Chet Williamson is the author of over twenty-five books and a hundred short stories, which have appeared in The New Yorker, Playboy, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and many other magazines and anthologies. His fiction has been shortlisted for the MWA’s Edgar Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, and his short story collection, Figures in Rain, received the International Horror Guild Award. Among his recent titles are The Night Listener & Others (a fiction collection from PS Publishing), A Little Blue Book of Bibliomancy (a collection from Borderlands Press), and Psycho: Sanitarium (the authorized sequel to Robert Bloch's original Psycho, from Thomas Dunne Books). Most of his backlist is available from Crossroad Press in ebook format. An actor, he has narrated over thirty audiobooks by various authors, available through Audible.com. You can learn more here.
1. Tell us three things about yourself.
First, I'm a notorious collector of books, music, and film. Our house is filled with more volumes, comic books, vinyl, CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes than I can experience if I live to be 200.
Second, I'm a member of Actors' Equity, and have appeared in a number of professional stage productions, and even a couple of films. I've narrated about forty audiobooks, available from Audible.com.
Third, I have a pretty cool, if small, family. My wife Laurie is retired from teaching and makes wondrous quilts and plays violin in a symphony orchestra, and my son Colin has worked in the computer gaming industry in Japan and Seattle for many years, and is a terrific kid. My mum is still going strong at 97, and reads about a book a day on her iPad.
2. What was the first thing you had published?
My first professional sale was to T. E. D. Klein at Twilight Zone Magazine, a piece called "Offices," that can be found in my collection, Figures in Rain. It was, and remains, the biggest thrill of my writing life.
That's sort of like asking what child you love best. Still, I'll try. Probably my novel Second Chance, since it deals so much with my own past and background, and since it's utterly undefinable, no particular genre, but touches of many. I'm also very fond of The Story of Noichi the Blind, a novella that reflects my fascination with Lafcadio Hearn and old Japan.
4. ...and which makes you cringe?
That would be a story that I wrote for an HWA anthology called Deathport, about an airport built over ancient Indian burial grounds. Amazingly enough, Ramsey Campbell guest edited this, though it seems the most unCampbellian concept imaginable! My story was "Scalps," which concerned, I kid you not, murderous flying merkins. You cannot find this story in either of my collections, and it probably won't be in future ones. Oh my.
Filled with self-doubt, recriminations, and delays. Seriously, as I get older, it's harder and harder to come up with ideas that I find worthwhile to turn into fiction. I've always tried to write stories that were surprising and unpredictable, and that gets harder as the years pass. "Oh, I've already done something like that..." There's an old cartoon I used to have on my office wall of a guy sitting on a beach, thinking, "Nothing to write...it's all been done...all so trite and meaningless..." And next to him is a bird that's holding one foot in the air and thinking, "Now what's this?...a foot?...my foot!...I must write of this!" I used to be the bird, but now I'm more like the guy. That said, a writing day is spent in one of two ways. First is gathering information and ideas, getting down things that will eventually become an outline, and then outlining. This is the part that can take weeks and months, where you feel that nothing's being done, but you realize that things are coming together. Then, when I have a full outline/synopsis, I start the actual writing, and that's the enjoyable part, along with revision.
6. Which piece of writing should someone who's never read you before pick up first?
I'd suggest one of my collections, Figures in Rain or the new one, The Night Listeners and Others, which would give readers an overall look at my work. For novels, I'd suggest Second Chance or Ash Wednesday.
7. What are you working on now?
I've just finished Psycho: Sanitarium, which is coming out in April. It's the official sequel to Robert Bloch's original Psycho, and that was great fun to do. I think fans of Psycho (and who isn't?) will enjoy seeing what Norman Bates is up to in the state hospital for the criminally insane. Also, A Little Blue Book of Bibliomancy has just appeared in Borderlands Press's little book series -- it's a real oddball collection of my work -- a story, reviews, memoirs, essays, and two plays, one of which is a puppet theatre version of The Story of Noichi the Blind. As far as future work, I've just finished a short story for a new anthology, and am in the idea stages of a new novel. And so it goes...