Welcome to the two hundred and ninety-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author William R Bell. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, William. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.i
William: My name is William R Bell. Most everyone calls me Bill. I live in Canon City, Colorado with my wife. I am a retired criminal investigator for the State of Colorado. Most of my life has been in Law Enforcement. I guess my first exposure to writing was in high school. While I was busy flunking English, I got an internship with a small town newspaper and had a by-line writing results of high school track meets. Writing police reports for over 30 years gave me experience with the pen. Prior to retiring I wrote several articles for Law Enforcement trade Magazines. Since I was investigating felony crimes in prisons I noticed there was little in the way of text books. I wrote a book on criminal investigations in correctional facilities. The next stop was fiction and I became hooked on it and continue to write fiction.
Morgen: I went to creative writing evening classes seven years ago and as soon as the characters took over I was hooked. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
William: I usually write in Action Adventure (with a spattering of crime / mystery / suspense) but have dabbled in self-help (a book on my experience with prostate cancer) and Historical Fiction. I even wrote a book of poetry for my former police department in Michigan.
Morgen: Plenty of variety to stop you getting bored. What have you had published to-date?
William: My non-fiction works include “Practical Criminal Investigations in Correctional Facilities” and “Save My Penis – The battle with prostate cancer” My historical fiction novella is “My Flag My Country – The story of Ishmael Day”. I have two novels that scream for their own Genre as they are Action / Adventure / Thriller / Crime / Mystery etc. (Please help me find my voice) The First is “The Stewart Hypothesis”, followed by “The Tenth Crusade”. I wrote one book of poetry “Life and Times in Dearborn”
Morgen: I don’t write under any genre either (I’m finishing my job next week to edit four novels; lad lit, general, chick lit, crime) and these days I don’t think it matters. In fact I think it’s better – if you start with one genre it’s what your readers come to expect of you then if you produce something different you’ll disappoint someone (but maybe get a new audience :)). Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
William: Of course, we are all rejected. Most of mine came from Agents who apparently didn’t see my vision. I have dealt with the rejections by self publishing.
Morgen: I have had a handful of authors who’ve not received any rejections but some haven’t submitted so that does help. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
William: I’ve only entered two writing contests. One isn’t to be judged until late this year. The other was a 40 word or fewer essays on my secret for a long loving relationship. I came in second and won a night in a motel, flowers and a bottle of Champaign, which my wife and I immediately used.
Morgen: Oh, wow. I love flash fiction. The lowest story I’ve written to-date is a 28-worder. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
William: No, I don’t have an agent. It is absolutely vital when publishing traditionally, (except text books) because publishers won’t look at your work unless you are with agent.
Morgen: Most mainstream certainly. Independents probably prefer it as there’s no commission but there’s little doubt that agents can secure a better deal thereby earning their keep. Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
William: Yes, four of my works are available in eBooks. I went with Amazon Kindle and was totally involved in the process. I haven’t read any eBooks but only because I don’t have a reader. That is all about to change as I just purchased a Nook for my wife.
Morgen: Oh, great. I bought a Kindle a month ago and I love having so many books with me when I’m out (because you never know when you’ll have a few minutes’ gap) but it’s still paper books at home, mainly because I have hundreds I still want to read. How much of the marketing do you do?
William: I only recently got involved in marketing my books and am trying to learn the ropes. I am using Twitter, Facebook and my website right now and looking for other methods.
Morgen: LinkedIn is very good (and I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted you on there?). I’ve met some wonderful authors on there who I’ve then gone to hook up with on Twitter and Facebook. I’m signed up (free) to others like Goodreads, Branch Out etc but not investigated them properly yet. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
William: My favourite characters are Mark Stewart a criminal investigator, Zach Dolan an ex Navy Seal, and Ishmael Day a real life character from the American Civil War. I really haven’t given it much thought about movies, but the leading actors should he seasoned (older) and not very good looking.
