Sunday, June 7, 2015

William Hiles interview Contributing Writer to Heroika: Dragon Eaters

Can you tell me a bit about yourself? 

I was born near Tokyo Japan. I'm an Air Force brat. Though I make my living writing prose, I consider myself a poet first and foremost. Poetry, its rhythm, flow, and vivid snapshots of life are what underline all of writing. I sold my first story nearly thirty years ago and should have continued racking up an extensive and ever-recognized body of work. Instead, I drifted away into video game design (and other writing for hire) for the next 25 years. However, my contribution to Janet Morris' new anthology, Heroika: Dragon Eaters, is an attempt at making my way back to creating fiction for myself. It's my reintroduction to the writing world at large. And also a thank you to my dad, who would have been a great Dragon Eater.

I currently live in Round Rock, Texas with my wife Kim and son Nate. I'm a student of zen and martial arts.  A life-long devotee of baseball.  A lover of history.  

You seem to have an affinity for the past in your stories. What is history to you?

History is what you did yesterday. Your dreams, your hopes, your fears, your loves and joys, all that you experienced yesterday, now belongs to the country of the past. By remembering this, you can transform all those faded pictures, dusty books, and innumerable years, back into people not so remote and not so different than you. And if you listen carefully, if you read closely, you can hear them from across those distant yesterdays: "I lived. I still live. Remember me." I remember them in my stories.

Your story Red Rain is, of course, fantasy, but what do you think the impact would have been if such an event had taken place during the Civil War?

I've tried to imagine  the consequences, the sheer disbelief, of ordinary people faced with such an unimaginable event. My story plays it straight. It's about people facing incredible odds with found courage. With strengths rising from out of hidden or forgotten emotional and mental reserves. I like the notion that people can and will put aside their differences to help one another. Soldiers are classic examples of that altruism.

What do you want your readers to get from Red Rain?

First and foremost it's an adventure story. I want people to be carried away by a palpable sense of time and place, and with interesting characters. I firmly believe that your characters have to resonate with the reader. Hate them. Love them. Don't be bored with them.  Boring is a death sentence for storytelling. I want the readers to feel the flow, the movement, toward deeper and more consequential action. Red Rain is a dark story. It's grim in parts. But it never completely extinguishes hope. Or the possibility of hope.  In this story, these men are engaged in the most terrible of human activities--war. But in that terrifying circumstance you discover that they have the capacity to embrace both the best and worst of humanity.  By throwing these men into a wild "What if" scenario, I wanted to see how they would react. It's a story of the human spirit that I hope I've told well.

Where did you get the idea for Red Rain?

Like most writers I keep fragments and side-of-the eye glimpses of certain things (to give them a crude name) in my head. In my memory. Snatches of conversation. A song. A song lyric. A scene in a book or movie. A face I've seen in a crowd. There's this stew of unrelated experiences in my head. Sometimes, one or two coalesces into an imperative. It wants to grow. To come into being. For Red Rain it began as a daydream. I'd recently finished Michael Shaara's novel about the Battle of Gettsyburg, The Killer Angels, and I was wondering about the "What ifs" of history. What if Stonewall Jackson had lived to command a corps at Gettysburg? What if Lee's invasion of the North had been successful?  At about the same time, I had made the acquaintance of Janet Morris and her plans for a new anthology beginning with Heroika: Dragon Eaters. Dragons and ... Civil War? What if?  And the rest became history! 

Anything else you want to say?

Only that people enjoy the anthology. I'm sharing pages with a great bunch of writers. I hope my contribution holds up with the rest of the story. I also want to thank Janet Morris for seeing something worthy in my work and inviting me to submit to her anthology. I've known about Janet and have read her work for many years. It's a privilege and an honor to have her as both mentor and friend.  Last but not least, Red Rain is a culmination of a lot of personal effort. The writing of it took me through some incredibly difficult times. To have finally finished it was a both a gift and a release. It was an uncommon experience for me as a writer.  I hope it's the start of a many more stories.