A Sense of Style, A Violent Lament, Ben Okri, Bird by Bird, Clive Barker, Criminal Justice, gaming, Hellbound Heart, Interview with a Vampire, Ireland: A Terrible Beauty, James Baldwin, Kayti Nika Raet, Kenneth W. Harmon, Nightmare's Paradise, Niko, Of Mice and Men, On Writing, reading, Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, Shakespeare, Spawn, Stephen King, The Amazing Mr. Howard, The Famished Road, Todd McFarlane, Walter M. Williams III
It is with great pleasure we welcome author Walter M. Williams III to #SymposiumSaturday
About the Author
Tell us a little bit about yourself. (Author Bio)
As you are undoubtedly aware, my name, is Walter M. Williams III. Though I have a degree in Criminal Justice with an emphasis on Homeland Security, I am actually in the process of learning more about teaching.
What are your hobbies?
Sadly, I used to read a lot more. Or, actually, I should rephrase that, I used to read a lot more books. Then it seems like one day I found myself reading an increasing number of articles, and studies, then books fell to the wayside. I have been trying to get back into the habit of reading books just for the pleasure of reading, and kick the habit of feeling like I need to read in order to learn something, or study even when there is nothing to study for.
Outside of reading, I really enjoy research (old habits die hard), working out whenever I have the chance, and video games.
Which writers inspire you?
Todd McFarlane, the author of the original Spawn comics, has been a huge inspiration too me since I was a young teen. The dark atmosphere, traveling to alternate planes of reality, concepts of heaven and hell, and the plethora of menacing characters. What is not to love? Ben Okri, a Nigerian poet and novelist wrote a book called “The Famished Road”. I read it as a child and the described imagery has always amazed me. The book had a way of blending everyday life with concepts of the spirit world. I have aspired to write with such humor, sincerity, and depth. Clive Barker‘s horror stories have inspired me since reading his “Hellbound Heart” series when I was much younger. Outside of both of those, I love Shakespeare poetic humanity in his writings. Stephen King‘s down-to-earth advice, and approach when it comes to writing. And James Baldwin‘s raw, unapologetic, unflattering, brilliant power with the written word.
For your own reading, do you prefer e-books or paper/hard back books?
I have this undying fantasy of sitting in an overstuffed armchair, in front of a fireplace, on a winter’s night, while reading a chosen book. I have a hard time replacing a paper, or hardback book, with a kindle in that image. But I am trying little by little to read e-books. But I am actually struggling to not order the three Indie author titles I mentioned above in paperback.
What are you reading at present?
I have been climbing between three Indie titles at the moment. Kayti Nika Raet‘s “Niko”. Claudette Melanson‘s “Rising Tide”. And Kenneth W. Harmon‘s “The Amazing Mr. Howard”. These three titles have been my of ‘learning to read for fun’ projects. I switch between the three of them, and have been enjoying each a great deal so far. My goal is to read as many indie titles as possible. I have downloaded quite a few.
What is your favourite book and why?
Wow. I really wish I could answer this definitively, and with little effort. It would be amazing to just know my favorite book without a doubt. There have been so many I have loved for so many reasons. “A Sense of Style” is a clever, funny, and informative book on writing. “On Writing” is a no-nonsense, no frills, razor sharp, and practical take on writing. “Bird by Bird” is sincere, poetic, moving, and very deep, but also about writing. “The Famished Road”, “Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind”, “Of Mice and Men”, “Ireland: A Terrible Beauty”, “Interview with a Vampire”, and so many more. They span years, styles, and genres. It is just impossible to choose!
What is your favourite film/ series and why?
What sort of cruel, mind-bending, brain scouring questions are these? I feel almost disloyal naming only one thing when so many creations have inspired me in so many ways. Again, far, far too many to name for various reasons. For movies, a brief example, almost every summer I watch Kenneth Branagh’s “Much A Do About Nothing” just once because for me it has this amazing life affirming joy to it. The music, costumes, the choice of Tuscany it all comes together to create something lighthearted and wonderful. Most of my favorite movies are horror films like the Grudge/Ju-On, Ring/Ringu, all of Romero’s Zombie films, 28 Days Later. I love movies that have ghosts, demons, lovecraftian horrors, zombies, vampires, any any other number of horrors in it.
