Interview with Chuck Williams

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Although I was an English major in college, I never aspired to be a writer. I'd been satisfied to be a reader until something I saw in Mexico captivated my imagination. I saw a mask in Puerto Vallarta in a shop. It was a jaguar mask, and the shop owner's explanation of the origin of the mask fascinated me. I had been aware of Mexico's powerful, extensive folklore tradition, and it's pre Columbian polytheism with its sanguinary gods, and the way the two came together in that mask became something I had to write about, not in a scholarly way, but as an entertainment that people could enjoy. I wanted it to encompass contemporary Mexico with its problems with drug trafficking as well as the story of the mask, which is also a story of the marginalized indigenous, or what we would call Indian people.
What is your writing process?
I begin with the subject in mind that I'm interested in, for instance a Mexican folklore mask and the indigenous people of rural Mexico. Then I develop a story line that will let me introduce the subject. I use my own experiences as much as possible. The story begins by introducing the main characters. The middle is a quest, sometimes dangerous, that shows the personalities of the all the characters in the story through emotions that readers can identify with: love, fear, inner strength, greed. kindness. Events unfold here that introduce the subjects I have in mind, as well as develop suspense for the reader and allow the reader to identify with the main characters, whom I will call the hero and heroine. The end is where the quest is resolved, and through it, the hero and heroine have learned what they are capable of facing and what they want for the future.
How do you approach cover design?
I decide on an image that crystalizes the story, either quite literally or that in some way reflects the mood and atmosphere of the novel. In two of my novels I've used photographs that I've taken in my travels. In the case of Tiger Fight, I have used an actual jaguar mask I purchased in Mexico, which I felt quite lucky to find, since a subsequent internet search located them in museums and private collections. Once the mask was decided on I worked with an experienced designer who set up a photo shoot. It was a fun undertaking, complete with lots of fake blood. I was a little worried about getting the blood on the mask, but it came right off. Once the final graphic was completed I turned it over to a professional cover designer, who was very helpful (and patient with me)
in finding the right font. Once that was done, I stepped back and let her determine the size and placement of the title and author.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This a difficult question - it's like asking which are your favorite children, so I'll just rattle off the first ones that come to mind. Catch Twenty-two, because of its painful laying bare of human perversity, and making me laugh at the same time. I'm a fan of Umberto Ecco, beginning with The Name of the Rose. His work is so dense and immersive that it carries me into another time and place quite convincingly. I enjoy mysteries, and I really like Michael Dibdin. His Italian settings and characters are a pleasure to consume, just like Italian food. I'm very sorry he died so young. I truly miss his writing. The Mexican, Paco Ignacio Taibo, who writes about the dark side of contemporary Mexican politics. He's co-written a novel with subcomandante Marcos, the guerrilla leader of the Chiapas uprising. Elmer Mendoza, another Mexican writer who writes about the cynical, corrupt politics of Mexico. He is the author of Un Asesino Solitario, or The lone Assassin.His work is available, but unfortunately hasn't yet been translated into English.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read everything for pleasure. If it isn't a pleasure one way or another, by learning something new or useful, or carrying one away into another world, why read it?
But to not avoid the question, I get pleasure from mystery/crime fiction, preferably in a foreign setting. I learn about another culture, and through reading I am able to see a country I may never actually visit.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My e-reader of choice is my iPhone and Apple touch iPod. Its size makes it convenient for carrying it anywhere. I don't find the fonts too small, and the field for reading provides enough text at a time. In portrait view it provides the equivalent of, I'd guess, half of a paperback novel page.
If I were a woman and carried a purse, I might be interested in an iPad. I know nothing stops me from carrying a purse, but since I'm not used to that, I'm afraid I'd be constantly forgetting it and leaving it behind.
