Today, I’m pleased to welcome author Bill McCormick to the Desu Beast Blog. Bill is definitely one of my most colorful guests with an outré sense of humor. Yes, he makes me giggle (and sometimes blush).
Can you begin by telling me a little bit about yourself?
I’m slightly stunned by the fact I’m alive, as is anyone who’s known me for a while. I’m 56 years old, started selling fiction when I was 49, and keep checking every day to see if this is all some cruel joke. I spent decades in the music industry, starting as a musician and working my way into management, eventually running an indy label that was distributed by Warner Brothers. One amazing lawsuit later, it involved the use of our copyrights and not anything we did wrong, I found myself out of work and getting divorced. So, I figured I had nothing to lose. I started taking the voices in my head and sharing them with people. So far, it’s working out pretty well.
That’s amazing. After sharing an author panel with you, I know how personable and humorous you are. So, music to novels. Let’s find out more about that.
- Have you always wanted to be an author?
No. When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a circus ringmaster. I just thought it was cool there was a job where you got a uniform, got to be in parades, and did no discernible work.
- What inspired you to write your first book?
Drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. Also boredom. I’d been writing nonfiction about the music industry and pop radio for a while: mostly because I toured with bands and did a specialty show on ABC-FM here in Chicago from 1986 to 1991. Those are not unrelated. Touring and talking to yourself is a great gateway to getting stoned as hell.
- What genre(s) do you write?
Humorous dystopian sci-fi. I’m not sure it’s a real genre, but it’s what I write.
- What is the name of your latest novel?
- How did you come up with the concept for your novel?
Well, as I mentioned above, I spent all of the 80’s, and the early part of the 90’s, stoned off my ass. When I was touring I would get bored and watch the landscape pass by. Since the majority of America is farmland, I’d look at lots of cows and horses and stuff. I started wondering what would happen if they gained sentience. One thing led to another and I had the plot for The Brittle Riders.
- Once you had the plot was it easy to write the book?
Oh, hell yeah! This was the early 90’s. I took all my notes, cobbled an outline, and crafted a 1,400 page magnum opus to fantasy. It had a Sword of Truth … you know what, let’s not talk about that. God gifted me with a paper shredder and I was able to save humanity goo-gobs of literary agony. Quite honestly it was so bad that, had it gotten released, I may never have gotten laid again.
Years later, drug free and reasonably sane, I had started getting my short stories published. I ran across my notes on The Brittle Riders and saw some stuff that was worth saving. I kept the titular characters, one villain instead of a dozen or so, and came up with a single story arc. After that I let the characters guide me. I was hoping to get a novella out of it and ended up with a trilogy. Hopefully, in this case at least, bigger is better.
- Who is your favorite character and why?
That would be Sland. He’s rude, violent, insecure, and capable of more than he’s comfortable admitting.
- Who is your least favorite character and why?
I really don’t have one. My girlfriend hates Xhaknar because he’s so violent and self serving. But I can’t hate something that fell out of my brain. Tumors and all he’s a part of me.
- Which character do you relate to the most and why?
Oolnok. His whole life is spent watching the events of the novel happen around him. He’s not a warrior, not a leader, he’s nobody and everybody all in one. That’s a lot like any of us. We’re not ruling the world, or saving it, we’re just doing what we can to keep a roof over our heads, not piss off whoever’s in charge this week, and make sure our families are protected and safe. He, literally, has nothing to do with the story and yet people seem to like him as much as I do.
- Is there a certain message that you desire your readers to grasp?
In the Bible we’re promised a world without end. There’s nothing in there that says humans are guaranteed any part of that.
- What books have influenced you the most? Why?
Oooh, toughy. Walter Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz for its glorious look at how religions develop, Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy on how we perceive authority and reality, Octavia Butler’s Patternmaster for its ability to use poetry as prose (a staple of hers), and others. I would also toss in Harlan Ellison’s Repent Harlequin Said the Tick Tock Man, even though it’s a short, for its passage about using jellybeans to overthrow a government.
- Who are a few of your favorite authors?
The ones I just named, obviously. I’d add Arthur C. Clarke, David Brin, Anne McCaffrey, Lara Elena Donnelly who recently caught my attention, and there are many more.
- With what author would you love to have a conversation?
Is this one of those living or dead questions? I usually prefer the living since the dead don’t talk much. I guess I would pick Vandana Singh. I’d like to know how a native Indian came to encompass Whitman’s bromide, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” Also I want to pick her mind about several of her shorts.
- Any future projects you would like to talk about?