However, these days I do not watch much television, or many movies. I wish I could say it was for some sort of high-minded, snooty reason, but the honest truth is I just have not been in the mood. I am sure that will change one day. But lately I have been interested mostly in some really great Youtube channels. When I am working on something late at night, and I am not in the mood for music, or when looking for something to watch with my daughter, there are a few channels that frequently come up because they have such great content. They range from discussing philosophy, politics, science, history, or other academic topics, to just featuring light humor, or talking about video games. My current favorites are Brain Craft, Crash Course history, the Young Turks, Vsauce, Good Mythical Morning, Angry Video Nerd, Dante & Holly, History Buff, Fanboy Flicks, Its Okay To Be Smart, Good Bad Flicks, Welcome to Night Vale, VatiVidya, EpicNameBro, RedletterMedia, Brain Scoop, Angry Joe, Chris Stuckman, Outsidexbox and a few others.
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
If have ever done anything worthwhile, or right in this world, I know without a doubt it is being the second half to the equation that brought my daughter into this world. Even just to hear her laugh, or see her smile about something she is excited about, has this way of reminding me that sometimes we end up far happier than we may believe possible in this life.
How do you relax?
Writing, or video games. I seem to always be doing one or the either lately. To me, I never get why people become so pissed off while playing a game because I feel a lot of zen when playing one. This is how I normally write chapters, or when I was in school, entire essays in my head, while playing a game.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Do not over think it. Stop saying you are going to write and just do it. Do not worry about plot, or characters, or making the story pretty. You just want to get the idea out, and started. If you have trouble hearing a character, write them out an application sheet, and then have them answer questions for you. Outside of just their name, and what celebrity you are imagining they look like, what is a little family history? Who are their parents? What was home life like? What are some of their likes and dislikes? Did these things shape them as they grew up? Then make that character true to themselves, and only allow change if it happens organically through the story. Never force them to jump through plot hoops just to get you from point A to point B.
Also, if it helps, listen to music while you are writing, if even very quietly. If there are songs that help you express, or feel certain emotions, or keep an atmosphere for you, keep those types of songs on your play list. Lastly, when you are stuck, get up and walk away for a little bit, or work on something else. Try and see your current plight with eyes that have rested for a few hours.
If your friends could use one word to describe you what would it be?
What made you realize your calling as an author?
My apologies if this sounds so pretentious that it just makes you want to kick me to sleep, but to be sincere, I am not certain if I have ever realized if this was a calling. I rarely, if ever, call myself an author outside of clarity sake. Personally, I see myself as a guy who just have a love of writing. Regardless of how many books sell, or never sell. No matter my level of fame or obscurity. I think I will continue writing until my last days. I started telling stories with little sentences, and colorings when I was in kindergarten. I cannot imagine now writing if even just privately.
Where do your ideas come from, what inspires you?
I always consider myself fortunate to receive an email, or comment from a reader expressing a thought about my writings. Be it positive or negative, they took the time to write and send, so I always respond. A common thread that runs through many readers thoughts is feeling that maybe the protagonist, or characters in some of my stories did not deserve such horrible circumstances. To which I would partially agree. But that is also life. It is not always about deserve, right, or wrong. Hans Fritz Lang, a German film director, was known for stories where the heroes did not always win. His reasons behind these seemingly bleak outcomes is because having “right” or being “just” is not a promise you will succeed., or defeat villains.
Yet, I would take it a small step further and ask, are heroes truly “heroic” if they are only willing to undertake missions, or struggles where victory is assured? Even if the heroes die in their struggle against the villain, the point is not that they died or failed. The point is they willingly paid the ultimate price to do the right thing.
A lot of people believe the ending to the Exorcist is sad. Yet, this is not true. Yes, the older priest perished during his struggle with the demon. Yes, the younger priest was possessed then committed suicide. But that is just all the obvious. The older priest knew there was a more than likely chance he was not going to walk away from that exorcism alive even before it began but he went because that little girl needed him. The younger priest did not go mad, or was tricked by the demon. He actually tricked the demon into himself, than while having a hold on it, killed himself, forcing the both from the world. The young priest died in triumph. But do not take my words for it. Try listening to the director’s commentary sometime… and ignore those money grabbing sequels forced out by suits.
