#WritersOnWriting 8: Lynda Williams

This week, I have for you Lynda Williams, fellow instructor at BCIT, and writer of science fiction and fantasy. Yep, I love the variety of writers I’m getting in this series! Ladies and Gentelmen, Lynda Williams:

1. I am…. Lynda Williams. I live with my husband David Lott in Burnaby, B.C. where I manage a team of learning technology specialists at Simon Fraser University and teach, part-time, at BCIT. On weekends and evenings, David and I are running a small business called Reality Skimming Press.

2. Author of….. a ten novel series called The Okal Rel Saga, numerous related work, plus some unrelated short stories, academic publications and a lot of blogging. Most of the blogging is done on the Reality Skimming Blog accessible through okalrel.org but I’ve started blogging on WordPress, as well, for the community options. Find me there at readingokalrel.wordpress.com.

3. The first thing I ever wrote was…. probably an Okal Rel story, even if I didn’t know it at the time. Although I do recall a self-illustrated work done in Elementary School about a child who wanted to grow up too soon and later decided she’d rather play with the fairies in the wood a bit longer. My mother thought it was wonderful.

4. I knew I wanted to be a writer when… I discovered reading and writing was the deepest way to explore other lives and illuminate my own. For as long as I can remember, I have been playing at make believe. Writing was how I carried the practice into adult life. I explain a bit of the emotional importance of writing in my life, in the web essay “I Promised My Dolls.”

5. My first writing success was… winning an honorary mention from the Writers for the Future contest I published the first Amel story (Okal Rel Universe) a long time afterwards, with Circlet Press. Circlet treated me well, but I wasn’t interested in writing only about Amel’s erotic adventures. His early life was just one of elements of his character and becomes something he has to overcome, reputationally and emotionally, by the end of the saga. So I waited to continue the story with Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy, after my good friend Alison Sinclair introduced me to Brian Hades in the late 1990s.

6. Who are your influences? 

I’ve read widely and eclectically. I’ve also enjoyed science fiction and fantasy, in particular, in the video media. And I like stage plays — amateaur to pro — so long as they are live. English literature of the 18th and 19th centuries is a big influence. And the works of the ancient world. Gilgamesh, Troy, Marcus Aurelius. Russian novelists Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn. The magic realism of Gabriel García Márquez. The parlors and walks of Jane Austin. Toss in Scientific American, books on social history by writers like Jared Diamond, and snatches of everything from Machiavelli to Adam Smith.

7. What does your writing practice look like? 

My writing practice has varied widely over the years. In the beginning, although I always knew I meant to be a writer first and foremost, I worked at it sporadically. Waiting for genius to bloom and the rest to fall into place, I suspect. In the next phase, the writing urge would overtake me like an addiction, consuming my evenings and weekends and filling in the cracks of spare moments in my working day. Once I had novels to deliver, I developed the discipline of working every morning between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., before work. I edited and re-wrote in the evenings, as well. These days, I do literary work mostly on weekends.

8. What does success as a writer look like to you? Do you think you are successful?
In the beginning, I had naive ideas about success in writing. Now, I know I need to be a writer — or a publisher — because I need to be it. And the rest is secondary. Of course it would be nice to make more money at it. In retrospect, though, the world of “pro-speak” has probably cost me more anguish than obscurity ever would have. What I mean by “pro-speak” is the relentless message pumulgated by professional genre writers to the effect that no one should write unless paid well. While I sympathize with their need to make a living, I suspect the goal of the message is to shame the competition into silence or demand it compete in the channels they have already dug and armed to guard their own success. Shame is a powerful tool for controlling people. Even writers who have no material need for a few hundred dollars of royalties can be effortlessly shut up by the heavy weight of being consider “unprofessional” if they don’t demand union rates. “Pro-speak” has its virtues. But as a beginner it was a blight on my heart. Although it didn’t quite manage to silence me.
Success, for me, is knowing thousands of people now share the “rel” (Okal Rel term for struggling through life’s challenges) of the characters I spent so much time falling in love with and tormenting with the worst, and best, they could endure. In their stories, I express my questions about human nature and the meaning of everything. Even to have managed to get the whole saga into shape and completed to my satisfaction is a personal success, whatever its ultimate fate in the world.
9. What does the future look like? What are you working on? 
My goal with Reality Skimming Press is to perpetuate the process of exploration founded by the saga, and to see my work evolve into an important part of a greater, living whole. I don’t know whether I will be doing much writing, personally, anymore. Although I do plan to work on left overs that never made it into print, and to tidy up existing works in new editions of them. I also want to explore opportunities for re-telling the stories in other media and modes, wherever I find compatible partners — kindred spirits — I can honorably exploit to take part. People who can invest either time or money in such an enterprise without suffering harm, and will enter in to an honorable arrangement with me with respect to rights.

10. Which famous writer would you like to write your biography?

I wouldn’t care if the writer was famous or obscure. I’d like to have a biographer who learned all he or she could, and used it to make more sense of the world. To bring one small piece of it into
focus, for a moment. Hold it still and make it clear. I’d want them to treat all the people in it the same way: with a will to understand them, first. But then to have a point of view that instructs us all. I don’t believe in moralizing, but I do believe we need to take a stand and have opinions at checkpoints along the way. Of course, we need to keep trying to find better ways, for everyone, to do everything. Without being cruel. Or blind. But we can’t afford to be forever in doubt about everything, either. The art of a biographer is the art of any writer. To make meaning. To ask the right questions. Most of all, I think I’d like to have at least two biographers. A greedy thought. I’ll be lucky if I get one! But when I take an interest in a personality I typically like to read about them from at least two sources.
The marvellous thing about any writer is not only the material studied, but the lens looked through.

For more information about Lynda: 

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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