Tad Williams is a California-based fantasy superstar. His genre-creating (and genre-busting) books have sold tens of millions worldwide. His considerable output of epic fantasy and epic science-fiction series, fantastical stories of all kinds, urban fantasy novels, comics, scripts, etc., have strongly influenced a generation of writers. Tad always has several secret projects on the go. 2016 will see the debut of a number of them; March 2017 brings ‘The Witchwood Crown’, the first volume in the long-awaited return to the world of the ‘Memory, Sorrow & Thorn’ novels. Tad and his family live in the Santa Cruz mountains in a suitably strange and beautiful house.

My Humble Beginnings

I’ve spent lots of my life in Palo Alto, the town that grew up around Stanford University. My parents never had much money—we were not on the wealthy side of town—but we never suffered (except existentially) and were always encouraged, especially in our creativity.

(My mother was the main agent of this. She made up odd Pooh-bear-type songs about things we were doing, and improvised great Halloween costumes—she made me a Viking suit one year with a wooden coat hanger for the helmet-horns and a furry bathmat for the vest. Way cool.)

I didn’t go off to college the way all my friends (and family, for that matter) did. I was more interested in living on my own and supporting myself, so after high school I began the series of pretty hideous jobs that has so tragically shaped my outlook on life. I stacked tiles, made tacos, sold shoes, peddled insurance, collected loans—not all at the same time, of course, but you get the idea—and worked at other things in my free moments.

These various projects included several years in a rock band, hosting a radio talk show, making commercial and uncommercial art, acting, and other strange practices.

The band was called “Idiot”, and I still regret that we fell apart just when we were all finally out of school and might have done something. There was a lot of creativity there, a lot of talent—several of the members are still professionally making music—but most of all, there was no one else like us. We were our own weird animal. We used to pretend to be other bands sometimes—Wheatstraw (a boogie band from Nebraska), Xander Povar and His Soul Commandos, the Bay Cruisers (a Bay City Rollers-type teen idol band)—and would perform appropriately before coming back for the encore as ourselves. We blew things up. We lit things on fire. We wrote songs about bowling and voles and luxury camper vans and the end of the world. We were a little ahead of our time. It was fun.

Always in the back of my mind, though, I was determined to do something creative that would actually make me money so I could stop doing horrible things for a paycheck. Ambition is like Tinkerbell—when you stop believing, it dies. So I kept at my various projects, with writing becoming a larger and larger focus. When I received the letter from DAW that they were going to buy my novel Tailchaser’s Song, I was excited and relieved—somehow, the idea that my published books might totally fail to sell never occurred to me that first day, although it was and always is a possibility.

I am deliriously grateful every day that I get to do what I want to do for a living. Whenever the pressures of work and life start to make me cranky, I just remind myself of managing the art store next to the freeway (the owner was Basil Fawlty without Basil’s good qualities, i.e. wit) or being smacked with a $3.99 sale slipper by an irate Kinney’s Shoes customer who refused to believe I didn’t know where the other half of the pair was, and I suddenly feel much better about everything.

Much better.