Horror movies, reviews and more at buried.com
Horror movies, reviews and more at buried.com
Horror movies, reviews and more at buried.com
Horror movies, reviews and more at buried.com
Horror movies, reviews and more at buried.com
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David Niall Wilson
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

1) Tell www.buried.com about yourself…

DAVE: Nor enough, and way too much, to tell. Born in a small town in Illinois, raised in a slightly larger small town in Illinois, Charleston - home of Eastern Illinois University and Charleston High School, where I learned creative writing from a truly remarkable woman named Nell Wiseman (I believe Mrs. Wiseman is still teaching there). I always said I was going to be a writer, and I showed a few small flashes of that in her class, and a few others, during those formative days. I also became a member of the local Church of Christ and began to study to be a Campus Minister.

I joined the US Navy straight out of High School and was whisked away to boot camp, which was a learning experience all in itself. I was in the Blue Jacket's Choir and got a bad sunburn. I met some odd characters, and I graduated without incident to continue my naval career.

For the next sequence of years, I guess, I researched. I always, as I've mentioned, said I was a writer. I have always considered myself to be a writer. For a great number of years, though, the only thing I wrote was self-absorbed, bad poetry in little journals and a couple of disjointed attempts at stories. During those years, I started and finished one novel that is lost to history. It was about Dwarves and elves returning to Chicago for one last attempt to reconcile the "old magic" with the modern world. Not very good, took WAY too long, written by hand and probably wasn't longer than novella length when complete, but I clutched that tightly like the prize it was . . . I was a writer.

Needless to say, I never entered the Campus Ministry, though I am an ordained minister. Sometime around the mid eighties, while stationed in Spain, I got serious. I ordered the Writer's Digest "Writing to Sell Fiction" course, and bought a portable electric typewriter. It was my good fortune to be assigned, at that time, to J. N. Williamson as a student.

I won't say that what I wrote then was amazing, or even publishable, but I learned a lot. First thing I learned was that, while I could say I was a writer until the cows came home, it was going to take a lot to convince an editor. I worked on that. I wrote day and night, and at the same time, Jerry introduced me to two things that changed my outlook on horror and dark fantasy - the small press, and the (then) Horror Writers of America. The small press gave me a wider range of markets to shoot for, and a great circle of contacts and friends that I've been building on since then - and the HWA gave me access to the authors whose work helped to form my own - gave me a level of acceptance among those already accepted in the genre that was invaluable to my confidence. I never envisioned myself, at that time, as president of HWA - hard to visualize it now. I wish that a lot of the bridges that have been burned in the past could be repaired, and that those who were so supportive when I was younger could be there for another generation of authors. Time will tell if I can make any progress in that direction.

The next decade or so, I spent writing. I must have been rejected a thousand or so times, some interesting experiences, others infuriating. I received my beautiful, hand-calligraphied rejection card from Hustler Magazine, and "Don't quit the day job," from CHIC - and along the way, I started to sell a few stories. About the time I made my first few sales, I got the brilliant idea that I'd start my own magazine. How hard could it be? I asked. I had a couple of friends, one artist - Joe Shank - and a guy named Nick Vega who knew nothing about poetry, but wanted to be part of the magazine, so he became poetry editor. Amazing what a title will do for you - he was actually taken seriously during his tenure at THE TOME.

To make a long story short, I published several not-so-great issues, learned a lot, got better, bigger circulation, met amazingly talented people - some famous people - made friends I will have as long as life allows it - and The Tome folded. There comes a point where, when something like a magazine is draining resources of time and money, the return isn't worth the continued effort, and I let it die. By that point, my writing career had taken off, and I had to worry about things like deadlines. Not a bad trade, in my book.

I sold my first novel from the ship, out at sea - This is My Blood - to Transylvania Press. It never came out, but on the face of that, I was able to come to the Star Trek table with a contracted novel - and sold my Star Trek novel on a proposal. With the strength of that, I was able to sell a novel, and a trilogy in quick succession to White Wolf for their World of Darkness books. To put this in perspective - at one point in time I had six novels sold, and none of those involved with buying them (other than Robert 18-Bisang of Transylvania Press, who ended up NOT publishing that book) had read more than a short proposal. Very odd situation indeed, and one that I took quick advantage of.

Along the way I worked on my title shot as most-recommended author competing for the Bram Stoker Award without ever making the final ballot. I'm still working on that. I have well over a hundred short stories sold or in print, and more on the way - and things are looking good. I have a woman I love very much who is every bit as talented an author as I am, and a hell of an editor - which I need. I have a houseful of cats and kids that love me, and a future that looks brighter by the day. As bios go - this has been rambling, and not short - so -- next question?

Q: What is the most appealing thing about horror fiction for you?

DAVE: I'm not sure there is one thing about horror fiction that appeals to me. What many people call horror fiction has little appeal at all. I don't like graphic stories for graphic's sake. I don't like formulaic fiction. I think that what I like is a surrealistic approach to fiction, and this seems to lend itself more easily to the creative mind than straight mystery, or adventure fiction would. When you can bend the perceptions of the characters and readers in ways that reality is loathe to comply with, you can create conflict and insight that is often clearer in its message.

