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William Maxwell talks about his upcoming novel ‘Shadow Path’

February 8, 2012
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Shadow Path is both an urban thriller and a metaphysical dark fantasy. Author William Maxwell discusses his inspirations, philosophy, and how he writes.

Shadow Path deals a lot with philosophy. What philosophies did you use and how do they play out in the novel?

I started walking the path on a diet of science fiction, fantasy, mythology and theosophy when I was probably just under a decade old (I don’t claim I UNDERSTOOD it back then, just that I started reading it). What I quickly discovered was that philosophers of older ages, confronted with a world that was literally beyond belief, weren’t trapped by the illusion of omnipotence we seem to have today.  They had to wring their wisdom from common clay, hoping that once they stepped off the edge of the map, their wisdom would prove enduring.  They traded secrets with travelers from afar, created esoteric languages, coded the fruits of their labor into stories and formulae and taught apprentices what they thought might be the key to unlocking God’s (or gods) thoughts.

Put another way, I’ve been inspired by a lot of things: The Invisibles by Grant Morrison, Promethea by Alan Moore, The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman. The works of Israel Regardie and Aleister Crowley and Samuel L. MacGregor Mathers. Willaim S. Burroughs, H.R. Giger, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Umberto Eco. Movies like MindWalk and the Fountain and the Matrix. Books like Isis Unveiled by Blavatsky and Secrets for All Ages by Manley P. Hall.

A lot of Western philosophy tries to be alchemical in nature and that’s how I tried to play it out in the book.  A lot of mixtures of ideas, paths turning that seem to be the right path, until you look back and you see where it’s all been really leading you towards.

How did the book begin, and where did some of your ideas come from?

The book began as a screenplay after a writing collaboration I had with my brother fell apart.  This same script was used to secure my very first professional writing project as a writer / designer on 7th Level’s Return to Krondor game. It was inspired by a very simple notion “What if every thought we think leaves an impression on reality?” Not necessarily on the world we walk through, but at the edges, just out of reach. What would that look like?  And what would happen if people could walk out to those edges and play around in those imaginary forces? What if they could bring some of it back here?

Creating a story for me, is very much like hunting.  Something inspires me, attracts my attention, and I start investigating, fleshing it out, following up.  But that’s where that exploration narrative ends because at some point, the story jumps me.  It gets inside and now I’m no longer looking for it.  It’s using me as a mouthpiece.  I get to argue with the characters and be shown their point of view, what they want to do next.  It’s really quite a wild ride.

How was the transition from writing games to novels?

My dream back in school was to become a novel writer (a fact my oldest friends and my wife love to remind me) but I got sidetracked into trying to write comics, then screenplays and finally games.  So, it’s sort of like re-visiting an old love.  It’s exhilarating and fun and I adore it.  Now, my challenge has become “how fast can I write a new one?”  I can’t wait to see what people think of the work.

Shadow Path is coming out from Last Light this year.
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