Please click here for the German version of this interview.

 

Hi Tad,

first of all I want to thank you for becoming part of our interview section.

Let’s start with our classic first question: Who is this guy named Tad Williams?

I’m a storyteller, primarily. And, in this part of my life, definitely a father, which is also very important to me. But I’ve been a storyteller ever since childhood, when I discovered that any explanation is better with a little re-arrangement of details for drama and humor. I’m also a Californian, which is a big part of my heritage, both in the open-mindedness with which I was raised and my love for the beautiful place I live. And I think I’m a kind person, or at least I always try to be.

Many people were hoping for it, others denied it will ever happen but finally, after 20 years, you’ve returned to Osten Ard. Your readers were more than excited when “The Heart of what was lost” had been released. How did it come? Are the new novels fan service or did you have the feeling that there still was something you needed to tell?

More like thirty, actually: I started writing the Osten Ard books in the mid-80s, after my publishers bought my first book, Tailchaser’s Song.

People had been asking me for years if I would ever write sequels to any of my major works, and I always said, “Not unless I have a story to tell.” At one point, while trying to explain to my more business-savvy wife why I COULDN’T just come up with a story set in Osten Ard, I reflected how long it had been since I wrote the originals, and how I had changed. That started me thinking about what a similar length of time and change of circumstances would do to the characters I’d created in the MS&T books, and then the story started to make itself known.

“The Witchwood Crown” is the first part of a new trilogy. Do the readers have to know the other Osten-Ard-novels or can they start with “The Witchwood Crown” without knowing “MEMORY, SORROW AND THORN”?

I think people will enjoy it more if they’ve read the originals, but it’s by no means necessary. I’ve tried to bring new readers up to speed with events from the earlier books as part of the new story, and I think the new series can definitely be read by itself. Some may even go back to the originals AFTER reading the new ones, and that’s fine too.

You’ve written 26 novels and novelettes so far. Most of them belong to the fantasy genre. What is so special about fantasy for you?

In the beginning I wrote fantasy because it was something I loved and knew well, because I thought I could discern more easily whether I was any good at writing or not, and because I’d been reading a bunch of post-Tolkien fantasy I found a bit simplistic or even just boring. Like many artists, I thought, “I can do that at least as well as some of the people who are making a living at this,” and then did my best to prove I was right.

Could you imagine to write something completely different? A crime novel or a thriller maybe?

Oh, absolutely. I can imagine myself being something other than a writer, even. I just want to make things for people, tell stories, invent characters and worlds, then share them. I could have been a film director, an animator, a playwright, a musician, any number of things, and been happy. As it turned out, though, writing was probably the best (and luckiest) choice because I like the alone-time and working at my own pace without having to worry about what other people are doing.

There is a MMORPG based on your “Otherland”-series. Have you been involved in that project?

I was very involved in it for the first years, but then we went through a business tragedy (unrelated to the game) and the last stage of funding fell through. After that the game was sold to a new studio, delayed for several years, and I haven’t had much of anything to do with it since then. That was a great disappointment, as initially I was very involved and very proud of what was being done. If we’d been able to finish it properly, I think it would have been a truly great MMORPG.

You’re often called the “21st centuries J.R.R. Tolkien” and great writers like George R.R. Martin announce that your books inspired their work. I think having that reputation might be hard sometimes, especially concerning the expectations your readers have. How do you deal with that?

Expectations, like reviews (good or bad) are something I tend to ignore. Not because I don’t care, but because it’s easy for me to care too much. The more I worry about what people think of me or my work, the less I’m thinking about the work itself, and the more I’m letting outside ideas influence my decisions. I’m very pleased that anyone considers my work important, and I think I’m pretty good at what I do, but that’s truly about as far as I let it into my mind. Just writing long, complicated books and raising a family and all that normal stuff takes up plenty of time and energy already, thank you.

When I look at your Facebook account it seems like you’re a very political person. Is it important to you to share your opinions with your fans? And doesn’t it result in problems like “You’ve got a different point of view, I don’t buy your books anymore” sometimes?

I think anyone who reads my books has a pretty good idea of my politics already — I’m a humanist and a big believer in kindness and patience. I hate bullies. I dislike greed. But I try even in my most political moments to distinguish between political groups that I oppose and the humans in those groups, most of whom I’d get along with just fine in any ordinary situation. My social media presence would be a lie if I never reacted to things that upset me or hearten me, and I don’t lie to anyone if I can help it — even in interviews!

Let’s get a little more personal. How can we imagine a normal day in your life?

