10 Questions with David Wellington
1. Mr. Wellington, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your new thriller, CHIMERA, came out on paperback on April 29. Tell us a bit more about this book.
Hi, Ethan—thanks for having me. CHIMERA is my first thriller novel, and it’s a book I felt I needed to write. The main character, Jim Chapel, is a vet who was terribly wounded during the war in Afghanistan. He comes home to a desk job in Washington, thinking his days of action are over. Then he finds out the Pentagon needs him more than ever, on the home front.
2. Where did the inspiration for this story come from, and how much of it is true and how much is fiction?
The book is basically my way of saying “thank you” to all the people who served overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. I met many of them while writing it, and I was always just amazed by their dignity and their courage. They’d been asked to do this incredibly hard and dangerous job, often without even knowing why, and they did it without complaining, without making big demands when they came home. I was just blown away and I knew I needed to write CHIMERA.
3. What is the secret of the perfect blend of horror, fantasy and thriller that you seem to achieve with style in your novels?
Man, I don’t know. I definitely wouldn’t call it perfect. But maybe that’s the point. I love to take a lot of genre ideas, especially ideas from different genres, and push them together, see what kind of tension results. When you mix science fiction and horror you get ALIEN, right? It works with all kinds of things. Great fiction is often about people being pushed into places where they can never be comfortable. You put a character up in an unfamiliar tree and see how they try to get down.
As for style, if I have any, it’s just practice. I know a lot of people who are trying hard to find the “voice” of their writing. I always advise them to focus instead on character and plot and setting—all the intangible stuff, voice and theme and tone and even pacing come from writing a lot and seeing what doesn’t work.
4. What are your writing habits? Outline or not?
I do outline, but if I showed you my outlines they would be incomprehensible. Just fragments of words with lots of arrows pointing various directions. 99% of the outline is just in my head.
I write every day, which everyone should do. Then I edit as I go, which is a terrible, terrible way to write. You really should finish a project before you even think about editing it. But I can’t help myself.
5. What is the single most important thing you have learned during the writing process of crafting a novel?
Finish. Always finish what you start. Sometimes that’s just not possible, for whatever reason. But in the middle of every project—and this is still true for me today—you will hit a low point, and think that your project sucks and you’ve made a terrible mistake starting it. I don’t know why but that feeling is unavoidable. You have to learn to recognize that feeling and ignore it. Finish what you start, because every word you write makes you a better writer, if only because it teaches you what not to do.
6. A word of advice for new writers?
No, no words of advice for new writers. Because new writers either are stubborn enough to just figure things out for themselves (a good sign) or they’re too young and fresh to listen to advice.
I do have a word for intermediate writers: keep at it, if it’s still fun. If you’re enjoying writing, do not get hung up on getting published—definitely stop thinking about money and fame. Write even if what you write never goes anywhere but your hard drive. Just keep at it. You will get better and better and if you’re enjoying it, don’t let somebody else’s arbitrary measures of success stop you from doing the thing you love.
7. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of the self-publishing? Did you ever consider it or might you consider it in the future?
No idea. I’ve self-published a couple of books, basically stuff my publishers never had time to print but which I still thought was worth looking at. The results weren’t conclusive; I’m still trying to figure this thing out. Luckily, so is everybody else. We’ll see.
8. What are your favorite pastimes?
Reading books. Which should be the favorite hobby of every writer. Okay, here’s one word of advice for new writers: if you don’t like reading, you will never be a writer. You have to love books or you will fail. They’re not going to listen, but at least I tried.
9. How do you connect with you fans?
Every way I can—my website (www.davidwellington.net) on Facebook and Twitter (@LastTrilobite), meeting them at conventions and signings and readings. I read and reply to every email I get at firstname.lastname@example.org, though sometimes it takes a few weeks to get back to people.
10. What is your next book going to be about?
My next book, THE HYDRA PROTOCOL, is coming out in May and it’s a sequel to CHIMERA, though it also works as a standalone. It follows Jim Chapel to Russia and the wreckage of the Cold War and it’s fantastic.