You can say, for example, that a serial killer you see on television was mistreated in their childhood, delineating the abuse and explaining the horrors inflicted by fanatical parents or intolerable situations, but it comes across flat. Unless you can take your own imagination and fill in the details, then it never becomes real, and the insight you might gain from the facts presented is limited. What horror fiction allows, in such an instance, is a caricature of the situation. You can put your perceptions of the situation into perspective for others by triangulating the thoughts and processes of all the characters involved, and you can be the logic, or illogic, behind their actions and reactions.

If you want to write a story of dominant aggressive passion, you can write your character as a vampire, or a sorcerer -- a voodoo priest -- someone whose control over a situation can be symbolic and powerful, using archetypal images and magnifying the story beyond itself, you create a world just different enough from reality that the emotions can feel strong, and real, but detached enough from the reader's own world that they are safe. Still that line can be very fine, and there are those who will read something I've written and mistake the actions and perceptions of the characters for my own. Sometimes they are closely modeled on my own thoughts, but always, they are unique to the character and the story.

In a nutshell, the tools and creative material available to the dark fantasist are more complete, for my own style, than those of other genres.

Q: Some writers say that what they write doesn't have much to do with themselves-others say that their writing is very much influenced by their own experiences. How is this with you?

DAVE: I have a two-fold belief on this. I believe that you can't write about life if you don't experience it. I believe that my own fiction breathes the past I've lived - and I am grateful for the choices I made early on that led me to the US Navy, foreign countries, a bike club, and myriad other activities and places that have formed the man I am today. I don't believe that you have to write only things you know - but I do believe you have to experience enough things that you can put your mind into a situation and sort of character-act the reactions and emotions they might feel in your mind.

So - I say, yes, you should whenever possible write from your own experience, and you should broaden that experience at every opportunity. You should be open to interaction with people of all types and lifestyles because you can't write about something you have no experience of with authority.

On the other hand, a vast array of experience of life can prepare you to write about things you have not experienced, and do so with an authenticity others can't reach. It's all, as in most things, a matter of perceptions.

Q: Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?

DAVE: I love short stories. I believe I may be better at short stories than I am at novels, but that might not be true, because I've just not published enough novels yet to be certain I've found my "voice." Most of the novels have been in other people's universes, Star Trek and White Wolf, and only This is My Blood, which many people consider too "literary" for horror, and the upcoming (I hope) Deep Blue, are my own creations from start to finish.

The work I've been most satisfied with has been shorter, though it grows longer each year. I started out writing 2500 word stories, then moved to an average of about 4K -- and these days I'm lucky to come in under 10K, so maybe I'm maturing toward novels.

I've always compared novels to a feature film, while short stories are more like photographs. You have all the background surrounding the story, but you can't dwell on it. You have to paint just enough of it to frame your image and leave the rest to the reader. In the novel, you can draw the characters and settings more fully - complicate the plots all you want - and still have time to draw it all back together. In the short story, you have a single point to make, and every word and line has to work toward that point without leaving things dangling to bother the reader at the end.

Q: How did you get involved with writing one of the STAR TREK VOYAGER books (#12, CHRYSALIS)? And how different was it writing characters that were already established?

DAVE: I was in the right place at the right time. When John Ordover announced they were going to do the Voyager novels, prior to the first episode airing, I was there. I was on line on the Genie on-line service and saw the message pretty much the moment he posted it. I immediately e-mailed him, and got the shot at sending in proposals. By the time they accepted my proposal, I actually had to argue with the people at Paramount because the proposal was written from their paperwork and their guidelines, which had come out prior to the airing of the series. By the time my proposal reached Paramount, a lot had already changed as the series evolved.

It was both easier, and more difficult to write the novel itself. I borrowed the alien culture partly from a story my close friend John Rosenman wrote (His story was titled "No Dominion"). I loved the show itself, so I was easily able to put myself into the voices and actions of the characters, and in very non-typical Dave Wilson style - I had an outline from start to finish. That is why it was easier.

It was harder because it started to seem more like an assignment than a creative work. I had a deadline, an outline, rules I had to follow, and somehow it wasn't the same as just sitting down and writing until I fell asleep at the keyboard. I had to make myself work on it, and I have never had that problem with writing before. I guess what I'm saying is, I love to write, but writing for a series you didn't create is more like being in the band behind a rock-star than it is like being on stage and performing your own music.

Q: ) You've also written a trilogy of vampire books. What do you think the appeal is about vampires ?

DAVE: What is there not to like about vampires - at least the modern version? Sexy, powerful, all goth and no play, dangerous and enticing. I think they tug on strings attached to that part of the human psyche that wants to live forever. They represent power and age - dark power - and we can stake them and put them back in the box when we're done with the fantasy.

