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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interview with Liz Williams (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo with several questions from Liviu Suciu)

Introduction: Liz Williams gothic sf with a strong feminist tinge is a big time favorite of Liviu and Robert as you can see from the reviews below, while Mihir is a fan of the Inspector Chen series so Ms. Williams was a perfect fit for an interview here with Mihir's review of her latest Inspector Chen novel, "Shadow Pavilion" to be posted soon.

Read FBC Review of Darkland
Read FBC Review of Bloodmind
Read FBC Review of Winterstrike

Mihir asked most questions, while Liviu contributed 3 questions which are clearly labeled as such. We are deeply grateful for Ms. Williams' candid answers and we offer thanks to her publicist at Night Shade, John Joseph Adams for the help in setting up the interview and to her editor Marty Halpern for the extra details. Enjoy!

1) Can you tell us more about yourself especially for readers who are as yet unacquainted with your encompassing bibliography of novels & short stories?

I was born in the west of England, and have lived in Brighton, Cambridge and Central Asia. My father was a stage magician (as a hobby, not as a profession) and my mother wrote Gothic novels, so I basically took off from there. I now live in Glastonbury, England, with my partner.

We run a retail business selling witchcraft items, and I also teach English at Bath Spa University. Best way to get to know me is through my Live Journal or my Facebook page
I will befriend pretty much anyone who asks! It's a random mix of cats, dogs, writing, witchcraft and anything else that happens to amuse me.

2) What do you do when you are not writing or reading books? Any Hobbies?

I read a lot, and I do a lot of gardening and walking. I don't have much spare time at the moment, but enjoy traveling to far flung places when possible.

3) To any reader who hasn't read one of your books, how would you persuade them to give one of your books a try?!

They're unusual and rather odd. If you like feminist, sociological SF, you'll probably like the SF novels. If you like dark fantasy with a detection edge, you'll hopefully get on well with the Night Shade series.

4) Where do you find the inspiration for your stories, (i.e.: nature, events, people, etc.)? And is there a particular life experience that influenced your writing?

Inspiration comes from all over the place. It's almost impossible to say where ideas come from, unfortunately. I wish I knew! Images, things I misread, folklore, articles in the Fortean Times, my personal esoteric experience…

5) You have quite an esoteric background and you include other activities ranging from having a PhD. in Epistemology to running a pagan ritual store in addition to being a full time author. How do you manage your time & how do these various interests influence your writing?

I work most of the time. My pagan and folklore interests' link into the writing, and for the SF novels, I try to draw on philosophical themes and ideas.

6) What book/books have you read recently that have made an impression on you?

I'm reading a lot of nature books at the moment, also a lot of esoteric non-fiction like the history of the Golden Dawn, and it's probable that some ideas may come from this.

7) What was the specific spark of inspiration which lead to the development of the Inspector Chen series? What made you contrive Chinese mythology along with futuristic SF elements to develop the world of Singapore 3? With your most recent book "Shadow Pavilion" featuring parts of India, will you be featuring other global mythologies as well?

The Chen series comes from some visits I made to Hong Kong, where a friend of mine lives. She had a houseboat, which is Chen's houseboat (the big junk in PRECIOUS DRAGON is a real boat, of the same name), and was dating a cop in the HK vice squad. So all of these things fitted together!

(LS) 8) I loved the settings of Darkland and Bloodmind series, as well as the loosely related novel Ghost Sister. While I think Bloodmind brought the story to an excellent conclusion, I am curious to know if there are plans for more novels set in that universe?

Thanks! I've no plans as yet, but it may happen. I have been writing in this universe since I was about 13 and will almost certainly return to it at some point.

(LS) 9) In my notable 2008 books post on FBC, I described Winterstrike as: "Mothers, daughters, unsuitable males on future Mars and Earth". How does this one line description above sound to you? And when can we expect the sequel?

Sounds accurate to me! A sequel will depend on my publishers, who are holding off for the moment. The industry has been badly hit by the recession.

(LS) 10) Winterstrike has been criticized in various places for the similarities of the voice of 2 main narrators - Essegui and Hestia, who though cousins and childhood friends have had quite different life-experiences since. I found the voices a bit too similar too, though it did not bother me since the novel was outstanding in so many respects, the voice similarity was just a minor niggle. How would you answer the criticism?

I think it's fair, to be honest. They are supposed to be very similar, and that does come out in their voices.

11) With each limited edition of the Inspector Chen series, there has been a short story released with it. Do the following short stories supplement the novels and/ or are they individualistic stories of their own standing? And if so, are they meant to be read in any particular order?

[For those not so familiar with the series, the following stories have been released so far:

The Man from the Ministry(BANQUET collection)
Insecticide(SNAKE AGENT)
Willow Pattern Plate(PRECIOUS DRAGON)
Adventures in the Ghost Trade (BANQUET collection, Snake agent Chapter)

No particular order, but they can be read as standalone pieces. They're not really connected with each novel.

12) Do you have a fixed number of books planned in the Inspector Chen series? If so how many? Have you envisioned the end of the series or would it be decided along the way?

Two more books are commissioned: IRON KHAN and a book that is currently titled MORNINGSTAR, which features Chen and Inari's daughter. After that, we'll have to see. I would like to revisit the world at some point in the future, but there are a few other things I'd like to turn to first.

13) Many of your earlier books have strong female protagonists. Was it by choice or just an aspect of your writing which suited the story to be seen through a female perspective?

No, it's a deliberate choice. I am a feminist and I wanted the SF, at least, to reflect ongoing concerns about the role of women.

14) You have written a short story called "Caer Cold" which is set in a very fascinating world. Will we get to read more about this world & will you be ever writing a full-fledged story set in this world?

There are a number of other stories set in an earlier time in this world, and I would not be averse to doing something full length in it. I'm doing a number of quasi-Arthurian Dark Ages short stories, quite bleak, and this is in line with those.

15) What are your plans for the future? As a writer, what still challenges you and what do you want to accomplish?

It's always a challenge to come up with new ideas. I'm hoping to start a novel set in an alternate 18th century, which features a somewhat unsympathetic aristocratic protagonist. The tone of the short stories in this world so far is similar to the tone of the Chen novels. And I am doing a series of sort-of steampunk short stories, again in an alternative (but non-magical) Britain. I'd also like to do a contemporary novel set in Somerset with fantasy elements. So, there are a number of things in mind at the moment!



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