Author Talks
David Michael Williams

Today we have David Michael Williams on the blog! Check out his interview below and be sure to visit his website and social media!

 

Tell me a little more about yourself:

At my core, I’m storyteller who chose to focus on fiction writing because it seemed like the most efficient — and self-sufficient — way to convey my characters and their adventures to the world.

I’ve been fortunate enough to leverage my writing and editing skills in my day jobs, which have encompassed journalism, marketing, and public relations. To date, I have written nine books: a children’s chapter book; three sword-and-sorcery novels in The Renegade Chronicles (Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters); an e-book compendium (Capricon and Beyond); a standalone fantasy novel that has yet to be published (Magic’s Daughter); and a genre-bending series that explores life, death, and dreams (The Soul Sleep Cycle).

If Souls Can Sleep, the first book in that series, published on Jan. 30. The sequels, If Sin Dwells Deep and If Dreams Can Die, will be published in fall 2018 and spring 2019, respectively.

I’m married to an amazing woman who for some reason supports my fiction addiction. We have two children, and I fully expect they will eclipse my creativity someday. The four of us live in Wisconsin.

How long have you been writing?

One of my earliest writing memories is hammering out a short story about an alien with an unpronounceable name on an Apple II in my elementary school’s computer lab. I also took a stab at writing stories about spies and superheroes. In high school, I shifted my focus to swords-and-sorcery fantasy, completing quite a bit of world-building.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I began my first book in earnest, writing the first draft of what would eventually become Rebels and Fools.

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always been a storyteller. At some point, I outgrew “playing pretend,” but I still wanted to capture my ideas. I had a modicum of talent for drawing. I could have gone that direction, I suppose, but writing seemed easier. So I started writing scenes of intertwining, never-ending adventures, hoping I would become better at the craft with practice.

Which teacher was your biggest inspiration and why?

There were many teachers who encouraged my writing throughout high school and college. But my biggest cheerleader was Judith Barisonzi, the English professor with whom I worked during a two-semester independent study. She not only taught me the fundamentals of novel writing, but also how to write on a deadline. Thanks to her, I gained the confidence to pursue authorhood.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I wish I knew! I have the next year or so mapped out, but beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess. First and foremost, I’ll publish the remaining novels of The Soul Sleep Cycle. They’ve occupied precious mental real estate for more than a decade. I’ve had other ideas swimming in my head for years, so I’ll probably pick one and see if it works.

It would be nice to tackle a standalone novel—or even a novella—rather than another series. Writing for a comic book as well as for a video game are both on my bucket list. A screenplay could be fun too.

Whatever 2023 brings, I’m sure I’ll be writing something.

What is your writing process?

I once was a “pantser,” penning the storyline as it came to me. These days, however, I’m a diehard “plotter.” I do quite a bit of planning — from character profiles to timelines to chapter outlines — before I start Chapter 1. And I won’t edit anything until I’ve finished a complete first draft.

I’m also a firm believer of developing a writing schedule and sticking to it. Maybe I’m crazy, but I love deadlines.

If you could have one wish, any wish at all, what would it be and why?

I’d love to reply with something altruistic — world peace, anyone? — but for so long my dream has been to make a living with my fiction. That means getting better at book marketing so I can connect with an audience who appreciate my style and approach. Then again, I’m pretty sure every writer just wants to find readers.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

I’ve written a complete draft in as few as six months or as many as three years. No two projects have been the same. I will say that it takes longer to write the first book of a series than the subsequent entries. If you include planning, research, and rewrites/edits, then I can confidently say it takes me between one and two years to complete a book.

Who is your favorite character that you’ve ever created?

Why don’t you just ask me to pick a favorite child?!

Seriously, though, this is an incredibly difficult question. I have too many favorites, but when it comes to my favorite character to write, I can think of one man — well, technically, not a man…

Noel is a main character in The Renegade Chronicles. He belongs to a race of beings called the midge, who besides being some of the strongest spell-casters in the world, have the disposition and temperament of children. It’s a comical yet dangerous combination, and Noel’s naiveté lands him and his friends into more than a few predicaments. He just makes me laugh.

