In this round up of recent interviews and podcasts, Tad talks about his latest projects including several new short stories, Bobby Dollar and The Dirty Streets of Heaven and the next book in the series, Happy Hour in Hell, the forthcoming animated feature based on Tailchaser’s Song, the Otherland MMORPG and a possible Otherland prequel, the influence of other writers including Tolkien, his writing process, and much, much more.
Andrew: Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
Tad: I mentioned the second Bobby Dollar book, called HAPPY HOUR IN HELL. I’m editing that now. I also have a bunch of short stories coming out in the next year, and hope to begin a few new things as well. And my book TAILCHASER’S SONG is being made into an animated film, and the OTHERLAND books are the source of an almost-released MMORPG, expected out in a few months. There’s also some other work of mine under film option, but no news to share yet.
Andrew: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
Tad: That’s a long story, but it had to do with assuring a secretary in Durban, South Africa that I wasn’t standing in a window of the building across the street from her naked.
ONF: Firstly, I need to know. A little while back I saw a Twitter post about a new Otherland story. Can you perhaps shed some light on this topic? Is there going to be another book?
Tad: There may indeed be another Otherland novel someday, and I also intend to do more fiction-writing work for the game itself, but the Otherland story is for an anthology edited by John J. Adams. We can’t name the title of the anthology yet, and for that reason also I can’t give you the story title! It’ll all be announced in the next month I think. But the story is about Orlando trying to solve a murder mystery in the one of the Otherland simulations, which has been returned to (ostensibly) happier times. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I think it adds a level to the original exploration of that simulation, since we see it now apparently functional.
ONF: There hasn’t been a lot of talk about the Otherland movie since it was announced. Is there any update you can give us about it?
Tad: Current state of play is going back and forth with ideas about how to tell the story, so there’s not much to tell except that it’s an active option and active prep is going on. I’ll make sure to let people know more when things begin to solidify. Sorry to be vague, but Hollywood will kill you if you get too impatient. Things happen when they happen, and when they DO happen, it’s usually in a mad rush.
SS: You are a very well read writer, someone who embraces many disciplines. How much scholarly work did you have to do concerning religion, doctrine, angels, and the like?
TW: I’ve actually done as much research for this, if not more, than any project since the Otherland books, which I think will never be topped in my own work for research done. But not only am I trying to write crime, espionage, and fantasy all in one book, based on a mythology that virtually everybody in the world has thought about, namely what happens after we die, but I’ve also invented the city in which it all takes place, located where I grew up south of San Francisco in northern California, and I’ve had to research that all, too, so that the real history of the SF Bay Area threads in and out of the imaginary history of San Judas Tadeo, otherwise known as “Jude”. (I think anything that leans noir should be set in a main city, because the city itself is usually a character — witness Chandler’s LA or Hammett’s San Fran.)
SS: The reviews are pouring in already and readers love THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN. How is the sequel coming? Title? Release date?
TW: I’ve been very happy with the reviews. I hope some people who normally don’t read me, or don’t read fantasy — crime readers, for instance, and thriller-lovers — will try this. The sequel is called HAPPY HOUR IN HELL, and a very substantial portion of the book takes place in that unpleasant locale. I suspect it will be coming out same time as this one next year. Then the third, SLEEPING LATE ON JUDGEMENT DAY will be out the next year.
19 September 2012: WIRED — UNDERWIRE: Why Dirty Streets of Heaven Writer Tad Williams Isn’t Going to Hell…Probably
Wired Presents Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (article and podcast)
Tad: Hell is much more dynamic, because the — and this is the main character’s presumption, I tend not to step in as the narrator in this, because it’s being told by the main character — but the main character’s presumption is that hell has to be varied, otherwise punishment is no longer effective, because it becomes familiar. So hell has to be something where your punishment surprises you, and part of your punishment is that there is no getting used to things because you never know what will happen next. That’s a very simplified version, but that’s one of the main differences. So hell is quite dynamic and changing. It’s very feudal. It’s very much about “whoever has the power makes the rules.” In heaven that’s true also, but you don’t know who made the rules. The rules have all been made and they’re not changing.
Read the complete interview here or listen to the interview in Episode 69 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast , which also features a panel discussion between hosts John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley and guest geek Genevieve Valentine about angels and heaven in fantasy and science fiction.
BB: I have to ask about the name Bobby Dollar. It’s short and incredibly normal, but the “Dollar” last name stands out to me for some reason. Why did you choose the name Bobby Dollar?
