Welcome to the five hundred and sixty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with short story author and novelist Bill Wetterman. 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, Bill. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Bill: I’ve been blessed with a great partner in life, Pam, my wife of 47 years. We have two sons and two dogs. My wife is an author, so we review and edit each other’s work and have remained married, a feat few couples have accomplished. After forty-two years in the Human Resources arena, specifically C-level staffing and executive search, I retired to pursue my heart’s desire and work at the craft of writing. I grew up in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio. My mother was first-generation Slovak and my father was of English-German descent. We lived in an old multi-ethnic neighborhood on Cleveland’s Westside. After college and a career move in Ohio, I relocated the family to Tulsa, Oklahoma. We’ve lived here 34 years and consider Oklahoma home.
Morgen: 47 years, wow. Congratulations. I love it when authors show their passion for writing and there’s nothing sweeter than calling it your “heart’s desire”. What or who inspired you to write? And how long have you been writing?
Bill: I’ve written for fun and for business all my life. I wrote poetry at Ohio University for a college magazine and policies and procedures for my employers. I buried the desire to become an author in my twenties to pursue making a living. My grandparents came to America so their grandchildren could pursue the American dream, and the American dream added up to dollars and cents.
In 2006, I looked toward the future and decided to plan for a different career. As Pam and I watched television, or enjoyed a movie, I’d whisper to her, “Watch and see. Here’s what is going to happen next.” Then I’d say, “I could do better than that.” Doing better takes time. I’ve studied the craft since 2006, and I learn more every day.
Morgen: I think we’ve all said “I could do better than that” at some stage. What genre do you write?
Bill: Let’s cover the novels first. Greed, betrayal, lust, and revenge, all the things that make life fun—I write Thrillers. The topics tend toward political, psychological, and international themes and plots. I usually use anti-heroine female protagonists and pit them against the flawed men in their lives.
I wrote many freelance short stories before selecting the genre for my novels. My short stories are not genre-based. Some are non-fiction. Some are fiction—inspirational, western, humor—you name it. I’ve won or placed in the top three in several major online contests, including Writer’s Digest and Armchair Interviews.
Morgen: I’m the same; I’ve written hundreds of short stories and have settled into crime for my latest three novels (I’ve just finished, and ‘won, my fifth NaNoWriMo with another novel between the first and second NaNo). What have you had published?
Bill: I have four short stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. My short story, The Family Tree, was published in the Writer’s Digest 2011 Short Story Anthology. My novel, Room 1515, came out as an eBook in February 2012 and as a paperback in April, and The Fifth Step, a psychological thriller about an out of control pornography addiction was released in September. A prominent preacher’s addiction threatens to destroy his reputation, his ministry, and his wife’s life. The Fifth Step comes from the 12-Step Program, Step 5: Admitted to God, myself, and another human being, the exact nature of my wrongs.
Morgen: I love your titles, very intriguing. How much of the marketing do you do for your published work or indeed for yourself as a brand?
Bill: I market more than I want to and less than I should. I’m an excellent face-to-face promoter. I speak to book clubs at libraries and attend book signings at regional bookstores. I utilize Facebook and Goodreads to promote my blog. My publisher, Book Country, a subsidiary of Penguin, set up my distribution network. The rest is up to me. To that end, I’ve hired Stormie Johnson of Lightning Book Promotions to guide me along the way.
Morgen: Wise decision. She’s great (and has sent me a few authors over the past few months). Do you do a lot of research?
Bill: My research is extensive. Therefore, I must answer your question in several parts. Before I write a novel, I go through a step-by-step process to develop the world of the novel.
Physical Surroundings: Creating a novel begins for me by researching the world into which I will drop my characters. This world must be physically correct. In Room 1515, the settings are Washington D.C. and Great Britain, primarily London. The details must be accurate, so readers who live in those places will recognize the locations. Since I place the action a few years in the future, I have the liberty to alter things a bit. I can put a new hotel in a location where there isn’t one today, and that’s all right. I’ve been to Washington and London. That helps. Even if I hadn’t, the Internet provides views of buildings and layouts of the inside and outside of each. I research every building, park, etc. for accuracy before I write about it. I read about where political meetings are held, so I don’t have an event in my book going on in a place where it shouldn’t. I’m sorry, but I love Wikipedia.
