This week, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Williams, author of the upcoming release Dominic’s Ghost, a Mythic novel set in modern day midwest. As part of an amazing blog tour with TCM Publicity, I couldn’t wait to dig deep into the roots of what Dominic’s Ghost was all about and how it can to be. So, Williams, thanks in advance for doing this interview with me!
Summary of DOMINIC’S GHOST: Dominic’s Ghosts is a mythic novel set in the contemporary Midwest. Returning to the home town of his missing father on a search for his own origins, Dominic Rackett is swept up in a murky conspiracy involving a suspicious scholar, a Himalayan legend, and subliminal clues from a silent film festival. As those around him fall prey to rising fear and shrill fanaticism, he follows the branching trails of cinema monsters and figures from a very real past, as phantoms invade the streets of his once-familiar city and one of them, glimpsed in distorted shadows of alleys and urban parks, begins to look uncannily familiar.
[RAVENOUS]: Tell us about Dominic’s Ghosts. What is the story about? Where did the idea come from? How long have you been writing it? Is this a series or standalone?
[WILLIAMS]: Dominic’s Ghosts is mythical fiction, set in a small city in the American Midwest. In the story, a downtown movie theatre features a revival of early 20th-century German silent films, accidentally unleashing sinister forces from the historical past that play and prey upon the people who watch the movies. This idea emerged from a fascination with the films in question, with letting the themes and the moods of this darkly beautiful art form a dark novel that I hope has its own compelling beauty. Dominic’s Ghosts is part of my City Quartet, but it’s not really a book in a series, so to speak. Each of the four novels is set in the same environment, each story brushes against the other stories, but the reader can enter the Quartet from any novel, starting with this one or any of the other three. As you read, I hope you will discover that the world of the books layers and deepens, that you glimpse the primary plot of one novel as secondary plot in another, that major characters in one book make cameos in all the other three.
[RAVENOUS]: In what world is Dominic’s Ghosts set? What can readers expect in terms of setting? How is it different than other worlds and/or our world?
[WILLIAMS]: Dominic’s Ghosts takes place in the four corners of our own world, I’d say. The narrative present of the story is set in a town that is and is not Louisville, Kentucky: a relatively mundane city that has been jostled out of ordinariness by the intrusion of dangerous mythical characters. It’s all part of seeing myth in the everyday: I needed to start on most familiar terrain.
[RAVENOUS]: What can you tell me about the characters? Who is your favorite? Which character was the toughest to flesh out? Why? Is there a character you wish you could have included more of? How did you get to know your characters?
[WILLIAMS]: The story centers on a group of college-aged “artsy” types who have found themselves, despite grander ambitions, employees at the Shangri-La, a vintage movie theatre that is scheduled for permanent closure. Dominic Rackett is a little older than the people around him, and having been hired to write program notes about the films being shown at the Shangri-La, has found himself the center of admiration and jealousy. As the protagonist of Dominic’s Ghosts, he is probably my favorite character in this book. I also like a number of the secondary characters, especially Gabriel (Dominic’s father) and T. Tommy Briscoe (a homeless Elvis impersonator). The good thing about the design of the Quartet is that these guys appear elsewhere in more central roles, so I had a chance to treat more of their personalities and stories.
[RAVENOUS]: What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book? What was the highlight of writing this book?
[WILLIAMS]: Dominic’s Ghosts is narratively more complex than other novels I have written, interweaving two distinct plots that take place at different times in history—stories that converge during the event of the film festival. The challenge in this choice is to keep the book from being unnecessarily convoluted and involved: it should challenge readers without needlessly baffling them. Fortunately, I had the keen eye of my editor, Karen Leet, who helped keep the ripples steady.
[RAVENOUS]: What research/writing process was involved in writing Dominic’s Ghosts?
[WILLIAMS]: Oh, a lot of research, most of which was fascinating and fun. I needed to know the particular basic details of filmmaking in the German Weimar era (post WWI and well into the 1930s) so that whatever mistakes I made would at least not be howlers. And of course, the history I had to know in a broader sense—just what was going on in Germany during that crucial historical time. The most fun thing about this process, too, was watching the films again: Metropolis, Nosferatu, and a number of others with which I had only passing acquaintance when I first started the novel. These films are mentioned in the book: if I mentioned it, I’d recommend it highly, because it’ll be a film that certainly got and kept my attention.
