USA TODAY–bestselling author David Niall Wilson has been writing and publishing horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction since the mid-1980s. He has written over a dozen standalone novels as well as numerous novels for his own DeChance Chronicles and Cletus J. Diggs series, plus tie-in novels for Star Trek: Voyager, Stargate Atlantis, World of Wraith, and others, plus ten short story collections (not to mention about 150 stories in various magazines and anthologies). An ordained minister, former editor of The Tome magazine, former President of the Horror Writers Association, and recipient of multiple HWA Bram Stoker Awards, Dave is CEO and founder of Crossroad Press, which occasionally keeps him a little busy. His collection, The Devil’s in the Flaws & Other Dark Truths, is scheduled for release in January 2023.
Thanks for taking time out for A Graveside Chat, Dave.
AGC: You’ve been a prominent figure in the speculative fiction field for four decades, there or about, and you’ve not only kept up with its evolution but influenced it, particularly with Crossroad Press. What are some of the biggest changes — and challenges — you’ve experienced in this business over these decades, be it from the perspective of author, editor, and/or publisher?
DNW: The Internet has changed the world, and writing is no exception. Ebooks and simpler avenues for self-publishing have opened a lot of doors, which, in one sense, is good. The world of publishing, when I started, had clear boundaries. Success was a sale to NYC, and you could get there through the other side of the boundary, the small press. But slots were very limited. Agents and editors were like gatekeepers and thousands of books, good, bad, wonderful, and awful were simply never in a position to have a legitimate chance. That has all changed.
That’s the upside. The downside is those thousands of books are all out there now. Some are good, some are awful, many are edited poorly but packaged with professional covers. More are awful than good, and as this becomes clear to consumers, it becomes more difficult to sell an independently published book. It’s also a totally one-sided marketing war — NYC with millions of dollars, and the rest of us with, well, Bookbub, who now take too many titles, still charge a fortune, and have become hit-and-miss. More than ever before, the key to writing success has become a mix of talent and visibility, the second being the hardest thing to achieve. I think the floor has leveled over the years, but you have to be very active, you have to remain relevant to the world, read what is selling now and not what sold twenty years ago. It’s a very volatile industry.
AGC: You’re widely read, not just in speculative fiction, but in all varieties of literature. Who do you consider some of your primary influences as a writer? What most inspires you as a storyteller?
DNW: Sometimes questions like this flummox me. I am probably influenced by thousands of books and writers, but I can trim it down and offer reasons. I love the work of Edgar Allan Poe, his themes, and his sense of dread. Modern writers I have learned pacing and formula from Stephen King, writing on different levels from Peter Straub, Kathe Koja, and Poppy Z. Brite showed me how inconsequential limits are…
More recently I’ve learned things that limit my writing by reaching beyond my normal reading… authors like Hailey Piper, Eric LaRocca, and Gemma Amor have shown me different perspectives. Stephen Graham Jones, a recent obsession, has a voice he can hit where it’s him telling the story, and it’s mesmerizing. Grady Hendrix, Paul Tremblay, I steal bits and pieces. And books like The Things They Carried, where you pick up on how objects and settings can anchor your writing. It’s an endless stream. Lately, I’ve found rabbit holes while writing letters to my daughter in college, adding trivia to each one, which have given me things I know I will use. Maybe I influence myself? I hope I never cease finding new inspiration.
AGC: You’ve collaborated with other authors on numerous works — many of which appear in the volume, Intermusings: A Cabal of Dark Fiction, which features a broad sampling of your collaborative stories. Do you particularly enjoy collaborating with other authors? Is there anyone with whom you’d especially like to collaborate that you haven’t yet? Do you have more upcoming collaborative work scheduled?
DNW: Currently I’m not collaborating on anything. I think my last major collaboration was with my wife, Trish, when we wrote Remember Bowling Green (all proceeds to the ACLU). I have had a lot of interesting collaboration experiences. I’ve written the most with Brian A. Hopkins, Brett A. Savory and Trish, but, as you know, that book is FULL of collaborations. I find that when it works, when the editing goes back and forth a few times, a new voice arises. It’s not what either author would have done, but it builds on the strengths of both.
AGC: You are an insanely prolific author, even with Crossroad Press (and a full-time day job) occupying what is presumably more than a negligible amount of your time. (Do you ever sleep???) What do you have on your upcoming agenda(s) as a writer, editor, and/or publisher that you can talk about here? DNW: It’s funny you say that. Up until last spring, I was becoming less and less prolific. I’ve started publishing stories again, have a lot of things in the works, a novella upcoming, and other things in anthologies, but only recently. Before that I have done nothing but poke at it since around the time the Orange Anguish became president. I’m pulling it all back together and feel as if I’ve written a lot of things lately, new things I’m proud of, pushing some boundaries. I have at least two stories in anthologies this year. I have an NFT-only book of stories involving Potatoes coming out through Book.iO (It would take an entire separate interview to cover all of that). I have at least two novels in serious progress, a novella, and some stories that are for markets who have solicited me. It’s a sort of rebirth. I’ve been asleep creatively for a very long time.
This year, finally, my anthology The Canterbury Nightmares will be published, and I had a lot of fun with that, but the general miasma of the last few years has prevented it from happening as quickly as it should. You keep moving or you grow moss and mold, so I’ll be writing a lot. My collection, The Devil’s in the Flaws & Other Dark Truths, just released and seems to be doing pretty well.
AGC: You have written a lot of series projects as well as standalones. Which do you prefer, and why? What can we expect to see in the future?
DNW: I’ve noticed over time that almost everything I’ve written ties together. I mention a place, or an event, and suddenly there is a link between Deep Blue and Donovan DeChance. I write in a set number of fictional locations, which probably facilitated this. I’ve created a sub-page on my website called “The Worlds of David Niall Wilson,” where I’m relaunching all of the books, one at a time, as NFT collectible editions (and eventually readers editions) through a company called Book.IO.
The first to come out was Heart of a Dragon, so the DeChance Chronicles will come out first. Readers of my work will know this ties in with the Cletus J. Diggs stories, the works I’ve done with Poe as a character, and the novels of the O.C.L.T. – but the standalone novels like Deep Blue, Ancient Eyes, and Darkness Falling intersect again and again.
I see myself taking twin paths going forward. I intend to continue the series books because I love the characters, but I am also working on new stories, a novella, and at least two novels that don’t directly connect — at least not yet. Still hoping for that one break-out, as are we all.