Describe your desk
As I sit at my desk right now, I'm facing an Apple iMac, with speakers to either side of the screen playing Bach piano pieces. To my left is an half empty coffee cup (I'd forgotten it was there and let the coffee go cold.) A little farther back on the left is a photo of my wife and kids when they were little, probably ages three and five. The picture was taken at a wedding so we're all dressed up. My son and I have on white shirts and ties. My son at the time had allergies, and after running through tall grass with the other kids, his eyes are swollen half shut. My daughter is sitting on her mom's lap. Mom and I are smiling, my daughter is trying to, but not very convincingly; there is a slight frown on her brow, as if she's trying too hard to smile. My son, with his eyes half closed and his lips pressed together, is just suffering through the picture taking. Behind the photo there are two pens and two pencils standing up in the cup of a candlestick. On the wall behind the candlestick is a small period photo on glass of the Eiffel tower. Above the wall are bookshelves filled with books, tchotchkes, and various relics of my travels.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My dad worked for an oil company, so we moved in the United States from one oil discovery to the next. Kansas, the panhandle of Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Montana, and back to Texas. Somehow that imparted a wanderlust in me. I've travelled far and wide, so I'm drawn to writing about foreign places. That's why I've written about Mexico. People reflect a certain character of the country they call home, and by traveling one can't help but compare the characters of a place, and noticing the differences. Therefore my fiction is character driven. I try to describe the humanity we all have in common, and then the things that make us all different.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book, which will be out shortly, titled The Mexican Gambit, is about an honest Mexican cop, and the compromises he must make to deal with the corruption around him. His boss, or commander, is a high functioning political operative who enlists Baltasar, my Mexican cop, in an effort to bring down a corrupt governor. Along with his problems at work he is having marital difficulties, and because of his helping his boss, his son is kidnapped. The governor is a powerful operator, and not an easy man to corner. In the end the commander's strategy uses the governor's greed and, to Baltasar's surprise, an unexpected, creative tactic to accomplish the task.
I am already at work on a follow-up to this novel, using the same characters and milieu.
What are you working on next?
I've had some positive feedback about my character, Baltasar, an honest cop in a corrupt Mexico in my soon to be released title, The Mexican Gambit. He's a likable guy, ready with sarcasm and humor to soften the sometimes depressing, sometimes frightening things that come up in his work. His job has been hard on his marriage, he's been separated from his wife, whom he's crazy about, and had to deal with an affair she had in a moment of weakness. He's had his life threatened and survived, and managed to get back together with his wife.
In the new one I'm working on Baltasar has left the police and is working for Audi at their new assembly plant being built in Puebla. There he's been asked by his former police commander to help on a murder and missing federal funds that were intended to build a much needed new highway to the Audi Plant. However, the reality of corruption is a depressing topic to write about, so I want to take the story in a different direction, at least in its major emphasis, and leave corruption in the background. Maybe solving the murder will be the story line, a whodunnit. His relationship with his wife will be an important, and positive subject. There are some interesting new characters to be introduced, and the city of Puebla may play a part. For me the story only becomes clearer as I write it. It's a process of building the story while you look ahead to see what comes next, and where it will end up.
Published 2014-09-17.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Mexican Gambit
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 88,240. Language: English. Published: December 4, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
A world of crime, drugs, corrupt politicians, rivalries and revenge. It’s no place for a cop who just wants to do his job and keep his hands clean. He gets a murder case with a warning that it isn’t an ordinary murder, and lands in a deadly rivalry between heavyweight egos. His only way out is to take sides, and a violent resolution comes from a direction he least expected.
Tiger Fight Mexico's Drug Lords and Old Gods
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 85,950. Language: English. Published: September 19, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense, Fiction » Cultural & ethnic themes » Hispanic & Latino
When a gringo expat in Mexico steps in to defend an Indian woman from an obsessed drug trafficker, he is carried with her to her village where a festival that includes a jaguar society and ritual combat is underway. Pursued by thugs, it will take the spilling of blood to save their lives, and at the same time fulfill ancient myths and preserve the old ways of the village.