There’s a character in The Soul Sleep Cycle whose intrusive dialogue and penchant for derailing the plot remind me a little of Noel. I won’t name names to avoid spoilers, but those who have read If Souls Can Sleep hopefully appreciate the comedic relief he lends.

Which character in the literary world is your favorite and why?

Too many to pick just one, so I’m going to say the first one that comes to mind: Tyler Durden of Fight Club. What can I say? I like chaotic characters!

If you could meet any of the characters you’ve created, who would you meet and why?

I’m not sure any of them would want to meet me. After all, I’m the cause of all their struggles! Of all the characters in If Souls Can Sleep, I’d probably like to meet Milton Baerwald the most because he is a downright decent guy with a lot of conviction, and because he’s also very learned, I imagine we could have some interesting conversations.

What genre do you most like to write in?

I’m most comfortable in sword-and-sorcery fantasy, but The Soul Sleep Cycle is my attempt to transition away from that genre. Comfort zones can be like cages. These days, I find it more fun to straddle several genres — suspense, science fiction, fantasy, thriller, mystery. However, it’s safe to say that whatever I embark in, there will always be a supernatural aspect, so “speculative fiction” is probably the safest umbrella term.

Is there another genre you are interested in trying out?

Not a specific genre, no, but I am interested in trying my hand at a different age demographic. My wife and I co-wrote a children’s chapter book a few years ago, and it was a lot of fun. Our kids are now tweens, so I’ve flirted with the idea of writing something closer to their reading level. I hear YA books are selling well…

What are you working on now?

Preparing If Sin Dwells Deep and If Dreams Can Die for publication will consume most of 2018.

Can you share an excerpt with us?

Sure thing. Here’s an excerpt of the prologue of If Sin Dwells Deep:

For the Wolf, tracking his prey was almost as thrilling as the kill itself.

False leads. Dead ends. So many places his quarry could hide. Sometimes the trail took him in endless circles or, worse, a straight line that never seemed to decrease the distance between hunter and hunted, no matter how far he ran.

But obstacles only heightened his excitement, delaying the exquisite moment that distracted him during the day and consumed him at night.

Her scent suddenly filled his nostrils, and the Wolf picked up speed. The scenery on either side of the path became a blur. All the easier to pretend he was surrounded by trees. The ground, a forest floor.

As the smell of vanilla intensified, he remembered how she looked back then. The store-bought blond curls framing a flawless neck. Those smirking lips, so red and shiny. The biggest tits in school, teachers included.

Her passably pretty face, soon to be smeared with blood…

Momentarily lost in his hunger, he felt the trail grow colder. The wind roared in his ears, drowning out his own growl of frustration. Reluctantly, he slowed, forgetting the pleasure ahead and focusing only on his memory of her.

He concentrated. He sniffed. The pull returned—subtle at first, then stronger.

Changing course, he allowed himself a brief grin. He’d enjoy the hunt while it lasted. It would be over all too soon.

Now that he was getting so close to her, he couldn’t keep from sprinting. As the imaginary trees vanished and he plunged headlong into more vivid surroundings, he pushed himself even faster. Only when he heard the sound of applause did he stop to assess his surroundings.

The edge of an enormous room. Warm air instead of the coolness of his false forest. Above, a constellation of big, blinding lights. Ahead, the cheers of a crowd. Her sickeningly sweet perfume.

Squinting against the glare of the stage lights, he cautiously flanked the front row of spectators. He wasn’t surprised to see their faces were practically blank. A hint of a mouth. The suggestion of eyes. A bump that would form a nose if he stared at it long enough.

He didn’t bother. His prey wasn’t among the dummies.

Beyond the studio audience, a semicircle of camera men surrounded an immaculately clean kitchen. All lenses were aimed at a woman behind a waist-high counter, dumping ingredients one by one into a tall, shiny pot.

The moment of discovery always took him back to that fateful hunting trip with Uncle Bob. When the buck had stepped up to the stream to drink, unaware of him and the mortal danger he represented, he’d nearly lost his nerve. But in the end, he did himself—and his uncle—proud. His first kill was clean. The animal never knew what hit it.

