David Niall Wilson Talks Crossroad Press and More
Let’s face it ... Technology is changing the landscape of how film, music, and literature are being presented to the marketplace. Netflix is doing the bulk of its business via streaming (either through its website or on various other consoles such as the Xbox 360 and the PS3). Services like Rhapsody and iTunes are making downloading music quick, easy, and affordable.
Recently Amazon reported that eBooks for the Kindle, Nook, or eReader outsold printed books for the first time in history. Without question, all of these new modes of distribution are the wave of the future. One company, Crossroad Press, has positioned itself at the forefront of the eBook and audiobook market in a big way by gathering together an impressive list of titles by such respected authors as Skipp & Spector, Tom Piccirilli, Chet Williamson, Al Sarrantonio, Melanie Tem, Elizabeth Massie, Brian Hodge, David Whitman & Weston Ochse, and Crossroad Press owner, David Niall Wilson. As impressive as Crossroad Press’ roster is now, plans are in place to release even more eBooks and audiobooks. (In the spirit of full disclosure, they even published my novel, No Flesh Shall Be Spared , on November 24, 2010.)
Dread Central recently spoke with David Niall Wilson about Crossroad Press and Wilson’s extensive and remarkable bibliography.
Dread Central: Let’s start by getting some of background. Where did you grow up, when you started writing, did you do the whole English Major thing, what your first publication was… that sort of thing?
David Niall Wilson: I grew up in a small town, Charleston, Illinois. My step-dad was a barber, and my mom ran one of the food services at the local university, Eastern Illinois University. I lived on a hill beside a lake and a river, out in the middle of nowhere, and then later on in a very old haunted house in town. I spent a lot of summers with my grandparents in an even smaller town – Flora, Illinois – and a lot of who I am, and what I have ended up writing, came from those early, formative years. I always said I would be a writer – right up until the time that I started saying that I was a writer – and then on into the time when I actually started writing. In High School I wrote a couple of stories that stuck with me, and a lot of pretty bad poetry that still managed to win contests. I read every book I could get my hands on. I had mountains of comic books, old paperbacks, even older hardcovers grabbed from yard sales and basement boxes. My childhood was spent very isolated, so I had to entertain myself, and books were my chosen weapons. I plowed through Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Three Investigators, and pretty much every similar series by the box load. I read historical epics by Kenneth Roberts, and nearly everything by Abraham Lincoln one summer on an odd mental bender. Somewhere about halfway through high school, I was told to go to a bookshelf and pick out a book for a book report. The book I found was THE SIRENS OF TITAN, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I read it that night, and returned to my teacher the next day to ask a: had she read this book and b: would I be graded down if I actually talked about all the – well – SEX – in it. She assured me she was quite aware of the contents, and I never looked back.
I worked my way through Vonnegut, all the classic science-fiction authors, and moved into fantasy series books where I could get more pages for the buck. Since I read constantly and very quickly, it was always a problem keeping myself in books. For all that, and for all the good grades and studying, I did not go the English Major, college route. I joined the US Navy the minute it was possible to do so. My desire to get out of that place stemmed from an up-and-down social life and a drunken, domineering step-father that I hated. I had to go, and the quickest way out was to sign up – so off I went. And even then, I was in an odd place. My last year or so in high school was spent studying to be a minister in The Church of Christ. I had determined that's what I wanted to do – to preach on a campus somewhere. It wasn't until several years into my US Navy career that I came to my senses and realized that organized religion was never going to be my cup of tea. Not long after that, the guys on the ship started passing THE SHINING around, and I was hooked. I left the fantasy novels behind very quickly, started reading every bit of horror I could get my hands on, shifted from religion to studying the occult, the kabala, odd bits of history, and started writing more seriously.
My career really began, I suppose, when I signed up for the WRITER’S DIGEST course, "Writing to Sell Fiction," which was a short story course. My assigned instructor was J. N. Williamson, who not only taught me a lot during that short period, but introduced me to the horror small press, which was very active at the time, and got me to join H.O.W.L – later the HWA (which I eventually became president of). Everything since then has been a progression. I was having little luck selling short stories, so I started my own magazine, THE TOME. I did thirteen issues and grew that thing to international distribution, but we couldn't get the money from the distributors when we needed it, and it folded. That magazine got me the connections I needed, and my stories started to sell. Then, after Karl Wagner reprinted my vampire story "A Candle Lit in Sunlight" in YEAR’S BETS HORROR XIX, I started to have luck with books. I sold the novel THIS IS MY BLOOD, based on that short story, and then on the basis of that novel sale managed to sell (just on pitches) a STAR TREK VOYAGER novel and a WRAITH Novel to White Wolf Publishing, who then commissioned a DARK AGES VAMPIRE Trilogy. Everything expanded quickly from there, and it's been a long, interesting ride to say the least. My first published piece was a poem titled: A Poem… My first published story was "A Charm Against Boredom," a dark fantasy piece published in a photocopied hand-stapled thing called Dark Starr. My first novel sold was THIS IS MY BLOOD, but the first published was the Star Trek Voyager novel: CHRYSALIS.
DC: You straddle the worlds of horror, dark fantasy, and sci-fi in your writing. Do you think there is much room for overlap given the conventions of each genre? Which sandbox do you prefer?
DNW: This is a pretty common question, and one that I don't have a solid answer for. I have tried, through most of my career, to write the stories that present themselves to me. What I mean by this is, if I happen to be struck by what I think is a great science fiction idea, that's what I write. If a cemetery catches my eye, or some bit of news, or a snatch of borrowed conversation floats to me on the breeze – I tend to run with it. I don't think about what genre I'll write to, or what market I'll try to hit – at least not all the time. Obviously my licensed work has had to be reigned in somewhat, but even there I've bucked convention and often had to bicker and battle with editors because I wrote something the way I felt it – and they wanted it the way they thought they could market it. My novel DEEP BLUE could be considered a horror novel, a fantasy novel, a dark fantasy novel, paranormal, or even urban fantasy.
The work that has mattered to me over the years has not been written to genre specifications, and the rest is – for the most part – just filler. I tend to be more comfortable with dark fantasy than anything else. I think it's the way my mind works, and it's certainly where my tastes lean these days as a reader. Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman – King and sometimes Koontz … Caitlin Kiernan and Kathe Koja are all authors who push the boundaries of our reality so that they sort of slide over the line and let in the magic. If I could only choose one genre to work in, and if there is a genre classification that fits it, I suppose it would be simply Dark Fantasy, which encompasses a lot of different types of settings, characters, and stories without being too narrow and restrictive.
I detest genre classifications, as a rule. It leads down an inevitable pipeline to marketing hell where authors are stuffed into boxes regardless of shape and size, and seldom let out again once packaged. It leads to wonderful horror novels being classified as Paranormal Romance, or not published at all because the horror section has been whittled down, but this section over here? The one with the Glittery Vampires? Or that one, where everyone wears leather and brass and rides in a zeppelin? Those are hot…can we slot it in there, do you think? I think not. Maybe if I write enough, and long enough, I'll get the privilege afforded the very few … a genre of my own where I write whatever the hell I want to write and it sinks or swims on the merit of the stories and characters.