TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Guy: Thank you for having me, are there refreshments?
TQ: Down the hall, 3rd door on the right. Help yourself.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Guy: Oh God, break me in gently with the easy questions why don't you? The most challenging thing about writing is writing. At it's worst it's all hard, drawing fresh water from a broken tap. When it's good it's wonderful, or at least easy and therefore a relief, when it's bad it's pure bloody hell and I hate every minute of it.
To be brutally honest I think the only part about writing I truly enjoy is the period before I actually start, the ideas, the excitement about being able to tell a story that keeps flipping over and over in your head. The minute that story becomes a real thing on paper the pleasure wanes and never really returns.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Guy: My autocorrect just changed "pantser" to "panther". Which would be a very different question. I'm not a panther, I'm more of a tabby. I'm not a plotter either. Sometimes I've had to be, I have a novel coming out at the end of the year that was plotted extensively because it was part of the submission process. The editor, quite sensibly, wanted to know that I could see how the entire story could play out.
Generally I don't do that. In fact I hated having to do it then. I'm terrible at synopses, breakdowns, pitches… They're telling the story before I've told the story, if that makes any sense whatsoever… Until I actually write the book or script I'm never entirely sure how it's going to play out. I usually know the end and I have glimpses of scenes and events along the way, a thread to follow. But until I'm actually in there, working away at it, anything could happen and anything could change. So I write these terrible, apologetic, vague pitches that sound like cover blurbs, trying to convey the one thing I do know, the flavour of the piece. But they're always too light on detail. Naturally any editor or producer spots this immediately, laughs and gives me a clip around the ear. A few of the kind souls have let me get away with it, Solaris included. Bet they're not laughing now...
TQ: Describe The Good, the Bad and the Infernal (Heaven's Gate Trilogy 1) in 140 characters.
Guy: Guns; Freak Shows; false messiahs; monks; adventurers; The Man With No Name; monsters; explosions and a donkey. It's all about the journey.
TQ: What was your inspiration for The Good, the Bad and the Infernal?
Guy: Ever since falling in love with Spaghetti Westerns thanks to Sergio Leone and his Dollars Trilogy, I've wanted to write one. An impossibility given that it's an archaic, cinematic genre. They're just so evocative though, epic and rich, the western as fantasy.
I first came up with the idea about ten years ago, before I was even working as an author (I dabbled but there's a world of difference between tinkering for pleasure and using words to keep the roof on). It centred around my Man With No Name character and the idea of a ghost town that contained a doorway to Heaven. A way of walking directly into the afterlife without all that cumbersome, and potentially painful, dying first.
The idea sat on the back burner for years, new characters came and went, the corrupt preacher Obeisance Hicks (I think it was the rhythm of the name as much as anything else that appealed to me!) the band of freak show outlaws, the pulp author forced to live up to his own constructed image. It grew into a heady stew. One I continue to stir as I work on book two.
TQ: In The Good, the Bad and the Infernal who was the most difficult charter to write and why? The easiest and why?
Guy: Actually, none of the characters were particularly difficult or easy, perhaps because they'd lived in my head so long. There are certain complications to the Man With No Name of course (you know, the Eastwood character had a name in all three dollar movies, God knows where the nickname came from…) writing characters that are enigmatic is always tricky, you don't want to let the reader into their heads, at least not too deeply, but that's purely nuts and bolts stuff. They all offered different voices, different pleasures.
TQ: Which character surprised you the most?
Guy: Characters rarely surprise me, despite some opinions to the contrary I am skeptical about the notion of them "having a life of their own". They don't, they do what they're bloody well told. You have to allow their personalities to inform their actions of course, you may come upon a plot point that feels wrong as you realise the character you've created wouldn't behave in the way you might have needed them to but that's different. That's all business as usual in the unfolding business of story.
The character of Quartershaft was the most dramatically altered I suppose. I always knew how he would change throughout the course of this story but I made that change much quicker than I had originally planned. He starts as comic relief really, something I felt would be fun and useful in what could otherwise be a rather dark book. I respected him a little more when it came to writing him though, made him less of a dramatic function and more of a person. He was a weak link in that regard.
I have a habit of doing this actually, I like to create characters that are immediately identifiable to a reader and then dig down, making them less and less what you may have initially believed. I think that's what people are like, we're all contradictory surfaces.
I'm very proud of all of these characters actually, they're a mad, broad lot on the surface but hopefully I've managed to bring them to life in a way that's a little more interesting than they might have appeared on the surface.
An editor once looked at the cast list of this novel and said "That's the most absurd list of characters I've ever seen for a novel." I took it as a compliment though I'm by no means sure it was meant as one.
TQ: What was the inspiration for naming the town the characters are seeking Wormwood? I thought of absinthe at first, but I'm not sure that is correct. /only answer this if it does not giveaway too much
Guy: It's a biblical reference and one that will continue to play out.
Absinthe. Yes. I can't say I have any fondness towards absinthe. There's a bar in York called The Evil Eye and I went there a few years ago with some old friends and was drawn to a preposterous drink they offered called a "Hell Shot". It was import strength vodka mixed with absinthe. You were only allowed to order one or two I think, and I had to read a disclaimer over the bar. Being an occasional idiot I found the idea of a drink the bar was afraid of amusing. So I ordered two. I was fine for about and hour then the bad things happened.