Morgen: That makes a change. So no Brad Pitt or George Clooney then. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
William: I have had control of the titles of all my books and actually created the covers for some of them. I really need to let someone else do my covers, or learn how. I do think that titles and covers are very important and I am currently researching methods to improve my work.
Morgen: I think it’s seeing what other people do and practicing. I’m sure if the story and description are great then having a dodgy cover (or title – James Patterson’s ‘The Quickie’) wouldn’t stop a reader buying (especially with eBooks) but an attractive package certainly helps lure them there. What are you working on at the moment / next?
William: Actually I have three projects going now, two of which are rather inactive at present. I am trying to showcase my work by writing a novel on my website and allowing people to read and comment on it as it’s written. It is called “Intended Victims” and is a sequel to “The Stewart Hypotheses”.
Morgen: Oh, wow. That’s quite a brave thing to do, although most people will be firm but fair, I’m sure. At least you can cherry pick the feedback… and hopefully get plenty of it. At least a second person’s opinion is vital – we’re always too close to our own writing. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
William: Only recently have I taken my writing to the level of constant effort and do try to write everyday. I also try to work my marketing into the workday. Of course Golf season is approaching and I may slow down a little. I wouldn’t call it writers block, but I do have times when I am less creative and usually have to go back and re-do what I write during those times.
Morgen: But then you have a choice of genres so I think that helps your brain stay fresh. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
William: At first I tried to plot a story and put it on a story board. I found it less interesting and it bonded me to a certain result. Now I just fly with an idea, sometimes just a title or maybe one incident, or the ending.
Morgen: Me too (and most of the other interviewees). Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
William: No, I don’t have any particular method for creating my characters, but sometimes rely on people I have met. I often use myself or rather my alter ego. My wife sees a lot of me in my characters mannerisms and lack of proper English. I use the computer to find interesting names, especially from different cultures.
Morgen: The good old internet. So you’ve written some non-fiction and poetry, how about short stories?
William: Yes, only two non-fictions and one poetry book. I plan on writing some short stories. I think short stories would be fun. In fact I would like to be considered for your Flash Fiction segment.
Morgen: Ooh, absolutely. Send it over. I’ve got really low on it actually so that would be great. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
William: Wow, that’s funny. Yes I have to do a whole crap load of editing and re-editing, and accept help from my wife and sister-in-law. (Retired English Teacher) I don’t think anything I do is fully-formed. In fact I am not sure that my brain is fully formed yet.
Morgen: Plenty of time yet. I’ve been writing (on and off) for seven years and I’ve only recently felt like I know what I’m doing, and we’re still learning, even some ‘household names’ have said that. You mentioned using the computer to look up names, do you have to do much research generally?
William: Most of my work is inspired by actual events. (Not often based on) I do have to do research though. I want my weaponry, locations and vehicles to be authentic. When I wrote my historical fiction, which was based on a real character, I had to do a lot of research on the civil war and the character.
Morgen: Some people adore researching but it’s one of my least favourite (that and editing) but I’m so grateful for the internet – it does make life SO much easier. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
William: I am more comfortable with third person, but enjoy a well-written first person story. (Lee Childs) I may try that some day. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I even know what second person is.
Morgen: A lot of people don’t (I’m championing it on LinkedIn as it’s quite obscure). If you take a look at my Tuesday Tales page there are some of my second-persons on there. I’ll warn you, it can be quite dark (as if my free eShort The Dark Side) although I write dark and light so probably why I like it. Two Hearts is quite upbeat. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_person_narrative explains it pretty well. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
William: I have put several into the shredder and I am sure I will create several more that will never go anywhere. I am pretty sure that if I don’t like them, no one else will either.
