William Todd Rose

Today, I’ve separated William Todd Rose from the herd and latched the door behind him for a friendly interrogation.

Why writing?  What drew you to it? Why do you continue?

I’ve always made up stories, even before I began writing them down.  As a kid, my imagination kept me infinitely entertained and occupied, and eventually, I started writing down the stories I told.  Which was kind of a natural progression.  I couldn’t even write a “What I did Last Summer” paper without adding some dramatic flourishes, some of which were so far from the truth as to be laughable.  The reason I continue, I think, is that writing is a very meditative process for me.  It allows me to turn off the world around me and delve into one of my own creation;  I like to think I have complete control over these worlds, but that’s simply not true. I’m often just as shocked to see what happens in my work as readers of the finished product are.  For me, writing a book or story is usually like watching a film made entirely of words.  Which actually might explain why I often site movies and directors as some of primary influences.

If you were freezing to death and the only thing left to burn were the books in your library, what 5 books would you burn last?  (And yes, everything else burnable has been burnt.)

Neuromancer by William Gibson.  Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk,  Come To Me by Amy Bloom.  Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac and Theories for Everything: An Illustrated History of Science.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve done (in life or in writing (your choice))?

As an author, my most challenging undertaking has been writing an entire first draft of a novel in the span of day.  The day before, I’d finished my first zombie novel, The Dead and Dying, and I was trying to decide which project to tackle next.  Around 11:00 PM, I got this idea in my head that I would write a 40,000 word (minimum) first draft within a consecutive 24 hour period.  I had no idea what the book would be about or who the characters were;  all I knew was that I wanted to start with a scene of a city embroiled in urban warfare.  Instead of waiting for the next day, like a sane man would have, I immediately delved into it and uploaded the chapters to my website as they were completely, thus giving readers a peek into a portion of the writing process they rarely see.  I got a lot of support in this endeavor but ended up a tad below 40,000 words.  I also went 20 minutes over my self imposed time limit, largely due to a failed attempt at napping and having to recreate almost an entire chapter when my word processor crashed.  I also got to a point where I physically wasn’t capable of writing anymore and had to stop the clock for some sleep.  If I’d waited until the next day to begin, this wouldn’t have been an issue either since I’d already been awake for fourteen hours when I began the project.  So it wasn’t the 24 consecutive hours I was aiming for.  But it was 24 hours and 20 minutes, which isn’t too shabby.  The resulting book was Cry Havoc, and I am particularly proud of it.

What’s one word or phrase that drives you nuts?  Why?

“At About”.  You see this a lot in true crime books, as in “At about 11:30 PM….”.  It drives me up the wall because “at” denotes specificity and “about” is a generality.  If the actual time isn’t known, “at approximately” would fit the bill nicely.  Or you could just do away with one word entirely and use “Around 11:30 PM”.  This really is one of my biggest pet peeves.

Do you have a favorite character you’ve created?  If so, who is it and why?

I actually have three favorites.  The first two are Bosley Coughlin and Ocean, the protagonists from The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People.  I like Bosley because he’s like an alternate reality version of myself.  He’s who I might have been if I hadn’t changed life paths in my mid-twenties.  I like Ocean because she’s this street-wise young girl who grew up in the apocalyptic wastelands and never knew any other way of life.  Survival has hardened her to a degree and she has these animalistic traits such as sniffing the air to catch the scent of rotters; but she’s only fourteen, so there’s also this naiveté that is actually quite rare in her world.  She and Bosley are interesting studies in contradiction and both operate in areas of moral ambiguity, though for entirely different reasons.

