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Monday, March 13, 2017

Interview with G. Wells Taylor

G. WELLS TAYLOR was born in Oakville, Ontario, Canada in 1962, but spent most of his early life north of there in Owen Sound where he went on to study Design Arts at a local college. He later traveled to North Bay, Ontario to complete Canadore College’s Journalism program before receiving a degree in English from Nipissing University. Taylor worked as a freelance writer for small market newspapers and later wrote, designed and edited for several Canadian niche magazines.
He joined the digital publishing revolution early with an eBook version of his first novel When Graveyards Yawn that has been available online since 2000. Taylor published and edited the Wildclown Chronicle e-zine from 2001-2003 that showcased his novels, book trailer animations and illustrations, short story writing and book reviews alongside titles from other up-and-coming horror, fantasy and science fiction writers.

Still based in Canada, Taylor continues with his publishing plans that include additions to the Wildclown Mysteries and sequels to the popular Variant Effect series.

1.      You’re a horror writer. What scares you?
The knowledge that civilization is only a thin veneer.

2.      Who were the writers who introduced you to horror?
Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Robert E. Howard, Rod Serling, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King among others.

3.      What are the scariest supernatural creatures?

4.      Did you write stories as a child? Were you encouraged to write?
I read comic books when I was a kid and learned some of the drawing basics by copying pictures of my favorite superheroes and monsters. Later I began creating my own characters and writing stories about them. My mother who was a teacher read these and encouraged me to write more. She was also a fan of genre fiction and we shared novels and talked about authors and books.

5.      What was your first publishing credit?
My high school English teacher produced a play I wrote as a class project and entered it in a countywide drama festival where it won the special adjudicator award for promising new writer. While it wasn’t a paid gig, it sure encouraged me to take my writing more seriously.

6.      Your trilogy, DRACULA OF THE APES, must have involved an enormous amount of research. I was particularly impressed by how well you managed to imitate 19th century storytelling (in all the best ways). What did you do to prep for writing that saga? In preparation for writing Dracula of the Apes, I read fiction and genre novels from the era, and re-read the source books until I was dreaming them. So far as historical references and setting, I have to thank the local library and the many text, audio and video resources offered online.
Regarding the nineteenth century storytelling style, I love early genre fiction, and studied it in university. The lavish descriptions found in such narratives provide detailed accounts and definitions of the unknown or unfamiliar for audiences that had no access to radio, television or Internet communications. It is perfect for writing about exotic locations, horror and mystery.


 Do you remember the genesis of your idea to mash up the Tarzan legend with the Dracula story?
When I was quite young, I read the Tarzan and Dracula novels and indulged my interest further through comic books, television and movies. Early on, I imagined an ape-man versus vampire crossover battle, but as my thinking matured, I began to believe that Tarzan and Dracula might actually get along. They were hunters, neither belonged to any church, and both could be very cold-blooded when it came to dealing with their enemies and friends. Eventually, I lost interest in pitting them against each other when I realized a simple physical struggle would waste the greater potential I had begun to recognize.
I had developed a more nuanced view of where the Tarzan stories were set in history, and how they had originally glossed over the extent of Africa’s centuries of suffering.  The colonial powers’ enslavement of the Dark Continent and its population felt more like horror than an adventure story to me.
So without its covering of colonial entitlement and nostalgia, I could not see the tale of an English boy almost single-handedly conquering the jungle and its inhabitants as a plausible or innocent narrative.
When I accepted the original setting of late nineteenth century African colonialism as horror fiction, I knew that only a dark and mythical creature could thrive in that environment.
This was by no means an attempt to diminish or negate the original Tarzan of the Apes series of books which I love to this day; but I could not deny my impulse to retell the story against a backdrop of horror.
Instead of Tarzan, it would be Dracula who was raised by apes. But how? Other than appearances in books, movies and reboots by other able writers, Dracula remained “officially” dead at the end of Stoker’s novel.
Unless a faithful servant had been trained to preserve Dracula’s remains in secret for possible regeneration far from the troubles in Transylvania. And if such an escape involved a sea voyage along an African coast inhabited by apes, well, things started falling into place. 

8.      Your Tommy Wildclown books paint a psychedelic post-apocalyptic world that edges into fiction categories like “New Weird” and “transgressive.” And yet the word I see most in the reviews is “zombie.” Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?
It’s a good thing. The many mentions of “zombie” in the reviews lure readers into a different kind of apocalypse story than they were expecting. They might be thinking “Walking Dead” but they get the Maltese Falcon with zombies. In the Wildclown books zombies walk and talk, and are more worried about getting dry skin, finding a good job or experiencing anti-dead prejudice than they are interested in eating human flesh. It’s a pleasant surprise to find them in a detective story.

9.      Do you watch The WALKING DEAD? How about AMERICAN HORROR STORY?
I watch the Walking Dead, and have enjoyed it for years. The only criticism I have is the almost utter lack of humor. I know the zombie apocalypse won’t be funny, but surely sooner or later someone would come along who covers his or her anxieties with dark and inappropriate humor. I think that would really add a touch of levity and realism to all that sad zombie fighting.

