Chatting With Walter Jon Williams

JANE: This week I’m interviewing Walter Jon Williams, the award-winning author of numerous science fiction and historical novels, about his latest release: Quillifer.

Walter and Quillifer!

So, Walter, I always start interviews with this question: In my experience, writers fall into two general categories: those who have been writing stories since before they could actually write and those who came to writing somewhat later.

Which sort are you?

WALTER:  I decided I wanted to be a writer as soon as I knew there were such things as writers, which was before I had learned to read or write.  I would dictate stories to my parents, who would write them down for me.  Fortunately, none of these efforts have survived.

JANE: Your latest release is Quillifer.  To the best of my knowledge, this is your first Fantasy novel.  What drew you – who are best known for cyberpunk (Hardwired) and space opera (the Praxis series) – to trying your hand at Fantasy?

WALTER: Sometimes the universe just gives you a story and tells you to write it.  I took a 90-minute walk while listening to an audiobook of Peter Ackroyd’s biography of Shakespeare, and by the time I came home I had six books plotted and the name of my character.

That happened a number of years ago actually, but I hesitated since I knew that I’d have to give up my SF career to write a six-volume fantasy.  Then I managed to sell Quillifer to one publisher and a continuation of my Praxis SF series to another, so I ended up living in the best of both worlds.

But the main reason I’m working on the series is that I find Quillifer an irresistible character.  I hope readers find him likewise.

JANE: Quillifer (who insists on being called only by his surname) is very much the “charming rogue” type of character.  In this, he’s definitely a first cousin to one of my favorite of your characters – Drake Magistral whose story is told in the three “Divertimenti” novels: The Crown Jewels, House of Shards, and Rock of Ages.

What is the appeal of this sort of character for you?

WALTER: Rogues see through pretense.  Han Solo punctures the solemn nonsense of the Star Wars movies, Flashman exposes the hypocrisies of the Victorian era, Rhett Butler laughs at the South’s code of chivalry, and Loki is the one you watch in the Thor movies.

Rogues tell the truth.  And of course rogues are very charming, which they have to be if they’re going to go around telling the truth all the time.

And one note: Quillifer isn’t Q’s surname, exactly, it’s the only name he’s got.   He doesn’t need another one.

JANE: Thanks for the correction.  I’d missed that!

Although Quillifer is definitely a Fantasy, in many ways it reads like a historical novel.  The world-building – from architecture to commerce to religions and style of dress are all very solidly grounded.  I assume your travels about the world had a definite influence on this.  Is that correct?  Did any specific countries influence this book?  What else did you draw upon?

WALTER: I was aiming to make the world as real as I could, and I did my best to build it brick by brick.  Many of the settings in the novel are based on places I’ve been, though of course they’re all mixed together, so you end up with buildings from Gdansk in a setting from Turkey, and inhabited by people from Dorset.

Once I started doing research I kept finding out absolutely factual stuff that was far more fascinating than anything I could invent.  Turnspit dogs, for example— a now-extinct breed of dog trained to run in oversize hamster wheels, turning the spits before a fire.

And King Arthur’s Court, which is in Gdansk, Poland.  You might have thought that King Arthur had his court in Britain somewhere, but you’d be wrong!  King Arthur’s Court was a high-gothic clubhouse for rich bourgeoisie, who dressed up as knights and held feasts and jousting and other entertainments.  They were cosplaying the Middle Ages in the actual Middle Ages.  I just couldn’t make up something like that.

JANE: I agree!  I knew about turnspit dogs, but not about the cosplaying.  Very cool…

Happily, Quiliifer has its own plot and a very satisfying conclusion.  Earlier, you said you have plans for other novels in the series.  How many can we look for?

WALTER: I’ve contracted for two more, which will appear at approximate two-year intervals, Quillifer the Knight in 2019, and the third in 2021.   If the first three books do well, I’ll write the next three, and take Quillifer from the age of eighteen into old age.

JANE: You mentioned you have other projects you’re working on.  Can you tell us more about these?

WALTER: I’m also working on the Praxis, the Science Fiction Series That Wouldn’t Die.  The publisher tried to put an end to the series after the third book, but couldn’t stop the public from buying them.  All three of the first books have been through many printings, and have never been out of print, and it’s been fifteen years!  So now I have a new editor, and he’s acquired three more.  Right now I’m dealing with the editor’s notes for The Accidental War, which should appear in September of this year.

I’d like to thank my editors Joe Monti and David Pomerico for agreeing to let me alternate books.  Working alternately on Quillifer and the Praxis will keep me from getting stale on either project.

So I’ll be busy for the next several years, and I hope readers will enjoy the books if they can find them, which in these days of collapsing bookstore chains is beginning to be a problem.

JANE: Thanks for taking time out of what sounds like a very busy schedule to chat.  Now I shall release you to go write.  I, for one, will definitely be reading The Accidental War when it comes out.

Advertisements

One Response to “Chatting With Walter Jon Williams”

  1. futurespastsite Says:

    Good interview. Looks like Mr. Williams is going to be busy for the foreseeable future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: