Author interview with William C. Dietz
Hi William, welcome over at The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us.
BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who William C. Dietz is? What are your likes, dislikes and hobbies?
WD: My wife and I love to travel, our first trip together was to Great Britain, and we generally have a gin and tonic at four. As for dislikes I detest lukewarm coffee, people who deny science, and flying coach. Unfortunately I have to fly it anyway!
BP: You have been involved in writing for many years now, do you know when and where you decided that you wanted to become an author?
WD: I was born immediately after World War II during a time when TV was in its infancy and computers were the stuff of science fiction. Fortunately my mother was an avid reader--as well as an aspiring short story writer. She never managed to sell any of her fiction, but watching her try, and being allowed to read three or four books a week (often to the detriment of my school work) certainly had a significant impact on me. So the idea of becoming a writer probably occurred to me at ten or twelve.
I didn't sit down to write a book until I was thirty-nine however... Oops. I should have started earlier.
BP: One of the series that you are well known for is the Legion, could you tell us a bit of what this series is about?
WD: I guess the simple answer is that the Legion of the Damned books are about war. And I write about war because it's a setting in which everything is at stake-- and it's an opportunity to focus on human traits like blind ambition, dominance, racism, bravery, cowardice, strength, weakness, love, hate and survival. And since we human beings spend a great deal of time and effort on war it's always relevant.
Much to my amazement I receive emails from soldiers fighting in Afghanistan! Yes, strange as it may seem, some of them read war novels to relax. An air force major even sent me an anecdote about a battle that went wrong--and everyone blamed the French Foreign Legion! Even though it wasn't their fault. Such is war.
BP: What gave you the inspiration behind the Legion series?
WD: After publishing a number of midlist books my agent at that time challenged me to up my game by writing something BIG. When asked what that meant by "big" he said I needed to come up with something sweeping. Something more complex than what I'd done in the past--and something in which the fate of the galaxy was at stake. With that in mind I set out to invent a science fiction universe that included dozens of inhabited worlds, sentient races that would logically evolve on those planets, and lots of politics.
Fortunately I had assistance from a professor of physics who helped to get the science right and played a critical role in shaping the Legion universe. His name was Dr. Sheridan Simon and I miss him.
BP: Besides the Legion series you also do video game novelizations, what did you find harder to write, your “own” books or the novelization. What are the different rules and restrictions?
WD: When one signs up to write a video game novelization it's with the knowledge that you are going to be part of a team, frequently a large team, and typically a younger team! At the beginning of such endeavors it isn't unusual for a client to fly me into the city where the gaming company resides for a kick off meeting . And, when I enter the room, I'm usually the oldest person there. That works for me when at least some of the other team members are fans--but I get some skeptical looks as well.
Once on board I have to immerse myself in their world, as well as familiarize myself with the so-called "game bible," cannon, and fan expectations.
Then having mastered all of that I need to negotiate the interpersonal politics that are part of working with people anywhere, come up with new ideas, and successfully sell them to what is often a skeptical group of game designers. Other than that it's easy.
BP: The original Legion series ran from 1993 till 2011. In 2012 you wrote the first book in the prequel series. Where did you come up with this idea?
WD: The idea was a result of a lunch with my editor in New York. I usually have at least one or two book ideas bubbling on the back burners... But which to tackle next? To help answer that question I like to chat with my editor and try to get an idea of which way the literary breezes are blowing. There's no point in pitching a time travel book if publishers are looking for more zombies is there?
Plus even though a successful series is a generally a good thing when is enough, enough? Everything must come to an end at some point. So I was having that discussion with my then editor Ginjer Buchanan. And it was her view that if I decided to write more Legion books a prequel trilogy would be best--especially in light of the fact that the ninth book in the original series wraps things up. That got my attention, as did her suggestion that a female protagonist might be a good idea. So I left New York with the glimmerings of an idea that quickly grew in a three book plot, and the rest as they say, is history.
BP: If you would have to sell the Legion series with a single sentence, how would it go?
WD: How about, "The men and women of the Legion of the Damned are both the best and the worst that mankind has to offer, and when all seems lost, they are the only who can save it." (When All Seems Lost is the title of a Legion book by the way.)
BP: Writing a prequel series can be a hard task as you can cannot introduce anything new, what was your biggest challenge in writing the prequel series?
WD: The most difficult challenge was to write three books that in no way contradicted the nine novels to follow.
BP: It’s easy to think about what may happen to us in the future, in your first series you introduce some specific and detailed science fiction, did you have to carry out additional research to make several aspects closely linked to our current technology?
WD: The technology thing is always a challenge. First, what's science fiction without some cool tech? But how much to put in? And what's realistic? For example, we're already using voice commands to communicate with computers, so should I make that the standard in the future? Or will there be people who still use keyboards? Just as some people continue to favor fountain pens? So it's more than what's technically possible and or likely...
In addition the tech in my stories should be believable, which more often than not implies an extension of something we're already familiar with, and the Legion's cyborgs are an example of that--since readers are already familiar with high tech prosthetics.
But tech shouldn't rule as it sometimes did in the early days of SF. The story must come first.
BP: If you reflect on writing science fiction back in 1993 and now in 2014, what, for you, has stayed the same and what has changed? Have the boundaries relaxed?
WD: Female protagonists are popular now--and Andromeda McKee is an example of that. I think that's partly due to societal changes, and partly do to the fact that women read more books than men do, and authors/publishers know that. But whatever the reason I welcome the change.
BP: The Legion series and the prequel are all being republished by Titan in the UK. If you were given the chance to change anything in the re-issues would you do so? If yes, which parts and why?
WD: I'm generally happy with the way the books are structured, but were such a thing possible, I would go back and tweak things a bit... A word here--a comma there. But where to stop? Perhaps it's best that I can't do it.
BP: The last book in the prequel series, Andromeda’s War will be published later this year, do you have any other projects that you wish to pursue in the near future?
WD: At the moment I'm writing book three in a new trilogy called The Mutant Files. It's a near future story about a female police detective named Cassandra Lee. She lives in a post plague Los Angeles which is part of a world divided up between norms and mutants.
The first book (Deadeye) forces Lee to travel into a red zone (where mutants live, and she could become infected), in order to try and rescue a kidnap victim. Meanwhile she is engaged in a long running battle of wits with a serial killer named the Bonebreaker. He's the man who murdered her father, plus eight other policemen, and is planning to kill her. Deadeye will be released in February of 2015 in the United States.
BP: Everyone enjoys science fiction and fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about it?
WD: I love the way a good science fiction or fantasy novel can transport me to another place or reality... It's pure escape! And because it is SF/Fantasy I'm likely to encounter new ideas not to mention some wonderful surprises. That's why I chose the SF genre to write in.
BP: if you would have to give your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?
WD: That's such a difficult question to answer since there are hundreds of books that I owe a debt of gratitude to. But I'll say this, Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, by Robert Heinlein, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forrester, A Study In Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas all had a profound effect on me as a boy.
BP: And just lastly, can you give the us a bit of a sneak peek as to what will be in store for the third prequel book, Andromeda’s War?
WD: First, Titan plans to release Andromeda's War on December 2nd which is the same day it will be available in the U.S.
Secondly, here's the description that is posted on amazon.com: " Now a platoon leader, Legionnaire Andromeda McKee seems to have successfully left behind her true identity of Lady Catherine “Cat” Carletto, one of the last two surviving members of the Carletto family targeted for death by Empress Ophelia." More than that I can't say without risk of spoilers... So it's best to leave it at that.
BP: Thank you very much for your time William and good luck with your future projects!