Monday, October 19, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: William Meikle


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, William.  Welcome to The Gal and thank you for being a part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

William Meikle:
I'm Willie, Scottish but now in Canada, and I write pulpy adventure stories in the main, with big beasties, men with guns, occult detectives, lost worlds, things from beyond, slime, ghosts, more beasties and more slime.  And beer.  I have 20 novels and over 300 stories published in the likes of Dark Regions PressDarkFuse, and Chaosium with many more still to come.  And did I mention beer?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

William Meikle:
I've been playing guitar badly since 1973, I have a degree in Botany (no, I don't know anything about gardening), I ran naked through Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow on my stag night, I'm left handed, and I sang in a madrigal choir when I was a lad.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

William Meikle:
First that wasn't Enid Blyton or a comic was, I believe, Treasure Island, which has remained a favorite ever since - 50 years ago now.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

William Meikle:
Just finished Tim Powers' Hide Me Among the Graves - a favorite writer, and a great romp in one of my favorite locales, Dickensian London.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

William Meikle:
I didn't chose writing, it chose me.  The urge to write is more of a need, a similar addiction to the one I used to have for cigarettes and still have for beer.  It's always been there, in the background.  I wrote short stories at school, and dabbled a couple of times over the years, but it wasn't until I was in my 30s that it really took hold.
            Back in the very early '90s I had an idea for a story...I hadn't written much of anything since the mid-70s at school, but this idea wouldn't leave me alone.  I had an image in my mind of an old man watching a young woman's ghost.  That image grew into a story, that story grew into other stories, and before I knew it I had an obsession in charge of my life.
            So it all started with a little ghost story, Dancers; one that ended up winning a prize in a national ghost story competition, getting turned into a short movie, getting read on several radio stations, getting published in Greek, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew, and getting reprinted in The Weekly News in Scotland.
            Since then I've sold over 300 short stories, including appearances in the likes of NATURE Futures, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Mag, among many others, and I've had 23 novels published in the horror and fantasy genre presses in the USA, with more coming over the next few years.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

William Meikle:
We live in a fishing village up on the eastern coast of Newfoundland, and I have a view out over a bay.  There's sea, gulls, an occasional iceberg in spring, bald eagles in summer, whales offshore in autumn, and a lot of weather in winter.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

William Meikle:
Nope.  I put my bum on the seat and I write until I'm done writing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

William Meikle:
For me it's mainly inspiration.  I wouldn't write at all if the ideas didn't present themselves in my head.  I find I get a lot of ideas clamouring for attention all at once.  I write them down in a notebook that never leaves my side, and sometimes one of them gathers a bit more depth, and I get a clearer image.  At this stage I find myself thinking about it almost constantly, until a plot, or an ending, clarifies itself.
            Once I've written down where the story should be going, it quiets down a bit.  Then, if I find myself still thinking about it a couple of days later, I'll probably start writing the actual story.  At any given time I have about 20 ideas waiting for clarity, two or three of which might end up as finished works.
            That's the inspiration part.  And that continues when I start putting the words on paper.  I've tried writing outlines, both for short stories and novels, but I've never stuck to one yet.  My fingers get a direct line to the muse and I continually find myself being surprised at the outcome.  Thanks to South Park, I call them my "Oh shit, I've killed Kenny" moments, and when they happen, I know I'm doing the right thing.
            There is also a certain amount of perspiration, especially in writing a novel.  But I find if it feels too much like work, I'm heading in the wrong direction and it usually ends up in the recycle bin.
            And, yes, there's a certain degree of desperation in that I want to get better, to make the big sale, to see my name in lights, all that happy stuff.  But I try not to think about that too much. :)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

William Meikle:
Tarzan is the second novel I remember reading.  I quickly read everything of Burroughs I could find.  Then I devoured, WellsDumasVerne and Haggard.  I moved on to Conan Doyle before I was twelve, and Professor Challenger's adventures in spiritualism led me, almost directly, to Dennis WheatleyAlgernon Blackwood, and then on to Lovecraft.  Then Stephen King came along in the early '70s.
            There's a separate but related thread of a deep love of detective novels running parallel to this, as Conan Doyle also gave me Holmes, then I moved on to ChristieChandlerHammettRoss MacDonald and Ed Mccain, reading everything by them I could find.
            Mix all that lot together, add a hefty slug of heroic fantasy from HowardLeiber and Moorcock, a sprinkle of fast moving Scottish thrillers from John Buchan and Alistair MacLean, and a final pinch of piratical swashbuckling.  Leave to marinate for fifty years an what do you get?
            A psyche with deep love of the weird in its most basic forms, and the urge to beat up monsters.
            As for the actual favorites...here's five.  Ask me tomorrow and you'll get a different list. :)

Falling Angel - William Hjortsberg
The House on the Borderland - William Hope Hodgson
The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett
The Broken Sword - Poul Anderson
The Anubis Gates - Tim Powers

