Friday, January 21, 2011

William Meikle's Blog Crawl: An Interview

I'm honored that Bookhound's Den is a stop on William Meikle's Blog Crawl. Meikle is a prolific author, having ten novels published and over 130 stories published in twelve countries and eight languages. Meikle's writing is fun and imaginative, and while he is coined as a "pulp" writer, don't let that fool you. The man knows how to write and how to tell an intriguing story. I recently read and reviewed his novelette, Abominable, and loved it. I can't wait to tackle more from his immense collection of e-books he's had published. For more information about William Meikle, stop by his site.

Make sure you read to the end of the interview to enter for your chance to win Kindle—yes, I said a Kindle—filled with Meikle's e-books.

Question: Your work is less concerned with street and corporate crime than most other Scottish crime fiction. Have the recent boom years of police procedural, forensic science and Noir novels affected you as a writer of darker stories?

Answer: Only to the extent that everything is grist to the mill. I do read widely, both in the crime and horror genres, but my crime fiction in particular keeps returning to older, pulpier, bases. My series character, Glasgow PI Derek Adams, is a Bogart and Chandler fan, and it is the movies and Americana of the '40s that I find a lot of my inspiration for him, rather than in the modern procedural. Paradoxically, forensics and noir have affected my horror fiction more than my crime fiction, helped along by my background in Biological Science.
Question: In your work it is the atmosphere of danger as an impersonal presence that creates suspense. Is that harder to maintain than giving it a human form and having a detective investigate psychological motivation as a means of creating order from chaos?
Answer: I believe the opposite is true. A monster is often just that - monstrous, unknown and unknowable. Maintaining a distance from what people understand as real life is the hard bit, but no harder than trying to make readers understand a criminal/murderer whose thought patterns are far away from their own. As I said, a dark unknown is sometimes easier, as everyone has their own fears and phobias that they can project onto an unseen, impersonal presence.
Question: Your Watchers trilogy is written in the tradition of the Arthurian legend and your three books about Glasgow PI Derek Adams could be read as a tribute to Raymond Chandler. Ever since the opening scene of The Big Sleep Philip Marlowe and his disciples have been seen as latter day knights in shining armour. Seen in that light, is your genre transition less surprising than it might seem to some readers of traditional crime fiction?

Answer: It's all about the struggle of the dark against the light. The time and place, and the way it plays out is in some ways secondary to that. And when you're dealing with archetypes, there's only so many to go around, and it's not surprising that the same concepts of death and betrayal, love and loss, turn up wherever, and whenever, the story is placed.

Plus, there are antecedents - occult detectives who may seem to use the trappings of crime solvers, but get involved in the supernatural. William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel (the book that led to the movie Angel Heart) is a fine example, an expert blending of gumshoe and deviltry that is one of my favorite books. Likewise, in the movies, we have cops facing a demon in Denzel Washington's Fallen that plays like a police procedural taken to a very dark place.

And even further back, in the "gentleman detective" era, we have seekers of truth in occult cases in John Silence and Carnacki. Even Holmes himself came close to supernatural conclusions at times.

I've recently explored this for myself, in the Midnight Eye Files stories, in a series of Carnacki stories, and I even got a chance to have Holmes fight a Necromancer in Edinburgh in an anthology appearance in Gaslight Grotesque. It seems there is quite a market for this kind of merging of crime and supernatural, and I intend to write a lot more of it.

Question: Though the theme of darkness comes in strange and shifting shapes, the notion of a complex personality with one or more dark sides is comfortably at home in Scottish Gothic literature. Are you inspired by the works of James Hogg and Robert Louis Stevenson?
Answer: Stevenson in particular is a big influence. He is a master of plotting, and of putting innocents into situations far out of their usual comfort zones while still maintaining a grounding in their previous, calmer, reality. His way with a loveable rogue in Treasure Island and Kidnapped in particular is also a big influence. Other Scottish writers who have influenced me include John Buchan, Iain Banks and, more in my youth than now, Alistair MacLean and Nigel Tranter. From them I learned how to use the scope of both the Scottish landscape and its history while still keeping the characters alive.

Question: You have had over 130 stories published in eight languages and your fiction seems to sell abroad as well as at home. As for the success of your fellow Scottish crime writers, the reasons for their internationally acclaimed work might be a contemporary setting and local flavour. Where does your work find its widest audience?
Answer: I'd love to be better known in Scotland, but the sad truth is that the big markets are in the States, and that's where I find most of my readers. My readership is generally in the fantasy and horror fields, not really known as a big draw in Scotland. That said, I've sold several short crime stories to The Weekly News which is still widely read. My Grannies would have been proud of me.

Question: A writer with a shared interest in fantasy and horror fiction is Stephen King. After many experiments in various genres he seems to have most fun where his imagination finds the least number of formal restrictions. Is that the genre's appeal for you, too?
Answer: It's pulp fiction that interests me, and I find that it crosses many genres almost seamlessly. I rarely think about "genre" anyway. I write what I want to write and leave marketing labels to the publishers. That said, there -is- indeed a freedom in writing about the supernatural where, instead of having a man come in with a gun to get the scene moving, you can have any manner of things going on as long as you can explain them away to the reader's satisfaction. The verisimilitude matters though -- the reader has to -believe-, and that can be difficult to pull off.

To enter for a chance to win a Kindle filled with William Meikle's e-books, simply leave a comment below. At the end of February Mr. Meikle will have a drawing from all eligible entries from his Blog Crawl (of which this post is one stop along the way). For more details, see Mr. Meikle's blog.


williemeikle said...

Thanks for having me over...

Anthony Izzo said...

Sampled Berserker and love it so far. Will be purchasing it. Look forward to reading more of your work.

Jim Mcleod said...

Anthony, check out more of Willies stuff. He's one of my favourite authors

Capt Murdock said...

Between this wonderful Q and A and your review of Abominable I think there is some William Meikle in my future!

Neal Hock said...

Willie--It's all my pleasure having you as guest here. :-)

Anthony and Capt. Murdock--I second what Jim says; check out more (or for the first time) of Willie's stuff. I know I will in the very near future!


KindleObsessed said...

What a fantastic interview Neal. My TBR just grew...another 130 more things to read couldn't hurt at this point I guess :)

williemeikle said...

Only 30 or so at the moment, but growing fast :-)

Mister Teacher said...

I posted a short story by Willie today on my blog, and then came here to be entered to win the Kindle! :)

Lee Thompson said...

Awesomely insightful interview, gentlemen!

Sirhijinx said...


Rabid Fox said...

A great interview, which only spurs me on in putting Meikle's name on my watch list.

Desmond said...

I'm with RabidFox; great interview, and I've been watching Meikle since reading an excerpt of Island Life in Shroud magazine.

Kippoe said...

Great interview a lot of cool books to check out