Tension: Once I’ve fleshed out the physical world and the mood of that world, I’m ready to create the tension. Before you create the character, you ask. Yes. I have an idea about my characters. However, I need to have a world that is tension packed to drop my characters into that world. In Room 1515, I take the tension in today’s world and make it worse. The world economy is collapsing. A group of rich financiers is causing the collapse for its own purposes. American sends a seductress to woo the leader of this group and steal his secrets.
Now, I ask myself a million whys. What would each side’s motivation be? How could they achieve what they desire? Who could best accomplish each major task? Again, there is a lot of research. I have to study how the economy in one part of the world affects another. Having done the research, I give each main character motives and plans. Tension must increase as the story moves along or readers go to sleep.
Uniqueness: Ever read novels were the bad guys have no redeeming character and the good guys are Dudley Do-Rights? The real world is not this way. The more conflicted people and events are the better your novel will be. I mentioned the anti-heroine earlier. To put a true protagonist, loyal, honest, loves dogs, into Room 1515, would be sinful. I want an anti-heroine, a flawed woman pursing the enemies of her country, until she questions the tactics of her own government. I don’t want an evil antagonist either. Instead of Doctor No, I want to be unique. Create a sympathetic character with a noble purpose, likeable with being ruthless. Unique, complex characters hold readers interests.
Fleshing out characters: Here is where many authors start their novels. This is the last thing I do. Knowing the world into which I’m dropping them, knowing the tension and conflict they’ll face, I ask myself more questions. What is the character’s worldview? What events shaped their past? What strengths and weaknesses will cause them to succeed or fail? I research where the main characters were born, if it’s important, the history of the area. I describe how each looks and fill out a character profile.
Wait, there’s more. Once the character is solid in my mind, I talk to them. I show them the outline of the book. I set the rules. “I’ll give you some freedom in each scene. Surprise me by showing me something unique. However, do not Sin. I am God. I determine the outcome I want. Don’t change my novel. Enjoy yourself within your scenes. Sin, in the world of my novel, is a character attempting to change the outcome I’ve slaved so hard to build.
Once I flesh out my characters, I’m ready to write. A novel takes me two months of planning, two months of writing, and two months of editing to complete.
Morgen: And I’m sure they are all the better for it. Do you have a specific writing style?
Bill: Yes. I use dialogue and interior monologue as the main tools to convey my story to my readers. When I use descriptions of a places and events, I concentrate on only two or three key features so as not to bore my readers. Have you ever tried to read James Joyce’s Ulysses? 450,000 words written in stream of conscience style will not capture the 21st Century reader. I keep the dialogue crisp and the paragraphs short to give a feeling of fast-paced action.
Morgen: What books have influenced your writing most and why?
Bill: Tom Clancy’s novels, particularly Debt of Honor, are examples of well-researched political thrillers. He set the standard for me for attention to detail. Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs stands out as the psychological thriller. I can only hope to achieve his level one day. Finally, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features the perfect anti-heroine, Lisbeth Salander. Her character is a model for me to play off.
Morgen: I went to a new book club meeting last night and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was mentioned, although so many of us have read (listened in my case) to it that we probably won’t be doing it. When did you decide that you were a writer?
Bill: I knew I was a writer when other writing professionals told me I was. Recognition comes in the form of entering writing competitions and winning. Receiving an award in a national or regional competition entered by numerous writers and judged by the best speaks volumes. Saying “I’m a writer” doesn’t make it so.
Morgen: You do have to write to be a writer too, no-one can edit a blank page. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Bill: Yes. I have several novels in various stages of development. Fury and Fire, the sequel to Room 1515, and the second book in a trilogy about the struggle for world domination and the establishing of a one-world government. I have another novel going through the layering process, but that’s for 2013.
Morgen: If you’re anything like me 2013 will be a busy year. 🙂 Where can we find out more about you and your writing?
Bill: http://theheartofanovelist.blogspot.com and http://www.facebook.com. My books are listed on my Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk author pages.
Morgen: Thank you, Bill, lovely to meet you.
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