Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Neil Williamson. I’m 49.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I live in Glasgow, Scotland.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I’ve always been interested in science and technology, so at university I trained in electrical and electronic engineering. My first job after leaving was doing things with microwaves as a junior engineer in London. After that, I got a job in Glasgow as a technical writer and I’ve been doing that for the last twenty five years.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Well, I just finished a novel, Queen of Clouds, which should be doing the rounds with publishers any time now. This book is a sort-of prequel to my first novel, The Moon King, and it features wooden people and sentient weather.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Like many people, I suppose, in my teens I realised I enjoyed doing things with words, but I didn’t do much with that notion until I moved to London and discovered Interzone magazine. Interzone featured (and still does) stories of great craft and imagination, and I realised that I wanted to learn how to put my imagination on a page like that too.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
By the time my first story collection, The Ephemera, was published there would have been one morning where I realised that sitting down every day to put words on a page had become a major part of my life. But when exactly that was, I’m not sure.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was an anthology I co-edited with Andrew J Wilson called Nova Scotia: New Scottish Speculative Fiction, but I suspect you’re talking about novels here? I wrote The Moon King because I’d been writing short stories for six or seven years and felt it was about time I stepped up.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For The Moon King? Well, one of the central characters is a seemingly immortal ruler of an island city around which the moon never sets, so in this instance it was a fairly easy title to pick.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
If you asked readers that question, they might say I have a somewhat lyrical or poetic style. The only thing I find challenging about that style is it’s not apt for all the stories I want to tell, so sometimes I have to consciously try for something new.
In terms of genre, I write mostly in the speculative genes – science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc. The biggest challenge with those is to keep things fresh, to be unstinting in imagining new things. We all have keep challenging ourselves to write new stories instead of retreading the paths of the old ones, and one of the best things to have happened in the speculative genres in recent years is the rise in awareness that we need to keep evaluating our assumptions of race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. Suddenly the genres are fresh again.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
None of The Moon King is based on reality or anyone I know (although I did tuckerise my young nephew and niece for auxiliary characters, but just their names). However, the city in the book has deep roots in Glasgow. Some readers have caught that from it, which I’m happy about.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Not specifically, but when I do travel I take notes and they sometimes find their way into the fiction. My most recent published story, The Insider (from an anthology called Imposter Syndrome), is set in north west Italy, for example, which I’ve visited a couple of times recently.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Most of my books to date have been published by NewCon Press and the cover design is usually a collaboration between the publisher, Ian Whates, and a talented designer called Andy Bigwood.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
It’s pretty much up to readers to take whatever they want out of a book. I’m not sure it’s for me to tell them.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I love authors with a strong writing style and a wicked imagination. My favourite books in recent times have included Hal Duncan’s wildly irreverent and yet touching Scruffianstories, and my long-time favourite authors include Graham Joyce, Jonathan Carroll, M John Harrison, Joyce Carol Oates and Ian McDonald. I’d probably add Adam Roberts to that list now too.
As for new authors, I’m very grateful to social media which provides a great conduit to discovering new voices, and I’m always eager to find more. In the last couple of years, I’ve enjoyed the work of Karin Tidbek and Eric Schaller an awful lot. I’ve recently discovered Cat Hellisen too, who has a new story collection out this year, and one of my GSFWC compadres, Cameron Johnston, publishes his first novel, The Traitor God, in the summer which I think Game Of Thrones type readers are going to love. In terms of short fiction, if you love beautifully crafted stories in various shades of strangeness, you should really be seeking out Ruth EJ Booth,Priya Sharma, Laura Mauro, and Georgina Bruce.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I joined a critique group called the Glasgow SF Writers Circle (gsfwc.co.uk) in 1993 and it has been right there with me ever since. The most important thing I’ve learned was to teach your inner editor to be unflinchingly honest.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see it as a vocation, and on those terms I’m deeply ambitious. I’m not sure anyone can really make much of a living at it these days, alas.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think so. Queen of Clouds was difficult to write, but I think I’m pretty happy with the outcome.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Lots. But I’m always learning. I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades now and I’m still always learning. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
For The Moon King there are three main characters. For Anton, an engineer, probably someone who can come across as slightly scatty but maintaining a keen focus beneath. In the old days I’d have suggested Peter Falk, but maybe someone like Mark Ruffalo could do the job. For the policeman, Mortlock, it’d have to be someone older, with a brooding physical presence – I could see a Liam Neeson type pulling that off. And for, the artist, Lottie? It’d have to be someone a bit unconventional, and for that I’d be delighted with a young Lori Petty.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Read lots, write lots, seek the opinions of brutally honest people.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
No, not really.I’m not sure what they’d want to hear!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Book of Dirt by Gretchen Heffernan and Binary System by Eric Brown.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, sorry. It was probably a Ladybird children’s book, but I don’t remember a specific one.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Onions do both to me. I find it ridiculous that one of our staple foods should have such an effect on us and yet we keep on eating them.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
David Bowie. A few years back I wouldn’t have given this answer but since his death I’ve learned so much about him that I believe he was one of the most outstandingly creative people there’s ever been. And he loved to read too!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I’m a musician and cabaret performer – which is more of a second job than a hobby – so, I play a lot of piano.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
That changes with the seasons. At the moment I’m enjoying the heck out the new series of Inside No9, and my favourite thing this year has been the Twin Peaks: The Return.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Don’t have a favourite colour. Food varies with the season. It’s winter right now so I hanker for hearty, meaty stews with plenty of root veg and a hunk of fresh baked bread on the side.
In terms of music – I listen to music all the time, and like nothing better than discovering new bands. Recent finds that I’m enjoying include a German indie duo called GURR and a London-based art-rock outfit called Artificial Pleasure, but ask me next month and I’ll give you a different answer.
In terms of music to write to, I listen to a lot of film scores and instrumentals. Currently, I have a lot of Max Richter in my writing playlist.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Compose more music, I would think.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I’ve honestly never given that any thought. Surely posterity is for others to decide, not for me to dictate?
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
You can find me on Goodreads and LibraryThing and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, if those are your things.