Local author spotlight welcomes Michael Williams

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And now, readers, here’s an interview with a Louisville-area author that other writers have mentioned more than once in their “favorite local authors” lists!  Please welcome Michael Williams to LouisvilleKY.com.

Author Michael Williams
Author Michael Williams

Welcome!  Tell us about your latest project.

At this very moment, I’m in anticipatory mode. My most recent published book is Trajan’s Arch—asprawling, magical realist novel set in the Ohio River valley and the Northeast. It is published by Blackwyrm Press and contains stories within stories—all kinds of writing, from gothic fiction to correspondence to a psychological case study, but in short, I’ve called it “a coming-of-age ghost story.” This was the cover blurb:

Gabriel Rackett stands at the threshold of middle age. He lives north of Chicago and teaches at a small community college. He has written one novel and has no prospects of writing another, his powers stagnated by drink and loss. Into his possession comes a manuscript, written by a childhood friend and neighbor, which ignites his memory and takes him back to his mysterious mentor and the ghosts that haunted his own coming-of-age. Now, at the ebb of his resources, Gabriel returns to his old haunts through a series of fantastic stories spilling dangerously off the page – tales that will preoccupy and pursue him back to their dark and secret sources.

The novel came out in 2010, and has been doing well nationally and in this area.

But as I said, I’m anticipatory, and Trajan’s Arch is about the half of it: by the time this interview is published, my new book, Vine, will be released, with Blackwyrm once again the publisher. It’s a short novel—Greek tragedy meets urban legend meets redneck magical realism—about an amateur theatre director who, in producing an ancient Greek play, inadvertently stirs awake the god associated with it. It’s funny in parts, scary in parts, and I hope it’s altogether weird.

Vine by Michael Williams
Vine by Michael Williams

Weird is good!  Where do Louisville/Southern Indiana readers know you from, outside of your books?  

I hope there’s a difference between “being reclusive” and “keeping to myself.” Being reclusive sounds like a romantic pose, but frankly, I do keep to myself in that I don’t get out much at all. I have no hobbies, and the one organization where I am loosely a club member—a writer’s group in Corydon—goes on without me very well, because my schedule hasn’t permitted my being there as much as I’d like. See, I hold down two jobs—writing and teaching—so I’m working about 12-16 hours a day. This schedule means that I’m either at the university [UofL] or at home, so I guess the answer to your question is that those who know me outside of my books are those who know me from the classroom.

Which came first?  The teaching or the writing?

It’s always been the writing. I came to teaching under the illusion of its affording me “spare time to write.” Funny I should think that, as the child of teacher parents. But instead of free time, I’ve received a second passion to pursue. University teaching is one of the few places where good ideas and conversations surface, and it’s stimulated me, kept me from actually becoming that recluse I talked about a minute ago. Furthermore, it’s a noble calling: nothing makes me angrier than disparagement of teachers, when they should be celebrated for making all the necessary introductions.

Amen!  When I was researching your works, I mainly found information on your Dragonlance titles.  How did you get involved with Dragonlance?  It’s not a series that I’ve read, myself, but reading about it as a company is quite interesting.  It sounds like quite the enterprise.

Almost 30 years after it began, Dragonlance continues to be a favorite fantasy series. My last project with them was 20 years ago, but my involvement was from its inception. Tracy Hickman proposed a book/role-playing game series to TSR—the initial publishers of Dungeons and Dragons, and the place we all worked at the time. I was on the first editorial board, then later contributed novels to the book series begun by Hickman and the amazing Margaret Weis. Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted were the first two Dragonlance books I wrote, but I had done short fiction and poetry before the novels were released. I went on to do Oath and the Measure for them as well. It was a kind of apprenticeship with exciting challenges and high visibility. I lucked into the opportunity, and even though my subsequent work is very different from where I started, I’ll always be grateful to Dragonlance and to Margaret and Tracy, both of whom remain friends to this day. They were kind of the Lennon and McCartney of the phenomenon. I was only a Ringo.

Since then I’ve done the books I mention above, but also, in the 90s, Arcady and Allamanda—a pair of novels set inside a weird world that smacks of 19th century English Romantic poetry, and was steampunk before steampunk was steampunk. Arcady was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel of the Year. Didn’t win, but it was an honor to be honored.