A few. I just licensed my IP for Legends Parallel, Pestilent, and Bob: Sins of the Son, all graphic novels and comic books, to Nerdanatix for development into video games, animated series and, some day hopefully, live action films or television shows. They will also be developing spin off properties for younger audiences since all my stuff is rated “M” for Mature. That’s not as crazy as it sounds. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was flat out murder porn when it came out. A tweak here and a tweak there and you know what happened after that. And it’s far from the only title to successfully make this transition. Legends Parallel already has two issues out and the other two titles are slated for release in 2018. I did the deal based on the scripts and the quality of the work of the artists involved. I also have the prequel/sequel to The Brittle Riders coming out next year. It’s called Goptri of the Mists and it’s even more twisted that TBR. And, as usual, I can also be found in numerous anthologies.
- If you could start again, is there anything you would change in your latest book?
I get asked this a lot and can’t really think of anything. I know nothing’s perfect, but I was allowed to do with this trilogy many things other authors might not be offered. I was even allowed to change the structure of the prose from book to book, starting with Present Perfect and then devolving to a traditional past tense narrative as the story develops. That was purposeful. In the first book the titular characters ignore their pasts, which suck, and don’t believe they have a future since everyone they love is either dead or in exile. As they develop so does the surrounding prose.
- Is there a short excerpt of your current book that you would like to share?
Sure. Because I’m an asshole, and have played one on TV, I’ll share a scene from Book III.
Worlds can change on the tiniest thing. History, written by the winners, tends to edit out the minutiae and record the broader stories. One item that historians would edit out happened now. Which is a shame, because without this event the rest would never have happened.
Nature called and it was Sland’s turn to answer. It was almost even-fall and they could hear the survivors setting up camp on the shore. They’d decided to wait until breaklight to see who was alive and in charge and then figure out their next move.
Sland cared about none of this, although he was aware of it all. He just wanted to find a quiet tree and loose his bowels. He walked a considerable distance from their camp, found a suitable tree, and was just finishing with the last wiping leaf when he heard a harrumphing sound behind him. He slowly rose while pulling his pants up and turned. He was faced with a nice array of weapons, any one of which could kill him instantly. He finished buttoning up and realized that this might be his last moment on Arreti. If so he wanted to go out with a laugh. He stood as tall as he could, expanded his chest and bellowed.
“I am Sland, prince of the Temple of Azarep, blooded warrior of the Brittle Riders. I have come to Kalindor to meet Quelnerom in ritual battle for the throne.”
Yep, that should be good for a laugh. He smiled as he gently stepped away from the steaming pile and waited to be executed. Instead some of the weapons waggled for him to move forward and others waggled for him to put his hands above his head. He complied with both wagglings.
They did not remove his weapons. His gun was still holstered on his thigh and his sword was still sheathed on his back. His many knives were still hidden all over his body. Not that he saw any way of using them without being killed instantly but he noted it since it was odd that he still had them.
They led him to the shore and into the middle of their makeshift camp. He could see they were all wet and tired. They didn’t look good at all. Of course, being blown out of a perfectly good ship and then swimming a kay or so to shore will do that to a brand.
He assumed the reptiloid wearing more feathers and glitter than the rest was Quelnerom. He was dry and reasonably unruffled so Sland figured he must have ridden in one of the boats he saw dragged up on shore. He’d only heard him described but this brand seemed to fit the description. One of his captors reeled off his bona fides as he’d given them and then they all stepped back a respectful distance.
Sland chuckled to himself. He sincerely doubted that Quelnerom would follow through with anything other than having him killed where he stood. Well, it was fun while it lasted. Quelnerom stood and stared at him.
“You carry a sword. Is it for decoration or can you use it?”
Sland was astounded. Geldish was going to kill him if he survived this.
“The sword has been blooded.”
Quelnerom nodded appreciatively. “Remove all your other weapons.”
Sland did as he was told and that took a bit. When he was done his gun, holster, and eight knives lay in a neat array to the side. The reptiloids looked as though it were a small’s illusion show as each knife appeared from a different place. He stepped back to the center of the group and looked at Quelnerom.
Quelnerom was handed a sword and he aimed it forward in the ritual salute. Sland, seeing no option, unsheathed his sword and crossed his with Quelnerom’s.
Quelnerom nodded and lunged.
- Do you have a favorite quote from one of your novels?
Apocalypses are funny that way. The second I wrote it I knew I had a tagline for the series.
- Do you have any advice for up and coming authors?
Vodka makes the world better. If you’re single groupies, preferably rich ones, are a good call too. I would also suggest they write everything. Speeches, ad copy, out of genre stories, anything and everything. Even if they never come back to those methods again they’ll be better writers knowing them.
- Are there any future events you would like to announce?
Yessiree Bob. Or, Yessiree Aaron-Michael, as the case may be. I’ll be appearing at the Motor City Black Age of Comics convention on November 18th at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan.
Thank you for visiting the Desu Beast Blog. I have my copies of The Brittle Riders and can’t wait to get started! I’ll be stopping by your booth during the Virtual FantasyCon. Great Success!
You can enjoy a recent panel discussion on What Makes an Epic Saga featuring Bill McCormick.