For those not up to speed on the Clockwork Storybook universe and the 30 Day Writing Challenge that is playing out on the Major Spoilers Site, we sat down with the esteemed Bill Willingham (Fables), to get some background on the event.
Bill Willingham is the writer of many comic books, including the Fables series, and author of the novels Peter and Max, and Down the Mysterly River.
MAJOR SPOILERS: The first day has come a gone, but the big question on everyone’s mind is, “What the heck is a Clockwork Storybook, and how come I’ve never heard of this before?” Can you provide some background on this shared world anthology?
BILL WILLINGHAM: Long ago, in a dimly remembered age called The Nineties, which was in a century called the 20th Century, in a millennium called the 2nd Millennium, four writers wanted to pump up their prose writing skills and so did what every good writer (who wants to become a better writer) should do, they formed a writing group. They called this group Clockwork Storybook (because The Inklings was taken) and used it to read each other’s work, critique and comment and encourage each other, and basically force each other to get writing done.
We met at least once a week, began to grow confident in our writing, and decided to use this new “internet” thing to share our wares with the great wide wild world. So we started the Clockwork Storybook website/online magazine, and published original stories on it for about three (maybe four?) years. Most of those stories were set in a shared fictional world centered around the fictional city of San Cibola in Northern California, nestled on the banks of the very real Mad River.
Then we broke up and went our separate ways for a while.
Then, years later, we got back together, but once again only as a writing group, whose main purpose is to support each other’s writing career with encouragement, critiques, and what help we could offer without derailing our individual careers.
Then we expanded the group by adding first one new member, Bill Williams, and then five more, Marjorie Liu, Marc Andreyko, Paul Cornell, Jess Nevins, and Daryl Gregory. We expect to be issuing a new round of member invitations soon.
MAJOR SPOILERS: From what I’ve gathered, it sounds like you are the evil(?)/genius(?) mind behind the first story challenges. True?
WILLINGHAM: I’m not sure. Long before the first 30 Day Stories, which weren’t initially conceived as a challenge event, but just a way to produce longer stories for the Clockwork site, we tried other challenges, starting with the Exquisite Corpse story involving the Adventures of Timmy Gromp. I’m not sure which one of us first floated the idea. But, following that, we quickly turned into a bunch of literary yahoos and hooligans, throwing down one storytelling challenge after another.
MAJOR SPOILERS: Many writers think events like NaNoWriMo are good ways to improve skills, but nothing more. Has the group done anything with their previous efforts, and what do you hope to do with works generated this month?
WILLINGHAM: Everything we write is intended to find a readership. And remember, we were doing NaNoWriMo years before NaNoWriMo existed. Down the Mysterly River is just one example of a published work that came from one of our story challenges. A list of all the others would be too long and require that I actually pore through the old Clockwork archives (and thanks for helping us restore the bulk of those), and distract me from getting my daily work done. Nice try though. Which one of my backstabbing compatriots tried to pull ahead in the challenge by putting you up to asking that question?
MAJOR SPOILERS: There is going to be a lot of writing going on in the next 30 days, which I think is great, but fans of Fables, and other comic books written by the Tick Tock Men, are going to be concerned that this will affect your ability to deliver books on time. How do you balance your paying gigs with “silliness” like this?
WILLINGHAM: Simple. I have to do more work each day than I usually do.
MAJOR SPOILERS: Now it’s time for some smack talk. Who do you think is going to be the first to fall, and why?
WILLINGHAM: First to fall? I can’t begin to guess. But I suspect everyone but me will drop out eventually. They’re weak and fragile things, while my heart is pure.