This is what inspires me. My characters do sometimes find themselves in seemingly unfair, and purely unjust situations that would make many of us sink to the ground in despair. The odds are against them, the price for failure are nightmarish, and it there will be losses as the tale goes on. But these character never give up. Through tears, through horror, violence, and otherworldly terror, they push on– and sometimes even in the middle of all that, they stop to help others along the way. That is what matters most.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It varies. “Nightmare’s Paradise” took years because it was my first novel. I re-wrote it 3 separate times. “A Violent Lament” took far less than a year but was put away until I felt more certain about it. The same happened with “The Languishing Bay”.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
No outline. I prefer to have my general idea, the characters, some motivations, then see where it all goes each night I begin writing. I feel like it leaves my imagination, and options open to allow the story to just go off in whatever organic direction it will move in.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Trying to focus on just one idea at a time.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
It can all be much easier than it looks. I know there are horror stories of anxiety, writer’s block, rejection, and so on. But there is so much more to it all. It can be incredibly easy to begin slowly pulling an idea together if you are kind to yourself.
Do you ever get writer’s Block and if so, how do you deal with it?
No writer’s block. I do sometimes come to dislike, or hate an entire story. I have a folder I refer to as the abyss. There are a lot of unfinished stories, and partially finished novels in that folder. Some are well over 200 pages. Sometimes they are resurrected years later. I originally did not like A Violent Lament when I first completed it, then 2 yrs later, I looked it over, had a whole new outlook, and idea about it, then revised, and finished it.
How many books have you written, which is your favourite?
I have written about 5 or 6, but have only published 4. “Nightmare’s Paradise”, “A Violent Lament”, and “The Languishing Bay”. The 4th is actually a companion book to Nightmare’s, and Languishing, offering some background lore, and illustrations about the universe both those stories take place in.
Not sure if I can say I have a favorite. I removed “Nightmare’s Paradise” so I could revise somethings, and have it edited again (a 900 dollar mistake I warn other authors about). I enjoyed writing the Languishing Bay because it is set in the East Bay of California, where I live. But I also really enjoyed writing “A Violent Lament” because I was able to experiment with the idea of writing it as a modern Gothic Horror tale. I burrowed a lot from the language, troupes, and atmosphere gothic novels of the times had, but applied them to a modern setting.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on 3. I am revising Nightmare’s Paradise, and working on the final half of The Languishing Bay. However, my primary project is a book called Restless Dreams, a collection of both short fiction, and non-fiction– of course I label each story just to be safe as to clearly mark which is which. The short non-fiction has a range of moods and emotions that range from the tragic such as revisiting the death of my father when I was 12, having grown up witnessing a lot of violence, and shootings. Happier, and sweeter stories like going on my first date, that first love, and the adventure of learning to be a young parent. Then more humorous stories like having drinks one night New Years night with friends, then getting this brilliant idea to visit a supposed haunted house. Plus some more offbeat pieces like “Dating Species” a collection of common dating personalities single people can expect to meet on the dating scene. I based these off my own observations after years of dating sometime ago, and those common observations made by single female friends.
What genre are your books?
Admittedly, I have had some serious trouble classifying the genre. Now, wait, before you roll your eyes so hard they become permanently lodged in the back of your head, I promise this is not a “Don’t try define me!” sort of sort of diatribe. The trouble comes from being uncertain if I am misleading any potential readers who are looking for specific genres. “Nightmare’s Paradise” originally started out as horror, but there is also a lot of action, gun fights, etc. So maybe it is Action/Horror? “A Violent Lament” is my attempts at a modern Gothic Horror. Finally, the “The Languishing Bay”, as mentioned before, is in the same universe as my first novel but with different characters, in a different city. It has many of the same elements but definitely stays closer to the Supernatural Horror genre.
Give us an insight into your main character(s). What does he/she do that is so special?
I set out to make each protagonists in all three novels different from one another. Not for merely the sake of being different but to also hopefully offer readers a varied philosophy in which they experience the story.