The third character I mentioned is Lucretia Bordeaux from a book I’m currently working on called Pennyweight.  Born with a disfigurement which gives her the appearance of an antique, Victorian doll, her upper-class family declares her stillborn and locks her in an attic room to avoid scandal and gossip.  The girl is slightly mad and occasionally slips into what she calls The Dream of Blood;  macabre and bizarre imagery superimposes upon reality, resulting in acts of unspeakable violence which she could only faintly recollect upon awakening.  Through the Dream of Blood, she’s killed every pet her parents have ever gifted her except for the most recent one, a surgically enhanced, talking rat named Maximilian.  I like Lucretia because she’s just downright fun to write about.  She lives in a world similar to our own, yet different.  It’s kind of a blend of the Victorian era and the 1940s with some interdimensional technology and life forms thrown into the mix.

Creepiest place you’ve ever been?  Has it appeared in your fiction?  Why or Why  not?

The creepiest place I’ve ever been was an A-frame house my aunt and uncle were renting in Gilmer County when I was a kid.  It was surrounded by forest and had no close neighbors and a quaint little pond out front.  However, the previous occupants had left everything they owned: clothes, furniture, photo albums … I mean everything.  Looking through the photos, all of the people seemed to have vacant stares and glassy eyes;  there were also some paintings of Jesus, but this wasn’t the kind of gentle, shepherd who lovingly gazes down upon Sunday school classes.  In this paintings, Christ had very angry eyes and they were painted in such a way that no matter where you stood they always seemed to be glaring at you.  If memory serves me, I believe there were also orange and yellow flames against a black background.  The Jesus portrayed in the painting always seemed more of a Destroyer than Savior to me, and I’ve always wondered if they bought that disconcerting painting somewhere or if one of the former residents had painted it.

Anyhow, the house also had bullet holes in the walls and while playing in forest one day, my cousin tripped over a piece of rope which looped out of the ground and we ended up finding a bunch of wooden ammo boxes buried all around the property.  While very picturesque, the entire place had this unsettling quality to it and always left me feeling like someone was creeping up just behind me.  I’ve never actually written about it, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s just too personal.  I don’t know.

What’s the best rejection you’ve ever received?

My favorite was for a non-genre piece I wrote called “The Gown’s Tale”;  it didn’t make the cut because one editor thought it was, and I quote, “Irreconcilably weird”.

How did you get that scar?

Which one?  I’ve got a scar from where my appendix ruptured when I was a kid (but I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen that one).  I also have a burn on my arm from when I threw a can of WD-40 into a bonfire to see what would happen.  Again, I was a kid when this happened.  I’ve also got a small scar on my hairline from the time my older sister pegged me with a can of frozen orange juice concentrate.  There’s also what looks to be a smallpox vaccination scar on one of my biceps and a crater on my forearm from a cat I used to have named Zoroaster.  He’d accidentally scratched me and it ended up getting infected.

What song would precede your entrance into a room if we all had personal soundtracks?

When I’m in a bad mood at work, I walk around humming The Imperial March.  Does that count?

Promote yourself and/or your writing

For a complete list of my published works – as well as news, upcoming events, reviews, interviews, and free fiction – please visit my website. There, you can find information on my three zombie-themed titles (The Dead and Dying, Sex in the Time of Zombies, and The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People) as well as my non-undead works:  Shadow of the Woodpile, Cry Havoc, Shut the Fuck Up and Die!, and Apocalyptic Organ Grinder.

Any final thoughts before you run screaming for your life?

Make sure to support your indie authors.  There’s a lot of quality work out there from a slew of talented authors just waiting for you to discover them.  Don’t let bestseller lists dictate what you should or shouldn’t read;  explore some new ground and fresh ideas.  Writers in the indie movement are some of the most creative and talented people I know and their work deserves to be read, so do yourself a favor and search them out.

Thank you, Mr. Rose, for being an entertaining victim and showing off your magnificent collection of scars.  Feel free to exit at any speed you choose through the door on your right.

1 thought on “William Todd Rose

  1. Wow! 40,000 words in 24 hours?! I’m so impressed! I don’t think I could do that in a week! And that *is* definitely a unique rejection, though I think I would take the phrase “irreconcilably weird” as a compliment. 🙂 A fascinating interview, William and Rebecca!

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