The Ghost Club tour is winding down. Some things worked well, others didn’t work at all, some people were early, some were late, I forgot stuff I should have remembered, and remembered stuff I should have left forgotten, and I’m not at all sure it does a single thing for book sales.
But I’ve been having a great time. There’s still a couple of podcasts and an interview to come, but the work at my end is done.
So what have I learned?
People are generally interested in the same things, and the main one seems to be, why do you do what you do? So here’s the condensed answer from all the words spoken, the blogs written, and the interview lies told.
I’m Willie, and I’m a storyteller.
I have few pretensions. I’m not a literary writer. I don’t spend days musing over le mot juste. I just get on and tell the story to the best of my ability. I tell a lot of stories. That has led to me being called a hack in some quarters, but if a hack is someone who values storytelling, then I suppose that’s what I am.
I choose to write mainly at the pulpy end of the market, populating my stories with monsters, myths, ghosts, men who like a drink and a smoke, and more monsters. People who like this sort of thing like it. But a lot of writers have been told that pulp = bad plotting and that you have to have deep psychological insight in your work for it to be valid. They’ve also been told that pulp = bad writing, and they believe it. Whereas I remember the joy I get from early Moorcock, from Mickey Spillane and further back, A E Merritt and Edgar Rice Burroughs. 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 know I’m capable of producing readable fiction, and quite quickly at that. I’ve written thirty novels in the last fifteen years, and had them published in the specialist genre presses. I also enjoy writing stories for some of my favorites; Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger and Carnacki in the main, with a handful of collections in print.
And again, in some quarters, this is seen as beneath a ‘real’ writer, and has led to more accusations of being no more than fan fiction and hackwork. But recently this ‘hackwork’ has been getting me into professional anthologies from big publishers like ‘The Mammoth Book of’ series where I’ve placed both Holmes and Carnacki stories.
I thought I’d got most of the pastiche writing out of my system about eighteen months back, which is when I finished CARNACKI: THE EDINBURGH TOWNHOUSE. But then someone on Facebook mentioned H Rider Haggard and asked if I’d thought of doing something in that vein. I hadn’t really, then suddenly I had. But not just Haggard. I mentioned earlier about Wells, Verne, Stevenson and Doyle. I’d also read Haggard and Kipling, Tolstoy and Twain and more. And suddenly the Victoriana pulled me back in, I had a ‘what if…’ moment thinking about a ghost club, and there it was, a new idea in my head. I’ve been at it long enough to know that when something like that hits me, I have to write it.
It’s called THE GHOST CLUB, and it’s a simple premise.
In Victorian London a select group of writers, led by Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and Henry James held an informal dining club, the price of entry to which was the telling of a story by each invited guest.
So I wrote a bunch of stories, containing tales of revenant loved ones, lost cities, weird science, spectral appearances and mysteries in the fog of the old city, all told by some of the foremost writers of the day: Verne and Wells, Tolstoy and Checkov, Stevenson and Oliphant, Kipling, Twain, Haggard, Wilde and Blavatsky alongside their hosts. I had more than a few moments of panic and self doubt, wondered many times whether the sin of pride would bite me on the arse or the ghosts of the dead writers would come along in their own little club and laugh me out of the room.
But you know what, I’d do it all over again, because the story is the thing for me, and these tales resonate with something in my psyche, whether it’s upbringing, early reading, or just plain love for a good tale.
I’m Willie, and I’m a storyteller.
And if you’ve read this far… there’s one last thing to do. The links to all the tour stops are up on my website. And I’ve added one last thing, a Christmas present for three of you.