Hi guys! We have Michael G. Williams popping in today with the tour for his new release A Fall In Autumn, we have a brilliant interview with Michael, a great excerpt, and a fantastic giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~ p.s. keep an eye out for my review coming soon!
A Fall in Autumn
Michael G. Williams
WELCOME TO THE LAST OF THE GREAT FLYING CITIES
It’s 9172, YE (Year of the Empire), and the future has forgotten its past.
Soaring miles over the Earth, Autumn, the sole surviving flying city, is filled to the brim with the manifold forms of humankind: from Human Plus “floor models” to the oppressed and disfranchised underclasses doing their dirty work and every imaginable variation between.
Valerius Bakhoum is a washed-up private eye and street hustler scraping by in Autumn. Late on his rent, fetishized and reviled for his imperfect genetics, stuck in the quicksand of his own heritage, Valerius is trying desperately to wrap up his too-short life when a mythical relic of humanity’s fog-shrouded past walks in and hires him to do one last job. What starts out as Valerius just taking a stranger’s money quickly turns into the biggest and most dangerous mystery he’s ever tried to crack – and Valerius is running out of time to solve it.
Now Autumn’s abandoned history – and the monsters and heroes that adorn it – are emerging from the shadows to threaten the few remaining things Valerius holds dear. Can the burned-out detective navigate the labyrinth of lies and maze of blind faith around him to save the City of Autumn from its greatest myth and deadliest threat?
Warnings: This book involves very minor knife-based and hand-to-hand violence.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I’ve had a fascination with my genres – science fiction, horror, detective stories – since childhood. I was a kid who would read anything I could get my hands on, but the things I read over and over again were sci fi and Nancy Drew novels. I’ll tell you, Nancy Drew’s life just seemed perfect to a kid growing up in isolation like I did: she had a couple of friends who always had her back, a cool car, and an absentee father who let her get away with crazy adventures. She was living the dream! J
In terms of the other genres I write, I initially loved them for similarly purely escapist reasons. I wanted to get away from where I was, and all of these showed me worlds where people were smart and bold and those traits might put them in danger but they were also how those characters won out in the end. I particularly loved science fiction for how it reflects the way we are – as people, as a culture, as a society – by showing us ways we might be. Asimov’s The Caves of Steel or Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, for instance, show us worlds that look enough like ours for us to recognize but also show us the ways they can go right – or wrong – and how to adjust to those outcomes. That knocked my socks off as a kid. I loved the power of imagination to rescue us from our own surroundings and to help us chart a path to a better reality tomorrow.
How long does it take you to write the first draft?
Oh, months and months and months. I know writers who can knock out a first draft in a couple of weeks, maybe a month, but not I. I have a day job that uses up all my brain power by the time I’m home, so my writing is restricted to weekends, and usually only a few hours then. I’m also one of those writers – which is to say, all of us – who hates the middle, say, 60% of every book when I’m writing it. It’s very easy for me to get lost in the forest of internalized doubt and criticism and sometimes finishing a first draft can be a real slog as I fight off that past-tense influence of every time someone has ever told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t keep going. Fortunately, my editor is very good, and very honest. She doesn’t hesitate to point out problems so I can fix them, and therefore when she praises something I know she means it. I used to dread the editorial phase more than anything, but now I look to it as a moment of exoneration and renewed enthusiasm. Whereas the first draft may take months, revisions usually take me only a couple of months, maybe a few weeks. Then once the copyeditors and proofreaders are done, it takes me maybe a day to make any final changes because, by that point, any changes are going to be very minor. As an example, my current plan is to start drafting the sequel to A Fall in Autumn in June and I hope – hope – to be done by early or mid-September. That would put it on track to come out in, say, January?
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Honestly, it was digging into my own experiences as a gay kid growing up in the middle of nowhere. I had to stare directly into the face of some things I did, and that happened to me, and unearth some emotions that were still surprisingly raw many decades later. I started some pretty intense therapy last year to deal with lingering issues around how I was raised, and the ways the condemnation I heard at every turn got internalized and put on repeat, and in part I started that process because writing this novel made me aware it was still there. By no means did I have it the worst of any gay kid, or of any kid in general, but I think we – all of us, regardless of our identities – probably could have used more encouragement and more acceptance than we got, and all of us are still carrying that around inside ourselves somewhere. I realized in the course of writing this book that I was feeding a lot of that into the character of Valerius’ backstory, and that it was fueling some of the easygoing cynicism that fuels his noir detective voice. It helped me figure out where to take his story, too, because I realized that if I could help him do some healing that I might help myself do some healing at the same time. When John Hartness, the owner of Falstaff Books, read the book, he commented that it had more emotional depth and sincerity than anything else I’ve written, and I was deeply gratified to hear that. Writing this in some ways demanded a level of emotional vulnerability I have not allowed myself to endure with other things I’ve written. It’s improved me as a writer, but I also think it’s improved me as a person. That sounds very lofty and self-congratulatory, when really my point is that it was terrifying. I knew I would like writing Valerius, but I didn’t know how much I would grow to love him, flaws and all, and it hurt to see him in so much pain and then to realize that pain was in part my own.
