Q&A with Chaz Wood

1. What is your favorite thing about the writing experience?
The creation. That incipient concept that triggers ideas in the mind and makes me think: "There's a story there that's worth writing about". It tends to grow out of some spontaneous scene or stream-of-consciousness writing of dialogue, which just gathers steam as it goes along. Usually it ends up very different from what was originally imagined, but that's the next favorite thing - finding out how the heck it all fits together and why things happened the way they did. Quite often this spark of creation will be a character, rather than an event or a scene, and then that character will develop sufficiently to wrap the core of a story around themselves, which will then probably shot off in many directions - some of which will turn out to be blind alleys, and a few of which will end up as main or secondary plot lines. I have a very ad hoc writing style, which is well-suited to this kind of random-access approach, although I couldn't recommend it to everyone.

2. What is the biggest challenge when writing/illustrating a graphic novel?
The planning. I've often said to people that it's the medium that's closest to film-making, without actually using film. It needs to be scripted, story-boarded, cast appropriately, edited (why feature one key moment of action over any other?); standard film techniques such as establishing shots, close-ups, wide angles and other tricks can and my be used for effect; the visuals have to flow and work with the narrative, etc. All these things need to be considered before a pen touches a page to create a final panel in the finished work. The planning of action scenes can be incredibly challenging as I found it in my first full-length comic book, 'The Black Flag' because I was working to a very strict page count. As my first effort in full-length sequential art, it probably cold have been a lot worse, especially as it was produced over a period of five years. Working on the 'Black Flag' ultimately involved an entire A4 sized box file filled with references, sketches, storyboards and notes before I was even a quarter of the way through the book.

3. Of all of your novels, who is your favorite character and why?
Very tough question. So much goes into all my characters I tend to treat them all as old friends (or enemies), and they've probably all had their turn as being my 'flavor of the month'. If pressed, I'd have to say that overall it's a toss-up between two of the lead heroes from the 'Wish & the Will' steampunk fantasy series: either the main narrator, Mr Jeth Sundancer, or Captain Ssorg Kthorn (modelled after Charlie Alnutt in the 'African Queen'). Both those characters have been a part of me for nearly 20 years now. A very close challenger would also be Georgina Macdubhgaill, the Irish anarchist anti-heroine of the 'Black Flag' graphic novel.

4. Where do you get your story ideas?
From pretty much anywhere. Little things can feed the development of a story as it goes along. 'Maranatha' was originally inspired by a New Year's day documentary on TV about the holy spear of Destiny. Its prequel, 'Venus in Saturn', was suggested by a speculative work suggesting the origins of angels in human culture - specifically the fallen ones known as Nephilim. Somehow I managed to make this fit into a grim police investigation into a possible Jack the Ripper copycat killer, and tie it into the established mythology laid down in 'Maranatha'. Generally, I often find that my greatest resource of ideas actually comes from the characters themselves, acting as a medium for my subconscious (which may explain why my plotlines can be so labyrinthine and complex, and often deal with universally symbolic themes). In all the years I've been writing, it's only this year, 2012, where I first began work on a book whose plot was not conceived by me - a graphic retelling of the 'Ring of the Nibelung' saga.

5. Who has influenced you the most?
In terms of writing style: Anthony Burgess and Kingsley Amis
In terms of illustration style: a great many artists, from Dore and Durer, through Beardsley, Boris Vallejo, Chris Achilleos and comic book masters like John Ridgway and Tim Vigil.

6. What do you hope to say to people with your writing?
I hope to entertain. That's pretty much it. If a work of fiction isn't entertaining or interesting to read, it doesn't really matter how clever, original or well thought-out it is. Even my worst reviews to date have still admitted that overall they found the works to be a 'good read', and that's all I would ever look for. Anything else is a bonus. I'm not into preaching or pushing my ideas across too much, but sometimes it does just slip out, if the setting or the moment is appropriate. However, I try to balance off such indulgences with contrary views and attitudes elsewhere - I have no problem writing about characters whose views I personally find repellent, or against my own personal standards. Usually my heroes and villains have at least some aspect of their character that I find admirable and worthy, however, and I hope my readers will find my writing to be fairly balanced, ultimately optimistic, and with a certain sense of realism.

7. What is the one book you think everyone should read? why?
I honestly don't think there is one. Everyone ought to make up their own minds what is and what should not be essential reading. Historically, the fact that certain books have been forced upon many people who did not wish them to be, has caused a great deal of trouble - then, as well as now. That's from a purely humanist perspective of course. On a literary development level, I'd venture that any writer of any ambition at all ought to read or study at least a little Shakespeare, although I actually prefer the works of Christopher Marlowe myself. I also recommend Anthony Burgess and James Joyce to fellow writers for mind-expanding invention, as well as classic translations of Sophocles and AEschylus - therein lie the origins of all western drama.

8. What was your favorite subject in school?
English, the only subject in which I always got top grades. I was a bit rubbish at art, even through most of my art school years, when my communication tutor told me I was a 'better writer than an artist'. Even now I still believe that's true, as I consider myself able to write pretty much anything in terms of style or genre - but there are good many things I can't draw for the life of me, like mechanical and technical subjects, so I tend to play to my strengths these days.

9. What are you working on right now?
Too many things, as usual! Most of my writing involves some aspect of illustration or design. Currently bouncing between the following, as and when time allows:
Episode 4 of 'The WIsh & the Will: Sundancer's Regret' which is at one of those story-telling crossroads that I can't just seem to move past;
Part 4 of the 'Sword of Lochglen' graphic novel series;
Book 1 in an ambitious 4 book graphic fiction retelling of the 'Ring of the Nibelung' saga, which is the ultimate evolution of a fantasy series I started 25 years ago;
My regular weekly tech support/geek webcomic
A wilderness adventure book for younger readers featuring a pack of Alaskan wolves;
a slab of satirical literary fiction set in an exclusive private school;
various short story commissions as and when I get the time!

10. Have you ever read or seen yourself as a character in your novels?
No, not at all - at least not since I was aged about 11 and used to draw ridiculous fantasy comic strips starring myself and my school friends. Fair to say that most of my lead characters carry facets and aspects of my personality, but often they're quite the opposite to me in many ways. Vanessa Descartes from the 'Trinity Chronicles' series, for example, is a lead character who I'd find unbearable to spend more than five minutes with in reality.

11. What actor should play you in the movie of your life.
Jeff Goldblum. We're physically not unalike and seem to share the same sense of humour (and taste in ladies) at times.

Be sure to check out Chaz at http://www.fenriswulf-books.co.uk/ for the latest information on his books and also http://www.chaz-wood.com/ for his art work.