I get up most days between nine and ten and wander around the house for an hour or so like a reptile trying to find some direct sunlight, waiting for my blood to start moving. I help that with coffee. I do some social media and read online news, then usually go somewhere and start thinking about what I’m going to write. (I work best when I do my thinking before sitting down to actually write fiction.) When I feel like I’m ready, I sit back down at my computer — usually in the afternoon — and blaze through 6 to 10 pages, which goes pretty fast because I’ve already considered and done thought-experiments with the main points of what I want to do. I occasionally take a break to go make fun of our cats, dogs, or children, then wander back to work. The evenings are usually family time. After the rest have gone to bed I stay up late thinking, often about work, and don’t usually get to sleep until almost three in the morning.

How do you work? Ink and feather in your personal dungeon with dragon heads covering the walls or at the computer in your office?

My office is in the downstairs of our house, a nice wide room with a lot of windows looking out over our yard/property, which is quite large and fairly wild. We have tons of trees and there are lots of native animals around, rabbits, turkeys, squirrels, all kinds of birds and insects and butterflies and lizards. The older I get, the more I appreciate what is all around me.

What inspires you for your stories?

Anything and everything, to be honest, or at least I can find potential stories virtually anywhere. Ideas have come from dreams, from other people’s chance comments, from obscure things I’ve read in books, and even from my reactions to pieces of music. Sometimes, as with the new Osten Ard story, the inspiration comes from arguments I have with myself. “Well, why CAN’T you do that? What if you turn the whole thing upside down, Tad, and think about it that way?“

Do you have any idols?

Lots, mostly in writing, music, and the arts, but probably too many to list. My idols are not all perfect people and I don’t aspire to be just like them, but I am especially admiring when they couple creativity with kindness and a regard for other living things. The closest things to proper “idols” would probably be the big influences I had growing up, like the Beatles, the creators of Marvel Comics, and JRR Tolkien, but some of that is pure nostalgia, the memory of what it was like to find things that seemed perfect to me at the time, and which formed my idea of what creativity meant.

The famous lonely island question: If you were allowed to take only three books with you to a lonely island, which ones would it be?

To be frank, the answer depends on whether I’m ever coming back. If I am, I might take something like the Christian Bible just so I could learn it more completely — I was raised without religion, pretty much, and I’ve always felt I wanted to know the Bible better just as a major cultural touchstone. But if I’m packing for pure pleasure, I would want a complete set of Shakespeare plays (if that counts as a single volume) and the Lord of the Rings and perhaps Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. Failing one of those, I might take Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow”, a long-time favorite and a wonderfully dense hunk of thought.

How long does it take you to finish a new novel?

— Depends how long it is. A short one like the Bobby Dollar books I can write in about six months or so. Long ones like the new Osten Ard series, a year to a year and a half. I’m actually pretty fast by the standards of my own genre.

What would be your first advice to people who think about becoming a writer?

— Don’t do it to make money. Don’t think about the “market” — write a story you’d want to read and then let it find an audience of like-minded people. If you want to write genre fiction, read mostly OUTSIDE of the genre. In fact, read a lot of non-fiction, history and science, no matter what you want to write. And then WRITE. It’s amazing how many people say they want to write and then don’t do it. It’s like wanting to exercise but never getting off the couch. Writing is a skill, but it’s also about stamina. Just like building muscle, you have to write to create those neural pathways so that the process gets easier and you can get out of your own way and work with the ideas, not just techniques. Technique by itself doesn’t make a good story.

What can we expect from Tad Williams in the future? Are there new projects you already can talk about?

To be honest, this is one of the few times when I literally don’t have any idea what I’m doing next, because I’ve still got the end of the second volume to write, then the third volume and another short Osten Ard novel as well. After I’m done with Osten Ard I’m really not sure, except that I’m sure I’ll be writing SOMETHING. Because I have to tell stories. I just can’t help it.

So that’s it. Thanks again for taking the time for this interview. Is there anything left you would like to say to your German readers?

I’m going to be touring in Germany (and other countries) again this October, and am really looking forward to meeting my readers and my friends once more. Auf wiedersehen!

Sebastian

Ich bin hier auf dem Blog zuständig für alles, bei dem es ordentlich knallt und bei dem eine Menge Blut fließt. Soll heißen, mein Fokus bei Filmen und Büchern liegt auf Action, Thrillern und Horror. Davon ab bin ich aber auch anderen Genres nicht abgeneigt, SciFi und Fantasy findet sich ebenso wie eher ruhige Titel unter meinen Favoriten.

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