DYSTOPIAN NOVEMBER: A chat with author Phil Williams (WIXON’S DAY)

phil-williams-headshot-3001) So, who are you & what have you written?

I’m a self-published author and (aspiring) screenwriter – I also freelance as a writer, editor and tutor. I’m making my way through publishing a hoard of novels – my debut was the post-apocalyptic Wixon’s Day (available through Amazon in print and eBook). I’ve got a sequel on the way for that, and a novel set in a world where WW3 had no winners (which is accompanied by a spec feature screenplay called The Faergrowe Principle).

When I’m not writing about societies devoid of happiness, I write contemporary fantasy novels and non-fiction study guides for English learners. I run a popular English language learning website, www.englishlessonsbrighton.co.uk, and have a somewhat quiet author site at www.writerightnow.co.uk.

2) What’s your book about?

Wixon’s Day follows Marquos, a canal boat drifter in a sunless vision of England, as he gets drawn into a savage war. He travels across an anarchist world with steampunk technology but a lack of historical awareness, with society having struggled to survive for centuries after a long-forgotten disaster.

Marquos is determined to explore the world without ties, until his efforts to rescue a girl from the mines reveal that their world is less anarchistic than he realised – and behind the scenes there are war mongers in charge. His journey builds into a crescendo of violence as he’s drawn into a hidden war with a good measure of hazy morals.

wixons-coversm3) What inspired your book?

I wrote Wixon’s Day around a time that I was doing a lot of travelling, hence its disaffected protagonist and the ‘post-apocalyptic gap year’ quality of its early chapters. I couldn’t say what inspired the setting, but a literary inspiration came from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Wixon’s Day doesn’t aspire to be anything approaching that classic, but Twain gave me a real yearning to live on a boat … We had a lot of exposure to wars with ambiguous morals in the media around that time (and still do), so that mood combined with my boat-yearning to produce this tale.

4) What’s your usual writing routine?

I’ve typically sacrificed sleep for writing, and a lot of my past novels were written between 10pm and 3am. Almost in secret. I try to keep to more sociable hours now that I’m freelancing, finding a few half-days a week to knuckle down to creative projects. When something grabs me all bets are off, though; I’ll live through whatever I’m writing in my head, day and night, and write whenever I get near a computer. With my latest novel I wrote the first 40,000 words in a week, and I honestly couldn’t tell you when that happened between my other obligations. It’s a little bit creepy really.

5) Which dystopian book do you wish YOU’D written, and why?

There’s probably a hundred I wish were mine – too obviously is Orwell’s 1984 – it can’t be beaten for its relevance and how complete and inevitable its bleakness is. In more commercial fiction, I’m a fan of all the Stephen King dystopias I’ve read (I love the simplicity of The Long Walk) and Hugh Howey’s Wool Trilogy. But if I’m allowed to go for a full post-apocalypse dystopia, the novel I really wish I’d written is Riddley Walker by Russel Hoban. I can’t imagine ever writing something so completely immersed in its own world – I know it’s not a novel for everyone but it is a remarkable literary achievement that will have you thinking in another language by its end.

6) What’s the ONE thing our current society should stop doing in your opinion, else we’ll end up in a dystopia too?

I’m not yet fully a veggie, but I’m fairly sure the meat industry has us on a path to destruction. We can navigate limitations with a lot of resources, and our frightening world of politics can go either way, but when things go wrong with food we’re really fucked. (I can swear here can’t I? I think the collapse of society warrants it!)

Thanks Phil! 

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