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Walter Jon Williams Pt. 1

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Walter Jon Williams is an author from New Mexico. He has an extensive backlist, most of which he recovered from Eastern European Pirates. He began writing historical fiction but transitioned to Science Fiction and Fantasy. His writings had spanned the gamut from near future techno thrillers, to cyberpunk, and space opera. His personal website can be found here.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Walter Jon Williams. We discussed several things, but the Praxis series was the main focus of the discussion. What follows is the first part of that interview which covers the more general topics, like how he became a writer and inspirations.

DAF: I have heard that you are not from New Mexico. So what brought you out to New Mexico? What has kept you here?

WJW: My family moved to New Mexico when I was thirteen.  It was very much a contrast with my childhood, in a Finnish-American community in northern Minnesota.  New Mexico doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

But New Mexico grows on you.  I’ve made attempts to live elsewhere, and I keep coming back.  

People in New Mexico are extremely friendly.  There’s a very large writers’ community.  The cost of living is low if you stay out of Santa Fe, and that makes it easier to survive as a freelancer.  

And most importantly, there are so many sources of inspiration here— staggering natural beauty, serious science being done at the labs, traditional lives being lived in Native American communities.  

Plus, there’s a lot of interesting history.

DAF: What is your favorite piece of history you have found since you have been here?

WJW: I wrote a novel, Days of Atonement, out of the cultural collision between the attitudes of the 19th century old west and those of the 21st century.  

DAF: I thought that was your most recent. With the way you have gone about recovering you backlist you always have something that is ‘new’

WJW: When I decided to make my backlist available as ebooks, I brought out the least popular works first.

DAF: That was your Privateers series?

WJW: No no, this was the Maijstral series. They were science fiction. But they never found an audience when they were in print, and I decided that if I was going to experiment with this this new medium, I could afford to make some mistakes with the books that hardly anyone ever read.

It’s a shame about the Maijstral books, really. I had enormous fun writing them, and they are very well thought of by the sixteen people who read them.

DAF: You brought up the Maijstral series which was the first series of science fiction you converted to ebooks. What is it that brought you to science fiction? Because you first started with historical fiction right?

WJW: Yes, I started with historical fiction. I started writing it because I was qualified for it, and secondly there was a historical fiction boom in the late 70s.  I wrote five books of a projected ten-book series, and then the boom turned into a bust and I had no work. So I madly started sending off proposals in all directions for books that I thought I might be able to write: literary novels, mysteries, historicals with a different approach, and then there was this old science fiction proposal that had been bumping around for a few years. And the science fiction proposal was the one that sold.

I honestly hadn’t intended to become a science fiction writer, but it turned out lucky that I did—  the response I got to all my other proposals is that they were just too weird. You hardly ever hear that as a criticism in science fiction.

DAF: Last year you said you sold six books, are they all one large project or are they shorter projects?

WJW: No they are two series of three books each that I sold to two different publishers.  One set is a continuation of the Praxis series that I began some years ago. I am working on the first of those now. It should be out late 2018.

DAF: What is the other series?

WJW: The other series is called Quillifer, a secondary world fantasy series— the first I have ever done.

DAF: I have never heard the term secondary world before what does that mean?

WJW: A “secondary world” is an imaginary world distinct from our own, like Middle-Earth or Narnia.  

I never intended to write a big fantasy, but then I came up with the main character, and I found him irresistible.  I hope the readers agree.

DAF: What publishers will these be coming from?

WJW: The Praxis books will continue from HarperCollins.  Qullifer will be out from Simon and Schuster.

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