Morgen: You’d be surprised. And anyway, tastes vary incredibly. I had some 4* and 5* on another of my free eShorts ‘Feeding the Father’ but then someone left a 1* the other day saying she was glad it was free because she would have asked for her money back and it’s put her off reading anything else of mine. I obviously think it’s a shame but at least she’s read it and felt strongly enough to comment. So you can’t please everyone. If you find someone who likes it then the chances are that there’ll be many others who do. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
William: I guess I enjoy writing fiction because for over thirty years I had to write factual police reports, affidavits and warrants. Now I can write anything I want and I can make the good guys win all the time if I like. I must say that I really enjoy story telling and that was a big surprise for me.
Morgen: Isn’t it great. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
William: DO IT! Start small and grow. Don’t try to impress anyone with your works. Talk in your normal voice; don’t rely on a thesaurus to make yourself sound smart. (Unless of course you are) Write what you know about or are passionate about… From the heart, not the brain.
Morgen: I love that (esp. the smart bit). If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
William: I would probably invite three of the many people I owe a dinner to now. I would grille up thick steaks, potatoes and beans and top it off with a case of cold beer.
Morgen: Yum. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
William: Yes, “Life is tough; it’s tougher if you’re stupid” (John Wayne)
Morgen: <laughs> Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
William: Yep, I am working on a biography of my father to pass on to the grandkids. Well shit, I guess is actual writing. How about, I am doing the research for a biography of my father? I am at the point when he landed on Iwo Jima during WWII.
Morgen: There’ve been a few films about Iwo Jima – it may help watching those… and what a good excuse. “Yes, it’s a movie, dear, but it’s research”… like staring out the window. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
William: I enjoy golf and shooting. I try to keep up with the house chores, at least the ones I don’t have to call, “the guy” for. My writing is my job now, but I enjoy it so much it is more of a hobby to me.
Morgen: Me too (an obsession). Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
William: I use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
Morgen: Ah yes, I thought you were on LinkedIn. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
William: There is this lovely lady named Morgen Bailey who has a fabulous website.
William: I also use Aspiring writers blogs, book writer, writers café, writers world, book marketing, creative designers, two bits and writers. The creative penn with Joanna Penn and Taleist with Steve Lewis have both been extremely helpful in learning how to market.
Morgen: When the day job goes (this Friday – hoorah!) I plan to investigate the net more and get more involved in the things I’m on already. I don’t tweet enough (these blog posts are automated) or thank those who retweet for me enough. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
William: I think the writer’s world is going to do nothing but expand since the arrival of eBooks and self-publishing. It is giving more writers the chance to be heard. I love actual paper books and do not think they are in any trouble and I think with the SP and EB some of these agents and publishers will have to quit being twits. Only the ones who actually are twits. I wouldn’t want to put a blanket description on them all.
Morgen: I totally agree about paper books staying around. I do think that bookshops (very sadly) will dwindle and there’ll be more author=reader direct relationships, which is no bad thing. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
William: No, but thank you for this opportunity.
Morgen: You’re so welcome. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
William: Yes, where do you get the energy to take on so many simultaneous projects? It’s hard for me to walk and chew gum at the same time. Oh yes, one more thing. Will there be a way to direct my fan to see this interview?
Morgen: ‘Fan’? Just the one? I’ll email you the link as soon as this goes live and you can send him or her over, give me a shout in advance and I’ll put the kettle on. Thank you, Bill.
William R Bell is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction works. He’s a retired criminal investigator and former police officer. He’s a cancer survivor and as with his professional experiences, has committed his experiences to books on the topics. Born in Dearborn Michigan, Mr. Bell served in the U.S. Navy in the early 1960’s. He spent 14 years with the Dearborn Police Department in patrol, narcotics and swat. He then went to Colorado where he became a criminal investigator for CDOC. He specialized in contract murder cases and often posed as a “Hit Man”. Mr. Bell is the author of several articles featured in trade publications. His technical opus, “Practical Criminal Investigations in Correctional Facilities” is regarded as the textbook for conducting criminal investigations within prisons. Other works include a pair of novels, fictional thrillers which make liberal use of his first-hand professional experiences to enrich the action sequences.
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