Over a period of five intense, deeply unsettling days in the heat of summer 2017, Mr Williams- intent on finding out much more about himself than we was initially willing to let on- locked himself away in a sweltering shed at the bottom of someone's garden and conducted an interview with himself. Did he give in? Did he snap under the pressure or merely melt... or pass out from the paint fumes? Read on and find out. It's not exactly Frost-Nixon but it provides an insight into this most mysterious (self-proclaimed) author.
Who are your main influences?
I'm not sure which of my influences show through most in my books, but the author who made me decide to become a fantasy writer was Alan Garner, so he was certainly the most profoundly influential writer during my childhood. Others (at various stages) have included Clive Barker, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Tad Williams, C.J Cherryh and Ian Irvine.
I suppose I feel like I've always been a writer, but there are authors I've read (mostly when I was a kid) who deeply influenced me to the degree that I didn't really want to be anything else. In the end this worked out just as well, because I never really had much of a gift for anything academic as such- and although I did try to have a career at one point, I quickly realised it wasn't for me. Maybe I just hated commuting and office politics even more than other people?
Or maybe you were just a poor traveller and rubbish at your job?
Yeah. Fair point.
I can't pick one single book. In terms of how it captured my imagination and changed the course of my life, it would have to be Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and its sequel The Moon of Gomrath. But I also was entranced by Clive Barker's Everville, Weaveworld and The Great and Secret Show. And to this day I haven't read anything more beautiful than Cecilia Dart-Thornton's Bitterbynde trilogy and Crowthistle Chronicles. You see, I start to think of just several, the several becomes a half-dozen... give me half an hour and I'll give you a library.
What keeps you going as an author? You're more likely to be hit by an asteroid than make a fortune from such work.
Thanks for the reminder. The response from readers has encouraged me to keep going, and to increase my rate of output. There's nothing like a rave review or even just an encouraging comment to help me kick on and get moving on whatever my current project happens to be. It's fair to say it's the comments, reviews and encouragement from fans that has helped me keep going more than anything else.
It's also the one thing I felt that I could do reasonably well, and that was borne out by my school qualifications, which were not great. I wasn't really cut out for the world of being a corporate drone and the daily grind, although oddly that's what writing does sometimes feel like- a bit of a grind- when the inspiration isn't there. But it turns up eventually.
I heard from various sources that it took you almost ten years to complete Oblivion's Forge and then only four years to write the other four boks in the Aona series. What the hell happened there?
Oh, er... yes. Many years ago, when I started writing what would eventually become the Aona series, the main problem was that I was trying to develop an epic fantasy / high fantasy novel very much in the "traditional" style, but as more ideas came to me (including a number of sci-fi / horror elements that I wanted to bring to the series- even then I was planning far ahead and knew that the story would change radically) I became more and more convinced that I had to really change the structure of the book, and also the narrative, which really didn't work with the gritty, more realistic approach that I wanted to use.
Coupled with this was the fact that I had very little spare time and inspiration at that point, working in various admin jobs to try and pay bills- i.e a lot of wasted time spent being bored in uninspiring places.
I often wondered if I was ever going to finish it. Certainly there was considerable self-doubt, but now I know that it stemmed almost entirely from the fact that I hadn't found my "voice" for longer works- I was writing in a style that deep down I wasn't entirely happy with, which spurred me on to change it completely. And when I did that, it gave rise to a burst of inspiration which pretty much lasted for the rest of the series. Not prolific by any means, but considerably better.
So why aren't you more prolific?
Because I have a life? Just kidding! I don't. Seriously, I don't know. Maybe I'm easily distracted. I spend too long getting lost in the countryside and talking to the squirrels.
Do you have a plan or method to your creative process?
To be honest, I have no particular method. I write, I write some more, I keep writing, some of it's good and I keep it, some of it's bad and I scrap it, some of it's ok and I edit it. Sometimes it's a struggle to wade through the "creative mire" as I call it, and at other times I just sit down and it kind if happens without my really knowing about it. I like to have a title before I even start, and quite often I'll know how it all ends a long while before the middle bit and the bulk of the plot is in place. Basically it all starts with a vision, and I know that if I stick to that vision and the skeleton of the plot, in time everything will come together. That's the way it's always been.
That messy, chaotic way of working won't work for everyone, so I can't necessarily recommend it. It works for me though.
Who are your favourite heroes / antiheroes in the Aona books?
Heroes are pretty thin on the ground in the Aona books, but let's pick Vornen- a failure of a man, a drug addict, a self-pitying loner... who despite all his own attempts to do otherwise, helps to make a stand against the twin evils that threaten the world.
Or I could pick Nia. Again, she's not really a heroine, but Nia is a multi-faceted, complex young lady and far more than she initially appears to be. Despite spending much of the story across the five books frightened out of her wits, she still has an acid tongue (not literally, although that would also be useful) and a sharp wit. You may or may not warm to her- but she's my favourite of all my characters.
Someone told me you play the piano / keyboard- is that true?
Did they? It was probably me. Yes, I play passably. I have various compositions recorded although they're not really good enough to be shared. I even have the beginnings of a classical symphony that I had begun to create to work in tandem with the Aona books. That may sound pretentious but again I have no great illusions about the quality of my musical works. I think they're ok, but not good enough to be shared with the world. This perhaps ties into the reason why my output has been quite lean- I have a number of unseen works, some of which are complete and others which are at various stages, which I feel are just not right (that's why they remain unseen).
Finally, Mr Williams, I'd just like to say thank you for taking part in this interview masquerading as a biography.
You're most welcome! Now, could you untie me?