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

William Meikle:
There's really only one thing - character.  If you can write characters that readers are willing to follow, then you can tell any story you like.  But if you're going to push me for more - the other two I'd go for would be interesting plots and satisfying endings.  Like all good things, the secret is in the mix.  Some recipes call for more or less of one of the main three ingredients, but if you can get the balance right, you'll take the reader along with you for the ride.
            I try to make my characters believable, try to have them speak and act the way real people would in the situations where they find themselves.  Then, once I've got a rounded character and brought them to life, I put them in trouble and see what they're made of.  It's a formula that I've been following for a whole now, and it works for me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

William Meikle:
Belief in them as a person - that's really all it needs.  I don't need to love them, I just need to understand their motivations.  As for utilizing that - I try to make my characters speak and react as real people would in the situations I put them in.  I've been told I get it right more often than not, so that'll do for me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

William Meikle:
My series character, Glasgow PI Derek Adams, is a Bogart and Chandler fan, and it is the movies and Americana of the '40s that I find a lot of my inspiration for him, rather than in the modern procedural.
            That, and the old city, are the two main drivers for the Midnight Eye stories.
            When I was a lad, back in the early 1960s, we lived in a town 20 miles south of Glasgow, and it was an adventure to the big city when I went with my family on shopping trips.  Back then the city was a Victorian giant going slowly to seed.  Back when I was young, the shipyards were still going strong, and the city centre itself still held on to some of its past glories.
            It was a warren of tall sandstone buildings and narrow streets, with Edwardian trams still running through them.  The big stories still had pneumatic delivery systems for billing, every man wore a hat, collar and tie, and steam trains ran into grand vaulted railway stations filled with smoke.
            Fast forward to the present day.  The tower blocks are ruled by drug gangs and pimps.  Meanwhile there have been many attempts to gentrify the city centre, with designer shops being build in old warehouses, with docklands developments building expensive apartments where sailors used to get services from hard faced girls, and with shiny, trendy bars full of glossy expensively dressed bankers.  And underneath it all, the old Glasgow still lies, slumbering, a dreaming god waiting for the stars to be right again.
            Derek Adams, The Midnight Eye, knows the ways of the old city.  And, if truth be told, he prefers them to the new.
            Everybody in Scotland's got stories to tell, and once you get them going, you can't stop them.  I love chatting to people (usually in pubs) and finding out the - weird - shit they've experienced.  Derek is mainly based on a bloke I met years ago in a bar in Patrick, and quite a few of the characters that turn up and talk too much in my books can be found in real life in bars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and St. Andrews.
            He's turned up in three novels so far, The AmuletThe Sirens and The Skin Game, all out now in ebook at all the usual online stores and in shiny new paperback editions, with a hardcover omnibus edition coming in late 2016.  There's also a handful of short stories, and a film script doing the rounds that I really hope gets picked up at some point.
            Derek has developed a life of his own, and I'm along for the ride.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

William Meikle:
Most definitely, and with the explosion of self-publishing there are some real stinkers out there.  They say not to judge a book by the cover, but in many cases these ays, you have to - an amateur cover will lose out in my reading pile over a well designed one every time.
            I'm lucky in that my publishers pay for high quality artists, but I do get a say, usually working with them on their initial concept sketches to make sure their vision and mine match up, at least enough to get a striking image out of it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

William Meikle:
I've learned that if I write for myself, and write what I love, then people will come along for the ride.  I've also learned that I'll be criticized for it by people who don't get it.  Willie Meikle is..."the author of the most cited, derivative drivel imaginable...the critical acclaim he receives from his peers is virtually non-existent" is only one of the responses I've had.  Now, I don't write for the critical acclaim of my peers.  I couldn't give a toss what other writers think of me.  I'm writing for two reasons...myself and a readership.  Posterity, if there is one, can decide on whether it's any good or not.  Besides, the harder I work at it making my writing accessible, the more readers I get, so I'm doing something right.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

William Meikle:
Honestly, I don't have one in particular.  Some things come fast, other things come slow, some are dredged up from emotions, others are just pure adrenaline and big budget action sequences.  But all are fun - if they weren't, I wouldn't do it.  I'm not a masochist. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

William Meikle:
That's a hard one.  Short answer is, I'm a throwback, to high adventure, good solid chaps with stiff upper lips, nasty monsters and excitement.  I value story above anything else.  That makes me a pariah in some circles in my chosen genres, and a hero in others.  It's swings and roundabouts.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

William Meikle:
I'm absolutely terrible at titles - almost all of my original ones have been subsequently changed by the publishers.  There's a tendency in horror circles to have "The" titles, like The Shining, The Reaping, The Omen, The Exorcist, etc, etc... but I can't seem to come up with he right ones.  At least the publishers manage it for me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

William Meikle:
To me it's all just writing.  The story itself dictates its own length.  The end format is just another method for me to deliver the story.  I've been published in all lengths, in print, ebook, audio, and on film and I've read stories at storytelling evenings in a variety of bars.  I'm sure when the time comes for media to get delivered straight into people's brains that I'll be ready with something to publish that way, too.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

