Interview with B.A. Williamson

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B. A. Williamson is the overly caffeinated writer of The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray. When not doing battle with the demons in the typewriter, he can be found wandering Indianapolis with his family, singing in a tuxedo, or taming middle-schoolers. He is a recipient of the Eli Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship. Please direct all complaints and your darkest secrets to williamsonwriter@gmail.com, @BAWrites on social media, or visit www.gwendolyngray.com

Cheyenne Lopex: Where did the inspiration for The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray come from?

B.A. Williamson: I just wanted to tell a story. Specifically, I wanted the type of story I could read to my child at bedtime. At the time my wife was pregnant, and as a father-to-be, I started thinking about what kind of kid I would like to have, and I crafted the idea of this unruly little misfit with a big imagination, and it all fell into place from there.

CL: Which character in The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray do you relate to the most and why?

B.A.W: Haha. All of them, to some degree. It’s weird to think how all these characters live somewhere in my head, even murderous pirates like Tylerium Drekk (who is very fun to write.) But I think it’s definitely Gwendolyn herself. She’s the one I’ve poured the most of myself into, her impulsiveness, her love of books, her sense of imagination and willingness to buck the rules to do things her own way. Gwendolyn’s childhood is an exaggerated caricature of parts of my own. Though in reality I probably acted more like Sparrow.

CL: Gwendolyn has the ability to change her world, and eventually other worlds, with the power of her imagination. How would your imagination impact our world if you were in Gwendolyn’s shoes?

B.A.W: Ah, and you have hit upon the very heart of the thing. The stories we write have the power to change our world, just like Gwendolyn’s stories have the power to change hers. So in a way, I’m already trying to use my imagination to impact the world. I want to inspire people–I want them to step into someone else’s shoes and walk away with the sense that they can be whoever they want to be, and that all of us has the power to change the world around us for the better. For me, that means more magic and wonder and amazement in our lives. So that’s what I’m trying to put out there.

CL: Gwendolyn meets Kolonius Thrash, the main character of her favorite book which is appropriately titled Kolonius Thrash and the Perilous Pirates. If you could, which of your favorite characters would you meet and go on an adventure with? Why?

B.A.W: Easily the 10th Doctor from Doctor Who. That incarnation of the character inspires my adult self the way Harry Potter and Peter Pan inspired my childhood self. The feeling of being able to go anywhere, anytime, and find wonderful adventures, scraping by on just your wit and charm and helping people in trouble? The best feeling in the world.

CL: If you had a Figment of your own, which world would you visit? One of the worlds we see in The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray? Or somewhere entirely new?

B.A.W: The Marvel Universe. As far as worlds go, that one seems to have the most adventure per square inch. And the DC universe just gets destroyed to often to make for a good tourist visit.

CL: As you wrote The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray, you read it to your students. What kind of feedback did they give you? Is there a lot of your students in the book?

B.A.W: Oh, so much. I’m a performer at heart, a singer and actor. Being a writer is hard for me. I constantly crave the feedback of an audience, as any of my friends can tell you. (They’re sick of me shoving new paragraphs in their face every day, asking WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS?) So the chance to perform my work live, for an audience, is invaluable. I do all the voices, I have a box full of props, and I end up prancing around the room having imaginary sword fights. So I can really tell if the story is well paced, by seeing if they’re bored or not. Am I engaging that kid who hates books? Do they care about my characters? Which side characters really catch their attention? Are the romance aspects working, or are they “gross”? And lastly, can I make them cry? If I can make some preteens cry in front of their peers, I know I’ve hit gold and have something they truly care about. I’m constantly watching them for inspiration. I always look for kids that are similar to Gwendolyn, or Sparrow, or Starling, or Kolonius, and I use that as a touchstone to keep their voices and choices authentic. But it is a crucial part of my process–and knowing that I’m going to have someone to read it to keeps me excited when the writing is dragging, as well as having a deadline to get the next chapter done, because if I leave them hanging too long, they won’t let me forget it!

CL: Which authors have inspired you in the past?

B.A.W: So many! And you’ll find little Easter eggs throughout the book that nod to them. But all of your “two-initials-and-a-name” classics–C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, J.M. Barrie, JRR Tolkien (I know that’s three initials, but it counts.)  Then there’s all the comics I’ve read over the years, plus Michael Ende and Douglas Adams. My current favorites are Neil Gaiman and Catherynne Valente.

CL: What book are you reading right now?

B.A.W: You meant books plural, right?

Paper-Radiance by Catherynne Valente, Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

Audiobook- The Diviners, by Libba Bray

Comics-Saga, Doctor Strange, I Hate Fairyland, Lumberjanes.

CL: What can readers look forward to next?

B.A.W: A sequel. With fairies. And that’s all I’m saying.

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