Saturday, February 23, 2013

Q&A: William Meikle

The editors of The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders asked their contributors some searching questions. Next up is WILLIAM MEIKLE.

Tell us a little about yourself, and what you like to write?

I'm a Scottish writer. Around 1991 I started to submit stories to the UK small press mags. It's been a slow but steady progression from there. I now have over twenty five professional short story sales and have fifteen novels published in genre presses.

I've been asked many times why I write what I do. I choose to write mainly at the pulpy end of the market, populating my stories with monsters, myths, men who like a drink and a smoke, and more monsters. People who like this sort of thing like it.

I write to escape.

I grew up on a West of Scotland council estate and I spent a lot of time alone or at my grandparent's house.

My granddad was housebound, and a voracious reader. I got the habit from him, and through him I discovered the Pan Books of Horror and Lovecraft, but I also discovered westerns, science fiction, war novels and the likes of Mickey Spillane, Ed McBain, Alistair MacLean, Dennis Wheatley, Nigel Tranter, Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov. When you mix all that together with DC Comics, Tarzan, Gerry Anderson and Dr Who then, later on, Hammer and Universal movies on the BBC, you can see how the pulp became embedded in my psyche.

I think you have to have grown up with pulp to get it. A lot of writers have been told that pulp equals bad plotting and that you must have deep psychological insight in your work for it to be valid. They've also been told that pulp equals bad writing, and they believe it. Whereas I remember the joy I got from early Moorcock, from Spillane and further back, A Merritt and H Rider Haggard. I'd love to have a chance to write a Tarzan, John Carter, Allan Quartermain, Mike Hammer or Conan novel, whereas a lot of writers I know would sniff and turn their noses up at the very thought of it.

I write to escape. I haven't managed it yet, but I'm working on it

What inspired you to write “The Cauldron of Camulos”?

I've tried my hand at several works of fantasy over the years, and they almost always come out the same way – pulpy, with swords, sorcery, monsters and bloody battles to the fore. It's the way I roll.

I may start with good intentions, of writing high fantasy with political intrigue and courtly goings on but, as in the Watchers series, Berserker and the Augustus Seton stories, my inner barbarian muscles to the fore, says Bugger this for a lark, and starts hacking.

The blame for my enthusiasm can be laid squarely at several doors. There's Conan, of course, and Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon and the whole pantheon of Eternal Champions; there's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Solomon Kane, Jon Shannow, the princes of Amber and the shades of a thousand more from the likes of Poul Anderson, A Merritt, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H Rider Haggard, Karl Edward Wagner and many others

So, there's that, and a long standing fascination with Arthur going way back to my childhood and reading The Sword in the Stone, Elidor and a big book of medieval romances with exciting colourful prints of knights and damsels and dragons.

In "The Cauldron" I wanted to strip away the medieval and go back to the Celtic and Saxon versions of the legends, although I suspect Arthur and the Grail as archetypes go back even further than that.

If the TARDIS could drop you off to any one site in its heyday, where would you go?

I'd love to see Orkney, during the mound-building, menhirs-raising years. I'd love to see Maes Howe and the Ring of Brodgar going up and discover why they were built as they were. Or Carnac in Brittany. I'd love to revisit it while it was getting put up.

What appeals to you most about ancient sites/landscapes?

I have a deep love of old places, in particular menhirs and stone circles, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time travelling the UK and Europe just to visit archaeological remains. I also love what is widely known as “weird shit”. I’ve spent far too much time surfing and reading Fortean, paranormal and cryptozoological websites. The cryptozoological stuff especially fascinates me, and provides a direct stimulus for a lot of my fiction.

But there’s just something about the misty landscapes and old places that speaks straight to my soul. Bloody Celts … we get all sentimental at the least wee thing.

What do you have coming out next?

Next up is a weird Sherlock Holmes collection, The Quality of Mercy and Other Stories from a new imprint, Dark Renaissance. It's in deluxe limited edition hardcover and trade paperback editions, with a dozen illustrations by Wayne Miller who has previously done a lot of work on my covers for Dark Regions Press.

"When I first set out to document the casebook of my good friend Sherlock Holmes, there were some cases I approached with a certain degree of trepidation. Holmes has a public face as a man of strict rationality, a stickler for method and observation. But Holmes himself has always been open to more extreme possibilities."

In these pages you'll find, among other things, a Jade pendant that bestows great power, a fiddle that holds the key to an ancient secret, a lost overcoat that wants to return to its owner, and an encounter with an old foe that imperils the whole of Great Britain. All of them are cases that Holmes and Watson must solve, even if they have to open themselves to extreme possibilities to do so.

[William Meikle is a Scottish writer with fifteen novels published and over 250 short story credits in thirteen countries. His work has appeared in a number of anthologies; recent short stories were sold to Nature Futures, Penumbra and Daily Science Fiction. He now lives in a remote corner of Newfoundland, Canada, with icebergs, whales and bald eagles for company. In the winters he gets warm vicariously through the lives of others in cyberspace.]

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