I really am terribly foolish sometimes.
TQ: The title of the novel pays homage to the 1966 spaghetti Western film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but the novel is not simply a western. It's a Steampunk Weird Western. What is a Weird Western and do you have any favorites in that subgenre?
Guy: A weird western is a mashup really, but then everything I write tends to be, I'm no good at picking one genre and sticking to it. A western with horror or supernatural elements.
The film readers will most readily identify as an influence is GRIM PRAIRIE TALES, an excellent portmanteau movie of horror western stories starring James Earl Jones and Brad Dourif. It's very hard to get hold of these days unfortunately but I recommend it wholeheartedly if you can track a copy down.
In prose, Joe R. Lansdale's your man. What a stunning writer he is, and I don't just say that because he could break my neck with a flick of his toes. Rich, witty, earthy and evocative. The best description for his work I can think of is actually the title of one of his collections: "Electric Gumbo". What a wonderful phrase!
TQ: Why do you think that Steampunk and Weird Western work so well together?
Guy: They're both subverting other genres, they're mashups. And, of course, they match time periods!
TQ: What's next?
Guy: It's a phenomenally busy year, I have two other series launching. The next to arrive is DEADBEAT which is coming from Titan Books. MAKES YOU STRONGER, the first book is being published at the end of May. It's about two ex-theatricals who spot a group of men stealing a coffin from a church late at night. As if that weren't bizarre enough, the occupant of the coffin is still breathing. The DEADBEAT books are pulp crime, horror affairs with a fair dose of humour.
Then, in September we have THE CLOWN SERVICE from Del Rey UK, the first in an ongoing series (hopefully!) about a department of the UK security service that deals with 'preternatural terrorism'.
Alongside that we have the first baby steps of my comics career ( I adore comics and have always wanted to work in them). I'm scripting THE ENGINE for Madefire, a dazzling bunch of San Franciscans that have been doing innovative things with digital comics; I've written a short series called PHOENIX that's part of David Lloyd's ACES WEEKLY and finally there's GOLDTIGER, an original graphic novel that claims to be reprinting a classic 'lost' newspaper strip from the sixties but really isn't. All of which are produced with artist Jimmy Broxton because he's brilliant and he will always work for me as long as I own the negatives.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Guy: Thank you for having me!
About The Good, the Bad and the Infernal
The Good, the Bad and the Infernal
Heaven's Gate Trilogy 1
Solaris Books, March 26, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
A weird western, a gun-toting, cigarrillo-chewing fantasy built from hangman’s rope and spent bullets. The west has never been wilder. A Steampunk-Western-Fantasy from Guy Adams.
“You wish to meet your God?” the gunslinger asked, cocking his revolver, “well now... that’s easy to arrange.”
Every one hundred years a town appears. From a small village in the peaks of Tibet to a gathering of mud huts in the jungles of South American, it can take many forms. It exists for twenty-four hours then vanishes once more, but for that single day it contains the greatest miracle a man could imagine: a doorway to Heaven.
It is due to appear on the 21st September 1889 as a ghost town in the American Midwest. When it does there are many who hope to be there: traveling preacher Obeisance Hicks and his simple messiah, a brain-damaged Civil War veteran; Henry and Harmonium Jones and their freak show pack of outlaws; the Brothers of Ruth and their sponsor Lord Forset (inventor of the Forset Thunderpack and other incendiary modes of personal transport); finally, an aging gunslinger who lost his wings at the very beginning of creation and wants nothing more than to settle old scores.
A weird western, a gun-toting, cigarrillo-chewing fantasy built from hangman’s rope and spent bullets. The West has never been wilder.
Makes You Stronger
Titan Books, June 11, 2013 (US)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
Max and Tom are old, old friends, once actors. Tom now owns a jazz nightclub called Deadbeat which, as well as being their source of income, is also something of an in-joke. In a dark suburban churchyard one night they see a group of men are loading a coffin into the back of a van.
But, why would you be taking a full coffin away from a graveyard and, more importantly, why is the occupant still breathing? Tom and Max are on the case. God help us...
The Clown Service
Del Rey UK, September 19, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 302 pages
Toby Greene has been reassigned.
The Department: Section 37 Station Office, Wood Green.
The Boss: August Shining, an ex-Cambridge, Cold War-era spy.
The Mission: Charged with protecting Great Britain and its interests from paranormal terrorism.
The Threat: An old enemy has returned, and with him Operation Black Earth, a Soviet plan to create the ultimate insurgents by re-animating the dead.
And a peak at The Engine forthcoming from Madefire and scripted by Guy Adams:
Copyright Jimmy Broxton
Eventually he decided he'd quite like to eat regularly. Switching careers he became a full-time writer. Nobody said he was clever. Against all odds he managed to stay busy and since then he has written over twenty books. From bestselling humour title THE RULES OF MODERN POLICING (1973 Edition) to brand new adventures for Sherlock Holmes in THE BREATH OF GOD and THE ARMY OF DR MOREAU. He is the author of THE WORLD HOUSE novels, the DEADBEAT series and the weird westerns THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE INFERNAL and ONCE UPON A TIME IN HELL. He is quite tired now and wishes to find a palm tree to fall asleep under.