, and subjects that it is difficult to do justice to and stay in a happy place, if that makes sense. I’m a fan of some hope at the end of a book, though, and I think I managed that, as well.
Why Sci-fi/fantasy? Is there a Trekkie lurking behind the computer screen?
Funny you should ask that. My first novel sold was the vampire novel This is My Blood which is something of a cult sensation at this point, but it was not the first one published (long story). My first published novel was Sta Trek Voyager #12 – Chrysalis. After that, the good folks at White Wolf, who published the role playing game Vampire: The Masquerade gave me the chance to write a Dark Ages vampire trilogy, a novel in their world of the dead, Wraith and several other things. Meanwhile, I was selling steadily to anthologies and magazines, all genre publications, and mostly horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction. I never really set out to write any particular kind of book, but that’s where I ended up. I’ve written mysteries, thrillers, and just about everything else… but my main focus has always been sort of a mix of Dark Fantasy and Horror.
I’ve written the one Star Trek novel, Trish and I wrote Stargate Atlantis #15 – Brimstone and we are huge fans of just about every fantasy, horror, and science fiction program that’s ever aired, not to mention superheroes. We’re passing that love on to the next generation, as well.
Could you share one detail from your current release with readers that they might not find in the book? Perhaps a juicy bit of back-story, or something only you know about a character.
Gideon Swayne, the preacher from Illinois, is one of a string of characters I have used to deal with bits and pieces of my past. His struggles with his faith, and his ability, in the end, to marry the woman who showed him a darker power, and faith, sort of mirror my “growing up”. I was going to be a minister at one point but realized over time that ancient mythology is a very poor game plan for your life, and that most of the things organized religion have brought to the world have either been evil at their core, or been corrupted over time. There is always a character in my work that I most identify with – in this one, it’s Gideon.
Who has been the most difficult character for you to write? Why?
I think, going back, that Mary Magdalene was the hardest character I’ve ever written, and apparently with some success. When I set down to write a novel during the time of the gospels, I needed a voice that did not depend on “faith” – a creature who knew the truth and could comment on the world around her from that different perspective. Add that that that se was (in my novel) raised as a woman, and then cursed with vampirism, she was very complicated. In the prologue she states it bluntly: “I have walked the roads of both Heaven, and Hell, and my memory will suffice…”
If you could be one of your characters for a day which character would it be? Why?
That is an easy one. Donovan DeChance. He’s a magician, has lived since the mid 1800s, knows Edgar Allan Poe personally, and has two familiars, an ancient raven named Asmodeus, and an Egyptian Mau (cat) named Cleopatra, lives in an entire floor of a brownstone in San Valencez California, and is never bored. I’m writing the fifth book in that series now.
All writers are readers. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Absolutely, though sometimes it’s difficult to find the influence in my style, I think. I have read pretty literally everything Stephen King and Clive Barker have written, as well as Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, Kathe Koja, Ray Bradbury, and Shirley Jackson. I’ve read Tolkein’s trilogy at least five times, and have read both the Harry Potter and adult mysteries by J. K. Rowling. I have less time for actual reading these days, but, I listen to audiobooks constantly. I’m actually writing a book about writing (that is also a memoir) titled Writing What Hurts in which I talk about influences quite a bit. I’ve been collecting the chapters on my website for those interested. www.davidniallwilson.com
I know you’ve written quite a bit of short fiction. Do you prefer short story writing over novel writing?
I find it very hard to write short fiction these days. Everything I write stretches and changes and before I know it is too long. There was a time when I wrote almost exclusively short fiction, but I believe I was just learning to write longer. I have a large number of novelettes and novellas along with the shorter works, and then the novels. I do still write short fiction, but I prefer novels because you have a lot more freedom to take side-roads and find your way back.
Do you have a secret talent readers would be surprised by?
That probably depends on how much of my work they’ve read. I wrote a book called “American Pies – Baking with Dave the Pie Guy” about baking pies (and my life). I run – a lot – I’m closing in on 60 years old, but last summer I ran a 30 mile race. I play guitar and sing… I tell really bad puns really well…
Your favorite go to drink or food when the world goes crazy!
Bourbon – without a doubt.
What is the one question you never get ask at interviews, but wish you did? Ask and answer it.
I have quite honestly been asked just about everything. Let’s go with this…
What is important about your work?
This is something that I hope will come through in Writing What Hurts – because it’s probably the most important thing about writing, to me. There are a lot of kinds of stories. There are a lot of flavors of fiction, and a lot of very different authors. Some people write just because they think what they are writing is cool. Others write so they can say they are writers, or write to an exact formula because they are dead-focused on celebrity, money, and a career.
I’m not really any of those things. The stories I write, the novels and the characters, usually come to be because of something that really matters. In Gideon’s Curse, it’s racism, and hatred. In Remember Bowling Green – The Adventures of Frederick Douglass – Time Travler it was corruption, and again, bigotry and hatred. In This is My Blood, it was my statement on organized religion, and faith, and hypocrisy – in the DeChance Chronicles I am writing the books I wanted to write when I worked for White Wolf but was constrained by their rules. I also (in each book) take on familiar themes of greed, hatred, bigotry – and hopefully promote something more positive. In one of my move popular books, Nevermore, a Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe I get to do one of the other things that I love, studying, and twisting, history. All of it cleanses something inside during the creation, and all of it makes me smile when people actually read, and enjoy it. Probably more than you wanted to know.
Last question – what are you working on now?
I’m around 50,000 words into A Midnight Dreary – book V of the DeChance Chronicles. Probably my most involved project ever. It ties together elements from my novels Darkness Falling, Nevermore, Kali’s Tale and the Cletus J. Diggs novels. It also has ties to the Brothers Grimm, just for fun.
Thank you so much for joining us today, David. Readers, please be sure to check out David’s website and books. Follow the links below for more information.