On this Writer Wednesday, I’m taking a break from my beach vacation to introduce you to the talented David Michael Williams. He was kind enough to answer all my nosy questions, and below the Q&A is all the information you need on his books. Read on!
Where are you from?
I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and currently live in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
What’s something people might not expect about you?
Here are three strange-but-true facts about yours truly:
1. I performed at Carnegie Hall as part of a national youth choir.
2. I starred in a Chinese infomercial.
3. I used to fantasize about becoming a hermit.
Tell me about your writing and editing processes. For example, are you a pantser or a plotter?
I started out as a pantser, writing with only a vague notion of where the story should go, but I found that to be very inefficient. An “organic” first draft made the editing process more labor-intensive. These days, I won’t start a manuscript until I have a chapter outline that covers the major plot points and the point-of-view character for each scene.
The more complicated my books—and my science fiction series, The Soul Sleep Cycle, certainly qualifies—the more resources I end up creating during the planning stage. But no matter what I’m writing, I tend to compose character profiles, timelines, and other supporting documents for world building.
When I write, I use my chapter outline as a guide and compose the book from beginning to end. Sometimes the creative juices flow; other times, not so much. Regardless, I crank out as many words as I can in the allotted time. You can’t edit what’s not there, so I’d rather have to deal with complete dreck later than allow myself to get stuck. In short, I treat it like any other job.
The editing process varies from project to project. I’ve been known to rewrite a book from scratch when necessary. Sometimes editing results in the cutting of many words, but other times, I add new chapters and flush out details, inflating the word count. Unlike many novelists, I actually enjoy editing a lot. It’s probably due to that part of my brain that craves organization—because that’s what editing is: organizing a story in the most optimal format for readers.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Back when I had the time to generate 2,000 words a day, five days a week, I could write and edit a novel in about a year. Such was the case with The Renegade Chronicles. But writing and editing in fits and starts, as in recent years, really lengthened my timelines. My two most recent novels took me multiple years each, though I’m hopeful I’ll be able to write and edit the next one in about a year and a half.
What is your schedule like when you’re writing?
My writing schedule has ebbed and flowed throughout the years, but one thing was always consistent: when I have time set aside for writing, I use. I’m still in the planning process for my next book (If Dreams Can Die), but once I dive into the first draft, I expect I’ll be dedicating seven to eight consecutive hours to it each week. Tuesdays will be wholeheartedly dedicated to writing while I’ll use other pockets of time throughout the week to continue marketing The Renegade Chronicles and working on other aspects of my business, One Million Words LLC.
What inspired you to self-publish your first series, The Renegade Chronicles?
I wrote three complete manuscripts before finding an agent to represent the series or a publisher to buy it. And, frankly, no one was interested. To be fair, the first book was bloated—175,000 words is too long for an unknown author’s first book—and all three books needed copious edits. The decade in between finishing the third book and revisiting the series provided me with the skills and the objectivity to go back and fix the manuscripts.
The bottom line is I had faith in the stories and the writing, and I wanted others to be able to enjoy them. Creating my own independent publishing company, One Million Words, was a means to that end.
I chose to publish all three at once because we live in an age of instant gratification. I know I hate waiting for a writer to finish the next installment in a series. Since I already had all three novels written, it didn’t make sense to stagger the releases of Volumes 2 and 3. If someone enjoyed Rebels and Fools, I didn’t want anything getting in the way of their buying Heroes and Liars and Martyrs and Monsters immediately.
You’re currently working on a new series called The Soul Sleep Cycle. Can you describe the first book, If Souls Can Sleep, in one sentence?
If Souls Can Sleep introduces a world where a select few possess the ability to invade the dreams of others—where one man’s nightmare is about to stretch from his subconscious into the real world to beyond the grave.
The characters in The Renegade Chronicles have very interesting names, such as Klye, Ragellan, Plake, and Crooker. There’s an even a Noel, which is my son’s name! Do you have any advice for fantasy writers on naming characters and places?
