Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Science Fiction author Walter Jon Williams. These are some of the questions we asked him to answer for us:
Walter, Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
You can introduce me as “Nearly Famous Author Walter Jon Williams.” I’ve been Nearly Famous for most of my career.
I live with my wife Kathy in rural New Mexico. I feel that authors should enjoy activities other than writing, so in addition to being a writer I’m a world traveler, a scuba diver, and a black belt in Kenpo Karate.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
It shouldn’t be that hard to find my work, in part because there’s been so much of it. All my backlist are now available as ebooks. For a complete list, with capsule descriptions, check out this page: http://www.walterjonwilliams.net/ebook-store.html
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
My blog and web page are at http://www.walterjonwilliams.net. I also have a Facebook presence, though I’m not really your go-to guy for social media.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from you?
Expect to be surprised! Every project I undertake is different from everything else. No one’s more bored by the same-old same-old than me, so I strive to keep everything fresh.
What kind of research went into writing the Quillifer series? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the books, but you loved discovering?
The Quillifer books take place in a fantasy analogue of the Northern European Renaissance, and I tried to make an effort to see what the period was like from the perspective of having one’s boots-on-the-ground. We think of the period in connection with the art of Holbein and Breughel, the rise of autocracy, and religious strife, but if you actually lived within that period, you might not have the same perspective. The Renaissance was a lot more complicated than you probably think, and the same thing goes for the Middle Ages. They were just weird.
Some of the delights I encountered in my research:
The Court of King Arthur (which is in Gdansk, Poland)
Roast swans served in their feathers
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
By the end of a book, I’m sick of them and I hate them all. I’ve spent months living with them, and I’ve grown to resent their intrusion on my life. Sometimes I fantasize about having them all run over by a speeding meteor.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I have two books coming out in December 2020.
The first is The Best of Walter Jon Williams, 200,000 words of short fiction, copiously illustrated, from Subterranean Press.
The second is Fleet Elements, the latest in my popular Praxis series of far-future science fiction books. (Start with The Praxis, which is already in print.)
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
All work and no play makes Walter sleepy and depressed. I strive to lead an active life.
I’ve traveled all over the world. I’ve scuba dived in most of the world’s oceans. I’m a black belt in Kenpo Karate. All of my adventures eventually work their way into my fiction, which I think adds an element of authenticity to the work.
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
Probably that I’m still alive, and still writing.
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
I few years ago I set a novel, Deep State, in Turkey, and in preparation I traveled through much of Turkey with some friends. The hospitality was wonderful, the food likewise, and Anatolian civilization is at least 6000 years old. Turkey rolls deep. It’s my favorite country.
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
I like to play loud music and dance before work in order to pump myself up for writing. Unfortunately my wife doesn’t like loud music blasting away at 2am, and so I’ve had to modify my work preparation.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
As a writer, I sort of came up by myself. I knew writers, but none of them were working on the sort of thing I wanted to write, so their help (while generously offered) was limited.
By way of paying it forward to the next generations, I founded a workshop called Taos Toolbox, which is a two-week master class on writing that takes place in the mountains of New Mexico every summer. In its twelve years of existence, our graduates have published dozens of novels, won Hugo and Nebula Awards, and created careers for themselves. So for anyone serious about writing, I’d recommend Taos Toolbox, or any of the other professional workshops, like Clarion or Odyssey.
Walter, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions!