Today, folks, for your reading pleasure I would like to present an interview with Chet Williamson.
Chet Williamson was born in 1948 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, receiving a B.S. in 1970, and went on to be a teacher at public schools in Cleveland, Ohio, then he became a professional actor before becoming a freelance writer in 1986. His earlier novels include Second Chance, an ecological thriller/romance, Ash Wednesday, Reign andDreamthorp. His story, “Gandhi at the Bat”, was recently made into a short film by Stephanie Argy and Alec Boehm. Figures in Rain, a collection of Williamson’s short stories, won the International Horror Guild Award. He has been shortlisted twice for the World Fantasy Award, six times for the Horror Writers Association‘s Bram Stoker Award, and once for the Mystery Writers of America‘s Edgar Award. His books have been translated and published in many languages and countries, including France, Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan. Many of his out of print books have been reprinted as e-books by Crossroad Press.
GNOH – Hello, Chet, how are things with you?
Busy and fun, just the way I like it.
GNOH – You have been a full time writer for over 25 years. What lessons have you learned about the business over the years?
Nothing’s a sure thing. You’re only as good as your last book or your last story. When you stop writing for a while it’s really hard to start again, so keep writing all the time. And betting on suited connectors is a sucker’s move.
GNOH – What do you think of the current state of the publishing world?
Pretty sad right now. Ebooks have changed everything, and I’m deeply involved in them, but, that said, the vast proliferation of self-published ebooks makes it harder and harder for an individual writer’s work to stand out from the crowd. So to be at all successful, a writer has to spend more time promoting his or her work than writing it. Things have been moving in this direction for the past 25 years, with publishers making writers do more and more of their own promotion, and writers finally asked themselves what publishers were doing for them, decided not enough, and began to leave out the middle man, taking the works straight to readers and bypassing publishers altogether.
GNOH – You first published Soulstorm in 1986. How would you say your writing has changed over the years?
I like to think I’ve gotten better. I don’t write nearly as much as I wrote back then, because I don’t
come across things worth writing about. I hate to retrace my steps and cover ground that I’ve already been over before. That’s probably why I’ve never written a series (except for The Searchers, which was intended to be only three books), and why I don’t write in the same genre from one book to the next. I grow too disinterested too quickly.
GNOH – You’ve written many different types of genre fiction – straight thriller with McKain’s Dilemma, quiet horror with Ash Wednesday, and ecological thriller with Second Chance. Is this a deliberate choice, or do you just write what come to mind?
It’s pretty much what comes to mind. I don’t think in terms of genre when I start a project, and I admit that’s hurt me commercially. If I’d have stayed with one genre, it would have been easier to establish a writing persona that readers would identify with more closely. But I didn’t, and I’m not sure I would have done anything different in retrospect, except made some different decisions concerning agents.
GNOH – You have had a lot of short stories published. Do you approach writing a short story differently to writing a full novel?
Absolutely. With a novel I find I have to be much more organized in terms of plotting, but with a short story I can just take an idea and see where it leads me, although by the time I’m partway through I’ve probably outlined the short story in even more detail than I do with novels, since it has to be more concise.
GNOH – Can you tell us about Kaikon, and how much did it raise for the genre for Japan Appeal?
I think it was over a hundred dollars US, which was nice to get for a little chapbook. The full story of Kaikon is in my Wikipedia entry – it’s kind of sad, really, since it’s a beautiful little book, and will never be distributed, alas.
GNOH – Of your work to date, which is your favourite, and which would you most like to be remembered for?
I‘m particularly fond of Figures in Rain, my short story collection, The Story of Noichi the Blind, a novella I wrote for CD Publications, and Second Chance, which is the most personal of all my novels.
GNOH – I see you have a number of e-books out from Crossroads Press. How did you and David first get together?
David Niall Wilson contacted me and asked me if I was interested in getting my out of print books done as ebooks. He seemed to be very savvy about the ebook business, and I found the deal to be quite good – he does the work and I make the money! I’m very happy with the way that works, needless to say.
GNOH – What’s your opinion on E-books? They seem to elicit some rather extreme reactions from some quarters?