William Meikle:
I've been asked many times why I write what I do.  I choose to write mainly at the pulpy end of the market, populating my stories with monsters, myths, men who like to drink and smoke, and more monsters.  People who like this sort of thing like it.
            I've written horror, fantasy, science fiction, crime, westerns and thrillers.  Plus the subgenera, like ghost stories, occult detectives, creature features, sword and sorcery, etc.  But I don't really think of them as being different.  It's all adventure fiction for boys who've grown up, but stayed boys.  Like me.
            I write to escape.
            I grew up on a West of Scotland council estate and I spent a lot of time alone or at my grandparent's house.  My Granddad was housebound, and a voracious reader.  I got the habit from him, and through him I discovered the Pan Books of Horror and Lovecraft, but I also discovered westerns, science fiction, war novels and the likes of Mickey Spillane, Ed Mccain, Alistair MacLean, Dennis Wheatley, Nigel Tranter, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov.  When you mix all that together with DC Comics, Tarzan, Gerry Anderson and Dr. Who then, later on, Hammer and Universal movies on the BBC, you can see how the pulp became embedded in my psyche.
            I think you have to have grown up with pulp to -get- it.  A lot of writers have been told that pulp = bad plotting and that you have to have deep psychological insight in your work for it to be valid.  They've also been told that pulp = bad writing, and they believe it.  Whereas I remember the joy I got from early Moorcock, from Mickey Spillane and further back, A.E. Merritt and H. Rider Haggard.  I'd love to have a chance to write a Tarzan, John Carter, Allan Quartermaine, Mike Hammer or Conan novel, whereas a lot of writers I know would sniff and turn their noses up at the very thought of it.
            I write to escape.
            I haven't managed it yet, but I'm working on it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

William Meikle:
The main one I can think of is of a sex maniac who realizes he likes young kids.  I could imagine a pedophile getting a kick out of reading git, and wouldn't be able to live with myself if I thought anything I'd written led to harm to a child, so it's gone - forever, never to be seen again.
            Apart from that, there's a whole chapter somewhere of the Watchers vampire trilogy where vamps invalid London in the present day in a kind of flash forward vision - very detailed, very graphic - very lost.  I had a corrupted disk and lost both the chapter and the backup, and never did get round to writing it again.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

William Meikle:
No trunk novels - I've sold them all, apart from the very first, which has subsequently been chopped up and reused, bits of it being seeded through numerous other stories and novels.
            I have a trunk idea, for a huge sprawling fantasy epic about a seafaring tribe of whale worshippers, a mirror magic cult and an evil empire.  It's all planned out in my head, but it'd be 5 or 6 books and I've never found time to write it.  If anybody ever wants to sub me a huge advance, I'll get round to it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

William Meikle:
I've had a run of good news from one of my publishers, Dark Renaissance, and I can now announce what's coming from them, and other publishers, in the future.
            The Dark Renaissance books should all be in hardcover, paperback and, eventually, ebook, and will feature the artwork of the great Wayne Miller, with whom I'm building up quite an impressive shelf of books.
  • Late 2015: Pentacle (novella)/DarkFuse
  • Late 2015: The House on the Moors (novella)/Dark Renaissance
  • Early 2016: Watchers (Omnibus reprint)/Dark Renaissance
  • Mid 2016: Berserker (short novel)/Dark Renaissance
  • Late 2016: Sherlock Holmes: The Dreaming Man (short novel)/Dark Renaissance
  • Early 2017: The Midnight Eye Files (Omnibus reprint)/Dark Renaissance
I'm also waiting for news from DarkFuse on whether they've accepted a new novel, Fungoid, I have 2 more novels to write for them under my current contract, I've got a Nessie versus Kraken and Vikings thing brewing and I'm in talks with Dark Renaissance for two further collections of supernatural short stories featuring new characters and some old favorites and a possible pulpy surprise for you all round about Xmas.
            And that's just the books that are coming.  Theres also a lot of short stories in the pipeline.  Too many to mention here, but the highlights are another appearance, my 5th, in Nature Futures, a new Carnacki novel in The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Tales, and a short sharing space with Nancy Collins, Graham Masteron, Tim Lebbon and many more coming from Gray Matter Press.  Along with more stories in Chaosium and Dark Regions Press anthem the future is still shiny and bright.
            Busy, busy, busy.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

William Meikle:
I have a newsletter which is where all the books and story appearances are announced.  Apart from that, I mostly hang out on Facebook.  Mostly.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by, William.  It was great having you here. 
            Before you go, do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

William Meikle:
Thanks for having me and for giving me a chance to waffle on.  I think you'll get the gist of who I am and what I'm all about from my answers - at least I hope so, and I hope I've whetted your appetite enough for you to check out my work.


About the author:
William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.  He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, DarkFuse and Dark Renaissance, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines with recent sales to NATURE Futures, Penumbra, and Buzzy Mag, among others.  He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company.  When he's not writing, he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.

2 comments:

Jon Recluse said...

Excellent interview between two of my favorite people!

Meghan H said...

Aww, shucks! Thanks, Jon. He was a pleasure to interview.