ActuSF : You made loads of things before becoming a writer. What gave you the certainty you were made for writing ?
Tad Williams : Nothing, really. I've always been a storyteller, but writing was the first of the many creative things that I actually made enough money at to turn into a career. If I'd made a record or a film first that made money, that might have been my direction.
ActuSF : What kind of books do you appreciate reading ? What are your favorite authors and books ?
Tad Williams : I love almost all kinds of writing, and although I've always read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, I read plenty of non-fiction -- history, science -- and other kinds of books. I grew up on Tolkien, Bradbury, Sturgeon, Zelazny, Le Guin, PK Dick, Fritz Leiber, and Michael Moorcock, to name a few, but my favorite writers today are often history writers or mainstream novelists like Thomas Pynchon.
ActuSF : Do you still have free time for reading ?
Tad Williams : Not as much as I like, but I use every spare moment I can find. I still value time with a good book more than most other things.
ActuSF : The War of flowers has just been translated in French, four years after it had been published in the USA. Do you give a particular importance to the quality of the work of translation ? Is this something you want to keep an eye on ?
Tad Williams : I am paying more attention to translations -- and to non-English markets in general -- than I used to, but I still have to rely on my publishers. I speak some French, Spanish, and German, but I don't think I'm good enough with any of them to make judgments on translation, which is a very complex and specialized art.
ActuSF : Theo Vilmos is a hero who gives the feeling of being quite lost and inappropriate in the real world. Was it your will to create a character much more loser than heroic ?
Tad Williams : Yeah. Theo's a bit like me if I hadn't had the lucky breaks and the supportive family. He's trying his best, though, so I still find him likeable. He's essentially human, no matter what his background, and
humans are fallible.
ActuSF : The terrible child is a very mysterious character. What does he really represent for you ?
Tad Williams : The idea of family connection without love, I guess -- something I find very upsetting. And of course, power without compassion. Bad combination.
ActuSF : Faery is a very complicated world with its own rules very different of what we are used to. What were your real purposes creating Faery ? What are the feys for you ?
Tad Williams : Well, we've been fascinated with the idea of Faery for thousands of years. I just wanted to put a different spin on it. And I suppose there's a satirical angle, as there almost always in my work. I don't believe you can write a really good book without any humor at all. That's just my own response to the human condition. Sometimes it may be bleak humor, but there's always humor.
ActuSF : For some aspects, Faery is very much alike our world, but it ends in a civil war. Is civil war something that you dread in particular ? Do you believe in rebellion for changing society ?
Tad Williams : I tend to distrust simple solutions. The idea that "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist" is very strong for me. I don't endorse violent solutions, but sometimes it's hard to see any other way. It's almost never just black and white, us or them, right or wrong. When is clinging to the law, ANY law, better than risking anarchy to try to change things ? It's a tough question, and I don't have a one-size-fits-all answer. No one should...
ActuSF : Now, please tell us about Shadowmarch.
Tad Williams : SHADOWMARCH -- I'm talking about the whole thing, all three volumes (in English, anyway) -- is a return to what is sometimes called "High Fantasy". I was interested to go back to some of these tropes and see how differently they came out this time, after having stayed away from this particular sub-genre for most of the last fifteen or twenty years. It's also a story about family -- about, as in the title of one of Mike Leigh's best films, "secrets and lies".
ActuSF : How was born the idea of Shadowmarch ?
Tad Williams : It started out long ago with me thinking of ideas about a fantasy film, feature-length. I decided the form might work better on television, where you had time to explore a created world (although I'd settle four three very long films, like Peter Jackson's LORD OF THE RINGS). The deal to do it as television fell apart, but I still wanted to do the story. I started it on the internet as a serial, but eventually it wound up a book.
ActuSF : Do you remember the first time when you imagined the mist barrier ?
Tad Williams : No, although it would have been pretty early, when I was still thinking of it as a potential setting for a television show. I liked the idea of a castle on the edge of the world -- on the edge of two worlds, actually -- where the action would come to the protagonists, instead of them traveling to the action, which is the usual mode in quest fantasy.
ActuSF : What did you like in Shadowmarch ? What did you feel like doing ?
Tad Williams : As I mentioned earlier, I really liked working with the idea of family -- as a metaphor, but also as a real thing. Family is the cauldron of everything that makes us who we are. It's the place we first learn the myths of humanity. It's the place we develop our ideas of society and also the order of the cosmos. It's what you stand on (or run from) the whole of your life.
ActuSF : How would you position Shadowmarch compared with Memory, Sorrow & Thorn ? Do you view it as a continuation of your work ?
All my work is connected, but not explicitly. As I get older, I realize I'm an old dog with old tricks, not because I can't learn any new ones -- I'm better at that than most -- but because the same things that fascinated me all my life are still my main interests. I just do my best not to investigate those things in the same way every time...!
ActuSF : You started publishing on line one chapter every other week. Even if the project has never been fulfilled, do you feel like trying other on line writing experiences in the future ?
Tad Williams : I'd love to do something like that again -- maybe even more interactive next time. I would have done it another couple of years, happily, but we couldn't make enough money doing it. We're still in the early stages of this sort of thing. Yeah, I'd do it again, and probably will someday.
ActuSF : Have you resumed entirely the chapters published on the internet ?
Tad Williams : I'm not sure what you mean by "resumed". If you mean "rewrote", yes, everything originally published online was rewritten for the book version, and a lot of new stuff was added, including one of the main plotlines, which didn't even exist online. Also, I had a better idea of how the world worked by the time I was doing the book version, so I added a lot more mythology and history.
ActuSF : You've just completed Shadowplay. What can you tell the French readers to make them want to read you ?
Tad Williams : Don't know. If they like fantasy novels that are written for intelligent readers, by a writer who has to work pretty hard to please himself (because I'm a pretty picky reader) then they'll probably like my work. I'm very big on characters -- I try to make them realistic and believable -- and I think I'm pretty imaginative. People who like my work feel like it's really an entry into an entirely different world.
ActuSF : Shadowmarch and Memory, Sorrow & Thorn are two fantasy series. What do you like in fantasy ?
Tad Williams : I love the openness -- that anything can be true, as long as you can keep the readers' trust. You can be as ambitious as you want, as long as you can also keep people turning the pages.
ActuSF : Now let's talk about your Aquaman adventure. How was born the idea and where are you at ?
Tad Williams : I've been wanting to do comics for a while. I grew up reading them. AQUAMAN was offered to me and I was happy to take it on, but I'm done with it now. My last issue just came out last month. It was fun, and a learning experience. Comic book readers are extremely open and very quick to share their opinions.
ActuSF : What do you like in this character ?
Tad Williams : I love the "other world" aspect. Who wouldn't enjoy having the entire ocean to play with ?
ActuSF : Do you feel like writing other comics ?
Tad Williams : I'd love to. I have some proposals in with various companies. Let's see what happens.
ActuSF : What are your plans ? What are you currently working at and what do you feel like doing in the next future ?
Tad Williams : Besides working SHADOWRISE, the last Shadowmarch book, I'm working with my wife Deborah Beale on a series of young-adult fantasy books. The first is called THE DRAGONS OF ORDINARY FARM and it's getting a lot of attention, I'm pleased to say, even though volume one isn't finished yet. We've even had some nibbles from the film business, so we'll see what happens. I'm going to do a book on the Ring cycle -- Wagner's, not Tolkien's -- with an artist named Paul Storey (he's doing the art, I'm doing the words) and I have various other projects, including a bunch of short stories, already booked. Oh, and I'm helping create an MMOG of the OTHERLAND books. So I'm not getting a vacation any time soon.