“Only a Ringo,” indeed!  Sounds like you should at least bump yourself up to George Harrison, sir.  

So, do you have a website, or a blog?  The only info I was able to find about you on the net was about Dragonlance, or your bio at U of L.  Is there a central website where readers can find links to all your books?

I really don’t have a website or a blog.  They always look like working overtime to me, and I do enough of that already.  I can be reached, however, through the publisher at www.blackwyrm.com. There is also a facebook page called “Through Trajan’s Arch”.

When can we get your books in ereader format?

Margaret Weis’s company—Margaret Weis Productions—has re-released Arcady and Allamanda for Kindle. You can buy them through MWP, through FS& (a cool small publisher out of California), or of course on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, in Kindle or NOOK respectively. Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted have been re-released by Wizards of the Coast in Kindle form on Amazon, in NOOK on Barnes and Noble. Trajan’s Arch and the upcoming Vine are available electronically through Amazon, B&N, or from the publisher at www.blackwyrm.com.

Who are your favorite writers from the local area?

There are so many writers I like in the area, it surprises me that they receive so little ink and attention. Though most of my closest contacts come from out of state, there’s plenty of talent within shouting range. Where do I begin? Probably with Marian Allen, who’s my closest neighborly writer, being from Corydon and such. Blackwyrm Press has a lot of cool people publishing with them, of whom Christopher Kokoski, William Levy, and Brad Parnell are the ones I’ve worked with closely. There’s Stephen Zimmer, whom I like even if he is from Lexington. A good fiction writer at the University of Louisville is Paul Griner, and there are fine poets like Annette Allen, Sarah Gorham, and Jeff Skinner. Also, there’s a young dude you’ll be hearing from soon—a man named Robbie Ritchie (no, not Kid Rock, but a saner, smarter Robbie) who is at work on this ambitious multi-volume series I’ve had the pleasure to preview. He’s going to make a splash.

That sounds like an amazing list.  I’ll try to get as many of them into the spotlight as possible!  

Tell us about your favorite bookstores/coffee shops/writing haunts.  What makes them special?  (If you don’t buy into the stereotype of the writer surrounded by books and coffee, then tell us more about where and how you write.)

I sorely miss the larger bookstores that used to be spread around Louisville, especially Hawley-Cooke. Still like Barnes and Noble, though it’s way out east and I seldom get there. My favorites are two small stores—Arlston’s in my home town of Corydon, and A Reader’s Corner in the Crescent Hill area. They share the neighborhood touch in which the owners know their visitors and know what they like in books. Coffee is a factor in my life, but I must confess to being unable to tell that difference between a one-dollar cup of Kroger coffee and the same thing for $5 at Starbuck’s. So I have about a pot a day at home.

I confess, I retain an old Hawley-Cooke gift certificate, just for sentimental reasons.  *sigh*  

What’s next on the writing slate, for you?

Two projects:

  1. A big sprawling magico-historical novel set in the area and covering two centuries
  2. A multi-layered narrative poem, the hero of which is a book

So stay tuned. I’m not done yet.

Dr. Williams, thanks so much for being our guest on LouisvilleKY.com!  Your work sounds absolutely captivating, and I am looking forward to finding out firsthand if you deserve that Ringo title, or are more of an Eric Clapton sort of writer, sir. 

Readers, who is your favorite local author?  Can you think of someone who deserves a turn in the spotlight?  Please put them in touch with Leslea at Leslea.Tash@gmail.com, with the subject title “Local Author Spotlight.”  Southern Indiana and Louisville authors are welcome, as are authors of books of local interest.

Leslea Tash is a Southern Indiana journalist-turned-novelist.  A freelancer for publications on both sides of the river & nationally, she now writes dark fantasy, horror, fairy tales, and other fun stuff including the 4.5 star-rated This Brilliant Darkness and the soon-to-be-released title Troll Or Derby under the pen name Red Tash.  She always welcomes your feedback on this column on the LouisvilleKY.com site, on Facebook, on her websites or twitter.  Just about anywhere works.  Get in touch!