Thank you for this interview, Mr. Potter. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here.
My active imagination had me making up stories before I could read. The first remake of King Kong, and the original Star Wars a year later, really got my young mind fired up, and at the age of ten I decided to write a “book.” I remember a few lines about a mutant crab attacking a city. I discovered poetry in my teens and continued to write verse into my twenties and early thirties. However, that kid’s dream of writing a book never went away. In 2001, I decided to get serious about fiction and had some success writing a few short stories. With my confidence peaking, I attempted larger projects until I had a collection of shorts and two novellas approaching novel length. It was time. After more than twenty years since that rampant crustacean of my youth, I attempted another novel in the summer of 2003 and finished the first draft just before the end of 2004.
Do you write full-time?
No, not yet, but one can dream.
At what point in your life did you make up your mind you were going to become a published author?
In 1994, with my second attempt at writing a novel I discovered three things about myself: I didn’t have a clue about plotting a novel length story; I was hooked on story telling; and I was obsessed with learning as much as I could about the craft until one day I could be published.
What was your favorite book to read as a child?
Books that fired my imagination were always favoured. I read anything from Little House on the Prairie to Lord of the Flies.
What is your favourite book at the present?
I can’t think of a favorite at the moment. I just finished, and enjoyed, Peacemaker by Dan Ronco, a thriller about a computer virus which almost destroys the world.
Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
Lighting the Dark Side is an anthology of fiction featuring three novellas and three shorter works. They are about human nature and how our darker side can impede our ability to cope with hardships. The book opens with a novella called “Bent, Not Broken” where we meet Dwayne Johnson, a man beginning a new relationship even though he is plagued with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). A police procedural called “Prominent Couple Slain” is also included. Detective Jack Staal is disillusioned about his career after he takes a nosedive from big city homicide investigator to small town detective. Desperate to prove himself, he ignores protocol to work a case that is not his to solve. In “Blessing or Curse?” Brad Stewart’s bloated ego strains lifelong friendships after an enormous lottery win. His millionaire lifestyle suddenly becomes a nightmare when his son is kidnapped for ransom. The book closes with the largest piece, “Surviving the Fall,” a tale about James Goodal, a man who spent his entire life avoiding uncomfortable situations. This safe and easy existence has left James lonely and facing divorce. Everything changes when he takes in a young street girl named Ashley. The pair finds comfort in their unorthodox friendship until her violent world returns forcing James to fight for Ashley and for his very survival. The two remaining stories find average, but flawed, people struggling to overcome their weaknesses in order to escape extraordinary situations.
What was the inspiration behind your book? Why did you feel a need to write it?
Inspiration for the book came from everywhere. Sometimes it was from my own life experiences, like the birth of my children or the end of my first marriage. Other times it was the stimulating imagery of books, television, movies, and the Internet. Whatever the topic, if it stirred up my emotions, there was a good chance an idea would end up in a story. The collection represents where I was as a writer during the last eight years, and I felt compelled to put them together in a book.
What kind of research did you have to conduct to write your book?
Each of the six stories required different amounts of research. Dwayne in “Bent, Not Broken” suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I researched the disorder until I felt confident that I wouldn’t offend sufferers, and then finished the story.
For the police procedural, “Prominent Couple Slain,” I studied as much information about police detective work as I could find. If you don’t have access to a real life detective, the Internet is a good alternative to learn about weapons and law enforcement tactics.
Researching for the novella “Surviving the Fall” was a sad experience for me. Ashley Metcalf is a fourteen year-old prostitute who was put on the street at age eleven to finance her mother’s drug addiction. I found numerous stories from around the world of girls as young as nine forced into this nightmare world of fear and violence.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
The stories of Lighting the Dark Side cover a wide range of genres from action adventure to romance. I wish I could say that the variety of fiction was the result of some grand scheme, but it wasn’t. The stories were written between 2001 and 2007. Some of the ideas were years, even decades, old while others were brand new. Despite the differences in genre, each story has the underlying theme that everyone has a darker side, and each of us must recognise these weaknesses to overcome life’s worst circumstances.
How do you deal with rejection?
I tell myself that rejection is a normal part of the publishing process and I try to remember the stories I’ve heard from best selling authors who often talk about their many rejection slips. Still, each time it feels like a kick in the stomach.
Do you write mainly by day or by night?
I do the majority of my writing on Saturday and Sunday between 5 and 9 A.M. I get up at 4:30 in the morning most weekends and fuel myself with gallons of coffee and then type away on my laptop until the kids wake up three or four hours later. I have a fulltime job and my wife works evenings—throw in two kids under six and you can see how my writing time is very limited.
Do you ever get writer’s block and what do you do when that happens?
So far I’ve never had writer’s block. Actually, you could say I have the opposite. I have too many ideas and not enough time to work on them all.
How long did it take your book to be published from the time you submitted and was accepted to the time it was finally released?
From the time the manuscript was submitted to publication was about six months.
Can you tell us a little about the publisher who published your book? How have they been to work with?
From the beginning I didn’t expect a traditional publisher to take on a short story collection from an unknown and unpublished author. After several rejections I decided to go the self-publishing route. Working with the Xlibris Corporation was my first publishing experience, and I found the consultants to be very understanding of my lack of industry knowledge. The journey went, for the most part, smoothly despite the fact that the staff copy editor missed over 120 simple spelling and grammar mistakes in my manuscript. This added an extra month of frustrating work in the galley stage.
Do you blog? If so, what can you tell my readers about the advantages of blogging as a useful tool in book promotion?
Yes, I have two blogs and post as much as time allows. Every post shows up in Google searches so it really helps to get noticed. It’s very easy. Write a 200 word blurb about a book signing, for example, and post to your blog in two minutes. Many readers prefer the blog format over websites and will visit your blog daily to see what you’re up to, so it’s a promotional tool that should not be overlooked.
Do you have a website?
I have two do-it-yourself websites that I run myself and one my publisher manages for me.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently in the rewrite stage of a sequel to the short story “Prominent Couple Slain” from Lighting the Dark Side called DEAD of KNIGHT—A Jack Staal Mystery. It will be available by Christmas 2009. I enjoy Detective Jack Staal and his world and already have two sequels outlined.
Another completed novel manuscript is about an average family man and how he and his wife deal with his depression and addiction following the sudden tragic loss of his eyesight. Falling Down The Hole is my 2010 project, and I daydream about it becoming my first book published by a traditional publisher.
Thank you for this interview, William! Do you have any final words you’d like to share with my readers?Thanks again for having me here. I appreciate the opportunity. I would also like to thank the readers for their interest in Lighting the Dark Side and I invite all to stop by www.lightingthedarkside.com for more information about me and my work.
The BlogCritics post on Nov. 24/2008