Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Author Interview! Conrad Williams

I had a great time reading Conrad Williams' 'Loss of Separation' last week (scroll down a little bit for the review or just click Here) and wanted to run some questions past Conrad for the blog. Despite having loads on, Conrad was good enough to pretty much drop everything else and give me some answers (thanks!) Have you ever wanted to know how a horror author knows when they've written something scary? Does Conrad really think that the Suffolk coast is as grim as it is in the book? Read on...

Hi Conrad, thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions,

• Having written ‘Loss of Separation’, can you see yourself getting on a plane anytime soon?

I’ve always been a nervous flyer. I’m a terrible rubbernecker, and can’t not watch programmes such as Air Crash Investigation or Seconds From Disaster. I have a folder at home labelled Air Disasters. I read the NTSB reports… That said, I’m getting better where flying is concerned. I find a Valium washed down with a double G&T does wonders. Off topic... I love the cover to the novel, but I’m not sure if we’ll do any business in the airport bookshops.

• ‘Loss of Separation’ is the third book of yours that I’ve read but the first that ends on an optimistic note? Why the change?

I’m not sure. Possibly I’m getting soft in my middle age. In the original plans, everyone died. Maybe I just wanted to pull the rug from under the feet of those readers who think they know what to expect from a Conrad Williams novel…

• What was harder to write about in ‘Loss of Separation’, supernatural terror or the everyday terrors faced by a man who has had major surgery and woken from a coma?

For me, the supernatural terror came out of the mundane difficulties Paul Roan has to face. I wanted the ambiguity to be there – is The Craw, for example, real, or is it something that has developed like a tumour inside Paul? Is it Paul’s injuries manifesting themselves? It was hard to write about a man who has been reduced to such an extent and then has to grow, develop, recover enough to find the physicality to achieve what he achieves at the end of the book.

• Did a particularly grim holiday on the Suffolk coast inspire the setting for ‘Loss of Separation’?

Not at all. I love Suffolk. I spent a very happy six months there with my wife when we had first started seeing each other in 2000. We spent a lot of time walking on the beach, eating fish, drinking ridiculously strong Bloody Marys and writing. We were both writing for ten hours a day sometimes. I wrote Decay Inevitable while I was there. And I also came across an article in the Guardian that gave me the idea for Loss, although back then I always intended to call it Consummation. If I’d still been in London when I read the article, Loss might well have been a novel set in the city.

• You write some pretty intense stuff, where does that leave you once you finish writing a book? Do you take time to recharge your batteries or have you already thrown yourself into your next book? Do you know what your next book will be about?

I was pretty frazzled at the end of this novel. It was partly because the book had such a long gestation period. I must have started writing it three or four times since I got the idea, but it was only recently that it pushed to the front of the queue. I tend to switch on to something new shortly after completing a novel. At the moment I have three or four short stories I’ve been commissioned to write, but at the back of my mind I’m asking myself what the next novel should be. I’ve got half a dozen ideas, but I’m not sure which one to go with just yet. I don’t have any publishing deals at the moment, and I’m between agents, so the only pressure is from within. I think I’ll take a break and see where I’m at in the summer.

• How do you know when you’ve just written something that will really unsettle your readers? Do you scare yourself with what you’ve written?

That’s a good question. I suppose it’s just hopefulness. You try to write to the best of your abilities and hope that something good comes of it. Sometimes you write quickly, almost without thinking. Automatic writing, of a sort. It’s as if the work has controlled you, rather than the other way around. That’s often a sign of good stuff. I’ve unsettled myself on a few occasions. But there was a scene set in the Underground in The Unblemished that made my flesh creep while I was writing it; pretty much the only time that has happened to me.

• Horror fiction isn’t covered enough online, at least not on the blogs that I read. Which horror writers would you recommend to the readers here?

Those who write on the margins of horror, I find, usually produce work that is almost unbearably frightening. China MiĆ©ville (The Tain), M John Harrison (The Ice Monkey, The Course of the Heart), Christopher Priest (The Glamour, The Prestige), Nicholas Royle (The Matter of the Heart, The Director’s Cut).

• And finally, can you describe ‘Loss of Separation’ in ten words or less to readers who are thinking of picking it up?
Wicker Man meets Blair Witch meets Fatal Attraction
Thanks again!

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