TW: Most of the characters in Bobby’s world, at least the angels, have their Heaven names (“Doloriel” in Bobby’s case) and their Earth names, which are often raffish nicknames, sort of Damon Runyon-esque, based on their angel names and putatively given to them by their Earthbound fellow angels. But also Robert is my real original name (never use it voluntarily) and I used to know some connection between the name “Williams” and money — hence Pogo Cashman, another Tad stand-in, and Theo Vilmos, the same — so it wound up Bobby Dollar as the most likely Runyon-like version of Doloriel, while also demonstrating that Bobby is partly me. But of course I can no longer remember the money connection, which I bumped into twenty years ago or so while doing research.
Talking with Tad about his writing is fun because he’s very self-aware and self-analytical about his process. He seems to shine a light on himself as he works, which is unusual. But it certainly makes an interviewer’s job easier. I have to say I was truly thrilled to hear the planned release schedule for these novels. Suffice it to say that we won’t be aging noticeably before we’re able to finish reading the first three. I suspect there will be more. I do plan to go back to the well and bring Tad in again soon. In the interim, here’s a link to the MP3 audio file of our conversation.
Starburst: Before you started work on The Dirty Streets of Heaven, was it your intention to write something inspired by classic noir?
TW: The first inspiration was more like espionage fiction, the cold war between heaven and hell, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to tell the story, and all Bobby Dollar stories, in that first-person, mordant, wisecracking style that’s so much what we think of as noir. Part of that is because, as my publisher said, “this is the most like your own voice I’ve ever seen you write.” So long before I started the book, at least a couple of years earlier, because it’s an old idea of mine, I’d decided I wanted it to be short, swift, a bit of a standalone and only one character viewpoint.
Starburst: My only complaint about The Dirty Streets of Heaven is that it’s going to be part of a series. Clearly the story doesn’t conclude and we’re left with a lot of questions, which isn’t a problem in itself, but my favourite kind of noir is one where the narrator seems completely doomed by fate, where everything that happens seems inescapable and inevitable. What prompted the decision to turn this story into a trilogy?
TW: I don’t think of it as a trilogy in my normal sense. My fantasy and science fiction multi-volumes tend to be single stories that have to be divided into volumes because of length. I honestly think you could pick up any one of these books by themselves and read them. Although you might wonder “what happens next?”, you would also have a fairly satisfying ending for that book. Ultimately, if people like the character and the milieu, I’d like to keep it open to doing true single volumes, but I decided to do three to begin with, 1) to set the stage for future stories, 2) to not terrify my fantasy readers, who like to immerse themselves deeply, and 3) because I didn’t want to write one really big book to fit everything in. I like this length and this pace, but if I get to keep writing them I think they’ll be more like most crime/mystery novels, more single volumes than continued stories.
MBW: If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
TW: Wow, tough one. The biggest single influence on me was reading The Lord of the Rings when I was about eleven, so probably repeating that amazing, immersive experience would be the most tempting. On the other hand, the first time I read The Martian Chronicles was also a revelation. However, there is an even stronger (and more sentimental) part of me that might like to have the Milne books (poetry and Winnie the Pooh) read for me again, as in my childhood. I learned sarcasm from Eeyore, and that’s at least as important as any other first.
MBW: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
TW: I’m finishing the second Bobby Dollar book, Happy Hour in Hell, and working on a bunch of other projects. Tailchaser’s Song is becoming an animated movie, and the Otherland MMORPG will go online very soon. And please don’t anybody give my family more pets. I have a nearly full-time job as zookeeper as it is.
31 August 2012: Tad Williams, bestselling author of The Dirty Streets of Heaven and many more, answers Ten Terrifying Questions
by John Purcell, The Booktopia Book Guru
JP: What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
TW: When I was twelve I was losing interest in being an archaeologist and beginning to think I’d be a comic book artist for Marvel. By eighteen I had transitioned pretty thoroughly into my “rock star” prep years. By the time I was thirty, I’d realized that writing was going to be a better long-term plan, especially since you didn’t have to work with drummers. But although I worked in suit-and-tie jobs for years, the idea I might do that as a career was poison. I grew up in the ’60s, remember.
JP: What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
TW: My ideal trifecta is: first, entertained; second, surprised; third, ideas and questions creeping up long afterward. I love genre fiction because I like the tradition and the formality — if you write a mystery, you’d better solve it in a way that makes sense and that the reader thinks is fair — but also that you can be as artistic as you want if you also keep the readers’ interest.