David Niall Wilson Talks Crossroad Press and More
DC: I know you’re a runner. How does running influence you and help you to be more creative / focused?
DNW: It's funny you should ask that. I haven't always been a runner; it's an obsession that comes and goes. When I'm running, I listen to audiobooks, or I think. A few years back I was writing a novella, "The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature," which was based in my fictional town of Old Mill, NC. Old Mill is based loosely on a combination of several places here in NC. There's a little of Hertford, where I live, of Old Mill, even smaller and closer to the swamp, and the surrounding countryside which I take a lot of license with. When I was writing that piece, most of the parts came to me while I was running. In those days I got up at 6:00 AM and ran about 2.5 – 3 miles every morning. The course through town that I set up passes through a very old graveyard – Catfish Hunter, the baseball player, was buried there, as were hundreds of old North Carolinians with very cool family names and ornate grave markers. I also ran down the street by the water, which is where the oldest and grandest of the historic homes are located. Each has a sign out front stating what year it was built, and who built it. There is a hardware store run by a man named (I kid you not) Eerie Haste. The side of the wall is painted with a huge mural that involves Native Americans and a rebel flag. Cletus J. Diggs, my protagonist, grew up in this place, and I found bits and pieces of his life all over those streets, yards, parks, and gravestones.
I also remember using my running time when I started one of my works that is still in progress: TATTERED REMNANTS. In TATTERED REMNANTS the protagonist is a sociopath who binds books. He's found ways to keep himself mostly out of trouble over the years, but he creates books that truly capture the essence of what they are about. A butterfly book bound to look like a butterfly, colored with the dust from wings… a book about rats that uses bones in the spine, rat hair, and other bits and pieces for the finer trim…he is not well. Each day when I set out to run, I'd first go over the last thing I'd written in my mind. As I ran, I tried to take it further – tried to figure out what came next, how the characters would react, and how I could move the plot ahead. The key to this was, I could not write a word until I was finished running, so I had nothing to do but create and let it all sort of grow and evolve in my mind. I think when it's done that this will be one of the finest things I've written. Mostly, though, in a life so full that sleep is only occasionally an option, running keeps me healthy, raises my energy level and ability to focus, and gives me time to listen to audiobooks. I need a steady diet of stories to keep me sane.
DC: What impact did your winning the Stoker Award have on your writing career? What are your thoughts on writerly organizations like the HWA (Horror Writers of America) for which you served as President?
DNW: I don't know that winning the award, per se, has made a huge impact. I suppose that the line "Bram Stoker Award Winning Author" might sway someone one way or the other a time or two, but mostly it just looks good and makes you feel like you've accomplished something. I think the gift awards like The Bram Stoker Award grant to authors is that of inspiration. There may be little or no economic return if you win, but this doesn't stop the desire to have one of those little haunted houses for your very own from getting into your head. Once it's there, it can inspire you to write harder, promote better, and that is enough good to come out of it for anyone, I think. I actually have two…the first was for poetry, and the second for a short story. The year that my story, "The Gentle Brush of Wings," won the award, the collection that it appeared in, DEFINING MOMENTS was also a finalist. Having my colleagues honor me in that way – knowing that it was other writers who chose me that particular year to honor, felt like one of the many plateaus you seek along your way to accomplishing your goals in life. You want to sell a story…then you want to sell a book…then you want to win an award. Each time you reach a plateau, it inspires you to move on to the next. I'm proud of the two awards. They sit beside the love of my life, Patricia Lee Macomber, my sometimes collaborator and always better half's Stoker, won for editing the online magazine CHIZINE. It's a sense of legitimacy, I suppose…acknowledgment that, while you aren't tearing the world apart with your prose, you can write. As for writer's organizations, it's all about the networking. When all is said and done, you meet people who understand what you are talking about. You share with professionals who have similar interests. You learn from people who have been doing what you want to do longer than you have. You help one another when you can, and you create an extended family of creatives who you can call on in times of need, or who may call on you – another chance to feel legit. Writer's organizations and awards aren't going to make, or break a career, but used wisely, and with some perspective, they can advance that career and help to sustain it.
DC: I know you routinely participate in the NaNoWriMo exercise. How influential has that been a) to you writing and b) as a motivational tool?
DNW: I have a lot of affection for NaNoWriMo. When I first decided to sign on and do it, I was at a very down point in my career. I'd just left an agent who kept asking me to come up with new versions of THE DA VINCI CODE. I must have written five or six extensive outlines with fifty pages of sample chapters for her. She didn't like any of them. It was always something she "couldn't be enthusiastic" about. I had recently gotten divorced, and my life was in upheaval…in short, it sucked to be me. Then I got an e-mail out of the blue from author Janet Berliner, who'd read something of mine (don't recall what) and wanted to know about who was representing me. You may recognize Janet's name – she is also a past president of the HWA, a Bram Stoker Award-winning author, and, back in the day, she had her own agency. Janet wasn't actively agenting at the time, but her partner and protégé Robert Fleck was. Bob and I hit it off, and I kicked off from the old agent like I was leaving a springboard. About that time, I sold my novel DEEP BLUE. This (as you might suspect) eased my angst a bit. That left me with a new agent and nothing new to be agented, so I decided to hit the NaNoWriMo challenge running. My family had just gone through Hurricane Isabel, which was a very sobering experience. I had a proposal for a novel that the previous agent had determined was no good, but I still liked it. I sat down, and I began to write. In 30 days (29 actually) I wrote THE MOTE IN ANDREA’S EYE, a sci-fi-ish romantic thriller that is sort of FOREVER YOUNG meets Twister. It was nearly 80k words, and I'd done it in a month. I sold that book to the same publisher that had taken DEEP BLUE exactly one month after I finished writing the rough draft, and I never looked back. I started finishing the novels that I'd started for the previous agent, and revising older ones that were taking up space on my hard drive. I finished THE ORFFYREUS WHEEL one year, GIDEON’S CURSE (still not quite done, but more than 50,000 words one November) and the first of my urban fantasy series THE DECHANCE CHRONICLES, all during consecutive years of NaNoWriMo.
Last year I wrote a book with bestselling author Steven Savile, a sort of dark fantasy western, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER meets CARNIVALE meets DEADWOOD – with angels. That is with several publishers now…this year I wrote a science fiction novel – THE SECOND VEIL: TALES OF THE SCATTERED EARTH –which, along with some partners who have also written licensed fiction over the years, I hope to turn into a large franchise. In other words? NaNoWriMo has been good to me. Let me state as I usually do, writing 50k words in a month is just not the big deal it seems to be. It's only 1,667 a day – most working writers claim to write 2k or more, so they do this all the time. I certainly write that much on a monthly basis…but NaNoWriMo allows me to create one new thing that is just mine each year, and I remain positive and grateful for it – regardless of what anyone else things. My son Zach finished the challenge this years as well (he's 17). He wrote the first 51k of CAPTAIN SHI AND THE SEARCH FOR ETERNAL YOUTH BOOK I and I could not be more proud.