I recently put down a fantasy novel because I felt the author was trying too hard to make every character and location name incredibly long and complicated. I had nothing to tie the syllables to, and so every name sounded exactly like the next. It was simply too much work to keep track of them.
When it comes to adding an exotic flair to names in fantasy books, I think less is more. For example, many of the names of settlements and landforms in The Renegade Chronicles are translations from foreign languages, so they come off as almost too simple: Port Town, the Divine Divider River, the Rocky Crags. It wouldn’t make sense for the men and women of Capricon to use obtuse elven or dwarven names. Similarly, if a character has a very long name, the folks around him or her are bound to shorten it, which also does the reader a favor.
When I come up with new names, I typically focus on sounds and the rhythm of words as well as the feelings they evoke. I invent names that sound like they could be actual names in this world. Truth be told, I own a half-dozen baby name books, and I have a file called “The Namepool” where I save interesting names for future characters. I’m something of a name addict.
Sometimes, the root meaning of a name plays a part in characterization. Other times it’s less academic. For “Ragellan,” I wanted something noble-sounding, like the explorer Magellan, and by replacing the “M” with an “R,” I subliminally insert the word “rage” in there, giving that character a bit of an edge. “Plake” is short and simple, perfect for a rustic type. There are hard sounds in there too, which is fitting for someone as stubborn and pugnacious as Plake Nelway.
As for “Klye,” well, let’s just say his name is a happy, dyslexic accident.
What are your long-term goals?
First and foremost, I want to continue to publish my novels, whether through a traditional publishing house or through One Million Words. I have a lot of ideas, so here’s to hoping I find readers who appreciate my stories and will support my dream of getting paid to do what I love.
In addition to novels, I’d love to write for a video game or a graphic novel. My wife says I should produce a pun-a-day calendar. At this point, I’m keeping everything on the table.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Oh, I have lots of advice—mostly lessons I’ve learned along the way. I include writing tips on my website (david-michael-williams.com).
What I will say is I’m glad print-on-demand publishing was not available when I was in my early twenties. Self-publishing almost makes it too easy to put one’s work out there, and I’ve seen plenty of examples of dabblers and amateurs publishing before they were ready. I fear that I would have been among them; if I had published The Renegade Chronicles before 2016, they would have been an inferior product. My advice to young writers is to wait until you’re prepared to treat your fiction as a business before considering self-publishing.
What book(s) are you currently reading?
I’ve enjoyed a resurgent interest in graphic novels recently, and I just finished Marvel’s Squadron Supreme series from the ’80s. I also have some Silver Age Avengers collections on my shelf, which I hope to get to soon.
My wife and I are reading Lev Grossman’s Magicians Trilogy together. And I’m seriously considering reading one of my unpublished fantasy novels (Magic’s Daughter) while on vacation in a couple of weeks, if only to see whether the story is salvageable.
Where can we find you on social media?
The Renegade Chronicles
Volume 1: Rebels and Fools
The greatest peace treaty in Altaerran history is unraveling.
As civil war threatens the Continent United, two fallen Knights of Superius are forced to join the rebels they once condemned. Hounded by assassins and assailed by doubt, they flee to Capricon in search of answers — only to discover the island harbors dark secrets of its own.
Alongside a mostly reformed thief, a dethroned pirate king, a mysterious woman with a magical sword, and other would-be heroes, the fugitives encounter a sinister power that has taken root within the Alliance.
If the Renegades and Knighthood can’t rise above their bitter rivalry, both factions — and the realm itself — are doomed.
Volume 2: Heroes and Liars
When civil war escalates into a full-scale invasion of Capricon, every citizen’s loyalty is tested.
Even as the Renegades and Knights at Fort Faith band together to oppose the foreign army, an unremarkable merchant from the capital gets caught up in a cryptic mission of great importance. Why his companions are so eager to reach a castle in the middle of nowhere is just one of many mysteries.
An old man with a twisted sense of honor, a strange girl with mismatched eyes, a highwayman who is less than he seems, and a Knight with incredible abilities — trusting the wrong person could be as fatal as a goblin’s spear.
