Today I’m thrilled to have a chat with my very good blogging friend and fellow author, Bill (William D. Holland). This is a return visit, as Bill was also my guest storyteller in January of this year, when he shared an excerpt from his paranormal crime thriller Shadow Over the Hangman’s Noose, the third book in his “Shadows” series.
Welcome back to my blog, Bill…
Very exciting, being interviewed by someone I respect greatly, so thank you Sarah, and hello to my new friends across The Pond. Sarah has tossed a few questions my way, some softballs, some very hardballs indeed, so I’ll try to answer them all with my trademark bluntness and honesty.
My pleasure, Bill, the respect is mutual and may you gain many more friends from over my side of The Pond 🙂 Now for those softballs and hardballs…
Bill, was there a defining moment when you decided to become a freelance writer, or did life decide it for you?
Oh my goodness, Sarah, let’s see. I had always wanted to be a writer, dating back to my college days, but as trite as it may sound, life had other plans for me . . . and then I managed to get in my own way for a number of years, blocking any possible progress. So the turning point you are asking about came eight years ago when I realized that the teaching profession, after eighteen years, was not what I envisioned it being. It was moving in a direction I could not live with, and so one day I tossed my keys to the principal of the school and told her to have a good life. The next day I declared myself to be a writer. I had no financial safety net and not one clue how to actually be a freelance writer, but by God that’s what I told the world . . . I am a writer!!!
Before you started your blog “Artistry with Words”, you had a blog titled “The Happy Life as an Alcoholic” and 5 years ago you self-published a 52-page eBook titled Loving life as an alcoholic. Why did you equate the words “happy” and “loving” with the alcoholism and what made you decide to kick the addiction?
The second question is the easy one to answer: I decided to begin recovery because I was miserable and I didn’t want to die. It’s been over ten years now and I still don’t want to die.
Happy and loving? Without alcohol dictating my every move in life, I am now free to enjoy life and love myself and others, and that’s what I try to do daily. I love life; always did when I was younger, and now that I’m not drinking I love it again.
As a side note, I no longer write in that “alcohol” blog because I don’t want to be known as a writer who only writes about addiction. I’m so much more than a recovering alcoholic. I’m not a writer who writes about addiction, nor am I just a writer who is recovering. I prefer to think of myself as a spiritual being having a human experience.
You’ve self-published 15 full-length books, although I counted 26 publications in all, if you include the shorter publications. Did you ever submit any of your works to traditional publishers, or did you decide to self-publish from the start?
No, I didn’t start out self-publishing. When I began writing novels, my goal, and my dream, was to be picked up by a major publishing firm, and then fame and fortune would follow shortly after that. My first three novels were pitched to many, many publishers, to no avail. After that I decided the publishing game had changed, and my best chance at any exposure was to simply self-publish. I have no regrets, by the way. I love writing, so even if my circle of followers is relatively small, and sales are modest, I still get to do what I love doing, and that is writing and telling a story.
And without trying to sound all Pollyanna, if I didn’t make a penny on my novels, I would still write them.
So far I’ve read and enjoyed (in a nail-biting sense of the word) your novel Shadows Kill, which you describe as “Death Wish” meets “Silence of the Lambs” and is the first book in your Shadow Thriller series. Why does someone as mild-mannered, peace-loving, and gentle as you choose to write such dark and visceral fiction?
There are two influences, actually. When I was a child the famous serial killer, Ted Bundy, was our paperboy (he delivered newspapers to homes in our neighbourhood). Once it was discovered that he was a serial killer, it was only natural to become fascinated by the dynamics of an evil human being appearing so normal, and Bundy did, in fact, appear very normal.
I then became fascinated by the concepts of “Good and Evil.” What if there is a real entity of Evil? What if it invaded the bodies of humans and guided them on evil lives? And what if there were those among us who are chosen to fight Evil?
That is the basis for my Shadow Series of novels.
