Name: William Patrick Maynard
Where are you from: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
A little about yourself (i.e. your education, family life, etc.):
I was born and raised in Northeast Ohio. I’m a college graduate. I earned academic honors throughout my school career. From an early age, I devoured pulp fiction. After years of writing as a hobby, I was licensed by the literary estate of Sax Rohmer to continue the Fu Manchu thrillers. I also have a number of short stories and articles in print. I spend my time between Western Canada and Northeast Ohio where my family resides.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Next up is my third Fu Manchu novel, The Triumph of Fu Manchu.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing stories as a child. I loved books and comic books, so telling my own stories seemed a natural progression of the same.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I suppose it finally seemed legitimate when my first novel was published.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I used to write humorous literary pastiches to amuse a friend. He liked the Sax Rohmer ones the best and encouraged me more than once to seek out the literary rights as he was always encouraging me to actually write a book. I eventually tracked down the literary estate and made inquiries and ended up with the gig. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but that is still the gist of what actually occurred.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
The story determines the voice just as it decides whether it is a story, a book, a play, or a script.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
In the case of the first book, it was chosen to be sufficiently melodramatic as well as to refer to the root of the yellow peril in fear of a foreign otherness.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
First and foremost, my books are meant to be entertainment that evoke an earlier era. There are more serious undercurrents about colonialism, racial prejudice, intolerance, and personal responsibility that actually fuel the desire to craft the tale.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I try to be historically accurate to people, places, attitudes, and language. That said, the formula is fantastic by nature as it concerns a criminal mastermind who is also a scientific genius and occultist and a member of a secret society with global reach.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I imagine all writers draw from real events to a degree. Many creative people are damaged to some extent which fuels their need to create a world they can control. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t one of them.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Rather than books, it is particular writers that have most influenced me. At the top of the heap would be Sax Rohmer, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, and Blake Edwards. The latter three were screenwriters, not novelists, but their scripts have a place on my shelves the same as any author’s books or collections of stories.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading Metropolis by Thea von Harbou and Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
My favorite new authors would be P. G. Sturges, Lyndsay Faye, and Mark Rigney. Everything they touch is gold.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Well, I’m finishing up my third Fu Manchu thriller as well as translating two new Dr. Nikola novels from German. I’m also preparing a fresh translation of the original Dr. Mabuse novel. Outside the world of criminal masterminds, I am still plugging away at a book featuring an original occult detective character and have my own hardboiled detective novel on the backburner, as well.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Well, I’ve had lots of people whose encouragement mattered tremendously to me. Sometimes more so than family who, understandably, often view writing as an unrealistic goal when you’re a young person and would prefer you settle into a conventional career path. A few names I would have to identify would be Bill German, John Ettinger, Lynn Sinclair, and Ron Gilak. A couple of them were teachers, one is a friend, and the other is a journalist. Their encouragement isn’t necessarily something they would recall giving, but it meant the world to me. I would also be remiss to not mention Peter Rubie, Jean-Marc Lofficier, and the late Manie Barron. All three gentlemen taught me a great deal and did much to coach me in areas where I was severely lacking polish.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Well, I define career as the job that keeps a roof over my family’s head and puts food on their table. Writing is very much my source of secondary income in that sense. That said, I take it more seriously than just a hobby as it is an essential part of my identity. Without the creative outlet, I would fall into a black pit of depression.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Oh God, always. It’s very, very difficult to stop tinkering. I’m terrible about thinking a draft is great and then coming back to it and ripping it to shreds and starting over. I turn it in once I feel I can live with it and try not to look at it afterwards. When I do go back to them, I always see bits I want to change. I don’t agree with George Lucas tinkering with his movies after the fact, but I understand the impulse. It’s a bit like William Peter Blatty feeling compelled to rewrite Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane as The Ninth Configuration. You never paint your masterpiece. That’s not suggesting I have a masterpiece in me, either.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Yes, explicitly. I was five years old when The Pink Panther Strikes Again was released. When I saw it, something clicked in me. It wasn’t just that it was a very funny movie; it made sense of a world that seemed chaotic. It was a bit like a religious epiphany for me. Most kids that connect with movies so deeply fixate on an actor. I fixated on the writer. From that point, everything I watched or read made me want to know as much as possible about the writer and their other work. I was also looking for clues at the scene of the crime because it seemed to tell as much about my world as it did theirs.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
If you mean an excerpt, I can’t yet for copyright reasons. In terms of storyline, the new book is set in 1934 and moves between South America and Japan. It deals with totalitarianism and, of course, secret societies. Thematically, it’s concerned with the value of human life in a world which considers it very cheap.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Not really. I start with the germ of an idea and that fuels research. From there I structure the story. When I get stuck, I look at how other writers did the trick with similar scenes in their work. Having a near-photographic memory is an asset.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
It’s hard to pick a firm favorite from my pantheon because it varies. If we focus on Sax Rohmer in terms of my work as a continuation writer, what inspires me is the palpable sense of paranoia and exotic seduction he imbues in nearly every page. He was an absolute master at the genre. Growing up with James Bond and Indiana Jones as a part of my steady diet, discovering Sax Rohmer’s work just blew them out of the water. I found books that were more thrilling than anything I had ever encountered before. That was heady stuff for a twelve year old from the American Midwest.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I wish I was able to do so. The internet and the public library have made me an armchair researcher. I do collect photographs and articles to give me a sense of place and time.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Christine Clavel is the very talented artist who designs the covers of my Fu Manchu books.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I suppose delivering the final draft is the honest answer.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Well, thematically I’m usually surprised by what stories want to be told. Sometimes they are issues you haven’t worked through yourself that are chipping away at the back of your mind demanding you wrestle with them.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Blake Edwards wasn’t the first person to say it, but I know it from him, and that would be to always obey the Eleventh Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Give Up.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Life is very precious. The ideals and beliefs we cling to should never justify destroying other lives. The past may be politically incorrect, but it should not be muted or manipulated to hide its shortcomings.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Outside of things like Curious George and children’s books and intermediate books, the first proper novel I read was The Hobbit thanks to the Rankin-Bass cartoons and the Bakshi Lord of the Rings movie which were an important part of my childhood.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Breaking the pain barrier artfully, clever wordplay, and showing human foibles without appealing to the lowest common denominator is what makes me laugh. People being appreciated or loved or missed generally will make me tear up a bit. I’m an absolute sap.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Not really. When I was younger, I wanted to meet all of my favorite writers or artists. I’ve met enough people whose work I admire to recognize that interaction with the person is not necessarily pleasant just because their work resonates with you.
Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone and why?
I don’t want a tombstone. People who were really in my life and loved me are entitled to their memories, good and bad. I don’t need a marker in stone showing where my remains are rotting. My books are enough of a marker that I walked the planet for a number of years.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Not a passionate one, no. I love reading and listening to music or going on walks in the park. When I’m alone, I’ll play a bit of blues harp when I’m in the mood.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Well, I’m obviously a fan of Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, and Blake Edwards. They’re the triumvirate for me. I’m not really interested in too much contemporary work. I do enjoy Wes Anderson’s films, though.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors / Music
Favorite dish is spaghetti and meatballs. Favorite color is grey. For music, I listen to everything from Henry Mancini to Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Mark Knopfler to The Rolling Stones and The Kinks.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Lord, nothing if I’m honest. All I’ve ever wanted to do was be a writer. Having the good fortune to write full-time is the dream.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
http://www.setisays.blogspot.com/ houses the articles I’ve written for The Cimmerian and is a record of links to my articles for Black Gate Magazine.