W.M. Driscoll is a poet and author. He can currently be found working on The Gods Trilogies.
Time to chat with Will!
What is your latest book?
The Living Gods. It’s a high fantasy turn with a lit bent. Hopefully more interesting than the description makes it sound.
Is your recent book part of a series?
It is. The series is called, The Gods Trilogies. It’s not really about gods; name’s more ironic than descriptive. It is about all sorts of fantastical events and people though. I saw it originally as a nine-book series, a trilogy of trilogies: the three books in the first set, The Living Gods (The Living Gods, Awakening in the Hollow and The Dark Gate) are in a finished form with the first book out and the second slated for a drop later this year. The next two trilogies, The Gods of Festival and The Fall of the Gods are still in the workshop getting their wheels put on. What comes of it beyond the first three books is still anybody’s guess.
What else have you written?
I’ve published a few short prose pieces over the years, done some ghost writing and scripts (plays and screenplays) too, but primarily I’m a poet. Consider the rest to be a grandiose hobby.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
Not often enough for me, to be sure. Consider such things gifts from the muse and treat them accordingly. I had one character who started out as a plot device to help the protagonist accomplish some minor but important bit of business, then was supposed to disappear without explanation. Trouble was the character wouldn’t leave; he showed up later in the chapter, joined the main character and is now a POV character with his own story arc and an integral part in the series conclusion. Nobody asked me if that’s what I wanted, but that’s how it happened. Another one, a character I loved writing (a fallen she-devil creature with a heart of gold) stayed behind to help the main characters escape some evil minions. She was supposed to have died there. Later, one of the main antagonists even tells my POV character that she is dead, just to turn the knife a bit. Imagine my surprise when she turned up later in the book alive. My protagonist even tells her that the evil baddie said she was dead, to which she laughs and says he’s a liar (an observation very true to his character). The whole thing shocked the hell out of me, but works beautifully for the story, I think.
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
When it comes to writing in general, I love to write poetry the most. It comes to me naturally, like breathing; always has. I could no more stop it than stop my pulse. Has its downside, of course, especially in a time and place that values surface and money over depth and art. As for long prose, Dorothy Parker summed it up for me when she said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” I guess that’s it for me too. I enjoy putting the ### on the last page knowing I eked out everything I could with what I brought to it. Of course, I’ll doubt it all later and want to rework it, but for that moment, I can be content.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
Not at all. I write organically, as if I’m on a journey each time and don’t know where it might take me. I do grow, shape and prune it as I go along though, am more gardener than god, if you see what I mean. I always want to keep myself available mentally for lightning to strike, for a character to say or do something I hadn’t consciously intended, or an event to present itself in a different way. That’s when the magic happens. If the muse lights a fire in my mind and gives me one or the other, the ending or the title to start with (something that rarely happens), I’ll take it, but I won’t hesitate to change either as the full piece becomes clearer to me.
Do you have any advice for first-time authors?
When I was starting out, hawking scripts in L.A., an old pro gave me the best advice I ever got for any hard, lonely and often disappointing and depressing pursuit like writing. He said, “If you can do anything else. Do it.” It was only when I eventually realized that I couldn’t, that I became content to put up with the downside.
Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?
Don’t know how candid I should be with this one. Let me put it this way, I’ve seen people who are artists at it all and who truly seem to enjoy it, but I don’t. I hate Twitter like crotch-rash. Facebook makes me itch. Feel like the poor cousin at the party on LinkedIn. The only thing about any of it that I can stand is meeting the occasional authentic human being and making a real connection. I can tolerate Pinterest and DeviantArt a little more than the others, I think, because I’m a frustrated artist. Would be painting nudes or landscapes instead of writing, if I had any artistic talent (and my wife would let me have young models running nude around the place). As it is, my stick figures don’t even resemble stick figures. I look at all the social stuff as a part of the job, I guess, and not my favorite part.
How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
Since my novels are set in a fantasy world, everything is research, my life, history, the name of a tool used to card wool, all of it. There’s nothing good or bad, fair or foul, important or trivial that I can’t appropriate in one way or another and use in my world creating.
Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?
Yes. People have liked it. Being my own worst critic, that always surprises me
If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?