In Nightmare’s Paradise, Samuel Vesey Anderson, is a U.S Army veteran that has served thee tours in Afghanistan. He comes from a family that has sort of a military heritage, as many of his cousins, all of his uncles, his father, and even his grandfather, have all served in the Army. Samuel returns from his final tour of duty noticeably different from the many recall before leaving. He is sullen, withdrawn, and quiet. This deeply worries his parents, who request that he move back home, and begin seeing a local psychiatrist. There is no mystery to if he has seen combat or not. After all he was awarded a purple heart. Yet, something other than the fighting is the cause, and he never talks about it.
Samuel is brave, driven, head-strong, and smart. He has a knack for improvising and remaining calm even in chaotic situations. He can be rather judgmental when he begins measuring people by his own internal compass of what he perceives as right and wrong. Samuel holds those people in his life to a rather high standard and can be unforgiving when they fail to meet those expectations. However, he is most critical of himself, and lives with a fear of not being skilled enough at those things he desires to do. Samuel seeks approval from his superiors for reassurance that he is not failing. But he can also be naïve in his beliefs of shared camaraderie.
In Nightmare’s Paradise, we meet Samuel shortly before the crisis begins, and he is thrown back into combat like situations. As the story progress he realizes that it is only now he has felt little to no depression since the start of fighting for his life, and to protect others. Samuel begins questioning himself because of this. Does some part of him only feel alive when he is risking his life, and fighting? Can he ever feel normal again without such danger? Has war left some vital part of him fundamentally broken?
In A Violent Lament, the protagonist is actually a damned soul that has been resurrected to the mortal planes through a series of bargains between those who bartered for her, an ancient spirit, and whatever terrible entity ruled over one of the many planes of Hell she was within imprisoned. Throughout a majority of the story she is mostly referred to as either “Polly” or “Devourer”. Most of who she was, and almost every memory before her tragic memory, scoured away by her time in a place called the Abyss, so in many ways she is learning to be a new person but there are some personality quirks that remain.
In this story our heroine is quite literally the monster, despite being in a story filled with Vampires. Polly is caught between being repulsed at what she has become, but also reveling more and more in the bloodshed, hunts, and new found abilities as what is referred to as the Predator’s Essences grows within. Polly also wants to know who she was and who murdered her. There are not clear “good guys” or “bad guys” in a Violent Lament. Like Polly, the reader is suddenly thrust into a clandestine, religious/civil war, and is only hearing one side of the story.
In the Languishing Bay, Tabitha Anne Yeager is a kid of the 90’s that fell head over heels into the grunge scene, but who quite suddenly had to grow up, become a wife and mother, earn a degree, and stuff herself in a suit to join the working world. She comes from a very traditional Catholic family, and much to her mother’s chagrin, she named her two daughters after two of her favorite characters in Greek myths, Luna and Persephone. At the time of the story we meet Tabitha when she is 33, divorced from her rather unfaithful husband, and now works as the supervisor in a department of social workers.
Even before the horrific events of the Languishing Bay begins, Tabitha is a woman secretly in crisis. She is a flawed individual with some questionable habits, and prejudices. One of her biggest issues is a great deal of repressed anger that begins seeping out the more she is overtaxed by stress. This tale is more about one not truly knowing who one is until they are truly at their most desperate, and what they are willing to do to survive, or protect/reach those they love.
However, Tabitha is not a fighter. She has no experience, or training outside of how to maintain and supervise an office. She is just an average individual caught in terrifying circumstances, and has to find various ways through dangerous situations other then brute force. She has two little girls who she loves with all her heart, and she is desperate to reach them.
Who is your favourite character and why?
So far like my different characters for various reasons. It is hard to choose a favorite. I have side characters, and villains in the books I write that I also like. Samuel represents the tarnished knight archetype in many ways. I have loved knights, their history, and even the romanticized stuff since I was a kid. I enjoyed writing for Tabitha because I tried my best to write form a completely different point of view, and I channeled my love of my own daughter to feel her desperation. Yet, I am also 6’4, and have some training on how to take care of myself. But in a crisis, what if I had none of these advantages? What would I do to reach the most important person in my life?
