Welcome to the four hundred and fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with children’s author William Bentrim. 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.
William: First, thank you for the opportunity to promote my books.
Morgen: You’re really welcome, William, lovely to have you here.
William: I’m a retired computer geek living in Bucks County, PA. Writing was on my bucket list. As a guidance counsellor in a former life I had many experiences with children. Upon retirement I decided to try and put some of my feelings into print.
Morgen: They say write what you know. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
William: Children’s fiction would be my primary genre with fantasy and science fiction a slight glimmer in my future.
Morgen: They’re very popular, and children of any age love fantasy and science fiction. What have you had published to-date?
William: I have seven picture books for children and two chapter books published so far.
I Like To Whine deals with whining in children and strategies on addressing it.
What About Me attempts to explain to the well sibling why their parents are paying too much attention to a sick sibling.
Daddy Goes on A Trip tries to explain why Daddy or Mommy might be deployed or have to travel.
The Christmas Knot addresses parenting and dealing with well meaning primary age children and a mischievous puppy.
A Quirky Christmas is an explanation of friendship relating to the Christmas season and feisty squirrels.
The Wicked Good Stepmother tries to alleviate the fears of children facing the introduction of a new mother to the family unit.
The Adventures of Hardy Belch is a chapter book for older children containing three stories with morals, bullying, intolerance and community cooperation is addressed.
Hardy Belch and Tiny Return is another chapter book. It deals with the origins of Tiny, Hardy’s best friend and a 240 pound telepathic dog. Included stories address kindness to a triceratops, friendship, a train robbery and revolutionary era gangsters.
Morgen: What wonderful titles. I love quirky so Hardy Belch sounds hilarious. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
William: Being ornery, independent and patience-less, I am self-published. Therefore if I have any rejection I will need to see a therapist.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
William: No, success is measured in different ways by different people; to me success is if one single child is helped by one of my books, that book is a success. To me, money and volume are not measurements of success.
Morgen: Me neither. Although I love receiving emails (from Smashwords) saying I’ve sold an eBook it’s those from readers that make it all so special. Talking of eBooks, are your books available as that format? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
William: My books will be available as eBooks as soon as I get around to it. I read eBooks but still prefer hard copy.
Morgen: Most do and I think both formats will run alongside. eBooks are certainly not the death of paper, providing we still have some bookshops selling them (postage rates in the UK are horrendous). How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Morgen: Me too. I’ve only had one author say their publisher does it all and she’s active on Twitter and Facebook. 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: Tiny, my 240 pound telepathic dog would be my favourite. My friend’s bull mastiff and great dane mutt would be an ideal leading actor.
Morgen: There are some great films with animals. Did you have any help in choosing the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
William: I pick, choose, layout and design everything. It is indicative of an anal / retentive personality. I’m happy with what I have done.
Morgen: Ditto. I do get second (third, fourth, fifth) opinions on all aspects of my eBooks but I enjoy having the final word. What are you working on at the moment / next?
William: Short or Tall Doesn’t Matter at All explains how the shortest girl in 5th grade is able to win over the tallest girl in 5th grade who has been bullying her. The Boy With The Pump explains Type 2 Diabetes and how it has impacted a 12-year-old boy.
Morgen: It’s great that you pick such subjects, and I’m sure they’re touching many lives. I love it when I get comments about something I write because although I write for me, and what I like to write, it’s wonderful thinking that someone enjoys it (or interesting when they don’t). Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
William: I write most days but since I write three blogs as well as books, my writing varies daily. No block yet but some bumps.
Morgen: Three blogs, wow. I have two (this one and http://morgensauthorinterviews.blogspot.co.uk) and they keep me busy pretty much full-time. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
William: Both, some stories write themselves and others I think through and outline.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, and what do you think makes them believable?
William: My characters are based on kids I have known and situations I have experienced as a teacher, coach, counsellor, parent and grandparent. Even Tiny is based on a real dog, a gawd awful huge but very gentle dog.
Morgen: Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
William: I have written a couple of essays reflecting on life.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
William: I was self-editing until I found an excellent editor.
