Welcome to our Writers Wednesday Spotlight! Each week we will be highlighting a different geeky writer we think you might like to check out. For this week’s spotlight, we are excited to introduce you to Michael Williams!
His series “The Withrow Chronicles” was released on August 21, 2017 from Falstaff Books!
You can purchase “The Withrow Chronicles” here.
About Michael Williams
(in his own words)
Michael G. Williams writes wry horror: stories of monsters, macabre humor, and subverted expectations. He is the author of two series for Falstaff Books: The Withrow Chronicles, including Perishables (2012 Laine Cunningham Award), Tooth & Nail, Deal with the Devil, Attempted Immortality, and Nobody Gets Out Alive; a new series in The Shadow Council Archives featuring one of San Francisco’s most beloved figures, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN; and the upcoming science fiction mystery A Fall in Autumn. Michael also publishes short stories and contributes to tabletop RPG development. Michael strives to present the humor and humanity at the heart of horror and science fiction.
Michael is also an avid podcaster, activist, reader, runner, cyclist, and gaymer, and is a brother in St. Anthony Hall and Mu Beta Psi. He lives in Durham, NC, with his partner, two cats, two dogs, and more and better friends than he probably deserves.
About “The Withrow Chronicles”…
From Book 1: Winner of the 2012 Laine Cunningham Novel Award!
Everybody hates their Homeowner’s Association, and nobody likes a zombie apocalypse. Put the two together, and Withrow Surrett is having a truly craptastic night.
Not to mention the fact that he’s got one big secret to keep from the idiots in his home – Withrow is a vampire.
Perishables has been called by some “a gripping examination into suburban ennui set in a milieu of post-modern apocalyptic horror.”
Not really. Those people would be navel-gazing idiots. Perishables is a bust-your-gut funny collection of three stories about trust, human and undead relationships, what community really means, and zombies.
A LOT of freakin’ zombies.
Fans of The Black Knight Chronicles, The Tome of Bill, and Fred, the Vampire Accountant will love this series.
5 Questions with . . . Michael Williams
- When did you first realize you were interested in becoming an author? What drives you to write?
I wrote my first novel in 3rd grade. (It wasn’t very good.) I don’t actually know when I decided I wanted that, but it feels like I always have. I grew up in Appalachia as part of a family with a strong storytelling tradition. I loved to read from a very young age. I think wanting to write wasn’t even conscious. It was the inevitable result of combining the two.
As for what drives me to write, I think it’s the desire to let people know they’re not alone in the world, despite the fact we all feel alone more than we might care to admit. One of the most memorable assignments I did in college was a short paper for an introductory anthropology class. We were tasked with describing what made us individuals. Everyone soon realized the ways we distinguish ourselves from others is as identifying as members of various groups. Almost no one had a feature or experience entirely unique and distinct. So here we all are, members of countless group identities we share with more people than we’ll ever know, and yet I think I’ve experienced most of those identities in exception state. What I mean by that is, I mostly feel I’m an atypical member of all groups to which I belong. I’ve never felt totally at home in my own skin, never felt entirely comfortable with the South despite being very Southern, never felt entirely at home in the gay community despite having almost exclusively queer friends and having engaged in activism for decades, never felt like a “real” nerd (for various definitions), never felt like a “real” writer.
So, having spilled all that to give my answer context, I write in an attempt to encapsulate that sense of never feeling like I belong. I’ve written self-conscious vampires, and self-loathing detectives, and witches who summon demons because the rent is too high, and people who can’t handle reality so they construct more comfortable delusions and climb inside them. The only cure for that sort of aloneness is togetherness, and mostly that’s what my novels and stories are about, too. They’re stories about people who feel they’re always on the outside looking in, who find out all the best people are out there with them already, and I hope people who feel the same way find those stories so that through the pages of a book we can clasp hands for a little while.
Why do I feel like that’s a much more self-involved and navel-gazing answer than was necessary? And yet, here we are.
- How would you describe your style or genre of writing to a potential fan?
One of my favorite phrases someone used to describe my writing was “wry horror.” I describe it as horror with a sense of humor. I don’t really consider it comedy, but both comedy and horror rely on subverted expectations: when the monster hunter squeezes the trigger, will their gun fire a silver bullet or unfurl a flag that says “BANG”? I’ve also described it as “suburban fantasy,” because it’s not exactly urban fantasy. Urban fantasy is often about people whose circumstances are gritty and unsettling to begin with. I like to write about people who think they’ve found somewhere comfortable and quiet and who are very, very wrong. In the end, though, I defy classification in any genre other than “genre.” I write sci fi detectives and time traveling tulpas and sarcastic vampires whose friends are occult hackers. More specific genre definitions only amuse me insofar as I like to see how quickly I can break their rules.
- What are you currently working on? What are you working on next?
I just finished revisions for a far-future science fiction detective novel called A Fall in Autumn and I am just ridiculously proud of it. I put a lot of my own life and experience into it in a way I didn’t expect, and I am excited and terrified to share it with people. Right now I’m doing revisions on an urban fantasy time travel adventure novella set in San Francisco. In my head, the series is called Servant/Sovereign, and this first entry is called Through the Doors of Oblivion. It’s about a couple of modern day witches who summon up something like the spirit of Emperor Norton I (Google him if he’s new to you – he was an amazing person with an amazing life) to save the city of San Francisco from a demon of greed. I loved writing it. San Francisco is my second home, the only place for which I feel homesick despite never having lived there. After that I’ll revise the last entry in The Withrow Chronicles, and then I’ll move on to whatever Falstaff would like to see next: maybe a sequel to A Fall in Autumn, or the rest of the Servant/Sovereign series, or maybe I’ll annoy the hell out of John by pitching something entirely new. I only have about 17 different ideas for other projects.
- What existing book do you wish you had written and why?
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and not just because of vampires. I love the epistolary form. I would love to write a novel in that same form. I also love the language. Stoker can be simultaneously so spare and so florid. He paints such vivid scenes with absolute precision. When he wants you to feel the creeping horror of Renfield working his way up the list of specimens to torture, he puts them in the cold, third-hand voice of a doctor’s notes. When he wants you to gush with tears over Lucy he has one of her warmly affectionate suitors diarize the up-one-second-down-the-next turbulence of her declining health. He has absolute control over which “voice” he uses in order to maximize the impact of the story – and what a story it is! Victorian proto-hippies form a Scooby gang to go after the greatest monster the world has ever known! The three men who love Lucy and whom Lucy loves form a pact of brotherhood to protect her! A quiet London real estate agent fights fear and a castle literally full of vampires to escape back to the woman he loves! That’s a novel that has it all.
- What is one piece of advice you would give to a budding writer?
Read and write, and read your writing aloud to yourself, and ignore all other advice. Don’t let anyone tell you how it should sound, or whether to use “said,” or anything else. Read as many books as you can get your hands on, in your genre and especially outside of it, and soak up everything you can about the way those writers manipulate the reader’s perspective, the information presented to them, the reliability of the narrator, the way they use sleight-of-hand to make you expect some particular outcome but produce something else altogether. While doing so, write whatever gets your fingers on the keyboard. Don’t get bogged down in whether it’s original or derivative, or whether it’s the “right” genre or the “right” length or “what the market wants.” Just write to get practice writing. When you’re done, put it away for a while, forget as much of it as you can, and then read it aloud to yourself. You’ll find things there you didn’t even know you wrote – both good and bad – and you’ll learn a lot.