An interview with author Robert Shane Wilson

We are here today as a stop on the The Robert S. Wilson Thrown-Together-at-the-Last-Minute-Due-to-An-Overwhelming-Amount-of-Procrastination-and-Indecision Blog Tour and Book Giveaway Contest! =



This is a real honor. Robert Shane Wilson has been delivering the goods as an author and editor for enough time to leave a good mark on many people’s psyche. His work reminds me of Dan O’ Bannon, and the very wonderful 1980s science fiction/horror/noir field. I loved those stories and films. Please bring back Ellen Datlow and OMNI and T.E.D. Klein Twilight Zone! I cherish the issues I have. Robert continues that tradition, although his work is most certainly his own. We’ve been friends online for a while, with one of my favorite stories is learning that he uses a DANA portable word processor to work from. Having seen ads for them for years, Robert turned me on to finding a used one for a song. I love it. I love gizmos. Anything that helps creativity. I love where he writes. So please, check out his work. It’s the good stuff. He’s embarking on a brave new journey, not unlike one of the heroes in his stories, toward a new world. Now, let’s find out more about him.

You’ve got some new projects being released soon, with a brand new business model in mind? Can you talk about that a bit? What inspired this?

Sure. My debut collection Where All Light is Left to Die just came out via eBook and is about to do likewise in trade paperback any day now and my novella SoulServe: A Ray Garret/Lifeline Techno Thriller is set to come out September 30th. I’m also putting out a novella from my collection as a stand alone (The Nesting Place) and a new revised and expanded edition of my 2011 novella The Quiet. And to make that sound even more confusing, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing also released my short experimental cosmic horror story The OTHERS as part of their One-Night Stands series of eBooks earlier this month.

As for the business model, it’s a bit of an experiment. Recently Hugh Howey, bestselling author of WOOL, wrote a very interesting blog on a strategy for new self-publishing authors to kick start their careers. What I’m hoping to get out of this strategy is a boost in exposure to both my already available titles as well as a good kick start to my new ones. Hugh calls this strategy the Five-Down-and-One-in-the-Hole plan and it’s emulated from what has happened recently to a lot of midlist authors who have self-published.

What happens is a midlist author will decide to self-publish their entire backlist pretty much at once shortly before putting out a new title. Readers are suddenly seeing several books from the same name and that name is sticking for them enough that they decide to eventually take a chance on that author’s work. The idea is to shortly afterward put out another title, the “one in the hole,” as something new for readers to sink their teeth into now that they’ve already been reading your recent barrage of titles (Hugh and his source Liliana Nirvana suggest releasing your “one in the hole” title about one month later).

When I read Hugh’s post, I was in a unique position in that I already had five titles I was planning on releasing (well one rereleasing, but yeah…). Thing is, traditional wisdom tells authors and publishers to separate releases so you can give each book time to breathe and give yourself time to promote each accordingly. But in my experience, the more I learn about the current book market, the more I feel like taking a chance on new creative ideas can lead to some wonderful opportunities. And if nothing else… It’s not likely to make things any more difficult than they already are. So, for me, it was worth a shot to make it so all these titles would be available right around the same time.

For my “one in the hole,” I’m going out a little further than suggested and shooting for putting my third novel RISING FROM ASHES: EMPIRE OF BLOOD BOOK THREE out in December. So, I’m not following the idea stringently by any means but hopefully it gives my work a bit of a kick in the right direction.


Do you think the new era of authors taking over much of their promotion and content has affected the way writers write? With everyone writing series, and hoping to cross-sell the titles, how has this effected the genesis of storytelling?

I think in today’s new publishing paradigm many writers are a lot more aware of marketing. In a big way it’s a huge burden to writers these days, self and traditionally published. And I’m sure that affects what plenty of writers decide to write etc. Myself, as a reader, I’m a lover of book series and as a writer, I’ve come to enjoy them as well because it really allows you to get deeper and deeper with dynamic character development and interaction. But I can see how some writers are leaning toward series when they probably wouldn’t have otherwise in order to build a selling platform.

As for the genesis of storytelling, I’m not sure it matters. We’ve been telling stories since we were living in caves, hunting and gathering. I think what matters is that we keep telling stories as individuals and as a species. Passing down our ideas to each new generation and inspiring even more great stories. That’s one of the greatest things that makes us unique among the our ancestors and we should celebrate that.

Sure if someone puts all their effort and time into worrying about what will sell over what they are passionate about writing, they’ll end up with nothing but dry crap to show for it, but there’s nothing wrong with balancing the two. “Here’s something that’s selling well and I love to read and write it. Here’s something else that’s selling well and I love to read it, but haven’t tried writing it. I think I’ll give it a shot.” I mean the best musicians and performers are fluent in many different styles and I’m a firm believer that writers can only gain by doing the same.