[RAVENOUS]: What themes are present in Dominic’s Ghosts? What do you hope readers will gain as they venturing into the story?
[WILLIAMS]: The past. How it never lets go of us. How in the process of moving on from trauma and nightmare history, we must embrace those nightmares, those histories, and know that “moving on” never quite becomes “clear and free”—that our wrestling with the past occurs again and again, and that maybe the growth we see and feel in ourselves is the conditioning that comes from these continual struggles.
[RAVENOUS]: Why did you write Dominic’s Ghosts? Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
[WILLIAMS]: Good question! I hope I answer all parts of it here. I started the book because of the uncanny feeling I got in the presence of these old films. There’s this passage in a Buddhist sutra about creatures of light who dwell in the Brahma world during times of contraction, but in times of expansion move into our world. When Dr. Caligari in the film by that name looks out at the audience early on in the story, I always feel like I’m being singled out, noted by his gaze in the midst of the crowd.These creatures of light on the screen, who watch us like we watch them from a darkened theatre—it was a thought that unsettled me. Dominic’s Ghosts began with my considering what these characters were looking for as they looked out at us.
Additional, optional (fun) questions:
[RAVENOUS]: If you could assign a theme song to Dominic’s Ghosts, what would it be?
[WILLIAMS]: Gabriel Fauré’s “Cantique de Jean Racine”. A retrospective and melancholy piece of choral music, wherein the chorus, out of the silence, summons the descent of the divine and calls for a cleansing, redeeming fire.
[RAVENOUS]: If you could name a drink (alcoholic or not) after your book, what would it be?
[WILLIAMS]: I’m an Irish whiskey drinker when I do so. For this book, though, it would be a cognac called Esprits de Lumière—“Spirits of Light”. The name would be French solely because it would be cognac. You sip it with comrades and plot the killing of fascists.
About the author: Over the past 25 years, Michael Williams has written a number of strange novels, from the early Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted in the best-selling DRAGONLANCE series to the more recent lyrical and experimental Arcady, singled out for praise by Locus and Asimov’s magazines. In Trajan’s Arch, his eleventh novel, stories fold into stories and a boy grows up with ghostly mentors, and the recently published Vine mingles Greek tragedy and urban legend, as a local dramatic production in a small city goes humorously, then horrifically, awry.
Trajan’s Arch and Vine are two of the books in Williams’s highly anticipated City Quartet, to be joined in 2018 by Dominic’s Ghosts and Tattered Men.
Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent much of his childhood in the south central part of the state, the red-dirt gothic home of Appalachian foothills and stories of Confederate guerrillas. Through good luck and a roundabout journey he made his way through through New England, New York, Wisconsin, Britain and Ireland, and has ended up less than thirty miles from where he began. He has a Ph.D. in Humanities, and teaches at the University of Louisville, where he focuses on the he Modern Fantastic in fiction and film. He is married, and has two grown sons.
Tour Schedule & Events
Be sure to check out these bloggers during the tour!
2/13 Breakeven Books https://breakevenbooks.com Guest Post
2/14 Marian Allen, Author Lady www.MarianAllen.com Guest Post
2/15 Inspired Chaos http://inspiredchaos.weebly.com/blog Guest Post
2/16 I Smell Sheep http://www.ismellsheep.com/ Guest Post
2/16 The Book Lover’s Boudoir https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpress.com/ Review
2/17 Jorie Loves A Story http://jorielovesastory.com Review/Author Interview
2/18 The Seventh Star www.theseventhstarblog.com guest Post
2/18 Willow’s Thoughts and Book Obsessions http://wssthoughtsandbookobsessions.blogspot.com/ Review
2/18 The Horror Tree www.Horrortree.com Guest Post
2/19 Sheila’s Guests and Reviews www.sheiladeeth.blogspot.com Guest Post
2/20 Jazzy Book Reviews https://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.com/ Top Tens List