What’s your writing process?
Generally speaking, I know the first line of a book, and I know the last line or, at minimum, what will be the last scene, and then I sit down and go. If I outline, it always turns into an exercise in discovering later how wrong I was. Heh! So instead I tend to let the characters take the wheel and show me their winding, convoluted path from Point A to Point B. All I really know are the beginning and end and they know the best way between them.
When it’s time to sit down and put words on the page, to be honest I just have to set off a caffeine bomb and start typing. I get an iced red eye – 20 oz of cold-brew coffee, two shots of espresso, a splash of oat milk, 4 packets of sweetener – at my favorite local coffeeshop, sit down at the computer, put on some mood music, read the last paragraph I wrote in the previous session, and then go for it. I did National Novel Writing Month for many years, and in that event’s parlance people are divided into “planners” and “pantsers,” ie, people who fly by the seat of their pants. I am a total pantser, no doubt about it, and proud of it. I almost always write in first person, and that lets me treat writing as a roleplaying exercise. I work my way into the character’s head and start letting them guide the action and we always end up where I expect.
Well, until A Fall in Autumn. To be honest, Valerius was surprising me at every turn in that book, up to and including the very last page.
What’s in your fridge right now?
Hmmmmm. Let me check – I’ll be right back.
OK, so, my husband and I need to do some grocery shopping. It’s been a wild week. But what I have right now is this, besides the usual assortment of inch-left-in-the-bottom condiments and salad dressings:
- A dozen eggs from a local farm I need to hard-boil for breakfasts this week
- Four kinds of hummus
- Half a red onion
- Half a red bell pepper
- Half of a 5 lb bag of organic carrots
- Three apples
- Two kinds of diet soda
- A gallon of lemon-ginger iced tea (my specialty!)
- A block of cheddar so sharp you could shave with it
- A quart of blazing-hot spicy dill pickle spears
- A jar of homemade barbecue sauce I produced for a dinner party
We sound like bachelors! But we already have plans to stock up on veggies and other good things tomorrow in order to prepare for the week (I’m writing this on a Saturday). We’re both enthusiastic food preppers, and I’m borderline vegetarian. I eat fish, and once in a while I eat poultry, and on extremely rare special occasions I’ll have beef. It’s just easier for us to cook at home and take lunches with us to work. By this time tomorrow, we’ll both have four lunches ready to go, and breakfasts will be done for the week, and we’ll have set a menu for dinners. That was a huge part of how my husband and I got together: our first date, he made me dinner at his place. Our second date, I showed up with a slow cooker and a roast. (See? Special occasions. 🙂 )
What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
I’ve just signed a deal for 4 more books in the world of A Fall in Autumn and will be writing the sequel over the summer. I can’t wait! I expect the second book, to be titled New Life in Autumn, will be out a year from now.
Later this year I have several other works, already finished and coming out from Falstaff Books:
Nobody Gets Out Alive will be coming out sometime soon, probably over the summer. It’s the fifth and final(-ish) book of The Withrow Chronicles, my suburban vampire series about a guy who became a vampire in the 1940’s and has declared himself the boss of all of North Carolina’s blood-drinkers. The series is a ridiculously fun sequence of genre mashups – vampires and zombies, vampires and superheroes, vampires and spy thrillers, vampires and war, vampires and their witch frienemies – telling a story that gets increasingly complex as Withrow slowly but surely learns the world of the supernatural is much bigger than he thought.
I also have the four-novella San Francisco urban fantasy series, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN. It starts with Through the Doors of Oblivion, and it’s about some of the most evocative moments in San Francisco’s history – such as the 1906 earthquake and fire – and witches and demons and time travel and real estate scams. I’m just exceptionally proud of it, and I get to really focus on the features of San Francisco I most adore, which are not necessarily the parts of the city they try to highlight for tourists. I don’t know exactly when that one is due out, either, but it’s made it through the content edits and the copyeditor and it’s now with the proofreader, so it’s getting close!
And, last but not least, I’ve reached the rights-reversion point on a bunch of short stories I sold years ago so I’m possibly going to reclaim those rights and produce an anthology of short stories and nonfiction essays I’ve written for various venues. That’s a maybe, though. We’ll see.
Thank you so much for having me – I really appreciate your and your readers’ time and attention. I hope you enjoy A Fall in Autumn and I would love to hear from you about it!
Folks who sign up for my monthly newsletter get a free short story and can read the ongoing first draft of a story set in the world of A Fall in Autumn but in our time rather than 12,000 years from now. Give it a shot! I keep marketing to a minimum and try to focus on rewarding your interest with new content.
And thanks again!