10.   Any horror movies you recommend? (Old or new)
The Day the Earth Stood Still, Night of the Living Dead, Rosemary’s Baby, American Werewolf in London, Halloween, The Thing, Alien and Silence of the Lambs.

11.   Your one-off vampire novel BENT STEEPLE is a dark tale that would not be out of place in Stephen King’s oeuvre. The sense of place is palpable. Is the setting a real place?
I worked and attended university in northern Ontario, Canada, close to the Quebec border near the cities and villages depicted in Bent Steeple where much of the land is still wild. There is a stark, gothic beauty in the ancient rocks and cold, black lakes. The surrounding old-growth forests are stunning in the summer, but take on a cryptic otherworldliness when clothed in winter’s ice and snow. It struck me as a perfect place for vampires to hunt for blood.

12.   Your VARIANT books seem to have taken on a life of their own, spawning sequels and prequels and the like. Will there be more of them?
Yes. The Variant Effect: MADHOUSE story will continue through two more books. Then, I’ll be at a crossroads. I’ve always been interested in the early days of those characters, and with the ending I have planned for Madhouse; the sky’s the limit on where we’ll go after.

13.   Do you do extensive outlines or are you more of a “pantser?”
It depends on the story and the number of characters. I find Detective Wildclown’s first person narrative suits making it up as we go along. I’ll always set up a rough outline, but I’ve had times it feels like the pair of us are figuring the mystery out together. I can’t be as spontaneous writing books with bigger casts of characters who will all have their own intersecting story arcs. A narrative like that needs an outline, even maps, just to keep all the characters on the right track.

14.   Do you have a set routine for writing? So many words a day? So many hours?
I work Tuesday to Friday at my day job which gives me three full days each week to write. As manuscripts get closer to completion, I try to disappear in them from Saturday morning to Monday night. During the rest of the week, I’ll edit in the morning or evening. I also keep a notebook by my bed.

15.   Do you enjoy writing or does every word exact its price in blood?
I really enjoy writing and go slightly insane when I overlook that fact. Sometimes I hesitate before jumping in because it can be exhausting.  The only struggle I find comes when I’m being willful and trying to force something into a story where it doesn’t belong.

16.   Do you ever listen to music while you write? Make playlists?
Once in a blue moon I’ll be inspired to write by music I’m listening too, but I have to work quickly because it will soon distract me.

17.   Do you eat at the keyboard while writing?
I will only eat at my keyboard during writing breaks. Things get messy if I’m juggling a sandwich while I type.

18.   Are you right or left-handed?
I am right-handed.

19.   Between day job and writing, do you still have time to read? And if so, who are your favorite writers?
Yes. Before bed. I just finished D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover after a recent re-romp through Jack L. Chalker’s Well World Series. Aside from favorites like Raymond Chandler, Tolkien, Dickens and Michael Moorcock much of my reading involves research for upcoming writing projects.

20.   How much of your time do you spend marketing your books and what methods have you found most helpful?
I’ve had several plans of action for marketing but the digital publishing “powers-that-be” keep changing the game so I focus on what works. Giving away the first book from each of my popular series has been the driving force in attracting readers since day one. It isn’t easy for me to give them away, but it’s an investment that pays off. FREE eBooks work!
Amazon and other retailers are now encouraging Indies to add paid advertising to their marketing
plans, but that’s a slippery slope if we’re expected to compete with traditional publishers.  You’ll never outspend them so like many Indies I rely on social media: YouTube, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook, etc. to get the word out. I do that, interviews and reviews and send press releases to genre-friendly book sites and blogs. I also have a mailing list I compiled over the years from a Variant Effect Serial giveaway and while running all of my book websites and editing The Wildclown Chronicle multimedia e-zine. I avoid obsessing on social media because one could stay “connected” forever. I do a little each day, but try to keep my focus on specific publishing events.

21.   Do you enjoy the marketing part? Do you ever go to conventions or make “book signing” appearances?
I always enjoy talking to people about my books and publishing in general—especially in person, and I was just putting a campaign together that included conventions when Amazon and the traditional publishers applied the brakes to the eBook revolution. I’m looking for the next wave.

22.   You create your own covers and format yourself. Where did you learn those skills?
I took Design Arts and Journalism in college, and learned digital publishing and formatting during my foray as a reporter and layout artist for several narrowcast publications. Those skills prepared me for the technical work needed to launch and maintain my author websites, though I have to share the credit with the talented software designers. Same thing applies to retailer/publishers like Amazon and Smashwords. Their software has streamlined digital publishing. I use an excellent open-source platform called Calibre to produce free eBook and sample download files for my book sites.

23.   Are you a Mac or a PC fan?
I’ve gone through several generations of PCs. I still miss my Compaq Presario 150.

24.   Would you ever consider being traditionally published?
I would consider any proposal. I’m still amazed that the traditional publishers are not trolling the Indie ranks more aggressively. They could pick up some fine series for a song.

25.   What’s next in your writing queue?
First is the next book in The Variant Effect Series: MADHOUSE 2 – Gas Light and its sequel. Then I’d like to write another case for Detective Wildclown.

For more information about G. Wells Taylor and his books, visit his website. Follow him on Twitter @gwellstaylor.

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