But will the truth prove more dangerous than the deception?
Volume 3: Martyrs and Monsters
The devastating conclusion of the war between Capricon’s defenders and the goblin invaders draws near.
Within besieged Fort Faith, the motley army of Knights, Renegades, and refugees prepare for the final battle and almost certain defeat. But even as the crusaders make peace with their gods, champions on both sides of the battlefield will decide whether victory is worth the steep price of damnation.
A ruthless general who craves revenge, a warrior cleric plagued by doubt, a shaman in search of an unholy relic, and former rebels fighting for redemption — no matter who triumphs, sacrifices must be made.
And whatever the outcome, the survivors — and the island itself — will never be the same.
The Complete Collection
The Renegade Chronicles collection includes all three novels and a comprehensive appendix of the people, places, and peculiarities of Altaerra.
The Soul Sleep Cycle
The Soul Sleep Cycle reveals a hidden world where a select few possess the ability to prowl the collective unconscious. Two rival factions of dream drifters have turned the dreamscape into a war zone, and those sworn to protect the public must walk a razor’s edge of morality while fighting against those who would use their power to control death itself.
If Sin Dwells Deep
Straight-laced Allison Greene has a secret: she can invade the minds of others while they sleep. Determined to use her dream drifting abilities for the greater good, Allison joins Project Valhalla, a highly classified government organization charged with keeping peace in the dreamscape.
But her nocturnal escapades begin to bleed into the real world when she falls in love with a fellow secret agent and unwittingly lands in the crosshairs of a sexually sadistic drifter who has discovered her true identity. Soon the constant compromises Allison makes as the devil-may-care goddess Syn have her questioning which persona is more real.
When she disobeys a direct order forbidding her from searching for her missing mentor in the dreamscape, she quickly realizes that the rescue mission could cost her not only her life, but her very soul as well.
(If Sin Dwells Deep is under editorial consideration.)
If Souls Can Sleep
Vincent Cruz used to think he would give anything to bring his daughter back…
After years of reliving the morning his daughter drowned, Vincent’s recurring dream suddenly stops, only to be replaced by a new nightmare that stretches from his subconscious into the real world and beyond the grave.
With the help of his stoner roommate and a sleep doctor with issues of her own, Vincent must make sense of a dream in which he becomes Valenthor, a medieval warrior who also lost a daughter and who, like Vincent, has turned to the bottle for solace. But Valenthor’s clichéd quest is more than a coping mechanism that lets Vincent play hero, and unless he can figure out how his devious—and comatose—half-brother, the CIA, and an amateur fantasy writer figure into the phenomenon, he may lose more than his mind.
(If Souls Can Sleep is under editorial consideration.)
If Dreams Can Die
Exposed to sword-and-sorcery fantasy at the impressionable age of 12, David Michael Williams dove headlong into the brutal arena of fiction writing when he competed in a short-story contest against his sixth-grade classmates. While his story—a glorified battle scene, really—garnered no accolades, two of its characters survived for many years thereafter.
After writing four fantasy novels set in the magical world of Altaerra, he tried his hand at a “genre-bending” series. The first two books of the Soul Sleep Cycle, If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep, are represented by Sternig & Byrne Literary Agency and are currently under editorial consideration.
With a background in journalism, public relations and marketing, David continues his love affair with the written word as a content specialist at BrownBoots Interactive Inc. His freelance lifestyle column Generation Why? ran in The (Fond du Lac) Reporter from April 2006 to March 2013. He became a member of Allied Authors, one of Wisconsin’s oldest writing collectives, in 2005.
In 2016, he created the indie publishing company One Million Words LLC and published The Renegade Chronicles, a sword-and-sorcery fantasy series comprised of Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars and Martyrs and Monsters. More information about his fiction can be found at http://david-michael-williams.com.
David lives in Wisconsin with his wonderful wife (who somehow puts up with his addiction to storytelling) and two larger-than-life children.
I don’t know about you, but my TBR just keeps growing. If you want to be featured in a Writer Wednesday, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time! <3 Cassidy