With which of your literary characters do you identify the most and why?
That would be Tobias King, the main character in Resurrecting Tobias. It is as close to an autobiography as I am likely to write. Toby is me and I am Toby. A great deal of the story is fictional, but the spirit of the story, and the spirit of Toby . . . well, read it and you’ll catch a glimpse of me growing up, maturing, falling, and finally finding happiness.
Are all of your novels set in your home town of Olympia near Washington? If so, how much artistic license do you take with the setting; in other words, would locals recognise the locations? And (you don’t have to answer this last bit) are your literary characters composites of people you know, plus bits of yourself?
I would say 90% of my novels take place in Olympia. The only exception, really, was Resurrecting Tobias, which takes place in a number of different locations, but they are all locations I have visited or lived in. And really, I take very little artistic license with Olympia at all. Locals would most definitely recognize streets and actual businesses that I write about.
Characters are definitely composites of people I have known, or do know. I’ve mentioned this before: I am basically a lazy writer when it comes to inventing characters and doing research for locations. I write what I know about almost all of the time, and that includes people. I’ve lived sixty-eight years and during that time I have met some fascinating people.
This year you’ve taken a break from novel-writing to concentrate on self-publishing 3 colouring (coloring) books, which I believe have yielded some healthy local sales, especially at the farmers’ market where you also sell quails eggs and herbs. Why have you diversified into producing colouring books and would you advise other novelists to diversify rather than focus on one area of creativity?
There were a few reasons for the coloring books. I wanted another item I could sell at the markets, so I did one for each of the two cities where the markets are located (their histories) and one about urban farming.
The second reason was because I had spent the better part of the four previous years writing novels that were dark and gloomy, and it was affecting me in a negative way. I could sense my mood darkening and that is not a good thing for this boy. Alcoholics should not spend too much time in the darkness if it can be avoided.
Finally, I switched gears because I felt my novel-writing was getting a bit stale. I needed a break from my characters and I suspect they needed a break from me.
Would I recommend diversification? Definitely if you are a freelance writer who needs the income from your writing endeavours. And truthfully, I recommend a switching-of-gears for any writer from time to time. I think it helps a writer to grow when a new challenge is faced, and I think it helps a writer to remain fresh in his/her writing. Staleness is an easy trap to fall into, and a comfortable place to be. I’ve seen quite a few well-known authors fall into that trap, when they should have retired five years earlier.
Who in your life has inspired and/or influenced you the most?
You said “in your life” so my answer is about life in general, and that person would definitely be my father. He died many years ago, when I was nineteen, but the lessons he taught me are still with me today. I still miss him greatly and it’s almost been fifty years since I saw him last.
His influence? Hard-work….focus….treating others with respect….never complain….find answers, not excuses….family and friends are treasures and should always be protected….get the most out of your talent and then push for more….these are things which will be with me until I join him in the next realm.
Who is your favourite author?
There are three who have influenced me greatly: Harper Lee, James Lee Burke, and John Steinbeck . . . master storytellers, exquisite creators of scenes, and an ability to see the grimy, gritty underbelly of life, in very realistic ways, without glorifying it.
What is your next project?
I’m currently on the second draft of my next “Shadows” novel, this one called “Shadows Fall on Rosarito.” That will be the fourth in that paranormal-thriller series. And I’m halfway through the fifth in that series. The working title for that one is currently “Shadows Embrace Mary and Her Little Lamb.” Once those two books are finished I’ll get to work on a “coming of age” story about my life during the 60’s with my best friend Frank. It will be dedicated to Frank because, well, he’s dying of cancer right now and it’s important, to me, that he be immortalized. Good people always should be, don’t you think?
Thank you so much for the questions, Sarah. I hope others find my answers interesting. If they want, they can find me on my blog at www.artistrywithwords.com, and all of my novels can be found on that blog as well as at Amazon under the name William D. Holland.
Again, thank you!