They’re the wave of the future. If anything, I should have gotten into them sooner. Personally, I don’t like reading a book on a screen. I like holding the damn thing in my hands complete with paper pages. But that’s just me. My son adores his Kindle and is never without it.
GNOH – Are you planning on releasing your entire back catalogue in E-book format?
Yes, except for the several work-for-hire books for which I have no rights. Almost everything is out in ebook form at this point. The Searchers series will probably be next, but already we have Soulstorm, Ash Wednesday, Lowland Rider, Dreamthorp, Reign, and Second Chance. And Defenders of the Faith, a new novel that’s an ebook exclusive, has just been released.
GNOH – Who first came up with the idea that you do the narration for some of Crossroads Press’s audiobooks?
I’ve been an actor for years – I’m a member of Actors Equity, the professional stage actors’ union – and I’d recently recorded some short stories by myself and Andrew Vachss for MPformance, and sent the recordings to Dave. He liked them and suggested that I record audiobooks of my own work. I set up a home studio, did several, and on the strength of those I narrated other novels by Michael Moorcock, Tom Piccirilli, Zoe Winters, and Dave too.
GNOH – I’ve always wondered, do they just hand you the book to read out, or is the book broken down into script form?
Nope – I just get the book and go.
GNOH – Crossroads Press have just released Defenders of the Faith. Can you tell us about the book? Was there any reason you hadn’t published a full length novel for a few years?
The vicissitudes of the market, primarily, and a string of agents who were less than effective. I got discouraged, wrote less, got into playwriting and back into acting, and just drifted away from writing fiction for a while, unless I was requested to do something. Defenders is a straight psychological thriller with overtones of horror. It also says something about the role of religion, both positive and negative, in American society.
GNOH – I see you’ve made the move back to acting. How does it feel to tread the boards again?
Wonderful. I really love acting, and it’s great to have the chance to do it again.
GNOH – I hear you are in an adaptation of Joe Lansdale’s “Christmas With The Dead.” How did that come about?
Joe contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in being in the film, and I immediately thought that if Joe had anything to do with it, I’d be delighted. Our friendship goes way back, and there was a part in the screenplay (written by his son Keith) that fit me pretty well – a crazed preacher escaped from an insane asylum (that’s me all over). I went down to Texas, met everyone involved, did a few days of table reads, and I’ll be flying back down in a few weeks to shoot in the lovely Nacogdoches summer for a week or so.
GNOH – Do you prefer performing in films or treading the boards?
Can’t say yet, as I’ve never done a feature film before. So you’ll have to get back to me on that one. I’m really looking forward to it, though!
GNOH – Let’s talk about sock puppets? What were you on when you came up with the idea to reimage classic movies with sock puppets?
Ha! That was the result of a woman named Joanna Underhill who is a sock puppet master. A non-profit arts group I chair, Creative Works ofLancaster, was looking to do some off-the-wall material and we thought a sock puppet parody of Hitchcock’s Psycho would be fun. And it was. I wrote the script, played Hitch and some other characters, and we did it with a cast of five puppeteer/actors at a great bar in Lancaster, PA – three performances on Halloween Day last year, and we packed the place. So this year we decided to take on The Godfather and created The Sockfather, with over thirty puppets voiced by a cast of four actors and a “Foley artist.”
GNOH – Is there any clearance you have to get from the copyright owners?
Nope – This is all parody, so it’s fair use. And it’s free admission too.
GNOH – Can you tell us about any future reimagings?
All I’ll say is that maybe at least one scene from Asockalypse Now might come to pass…
GNOH – So what does the future hold for you?
A lot more playwriting and acting, a few short stories I’ve been asked to do for anthologies, and a new novel. Really.
GNOH – Many many thanks, Chet, for taking the time to pop on over for a chat. It has been an honour having one of the genre’s greats over for a chat.
Chet’s E-books and audiobooks can be purchased from CROSSROADS PRESS, a brilliant site filled with excellent e-books and audiobooks.
Chet’s audio recordings cab be found at MPformance