WRITER/COLUMNIST WILLIAM PATRICK MAYNARD INTERVIEWED!!!
WILLIAM PATRICK MAYNARD -Writer/Columnist
AP: Bill, thanks for taking some time out of your schedule to visit with All Pulp. You seem to be keeping busy, but before we get to that, would you tell us a bit about yourself?
WMP: I’m a 39 year-old husband and father. I work as a National Sourcing Manager by day. I write when my work and home schedule allow which means late nights at home and in hotels. I’m a native Clevelander and still call Northeast Ohio home when I’m not on the road for my day job.
AP: You have your hands in pulp a couple of different ways. Let’s talk about your writing? How about a quick rundown of your authored works?
WMP: My first book, THE TERROR OF FU MANCHU was published by Black Coat Press in 2009. I contributed a Sherlock Holmes story to the anthology, GASLIGHT GROTESQUE published by EDGE Publishing in 2009. I wrote a Fantomas story for 2009’s TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN anthology, GRAND GUIGNOL published by Black Coat Press. That story was also published in French earlier this year by Riviere Blanche as part of a different anthology series, LES COMPAGNONS DE L’OMBRE. I’ve also written articles for magazines like BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER and VAN HELSING’S JOURNAL. The former was also published in French by K-LIBRE. I was a weekly columnist for THE CIMMERIAN before it closed up shop and currently I contribute articles every Friday to THE BLACK GATE. My articles for both sites are cross-posted on my blog, SETI SAYS.
AP: ‘The Terror of Fu Manchu’ highlights a character with quite an extensive background. What’s the story historically behind Manchu? Who is he? Who created him?, etc.
WMP: Dr. Fu Manchu is an alias assumed by a brilliant and honorable, but also ruthless and obsessive Chinese scientist who opposes Western imperialism in the East. He wasn’t the first criminal mastermind in fiction, but he was certainly the most infamous and influential. He was created in 1912 by a young Englishman named Arthur Ward, who wrote under the exotic pseudonym of Sax Rohmer. He continued to write about his exploits in a series of novels and stories up until his death in 1959. There were 13 novels, a novella and 3 short stories by the original author.
AP: According to your blog (setisays.blogspot.com) this is the first licensed Fu Manchu novel in 25 years. What does that mean exactly and how was the license acquired? What was your involvement in that process?
WMP: Rohmer had no children. When his widow passed away in 1979, she bequeathed the literary rights to The Society of Authors and The Authors Guild to protect the characters and control the copyrights. The Rohmers were frequently unhappy with how the character was adapted in other media and she wanted to protect the integrity of her husband’s work. Shortly after Elizabeth passed away, Cay Van Ash (who had been their friend and was Rohmer’s secretary and later his biographer) acquired a license to continue the series. He wrote two more Fu Manchu thrillers in the 1980s before he passed away in 1994. For my part, I sought out the rightsholders a number of years ago and presented a story outline and sample chapters. They liked my approach which was to fill in the gaps in the existing narrative by picking up on clues left behind by either Rohmer or Van Ash and embroidering on the established history of the character. THE TERROR OF FU MANCHU was my first one and is set on the eve of the First World War. THE DESTINY OF FU MANCHU is the one I’m working on now. That one is set on the eve of the Second World War.
AP: We’ve talked historically. Now let’s talk about your vision. Tell us how you see Fu Manchu? Is he the embodiment of evil, simply misunderstood, or something else?
WMP: I see him as Nayland Smith’s true counterpart. Not two sides of the same coin like Holmes and Moriarty, but almost twins born in opposite hemispheres. Their separation is political more than ideological. Rohmer’s characters aren’t traditional good guys and bad guys, they’re more flawed and more complex as a consequence. Fu Manchu is an honorable villain and Nayland Smith is an intolerant hero. Neither is perfect, but both are fascinating.
AP: Any other characters you’ve written about you’d like to discuss, either established or your own original creations?
WMP: Well I wrote a Holmes story because the editor of the GASLIGHT anthologies, Charles Prepolec liked my Fu Manchu. I love Holmes and I’m putting together my own collection of Holmes stories now. The book is called THE OCCULT CASE BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. I wrote a Fantomas story, but I have no ambition to do something larger with the character although I am a fan and greatly enjoyed David White’s recent FANTOMAS IN AMERICA book. I see that as more David’s territory than mine. He can certainly do it justice better than I can and probably better than anyone else since he can get right inside the mind of an anarchist and still make you enjoy the character. I am working on another licensed property, but we’re still at the proposal stage so it’s too soon to expand on that unless it comes to pass. I do have an original detective character I’m working on as well that I hope will launch in 2012. He’s a hardboiled detective who is also a devoted husband and father. The setting is America in 1960 right at the cusp of the nation losing its innocence with Kennedy’s assassination and all that followed in its wake. The book and character are called LAWHEAD and that’s something I’m really excited about getting off the ground.
AP: You’re also a columnist. Who do you write columns for and how would you define what a pulp columnist’s job is?