Drunk from the power only a predator can know, he watched her. His pulse raced. He grew rock hard.

The buck had never seen who killed it, but she would.

As the woman delivered lines about proper measure-ments to the cameras, he studied her. The years since high school graduation had etched deep lines upon her fleshier face, grooves that even a thick coat of stage makeup couldn’t hide. Hidden beneath a loud floral-print blouse, her once-glorious rack sagged down to a belly made doughy by too much food, too many beers, a bunch of kids, or all the above.

Seeing the former heartbreaker in such sad shape filled the Wolf with perverse joy. She and her stuck-up friends had laughed in his face when he had finally mustered the courage to ask her to the prom. “Little boy,” she had called him. The next day, the Queen Bee and her two drones had filled his locker with shaving cream.

She had thought herself superior to him, but as he watched the pitiful woman stir the pot with a wooden spoon, he promised to prove her wrong.

He’d show her he was the man of her dreams, whether she liked it or not.

Teeth clenched tightly, painfully together, he looked back at the audience. With a little concentration, two of the women in the front row started to resemble the woman’s high school friends—the stupid bitches who had latched onto her like a pair of remoras because they couldn’t achieve popularity on their own. They had laughed on cue whenever their leader insulted other students.

They would die first.

A voice in the back of his mind urged caution, warning him of the dire consequences he’d face if he got caught. The words belonged to a woman, one he hated even more than Queen Bee.

But the Wolf had come too far to turn back. He craved vengeance. Hungered for blood.

He dropped to his knees and placed his hands on the smooth cement floor. The transformation was instantaneous and painless. One moment, he was a man, and the next, a fine—if massive—specimen of canis lupis.

He crouched, his new muscles trembling with unspent power beneath a pelt of long black fur. Then he pushed off with his massive paws, leaving gouges in the floor.

A living shadow, he cleared the distance to the studio audience in a single leap. The claws of one foreleg had already sunk deep into his first victim’s neck and shoulder before any of the mannequins reacted. Drone Number One’s scream was quickly echoed by others. The Wolf reared up on his hind legs and struck again, a brutal blow that reduced her face to bloody strips of skin and cartilage.

As the lifeless body slumped to the ground, chaos filled the studio. Queen Bee’s other friend tried to run with the rest of the crowd, but the Wolf pounced. He threw his full weight at her back, sending her sprawling into the aisle. She let out a pained gasp when he landed on top of her.

He considered rolling her over so that he could watch her expression as he eviscerated her. But he had grown bored with killing dummies a long time ago. Tonight’s target had to be someone real.

A quick glance over at Queen Bee revealed an expression of pure terror. If he didn’t hurry, she might run or wake up, and while he loved a good chase, he couldn’t wait another night for satisfaction.

For the Wolf, tracking his prey was almost as thrilling as the kill itself.

Almost.

Do you have any tips for other aspiring writers?

Do your research, and take your time.

Honestly, I’m glad print-on-demand publishing wasn’t available when I was in my early twenties. Self-publishing makes it too easy to put one’s work out there, and I’ve seen plenty of examples of books that were published before they are ready. Mine no doubt would have been among them!

So don’t release a story before it’s ready. Don’t skimp on editing and cover design. Put yourself in your prospective readers’ shoes. Shed as much subjectivity as you can. In short, wait until you’re prepared to treat your fiction like a business before you even think about publishing. It’s not a race.

Is there anything you would like to share with us before you go?

Thank you for this opportunity, Rebecca. In my opinion, book marketing is far more challenging than writing, editing, or publishing, so every bit of exposure helps!

 


David Michael Williams has suffered from a storytelling addiction for as long as he can remember. With a background in journalism, public relations, and marketing, he also flaunts his love affair with the written word as an author of speculative fiction. His most recent books include the sword-and-sorcery trilogy The Renegade Chronicles and The Soul Sleep Cycle, a genre-bending series that explores life, death, and the dreamscape.

David lives in Wisconsin with the best wife on this or any other planet and their two amazing children. He joined the Allied Authors of Wisconsin, one of the state’s oldest writing collectives, in 2005.

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