I get the feeling a lot of authors are writing to the market. They’re even mimicking the covers of best-sellers with their graphic work. Do you think this is a good thing, because it is leveling the playing field, or do you think this is crowding the market with a lot of mediocre work?

I think this kind of goes back to my last answer to some degree. I honestly feel like as long as there are people writing, there will be different levels of quality. Different people write for different reasons. Obviously Amazon has opened the floodgates for anyone who wants to try their hand at being a writer to do so. This is both a great and terrible thing all at once. For the promising young writer who is willing to still put in the effort to hone their craft and toil with each new work toward making it better or more original than the last, this is fantastic. For those who would rather rush out everything they can for the purpose of trying to make a quick buck, I think it’s inevitable that they are going to fail and quickly.

That said, many new great writers out there aren’t getting noticed because of many factors including the huge amount of competition out there right now—a lot of which being one big pool of shit from those aforementioned folk trying to make a quick buck. But also because, and this is another great and terrible conundrum, Amazon is taking the market and to be seen on Amazon is to follow Amazon’s rules both spoken and unspoken and it’s they’re not exactly working very hard to make those rules straightforward. But given the huge ratio of bad material out there, I get it. It’s like a marketing democracy not too far off from the current state of United States politics—one where the lucky and the rich win out. If you can afford to throw down 10k on advertising, Amazon is more than happy to make you a bestseller. If not and you happen to have the magic power to get hit by Amazon’s bestselling lightning as authors like Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath, among many others, have, then aces, you win every writer’s secret little soft fuzzy dream—the ability to make not just a living writing, but a damn fine one.

The Others

Who or what are the new gatekeepers?

Readers are the new gatekeepers. And I think, in comparison to the history of this business, this new paradigm is the evolutionary equivalent of the Cambrian Explosion. When the Cambrian Explosion happened, life on Earth went from just a small number of variations to very near the nearly incalculable variety of species we see today. Likewise, we went from a small variety of book publishers funneling out what they felt was the best material to readers to tearing away that funnel and allowing the open slush pit to go straight to the reader where they can find new writers in droves that may never have even managed to get printed with the previous model.

What distinguishes your work from the flood of self-appointed writers multiplying on Amazon every day?

Ha! Nothing I say can answer that question… Except maybe this. I wrote it. And there is no other me. Otherwise, it’s up to readers to decide if they want to take a chance on me. (Hint: I have several free stories out in eBook land available and there’s always the sample option on any of my longer works. All free ways to decide for yourself if my work can be distinguished from the dreck.)


You’re well known, and highly regarded, in the horror fiction circuit, as an editor. How did that come to be? Do you think your skills as an editor have informed your personal fiction for better or for worse?

If anything I’m blipping slightly on some far away edge of the radar, maybe. I probably mostly owe that to my work on Horror for Good: A charitable Anthology and as Editor in Chief of Nightscape Press. And yeah, if a writer wants to better their craft, I would highly suggest trying their hand at editing on a purely experimental basis to begin with. Get together with another writer you’re friends with who has a reasonably thick skin and is willing to take your criticism with a grain of salt.

That way if you make some mistakes along the way you don’t pull someone down with you along the way. Haha. Seriously though, I started editing in late 2011 just prior to working on Horror for Good and each pass I did on other people’s work taught me more. But I won’t lie, editing the work of solid professionals was even more hugely eye-opening. And yet at the same time, no one gets better who isn’t already studying the subject of their affections with vigorous determination and constant practice. For writers that’s reading everything you can get your hands on with a critical eye and writing and writing and rewriting and writing and writing and rewriting some more and… you get the idea.

If marketing and sales were of no concern, what would you write?

Well, the same things I write now. Sort of. I balance how much my eye is on the market and how much my eye is on what I’m passionate about. They’re mostly pretty much the same thing. That said, I would love to break out more in the science fiction market because most of what I write has a huge element of mixed in. So far that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. And very recently I realized that I’m okay with that. I’m okay with that because there are two science fiction markets. There’s the stringent very particular science fiction market that doesn’t jibe too well with darker fiction and there’s the popular fiction market where science fiction has, in my opinion, more room to breathe. I think my sci-fi has the potential to some day end up in that latter market. With hard work and some luck, time will tell I suppose. It very well could be that my brand of SF just isn’t anybody’s cup of tea and even still, I can live with that. The best tip I ever learned was to write for yourself, because you can’t please everyone and when you try too hard to please everyone, you only end up pleasing no one.