If I were to write a non-fiction book it would probably be a philosophical treatise. I’ve thirty years of thoughts, aphorisms, dreams and observations written, first in notebooks, then later in computer files, just waiting for me to be foolish enough to try to pull it into some coherent form. Still, given my odd take on most things, without the recognizable characters and narrative flourishes, I don’t know who would ever want to read it.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?
I don’t think poets get writer’s block, at least I don’t. That’s for diligent, disciplined and paid writers. We poets work mostly on inspiration, not perspiration. Since being a poet, for me, is a lifestyle choice as well as a vocation, I can merely live when I don’t feel like writing and that becomes my work too.
Would you like to write a short poem for us?
Only if you’d like to do the rest of the interview for me. Seriously, I couldn’t, even if I wanted to. After all these years, and hundreds and hundreds of poems, I can’t write poetry on demand. Maybe there are some prodigies or savants or prodigious craftspeople who can, and make it more than schlock, but not me. What I can do is share a short poem with you that I wrote for a poet friend. He’s an extreme minimalist in his writing, and one day decided it would be fun to take a poem of mine and cut it to the bone then share it with everyone. It was his subtle way of chiding me for being grandiose and verbose, two sins I’m particularly guilty of, by the way. So, I published a short, two stanza rhyming note for all to see addressing him as “Pith-master”- it went like this:
Pith–master must you take my vines
and rend them down to juice and rinds?
skimming off the vintage hue for whom
a thimble full will do?
Pith–master, Pith–master, such a wine
is only for the serpentine
Pith–master, Pith–master, such a hue
is for those pithy piths like you!
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
Imagine what any thirteen-year-old boy would do. I would do worse.
What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
Never really thought about it. Don’t pick my friends, my heart does. Once that happens, for good or ill, they’re friends. Some stay, some leave, some return. For the most part, I stay the same.
Care to brag about your family?
Always. It all starts, revolves around, and ends with my wife, Kelly, a very remarkable woman. Graduated from Hampshire College in Massachusetts having studied journalism and worked at the Soho Weekly News for a while in NYC. She was accepted to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, a very prestigious institution, but threw the opportunity away to sing in an ‘80’s rock band called Lipstick. She’s a tall leggy blonde of Danish descent and the pictures of her onstage from that time, with her platinum eighties hair, all decked out in black leather, are stunning. When the band broke up after a few productive years, she decided she’d like to run restaurants and without any training made a career of it, first in upscale urban ones (the kind that serve three raviolis with a lot of attitude and charge you twenty bucks) then later in mega-chain businesses. Frankly, the fact that she married me at all and has put up with me for all this time speaks volumes about the powers of the heart to cloud good judgment.
We have three wonderful kids together, well not kids anymore, I guess. Our son Sean is twenty-three and an aspiring young writer, despite the fact that I tried to talk him out of it on numerous occasions. He has a big heart, a wonderful intellect and imagination and is developing real chops. Our daughter Erin is Twenty-one. She’s a makeup artist and a striking alternative model complete with dreads and piercings. We’re very proud of her. And then there’s our youngest son, Erik, who’s still in high school. As smart as a whip and a really decent young man. Can’t wait to see what path he chooses.
If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?
Two come instantly to mind. I’d love to be able to paint, and not just for the nude models. Like to do landscapes and evocative paintings too. If not that, I’d want to be a composer of classical music, maybe show tunes as well. Since I quickly discovered as a young man, in my pursuit of both, that talent was required, I’ve had to settle for being a music and art lover.
What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?
Both are hard for me to choose. There are too many. If I were forced to say, I’d have to go with The Godfather and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca on the movie side and Shakespeare’s collected plays and poems, Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird on the books side are close behind them, along with many, many others.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I love anime. Love the art and think the storytelling, often very Japanese in nature with long story arcs and character development, is marvelous. There are a few I’ve seen that I wouldn’t want to broadcast, but mostly watch the more serious adult themed and historical fare.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Am a bad one to ask this question. Am more cold and philosophical than hot and fervent when it comes to changing a world (if by that you mean us, human nature) that history and all the wisdom traditions seem to fundamentally agree, changes very little from era to era. But, I could be wrong. I’m only a poet, which makes me basically a walking heart. I try to change the world every day by changing my world, by loving what I do, who I meet and being as vital and decent as I can be. I’ll leave spirit perfecting, governing and crusading to those talented at such things, and wish them well. I would love to be proven wrong in this.
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