WMP: I started my blog out of boredom between shifts shoveling snow out of my driveway last January. I didn’t really know if I would really maintain a blog or not. At the time it just struck me as a good way to get more search engine hits with my name and work. The mercenary approach didn’t quite last because I quickly found people who enjoyed it. The first was Deuce Richardson who was an editor at THE CIMMERIAN. Deuce invited me to become a weekly columnist and cross-post from my blog. The discipline of writing a weekly column was something I was wary of, but I realized the benefits reaped in terms of exposure to people who have never heard of me outweighed any other considerations. I patterned what I did to fall between three of my favorite blogs: Ron Fortier’s PULP FICTION REVIEWS; Michael Cornett’s DUST AND CORRUPTION; and James Bojaciuk’s EXPLORERS OF THE UNKNOWN. Between the three you have pulp old and new, dark antiquarian fiction, and the Wold Newtonian perspective. That’s what I looked to for inspiration and I just decided I would try to work my way through my own library, books I borrow from the public library, and all roads in between. I jump around a lot from pulp to mystery to sci-fi to horror and there are all of these multi-part articles that start and stop along the way. It seems to have found a good home in THE BLACK GATE which is where we moved to after THE CIMMERIAN ended. John O’Neill has been a huge help in getting me over my technophobia to where I can sort of function somewhat competently now without relying on help with formatting. Obviously, I owe Deuce and John a debt of graditude for championing me and helping to bring my writing to greater attention. Thanks to them, sales of my book have remained consistent as well which is certainly a substantial advantage to blogging.
AP: How do you pick topics to cover? What are some of the topics you’ve addressed as a columnist?
WPM: Well, I start with influences and it often reflects what I’m writing or would like to write. I’ve done DRACULA to death and I’m still not finished and I’ve barely scratched the surface on hardboiled mystery. When LAWHEAD is published in a couple of years, we’ll shift gears in that direction a bit more. Now we’ve stayed close to the lineage that starts with Shelley and Stoker and turns to Rohmer and Alex Raymond. This winter I hope to dig deeper into French pulp fiction with Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain as well as Paul Feval. A year from now and I’ll look at how Rohmer approached a second Fu Manchu thriller when I’ll have done the same. It’s fair to say you can chart things in my life and work by watching what I review or discuss.
AP: Some would say that to do a column over something, your subject needs to be relevant. In your opinion, what makes pulp relevant today? Answer that both as a columnist and an author.
WPM: Pulp is such a broad term the way we tend to apply it. A purist would argue that while Doc Savage and The Shadow were true pulps, Fu Manchu was not. I tend to include any genre or specific authors whose works would be considered low-brow or undignified or contemptible by the elitists when I define pulp. Once you’ve offended the bluenoses, you’re on the right track. Political correctness is just censorship under a different guise and it’s just as creatively stifling and intellectually inbred as it was in the last century. The strange thing is pulp is usually a great barometer for what is going on politically or morally in the world, but it isn’t always evident in its own time. You need distance to gauge its ability to reflect the world around it. Of course the most important facet is it functions as a literary rollercoaster. It’s the most fun you can have in a book. That is another way of determining whether you’re reading or creating pulp.
AP: In reviewing your columns, I find you to be almost as much historian as columnist? What appeals to you about the history of pulp? What do you feel like the pulps of the past have to offer readers and creators today?
WPM: There is a certain amount of innocence in their appeal despite the heavy doses of S&M and all sorts of general nastiness. Pulp is handled with a light touch and is always enjoyable like a good scare or thrill. From a historical perspective, they are modern myths whether you’re talking Mary Shelley or Doc Savage, they function in the same way that myths did in the Classical World. Hollywood recognizes this now, it’s part of what signalled the transition from campy genre films to summer tentpoles that are expected to reinforce moral integrity and make audiences feel like cheering a hero again. George Lucas is the gentleman who claims the honor of changing that mindset with STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES, but it took a couple more decades before the rest of the industry caught up with Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi leading the pack. Now everyone wants pulp in some format. That really helped pave the way for pulp-specialty publishers and the pulp revival currently underway in comics. Now if only mainstream publishers would get on board, but the tide is turning. It is a great time to read and create pulp.
AP: Do you have anything in the works for the future pulpwise you’d like to share with ALL PULP?
WPM: I think that THE OCCULT CASE BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES will be ready this Spring to get to print by Summer, hopefully. I really hope the proposal I have hanging out there for another property is approved by the rightsholder and publisher as I think it’s a property that is a natural fit for me. You really have to believe you can do what you do better than anyone else. You have to believe you were born to write certain characters. If you lack that confidence so will your reader. The trick with writing pulp today is appealing to the classic and modern sensibilities at once. You can do both and All Pulp is a testament to those who show you what can be done with the form. Probably the best lesson for anyone out there who wants to write, but hasn’t finished anything is to learn the dynamics of storytelling, read everything you can get your hands on and understand how it is built and what makes it work. Understanding that will help your own work and help build your confidence.
AP: It’s been great, Bill! Thanks again!