A few months ago, I had the opportunity to interview both Chris and Patrick Williams. The Williams brothers are the authors of Dead Meat, a zombie novel published by Permuted Press.
Here's what they shared with me:
Why do you write together?
Chris: Basically, we have the same interests mostly and we get along. Patrick's really easy to work with most of the time. When in disagreement on an idea we can usually, within minutes, agree on something. Also he's my little brother.
Patrick: Like Chris said, we have the same interests and passion when it comes to horror, whether cinematic or literary. We grew up on this stuff as kids, and we still get together sometimes and just watch1 horror movies. We can often see eye to eye on topics, and Chris and I have a long history working together on web comics and other projects. Our work just flows when we put our brains together.
Where, exactly, were you when the idea for DEAD MEAT took shape?
Chris: It started when I told Patrick I had an idea for a zombie story/graphic novel. I told him the basic plot and we both came up with the idea for making it a story. At that time he didn't have time to work on it with me. Weeks went by, maybe even months. I'm not really sure how long but it stayed in my head along with a few other ideas for other comics and stories I had. One day I decided to write out a bit. I think the first full online chapter was all mine, only edited by Pat. Anyway, I showed it to him and he liked it and we started firing ideas around and He was then able to work on it, so we got writing. It was my idea to do it as a weekly blog. We did about five page chapters every week for a whole year. That's the longest I've ever worked on anything for fun. After only the eighth chapter, Permuted Press contacted us and wanted to sponsor the blog. That's when we decided this story could go somewhere. They also wanted first look at it when we were done. We could have rushed to finish it but we didn't think it was fair to our readers to just stop posting. Once we were done we entered into talks with Permuted and ended up publishing. That's about It. Now it's all about pushing the book and getting it out to the readers. Oh, and posting it weekly helped with the unexpectedness of the story.
Patrick: I believe it was in 2007 that Chris approached me about a graphic novel or web comic version of Dead Meat. At the time, I was working multiple jobs and completing my MA in English at UNCW. To say the least, I was a bit bogged down and stressed out by all the work. Once I moved up to the Triangle area near Chris, we actually spent more time focusing on the work because we both had the time. However, between work and family, our time eventually dwindled, but I think that the time we took to write the story and publishing short chapters weekly really allowed us the chance to let the plot and characters evolve with the story. We really got to know the characters and their actions/reactions. I think we both had a lot of fun really digging in and figuring out how these characters would react and why. If we couldn’t answer the “why” portion, we would ditch whatever idea we were brainstorming.
You told me once that the ending was the genesis of the story, and that you wrote the novel to reach the ending. Could you share a little more about that?
Chris: To me that was one of the best parts, "How do we get these characters to the ending we want?" I think we actually came up with the ending before we even had the second character thought out. We had it in our minds that as long as it ends this way we can have the characters do whatever the hell we want them to.
Patrick: When we came up with the ending, it caused a major adrenaline rush. I don’t think I have been that excited to sit down and write. We had this scene pictured in our heads and we felt like we were able to capture exactly what we wanted in the end. In fact, we liked that method so much that we’re using it again in our next two books.
When you start with the conclusion, you have to constantly keep it in mind. Certain characters have to do certain things, but since we didn’t adhere to a strict outline, we were able to let the characters evolve throughout the narrative, changing scenes and ideas to meet the characters, not changing the characters to meet the scenes and ideas. To us, all that mattered really were the end, the realism, and the character development. It wasn’t the gore, which is fun to write, and it wasn’t the zombies (even though we don’t even use that word in the book); we found the story, the characters, and the way everything blended together fascinating.
Did you have an influential teacher or boss in the past?
Chris: I'd have to say it was my high school art teacher Mr. Rogers. Think of an older perverted version of Tom Petty with a porn stache. Within the 4 years I was there I had a total of 7 classes with him. My senior year I only visited three class rooms: his, English and math. As gross as he was, he was the coolest, most laid back teacher. That helped with releasing our creativity.
Patrick: I have at least three that stand out, especially when it comes to writing. Lavonne Adams, my former poetry professor, was not only an inspirational mentor, but she was also very supportive of my writing and offered a ton of constructive criticism to help me hone my skills. She also got me interested in historical poetry, and she helped nurture my love for Seamus Heaney. Dr. Paula Kamenish, another former professor and mentor, was a huge influence on my scholarship, writing, and overall passion for literature and teaching. Luckily, she took me under her wing when I was in college, and I probably owe half, if not more, of my teaching skills to her. The third influential professor I had was Eli Hastings. He taught the only creative writing prose class I took as an undergraduate, and he instructed me to “kill my babies,” the parts that I love the most, and focus on the audience when it comes to writing. As writers, when we fall in love with our own text, particular passages or lines, we tend to shift the surrounding text to make what we love fit in, even if it honestly doesn’t. Sacrificing clarity, consistency, plot, and style for a few sections that sound good to us is what can really deter a reader.