Welcome to my stop on the Vine : An Urban Legend tour. Author Michael Williams stops by for an interview.
Amateur theatre director Stephen Thorne plots a sensational production of a Greek tragedy in order to ruffle feathers in the small city where he lives. Accompanied by an eccentric and fly-by-night cast and crew, he prepares for opening night, unaware that as he unleashes the play, he has drawn the attention of ancient and powerful forces.
Michael Williams’ Vine weds Greek Tragedy and urban legend with dangerous intoxication, as the drama rushes to its dark and inevitable conclusion.
Please tell me about yourself –
Hi! I’m Michael Williams, and it’s great to have this conversation.
I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and am back in that area of the U.S. after a number of travels and stays in far-flung regions. Over the past 25 years, I have written a number of strange novels, from the early Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted in the DRAGONLANCE series to novels like Arcady, which was singled out for praise by Locus and Asimov’s magazines. Trajan’s Arch (2010) was my eleventh novel, the first published with Blackwyrm Press; I’ve been with Blackwyrm for a couple of years now, and on this blog tour I am promoting my newest book, Vine: An Urban Legend.
I am an Assistant Professor in Humanities at the University of Louisville. I am married, and have two grown sons.
What is something about you that no one knows? –
During my college years, I was a house painter in Vermont. It was certainly seasonal work, since winter started very early up that way, and cut down all the outside possibilities. But it was great work. Quiet and meditative way up on a ladder, the summers never that hot for a Southern boy. You could focus enough mentally to get the job right, while still unhooking part of your mind to dream, to imagine, to speculate. I probably brushed a couple of windows thinking of stories—wasn’t the best painter on the crew, by any stretch—but I loved it there, And you could pass by the houses later, and there was a sense of accomplishment of seeing your handiwork so prominent and visible.
Some favorite books and authors? –
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. John Crowley’s Little, Big. Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Hundred Years of Solitude. Anything by Hermann Hesse, Peter Straub, Angela Carter.
What are you reading now? –
Two things. Siegfried Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler, which is a study of German silent film from the beginning to the switch-over to sound in the late 1920s. A fascinating period, and since I’m into silent film at the moment, a really compelling subject. Kelly Link’s Pretty Monsters. I usually avoid like the plague books categorized as Young Adult (perhaps because I am neither young nor an adult?), but Link is a superb, imaginative storyteller, and I’m finding myself swept up by her work.
What is your writing space and routine like? –
I’m glad you asked! It’s a good chance to brag about one of my favorite things! We live in a Victorian home in southern Indiana. Of course, most 19th century homes had their bedrooms upstairs, but ours had one of its five on the first floor—one that we converted into my home office/library. It’s the best office ever! Twelve foot ceilings with bookshelves all the way up each wall. I work surrounded by a 2000-volume library, tall shelves painted hunter green, antique lamps and a gynormous writing table, on which my computer and books and manuscript are scattered in amiable chaos. It looks like something an Oxford don would have. I’m not worthy of it. And each morning, around 4:30-5:00, I start the writing day. Two to three hours, longer on weekends. There, in the middle of this awesome office, seated at the edge of the big table, I can write or not write, but if it’s not writing, I’m not allowed to do anything else. Not for that space of time, which lasts until I have to go in to the university, and the second workday begins.
Do you have other creative outlets other than writing? –
Everything’s a creative outlet if you do it right. Teaching is one of the most creative things a person can do, and I have never looked on my position at the university as a job—it’s an art I am fortunate to practice, one that nourishes my other work as a writer, and which is nourished in return by the stories I put on the page. It’s the best of both worlds. I love working at both callings.
Please tell me about Vine –
Vine : An Urban Legend is a new version of Euripides’ Bacchae set in a small Midwestern city. When amateur stage director Stephen Thorne decides to stage a controversial Greek tragedy in order to ruffle the feathers in his conservative town, he has no idea that the whole process will stir up dark and ancient forces. Vine is what I call a choral novel. Parts of it are narrated traditionally, but at points in the book, groups of characters comment on what’s going on, reflect on larger issues, and fuss and wrangle with each other. It’s a tragedy, all right, but it has funny moments and should appeal to adult readers (YA it’s not!). What do you have planned next? – More havoc. But it’s only beginning. I may not be that visible as I begin to work on my next novel, which you might not be surprised (having read this interview) will take up the subject of silent films. In the meantime, enjoy Vine until you see me again!
Michael Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Much of his childhood was spent in the south central part of the state, amid red dirt, tobacco farms, and murky legends of Confederate guerillas. He has spent a dozen years in various parts of the world, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, with stopovers in Ireland and England, and emerged from the experience surprisingly unscathed.
Upon returning to the Ohio River Valley, he has published a series of novels of increasing oddness,combinations of what he characterizes as “gothic/historical fiction/fantasy/sf/redneck magical realism” beginning with Weasel’s Luck (1988) and Galen Beknighted (1990), the critically acclaimed Arcady (1996) and Allamanda (1997), and, most recently, Trajan’s Arch (2010). His new novel Vine will be released this summer.
He lives in Corydon, Indiana with his wife, Rhonda, and a clowder of cats.