Introducing David J. Williams
I am so fortunate to have met David through Facebook. I really wish I had more time to read, his book, The Mirrored Heavens has cast a spell over me, and I sneak a moment to read a section every free moment I can. As soon as I finish, I will post a review. Until then, meet David.
Why did you start writing?
For that I have (at least) five answers. I hate to privilege one above the other, so let's just chalk this one up as "overdetermined."
Answer #1: I was working in management consulting, I'd turned thirty, I was bored shitless with the corporate world, and I could feel time burning down on me like a #$# candle.
Answer #2: I'd done some work on the side with friends in Vancouver, BC in the video game industry, and through a strange fluke got co-writing credits for Relic Entertainment's Homeworld. But the next day I was back at the corporate world, hating it more than ever, and wondering why I was living in a universe where I had friends who drew spaceships for a living while I was stuck staring at profit-loss spreadsheets.
Answer #3: I suddenly had one of those moments like in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy realizes all the Nazis are digging in the wrong place: i.e., I got a glimpse of an area of SF that no one was tapping into (near-future space weaponization across the Earth-Moon system), and I wondered what a novel in such a setting would look like.
Answer #4: I became obsessed with the notion of what cyberpunk would be like if the state DIDN'T wither away.
Answer #5: I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Where do you get your ideas?
I read a ton of history, and that's where a lot of my ideas come from. What's happened in the past offers plenty of rich source material, especially because you can mine all sorts of obscure events and everyone thinks you're being totally original. : )
Also worth mentioning is the extent to which I study the U.S. military, and their planning for future war. The military's under no illusions that the center of gravity of warfare is shifting into space, and they've got a lot of stuff in the public domain tracing the implications. I tried to map that out a hundred years, and ask what would space war be like if it was realistic, and obeyed the laws of orbital dynamics, and didn't just feature spaceships doing physically-impossible dogfights. (don't get me wrong, I love that kind of thing, but it's not what I write.)
What was the process of writing The Mirrored Heaven like?
At first it was like running around in the woods with a flashlight. You think there's something out there, but you don't know what, and you start to think you're going crazy. Eventually I had hundreds of pages of incoherent writing, and at some point during that process I started to realize how badly and totally all of it sucked. It was four years before I managed to find the voice/style I'd been searching for, and about that long before the plot really started to come together. (having an eighty-hour-a-week dayjob from hell might have lengthened the process, but OTOH maybe it made me more focused). But in the last few years, things started to really move, and by 2006 I felt like one of those rock bands that's gotten really tight, and might just get lucky enough to land a record deal. Which I eventually did . . .but sometimes I miss those days when I circled round the far side of Mars and didn't even know what I was staring at . . .
What was the process like to find a publisher?
About as hard as people tell you it is. Agents only want to look at veteran writers, and publishers only want writers with agents. As a general rule, unless you know somebody at a publisher, you have to start with the agents, but the problem is that the query-letter process is a #$# meatgrinder—or at least, one that I never mastered. In my opinion, the key is to somehow meet the agents directly; I met mine (Jenny Rappaport) at WorldCon (LA, 2006) . . . though anyone who knows anything about this business knows that WorldCon is the LAST place to meet an agent. But sometimes not knowing the rules is a big help.
What is it like working with a publisher?
You hear all these horror stories in the blogosphere, but I gotta say, working with Bantam Spectra has been great. Largely that's because of Juliet Ulman, my editor; she made the book heaps better than it was when she bought it, and taught me a great deal across the editing process. Plus I love the cover the artist (Paul Youll) did . . .eighty stories above the burning Amazonian delta city of Belem-Macapa . . .
What has the post publication experience been?
On one level, awesome. To have characters who dwelt for years within my head out in the world being experienced by readers is absolutely #$# amazing.
But on another level, it's humbling. At the risk of revisiting that rock band analogy, most bands that make a debut album never make another. It's the same with novels; this is very much an "up or out" business: you have to break through to that next level, or you won't survive. I'm fortunate in that I signed a three-book deal with Bantam Spectra, which gives me more momentum that I might have had otherwise. Above all else, the thing to remember about post publication experience is that you've got the second book to worry about, and that had better be ten times more insane than the first.