Our influences often change as we develop as artists. Who inspired you ‘then’, and who inspires you ‘now’?

Ooh, love this question. I think my biggest horror inspirations from childhood were The Twilight Zone and various 70s and 80s horror and sci-fi movies (Brainstorm, Blade Runner, An American Werewolf in London, Swamp Thing, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Killer Clowns from Outer Space, Alien, Predator, Communion, Night of the Comet, Saturn 3, Tron, D.A.R.R.E.L., Cat’s Eye, The Last Starfighter, Terminator, Labyrinth, and tons of others. But in the written word… Then would be Stephen King, Anne Rice, William Golding… etc. But the biggest scares in my early teens came from reading Whitley Strieber’s “non-fiction” alien abduction books like Communion, Transformation, and the author’s supposedly “true story written as fiction” Majestic. I was twelve years old when I first read those books and I was quite impressionable.

At the time, I already believed in that sort of thing and Strieber’s books only gave me terrifying fodder to add to my already growing fear of small beings coming into my home in the middle of the night and ripping me from my bed. Nothing scares like something you think is real. Hands down, nothing else has scared me as much since.

Today I’m a skeptic who doesn’t believe in anything supernatural, and while that might affect my ability to be scared to some degree, I’m still able to be creeped out and enjoy a great work of the macabre. I’d say my biggest influences now are authors like Peter Watts, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick, Michael Marshall Smith, Stephen Graham Jones, Laird Barron, Ursula K. Le Guin, Peter Straub, King still, definitely, Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, and Joe Lansdale. I’m more recently becoming especially enthralled with weird fiction and cosmic horror. I’ve long been intrigued by H.P. Lovecraft’s spectrum of horrific ideas, but I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of his prose style, so I’m slow to read as much of his work as I would like.


What’s your writing routine?

Whenever I can balance free time and focus. So, in other words not nearly as routine as I would like, but I’ve been working to turn that around.

kr kr kr

My favorite question is always HOW do you write? MS Word on an old PC? Longhand in spiral notebooks? Tapping into your iPhone? I love specifics. Give me the software you use. The versions. Why you use them. Also: what is your writing environment? A nook in the dining room? A home office that looks out onto a meadow? The lunch room at the day job with a set of headphones so you won’t be disturbed? That stuff I love!

Recently I made room for an office that’s closed off from the rest of the house and have done most of my writing there. I’m a typing kind of guy. I write by hand far too slowly and much sloppier than your typical doctor’s signature. If I had to rely on reading my own handwriting, I’d be screwed. I mostly write on my PC with either Microsoft Word 2003 or Wordstar 7 (I’m a Wordstar Diamond addict. I’ve even created a small script program via AutoHotKey that allows me to use Wordstar commands with any Windows program—XP and 7. WS fans, it’s available here! You’ll need to set up your caps lock to work as a control separately though…).

Nearly a year ago we moved out to the country just across the street from a body of water called Defeated Creek (even though it looks bigger than many lakes I’ve seen). And directly across from the mouth of our driveway is a nice clearing in the trees that separate the road from the water. When the weather is accommodating I go out there with a little word processor device called an Alphasmart Dana—you know what I’m talking about, John!—and a fold out camping chair and go sit in front of the water and write. Best writing spot ever. Well, the best I’ve found anyway.

Here’s where you can contact and hang out with Robert:


The Robert S. Wilson Thrown-Together-at-the-Last-Minute-Due-to-An-Overwhelming-Amount-of-Procrastination-and-Indecision Blog Tour and Book Giveaway Contest! =

Amazon author page:

Goodreads author page:

Facebook page:

Twitter name: @EmpireOfBloodRW

Ello: @robertswilson


Robert S. Wilson is the author of SHINING IN CRIMSON and FADING IN DARKNESS, books one and two of his dystopian vampire series: EMPIRE OF BLOOD. He is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor of BLOOD TYPE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF VAMPIRE SF ON THE CUTTING EDGE, a co-editor of HORROR FOR GOOD: A CHARITABLE ANTHOLOGY and NIGHTSCAPES: VOLUME 1, and lives in Middle Tennessee with his family and a silly obnoxious dog. His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, online, and paper publications, and his cyberpunk/horror novella EXIT REALITY was chosen as one of’s Thrillers of the Month in July 2013.

His debut fiction collection WHERE ALL LIGHT IS LEFT TO DIE was just released on September 23rd and the second novella in his cyberpunk/crime thriller Ray Garret/Lifeline series, SOULSERVE, is available for pre-order and will release on September 30th. He is currently working hard to finish a number of novels and novellas all at once like a blind juggler given knives and led into oncoming traffic.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s