The sun was over the trees at the southeastern edge of the sloped opening in the forest when I awoke. The sun woke me, actually: its rays on my face, the flicker of shadow and light as it played across my closed eyes. I was half dressed: my shoes off, my feet bare, and my coat spread over me in lieu of a blanket. My shirt was somewhere, probably. I wasn’t wearing it, anyway, and my eyes hadn’t opened yet, but I could feel it nearby the way you can sense an old dog by your chair or a former lover on the opposite side of an otherwise perfectly nice party.
My back curled against something firm and supporting and I felt gentle fingers stroke the tufts of silvery black at my temples. Hematite, a man told me once. I would always love him a little for saying that. My hair there wasn’t yet gray but no longer black and when wet it looked like hematite, and he said it like that meant something deep and significant and mystical I didn’t understand. Having someone’s fingers run through it felt good, though. It felt like a happy memory, like something I didn’t expect would happen much anymore if it ever really happened in the first place.
That simple touch was a comfort to me. It’s the most minor thing and, for that reason, the most missed when it’s gone. I don’t go long stretches without being touched, but it had been a while between caresses. This was that: a caress, and more; not exactly sexual but not exactly platonic. It was that happy in-between we call intimate. I made myself vulnerable to other men, and they themselves to me, more times than I can count in my too-short life. It didn’t always work out, though, that my usual flavor of street trade would show basic human kindness in return for mine.
None of that mattered, though. Those guys were long gone. Right that second, someone ran his fingers through my half-asleep hair, intimate and kind and caressing. I felt vulnerable and that was okay. For a few moments I wasn’t dying and I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t lonely and I wasn’t alone. The sun felt good, and the breeze through the branches sounded like Gaia herself telling me to go back to sleep. I thought for a moment I might be okay with dying fairly soon if I got to wake up like this every morning for the rest of my life.
“Okay,” I groaned. I didn’t move and I didn’t open my eyes because I wasn’t quite ready for the moment to go away even as I lifted the pin to pop its balloon. “You want something. So tell me what it is. Because if I say yes – if – I may not have much time to hold up my end of the bargain.” My voice dispelled all the magic of the moment, but his fingers were still at my temple, resting there, ready to go back to what we shared moments before. I rolled over and looked up at Alejandro, his purple hair down over half his face as he leaned on one elbow. I didn’t kiss him, but I did put one hand to his jaw and brush his cheek with my thumb. I wondered if he could feel that – really feel it, like skin feels it. “Let’s not pussyfoot around this. You want me to do something. The whole story about the angel and thinking someone was trying to kill you was bullshit, but there was something there, something worth chasing, so let’s have the truth now and get on with things.” I tried to smile at him. His expression was completely blank.
With the hand he used to brush my temples, he laid a fingertip behind my ear, cupping my face with barely a single point of contact. He still didn’t smile, but his eyes searched my face, my own eyes, for something. It occurred to me the correct phrasing might be to say he searched my eyes for someone. I assumed he’d been alive long enough to know a hell of a lot of people, and I would bet a nickel he looked for one of them in me. There are a hundred romantic stories about golems: meat sacks like me throwing ourselves at a golem out of infatuation with their embodiment of agelessness.
If he’d been there before, heard a hundred thousand of us wail about mortality and still willing to hear number one hundred thousand one, he must have a lot of love for humankind. No, I thought, more than that: he must have loved the hell out of one of us at some point. Maybe he was waiting for that guy to walk back into his life, reemerging from the vast but finite pool of genetic factors we possess as a species. I wondered if I simply seemed close enough to that long-lost lover to pass muster for a night.
I also wondered what made a golem want to get laid in the first place: ever the detective, after all.
“I really did see an angel in Splendor,” Alejandro said. He still wasn’t smiling. If anything, he had the muted seriousness, the understated gravitas, I’d long since come to recognize as the posture of someone telling the truth at long last. I wondered how long it had been. “I swear it to you. I swear it.” He surprised me, then, because he didn’t cry, golems don’t have tear ducts, but his eyelids quivered with the autonomic response to strong emotion. He still hadn’t moved at all, and we were shielded from the breeze so that his hair hung straight down like a perfectly still and settled curtain across half the stage of his face. “And I believe it would try to kill me if it knew I were here.”
Michael G. Williams writes wry horror, urban fantasy, and science fiction: stories of monsters, macabre humor, and subverted expectations. He is the author of three series for Falstaff Books: The Withrow Chronicles, including Perishables (2012 Laine Cunningham Award), Tooth & Nail, Deal with the Devil, Attempted Immortality, and Nobody Gets Out Alive; a new series in The Shadow Council Archives featuring one of San Francisco’s most beloved figures, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN; and the science fiction noir A Fall in Autumn. Michael also writes short stories and contributes to tabletop RPG development. Michael strives to present the humor and humanity at the heart of horror and mystery with stories of outcasts and loners finding their people.
Michael is also an avid podcaster, activist, reader, runner, and gaymer, and is a brother in St. Anthony Hall and Mu Beta Psi. He lives in Durham, NC, with his husband, two cats, two dogs, and more and better friends than he probably deserves.