This contrast is not male or female, as in the Army one of the most respected, and downright badass drill sergeants was a woman named D.S Aubel, who if I had ever gone to combat with, I would have followed to the ends of the earth because I respected, and believed in her that much. The contrast is being smaller, no weapons experience, and no training. Originally Tabitha was going to be a male character but suddenly she spoke up, and he was gone. Polly channeled my own insecurity, fears, and uncertainty in high school, just with the dial turned up to 11. I feel bad for her but I also love her abilities.
Tell us a little bit about the book(s)/ series.
The Languishing Bay, and Nightmare’s Paradise, both share the same universe. One I hope to write several stand alone, single stories in. While both these titles will have a direct sequel to them, I would prefer to right several stand-alone tales in this universe. For both protagonist of this shared universe, their individual stories begins the same, they awake to discover the sky is constant lit like it is the beginning of evening twilight, and besides for a few remaining survivors, the cities are seemingly deserted. These elements in themselves would be distressing but the protagonist soon come to learn that there are a variety of warped abominations stalking the streets, each killing one another, as well as any survivors they encounter. Both stories follows each respective protagonist as they search for their loved ones, clues to what is happening, and their desperate struggle to survive the various horrors they encounter. Nightmares & Predators is a 50 page companion book offering lore, and illustrated profiles of some of the creatures the characters encounters. The stories do go much deeper but at the risk of major spoilers I have to leave the synopsis for both there.
A Violent Lament follows the protagonist, Polly, after she has been resurrected from the Abyss by a race of vampires, through an ancient covenant with a primordial spirit known only as the Grave Shadow. She is turned into the Devourer, a damned human soul transformed into a predatory spirit, and ritually bound back into the corpse it once inhabited. She is told her summoning is proof that the Priest-King, the enigmatic ruler of the theocratic nation of vampires, still has heaven’s mandate to rule. His secret police, and the Lord Inquisitor begins using Polly as a living weapon in their war against the insurrectionist. She makes for a terrifying religious weapon as the thought of having one’s soul devoured, thus being denied paradise, is a potent threat. Yet, who are these insurrectionist? And what has lead to this religious war? Making matters far more grave is that as the fighting continues the vampires increase their risk of being discovered by those they secretly rule over, humanity– who obviously would react with far more than just fear, pitchforks, and torches.
Where can we buy it/them?
Your friendly neighborhood Amazon!
In what formats is your book available?
Paperback, kindle, or whatever other e-book reader one prefers. However, Nightmare’s Paradise is currently unavailable, as it is undergoing some revisions.
When is your next book due for release?
Restless Dreams should be ready this June. It is a project I am very excited about.
Book titles and synopsis:
Take a deeper look into some of the haunting lore, and unnatural predators of the “Nightmare’s Paradise” universe
With her damned soul bartered for, Polly is liberated from one of the many terrible planes of Hell, only to be transformed into a monstrous weapon, then forced into the steadily rising flames of a civil and religious war threatening to consume the whole of the vampire race. Now shackled by agents of the powerful, and ancient Priest-King, she stalks a nightly battlefield on behalf of the crown’s loyalist, against the large number of rebels fighting on behalf of an enigmatic figure. In this through-the-mirror-darkly, labyrinthine world of deception, Polly will quickly discover the nights are longer, the shadows deeper, spirits whisper bargains through the veil, and moral quandaries are a luxury predators cannot afford.
Tabitha Anne Yeager, a young mother of two, awakens to discover herself lying in the derelict remains of an abandoned building. Her only recollections of the night’s earlier events swims through her hungover brain as misty snippets of laughter, music, and drinking. None of which answers how she arrived here, or what happened to the friends she went out with. Her confusion turns to panic, when she glances at her wrist watch and discovers it is actually the next morning. She promised her daughters she would be away no more than two hours. She eventually finds her way outside– and into a nightmare. Why does the sky continuously glow no matter the hour? What tragedy has twisted so many people into a variety of lethal abominations? She has no answers to such pressing questions. Tabitha only knows she must reach her children, and that she is willing to do such by any means necessary.
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