Gregory A. Wilson is currently an Associate Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City, where he teaches creative writing and fantasy fiction along with various other courses in literature. His first academic book was published by Clemson University Press in 2007; on the creative side, he has won an award for a national playwriting contest, and his first novel, a work of fantasy entitled The Third Sign, was published by Gale Cengage in the summer of 2009. He is a regular panelist at conferences across the country and is a member of Codex, the Writers’ Symposium, Backspace, and several other author groups on and offline.
He is currently in the process of submitting his second and third novels, Icarus and Grayshade respectively, to publishers, and he has new short stories out in the anthologies When The Villain Comes Home, edited by Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy, and Triumph Over Tragedy, alongside authors like Robert Silverberg and Marion Zimmer Bradley. He has had three articles published in the SFWA Bulletin. On other related fronts, he did character work and flavor text for the hit fantasy card game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, and along with fellow speculative fiction author Brad Beaulieu is the co-host of the podcast Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans, a show which discusses (and interviews the creators and illustrators of) speculative fiction of all sorts and types. He lives with his wife Clea, daughter Senavene–named at his wife’s urging for a character in The Third Sign, for which he hopes his daughter will forgive him–and dog Lilo in Riverdale, NY.
His latest project is the crowd funded graphic novel version of Icarus.
Kristin Centorcelli: Greg, will you tell us about your new Kickstarter project, Icarus?
Gregory Wilson: Icarus: A Graphic Novel is a graphic novel based on my novel of the same name, being published by Silence in the Library Publishing. It’s a story which follows the adventures of Icarus and Jellinek, two beings who are, on the surface, as different from one another as they could possibly be. Icarus is a tall, fair-skinned young man with wings, incredible powers, and no memory of anything other than his name; Jellinek is a short, flamepetal prospector with tough red skin, a two-tailed lava resistant creature called a “solar” for a companion, and a general dislike of everyone around him. Together, they must defeat a race of tyrants that has enslaved the world of Vol into which Icarus plummets, and through the course of the story they discover that they are more alike than they can possibly imagine. Icarus is illustrated by the insanely talented Matt Slay, a professional comic artist.
GW: My first novel, a work of epic fantasy called The Third Sign, came out in 2009 from Gale Cengage, and I wrote Icarus because I wanted to do something still fantastical but very different. My original inspiration was actually a Cirque du Soleil performance in which a winged creature confronts many bizarre and fantastic creatures in another world, and that experience combined with an interest in mythology (including, of course, the Icarus myth) led to the writing of Icarus. I’ve always thought Icarus is a very visual story, so when I saw some of Matt Slay’s illustrations for Silence in the Library’s Time Traveled Tales anthology–including the one for the prologue to Icarus, which I had originally submitted to that antho–I knew I had found someone who could bring the story to pictorial life. I spoke to Ron Garner at SitL about the idea, and the rest is history.
KC: You’re an English professor, but did you always want to write from a young age?
GW: In general terms I’ve been writing since about the age of nine or ten, thirty years ago now (gulp)–but started doing my first “serious” writing when I was a senior in high school, about seventeen years old. At the time I wrote plays and a few short stories, along with a poem or two. I didn’t start thinking about writing novels until I had gotten my Masters degree in the mid-nineties. I’ve always been interested in drama, and in college I wrote a number of plays and screenplays and submitted them to various national contests–I took honorable mention in two such contests, which was as close at the time as I had gotten to publication. My first actual publication was on the academic side, an article on the court masque in 2001 while I was in graduate school getting my doctorate, and I had to publish academic work for career reasons. I began writing creative work out of a desire to get away from academic subjects for a while, and found I enjoyed it a great deal…and wanted to go further with it.
KC: What’s one of the first things you can remember writing?
GW: A play, starring the work of a young detective called — I’m really, really sorry — Cases Broken. I understood dramatic structure but not a whole lot else at the time, so I ended up with a lot of short, utterly meaningless scenes surrounding a few larger “revelation” ones. I wrote all of it on my back steps when I was about ten years old , and given how terrible my handwriting was, the fact that anyone could read it at all was a victory in itself!
KC: Will you tell us a little more about the art of Icarus?
GW: One of the reasons I was so eager to work with Matt was his immediate grasp of the visual emphasis of a scene, his ability to focus on the most important aspects of a given moment. He did that not just with the prologue to Icarus, which as I mentioned was the initial inspiration for our working together, but for my short story “Sanction,” which was such a striking juxtaposition of images that I knew he “got” what I was trying to do…and that’s been borne out through his work on the full novel so far. I also love Matt’s understanding of color; there’s a richness and nuance to his work which really makes the world come alive on the page (it’s not just one kind of orange and one kind of red, but shades and variations and shadows…all of which you would find even in the heart of a dormant volcano). I’m obviously biased, but I think Matt’s art is some of the most striking I’ve seen anywhere.
KC: What do you love most about writing, and reading, SFF?
GW: A good, and difficult, question. I think the best answer is the sense of wonder and discovery I get from these genres in particular—the sense of magic just outside our experience, yet not so far outside of it that it seems inaccessible or distant. I love the feeling of being transported elsewhere, of being in an entirely different world with different rules and expectations, yet discovering familiarity even in the strangeness—not unlike the way Icarus feels when he lands in Vol, and how those feelings change as he spends more time there. The opportunity to create such worlds, to transport people elsewhere, while hopefully writing something which resonates with them emotionally, is an amazing one, and I’m grateful to have had that opportunity during my writing career.
KC: What are a few authors that have inspired you the most?
GW: Two in particular: J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote the books that captured my imagination as a child and kept it as an adult, and William Shakespeare, who in my opinion is—well, who is simply the best, in drama or any other literary form, at capturing the human experience. I have a host of more modern authors who have inspired me in various ways too, but there are far too many of them to list, and I might upset the ones I left out!
KC: What are you currently reading?
GW: Troubletwisters by Garth Nix and Sean Williams; fellow speculative fiction author Brad Beaulieu and I will be interviewing them on our podcast Speculate (www.speculatesf.com) in a few weeks.
KC: What’s next for you?
GW: I’ve just sent out a couple of short stories for various anthologies and am submitting my third novel, Grayshade (for which my pitch line is “What if Jason Bourne lived in 16th century Rome, trained in the ways of sonic magic?”), to agents and publishers; my fourth novel is in progress. And if the Icarus Kickstarter continues to do as well as it has so far, I may be sitting down to write the sequel in short order. It’s a planned trilogy, so I would love to spend more time in that world.