The original vampires were a lot less enticing, grisly bony creatures with flaccid dead skin, leaping on unsuspecting passersby (particularly still living family members) and chowed down. We've shifted things to our liking, and now we have Spike and Angel, a Vlad Tepes that we can forget as the man who took whole armies and lofted them on wooden stakes to let them slid down slowly as he sat beneath them and enjoyed his lunch. We have, in short, taken wild, crazy party animals and given them dark clothes and fangs so they can run around all night being evil (in a fun way). Vampires have hit the full spectrum of our fantasies, and these days they are mostly just characters who happen to be vampires in stories where the central focus is no longer biting, eating and staking. They change with the times better than any classic monster, and I think you'll find that vampires are here to stay, despite the continuing announcements of the end of their road.

Q: What is the weirdest true-life thing that happened to you that if you wrote it down would read like fiction?

DAVE: I could name off dozens and dozens of things. I was in the Navy in a time when (and I don't care what they tell you, I was there) about 85 percent of all men and women in that particular branch of the service used some form of chemical - those who didn't do drugs drank. Just a fact - it was a different age. One of my favorite stories was when a friend of mine and I, Jamie Meyers (wonder if he'll find this?) went out with some friends - destination? Honolulu Hawaii.

We found a bar where they played loud rock and roll music and the local bikers hung out, and we found some LSD. (Yep, it was a long time ago, and I did it….wouldn't trade that for the world). We started out across the island, about five strong, and ran into some of the oddest situations I have EVER seen. I won't dwell on the part where we had to carry a five foot tall, frothing-at-the-mouth radioman named Scotty Laporte screaming away from two huge Samoan's climbing out of a Volkswagen to kick our collective butts as Scotty screamed that if it weren't for us, they'd still live in grass huts. I won't talk about how we went searching for Maui Wowie and ended up getting lost in a stairway (yes, really happened). I'll go on to where it ended up with only two of us left - Jamie, and myself, looking for cheap beer, stoned - tripping - and high on - um…...other substances.

We found a bar we'd not seen to that point about midnight. I have no idea where the others were at this point, though we all ended up in a park by the beach, sleeping beneath a Toyota tank before the night was over. Jamie and I went into this no-name bar, and we ordered long-neck Budweiser. Not good beer, but cold, and PRAISE THE LORD only $2.50 a bottle. We were in shock. Hawaii is expensive, and the beer had proven to follow suit. ALSO noted - this bar was FULL of women. So it started.

By the time we'd gotten our beer, seated ourselves beyond the pool table, and taken a better look around, we realized all was not well in Mudville. At the pool table, two women were fighting, one wielding a pool cue, and the other looking decidedly like a linebacker in a dress. We looked around more carefully. There were "women" of every size, shape, and gender - if you take my meaning - and now they had noticed us as well. I looked at Jamie. Jamie looked at me - we both looked at our $2.50 Budweisers and shrugged. Sometimes, as Tom Cruise noted in Risky Business, you just have to say "what the fuck."

That night grew more and more bizarre. I met an actual woman who was an actress in a local stage group. Most of the others were either men dressed as women, men TRYING to dress like women, women with women - or mixtures of the above. I'll never forget when this bombshell blonde sat on Jamie's lap, leaned in close and whispered in his ear to ask if he liked her breasts. He nearly drooled and nodded. The answer, in a deep, bass voice (grin) was - "YOU SHOULD….THEY COST ME 2500 BUCKS."

I don't remember all of that night, but I came back to the ship with names signed all over a white linen shirt in red lipstick and images implanted that never faded. I haven't used this in a story, but I am certain - in some place, some way - I will.

Good question.

Q: Who is YOUR favorite horror author?

DAVE: I hate this question. I read in binges. I read an author to death, then I move on - I love a lot of different authors, some with very different styles.

Let me break it down this way:

Influences: Peter Straub - Shadowlands was my favorite single novel and the trilogy of Koko - Mystery - and The Throat I cite as the best example of an author working on all levels at once I've ever read. Stephen King - The story THE MANGLER is the best example I can give of what it means to cause the reader to suspend disbelief - try explaining that story to someone who hasn't read it if you don't believe it. Kathe Koja - prose written as endless, pain-drenched poetry. A lot of people don't like her fiction - I love it.

Favorite newer authors (novelists) - China Mieville - Poppy Brite - (she isn't that new, but her work is always fresh) - Caitlin Kiernan (very literary - I'm jealous of her background and her insights).

Favorite poets? (Yes, I actually read and like poetry) - Byron - Poe - Longellow - and J. R. R. Tolkein - because the road DOES go ever on and on , and certainly all that glitters is not gold.

Q: Anything you want to add ?

My own website is under reconstruction, but still functional: It's at www.chateauxshadeaux.com - The Horror Writer's Association is www.horror.org

Anyone looking for a good deal on antique books, or junk of any type can find me selling either with my beautiful, loving soon-to-be-wife Patricia Macober at user ID mystyquekitten - or with my partners at junquetion and bookworm55@springmail.com

My final thought is from an old Zen saying I have taken to heart:

Life is painful - Suffering is optional

find information about David Niall Wilson at imdb.com find horror stuff by David Niall Wilson

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