TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Will: I write lying down. I’m stretched on either a couch or bed, propped with pillows. I can write sitting up, but I’m not comfortable that way.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Will: More of a pantser. Until a few years ago, when I was writing short stories exclusively, I was a total pantser. I still have plenty of short stories that I’ve never finished because I got stuck at some point with no idea how to continue. With novels, I’m closer to the middle. Large sections of the story are complete blank spaces when I start writing, but I like to have some idea what the beginning, middle, and end will look like so I know I’m not going to work on it for six months then realize it’s not going to work. The stakes are so high with novels; to just jump in and have faith that I’ll figure out the story as I go is unnerving. The problem I struggle with is often I just can’t figure out what should happen until I’m actually writing. Often I have to be immersed in the story to see the characters clearly. I’m working on my third novel right now, and the entire last 1/3 is pretty much unknown at this point. I’m not thrilled about that, but it’s just not revealing itself yet.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Will: Robert Reed, Vonda McIntyre, Kim Stanley Robinson, Dan Simmons, Stephen King, Richard Russo, Pat Conroy, Nick Hornby, Michael Chabon, Johnathan Lethem. I think Stephen King has had a big influence on my writing, because I’ve been reading him since I was a kid, so his influence has permeated all the different periods of my life.
The most direct influence on my writing has been the writers who served as my teachers, first at Clarion, then at Taos Toolbox: James Patrick Kelly, Kelly Link, Walter John Williams, Maureen McHugh, Nalo Hopkinson, Richard Paul Russo, Howard Waldrop. I’m so grateful to them for the guidance and insights they gave me.
TQ: Describe Soft Apocalypse in 140 characters or less.
Will: Civilization slowly collapses. People cling to the lives they used to live and try not to notice. Terrible things happen to them.
TQ: What inspired you to write Soft Apocalypse?
Will: Reading the news each day. There is such an astonishing disconnect between what scientists are saying about the dangers facing us, and our response to their warnings. I wondered how people who are totally unprepared for a true collapse, who have no skill with weapons, don’t know how to cure meats, and would go into a deep depression without television and the Internet (people like me) would respond.
For the core of the story, I wanted a character who is clinging to some aspect of our world that would seem out of place during the collapse of civilization, something that would underscore his denial of what was really happening. I made it a guy who’s worried about his love life--sort of if Rob Gordon from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity was working out his relationship issues while having to step over corpses.
TQ: What sort of research did you do to create the world in the novel?
Will: My father, a retired Brigadier General who also worked for the New York State Emergency Management Organization, helped me quite a bit with military and emergency response technical details. The collapse itself was based to some extent on James Howard Kunstler’s book, The Long Emergency, along with tons of articles I’ve read on overpopulation, peak oil, global warming in recent years.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Soft Apocalypse?
Will: Some of my favorite scenes are the ones that readers either love or hate. There’s the art gallery scene, where Jasper is swept up with innocent gallery-goers who are executed by Dada terrorists. When it’s his turn the terrorists see that he’s not from that upscale part of town and they let him go, but only after forcing him to do something horrifying and humiliating that haunts him throughout the rest of the novel.
The Wal-Mart scene is another of my favorites. Jasper’s date, Deirdre, incites a riot over price-hikes by throwing fruit at a manager. The riot escalates, and by the time it’s over, Savannah, Georgia’s Wal Mart is permanently closed.
TQ: In Soft Apocalypse, who was the most difficult character to write and why? The easiest and why?
Will: Deirdre, the personality-disordered singer was probably the most difficult. She was the most extreme character--angry, bitter, lacking a core sense of self--so I was often afraid I was letting her spin out of control into a cliché of the Bad Girl. (My wife, for example, thought there were too many instances where Deirdre exposes her breasts, so some of those had to go in the final draft).
The easiest character was Cortez, because I understood what made him tick. He was a tough but insecure guy, the only central character who pretty quickly grasped the new reality they were living in and figured out how to survive, even thrive, in it. When things get truly awful the other characters have to lean heavily on him because they don’t know what the hell to do, because they’ve been clinging to their cell phones and deodorant while he’s been learning how to make jerky out of squirrel meat.
TQ: What's next?
Will: My second novel, Hitchers, will be published by Night Shade in early 2012. It’s about a cartoonist who becomes possessed by his dead alcoholic Grandfather. He has plenty of company, because a half million others in his city have also become possessed, including an aging rock star and a woman who may be possessed by the cartoonists’ one true love. The cartoonist is in a race against time to figure out how to evict his grandfather before Grandpa manages to push him out of his own body and into the land of the dead.
I’m at work on my third novel, Faller, and I’m co-writing a Sci Fi thriller screenplay with Ted Kosmatka.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery
Will: Thanks for having me!
About Soft Apocalypse
Soft Apocalypse(Night Shade Books, April 2011)
New social structures and tribal connections spring up across America, as the previous social structures begin to dissolve. Soft Apocalypse follows the journey across the Southeast of a tribe of formerly middle class Americans as they struggle to find a place for themselves and their children in a new, dangerous world that still carries the ghostly echoes of their previous lives.
Amazon : Barnes & Noble : Book Depository
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Will's Website: http://willmcintosh.net/
What: Two commenters will each win an e-book of Soft Apocalypse generously provided by Night Shade Books.
How: Leave a comment answering the following question:
Dystopias or Utopias?
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Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Tuesday, August 2, 2011. Void where prohibited by law.
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