Morgen: The most important person, I think, in a self-publisher’s life. I’m very lucky that I have a great one too. Do you have to do much research?
William: Believe it or not, I took over 100 photos of squirrels and read a variety of papers on squirrels before I wrote A Quirky Christmas. I’m not sure why because my squirrels were simply avatars for human experiences.
Morgen: But it’ll probably show in your writing, we should always feel as if we know what we’re talking about otherwise there will be someone who will point out the inaccuracies… although of course there will be someone who knows more about a subject than we do and be only too eager to point it out. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
William: According to my editor I often try all three in the same paragraph.
Morgen: I should say “oh dear” here, shouldn’t I. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
William: Oh, yeah.
Morgen: They’re your rejections, then. While we’re talking negativity (briefly), what’s your least favourite aspect of your writing life?
William: Marketing, I know I should do more but I am happy with how my books sell as is.
Morgen: The trouble with marketing is that it can be so time-consuming and whilst it’s essential, we are writers and we should be writing. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
William: Same advice that every author I respect has given me, write-write-write and then write some more.
Morgen: 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: This needed some pondering. Historic characters: Ben Franklin, Joan of Arc and Sun Tzu. Fictional characters: Gandalf, Lazarus Long and Obi Wan Kenobi.
Morgen: A weekend party then. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
William: Dynamite comes in small packages. (Used in reference to under-rated women of diminutive stature.)
Morgen: I love that (although I’m nearly 6ft tall). Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
William: I write a Tech-Philosophic blog and I write Azure Dwarf reviewing science fiction and fantasy and Pick of the Literate which reviews general fiction. I never do spoilers and I recommend rather than in-depth review. Too many reviewers ruin a book by revealing far too much of the plot.
Morgen: You’ll have to let me know if you accept unsolicited enquiries and I’ll add you to my reviews page. What do you do when you’re not writing?
William: Besides spending time with my bride, I have the most fun chasing grandchildren around. I golf poorly, play a fair hand of bridge and absolutely love to read.
Morgen: A very balanced life by the sound of it. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
William: Despite the doom and gloom predictions of the demise of the printed book, I feel print will continue. It may even become on-demand and in home if anyone ever sells laser toner at a reasonable price. eBooks and multimedia books as well as graphic novels will continue to grow. The beauty and wonder of today’s technology means that everyone who is so motivated can get a book in print (e or otherwise). That doesn’t mean that it will be worth reading but it does mean that a revolution in self expression is occurring. In reviewing books I have discovered genres and authors that I would never have found otherwise. Some I have embraced with fervour and some are too dreadful to mention.
Morgen: Oh dear. Where can we find out about you and your work?
William: www.bentrim.info is my website.
Pick of the Literate http://bookrevues.blogspot.com
Azure Dwarf’s Horde of SciFi & Fantasy http://azuredwarf.blogspot.com
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
William: If you want to write, evaluate your motivation. If you have a clear goal as to what you want then whatever you write will make you happy. If you’re uncertain as to what you want to achieve or have expectations beyond your abilities it is liable to wound you emotionally.
Morgen: They say a successful writer is one who didn’t give up and writers have to be passionate to keep going but I learned really quickly what a wonderful bunch of people they (we) are. It’s certainly like no other industry I’ve come across although I compare it to learning to drive, we all know how hard it is to ‘pass’. Thank you, William. Hopefully see you back in another form in the not too distant future.
William G. Bentrim authors books for children. He founded, owned and operated food and technology businesses. Teaching school and counseling from 5th grade to college and from Appalachia to urban suburbia helped define his identity. He is most proud of being a husband, father and grandfather. As someone who cares about the people around him, who wants to improve the society we all live in, who hopes on a daily basis to leave the planet a little better than it was the previous day William is cognizant that the impact he has on the world is minimal. Tilting at windmills is a part of his character as is a deep love for all those who need to be loved. In his own mind he is a complex, multi-layered, unique character in the kaleidoscoping drama of life.
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