Welcome to The Writer's Life, William Potter! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I would first like to thank The Writers life for having me. I guess you could say I was bitten by the writing bug at an early age. Shortly after watching the first remake of King Kong, around the age of ten or eleven, I scribbled a few lines about a mutant crab and said I was writing a book.
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 dabbled in short stories with some success. With my confidence surging I attempted larger and larger word counts. Before long I had a collection of shorts and two novellas approaching novel length. It was time…after waiting twenty-five years since that monstrous crustacean of my childhood I attempted another novel in 2003 and finished the first draft just before Christmas 2004.
Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?
Lighting the Dark Side is an anthology of short fiction including three novellas and three shorter works spanning the gamut of fiction genres. After I finished the first draft of my first novel I decided to let the manuscript sit and cool for a while. I then returned to the assortment of stories I penned from 2001 to 2003.
The first thing I noticed about the group of fiction was the darker subject matter. I blamed or credited this gloominess to pain and sadness still lingering from my divorce of a few years previous. My writing was getting some favourable feedback and I wondered if grouped together the short stories might be enough for a book. I began to polish the stronger selections and wrote two more novellas in 2006 and 2007. I pared the total down to six and then began to seek out a publisher.
I believe everyone has an ugly side to their personality down deep that troubles those who witness it. For some it is pure evil and for others its anger management or perhaps jealousy. The key to triumphing over this darkness is to recognise it, and to turn a light against it. This became the theme and title of the book.
The characters in the book all follow unique paths in order to escape their own personal short comings; from Dwayne Johnson, a man who struggles to find love despite a severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; to Brad Stewart, whose lottery win becomes a nightmare when his son is kidnapped for ransom; to James Goodal, a gentle man with a rescue complex who resorts to murder when he takes in a young street prostitute.
What kind of research was involved in writing “Lighting the Dark Side”?
Each of the six stories required different amounts of research. As soon as I realised that Dwayne in the novella “Bent, Not Broken” suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I stopped writing and began to researching online OCD sites. The internet makes research so much easier and I quickly had a feel for this much misunderstood anxiety disorder. It took me a while to feel confident that I wouldn’t offend people who suffer from OCD and almost cut the story from the book. I’m glad I kept it in as the piece is always mentioned first by readers and reviewers.
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 World Wide Web is a good alternative to learn about weapons and tactics of law enforcement.
Researching the novella “Surviving the Fall” was a very 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.
How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?
From early on I had a vision of how I wanted the cover to look. I made my own “working cover” and hoped the professionals at the publisher could improve it. The publisher’s designer went in a different direction with the title font. I disliked his first draft as it made the cover look like a self help book and it took me many weeks to persuade him that my idea was better. However, he continued to send galleys with lower case font and I became discouraged. I’m still not happy with it and it bothers me that the main title is not centred properly. Nevertheless readers and reviewers have called it eye catching, striking, and unique.
Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?
From the beginning I didn’t expect a traditional publisher to pick up a short story collection from and unknown and unpublished author and after several rejections I decided to go the self publishing route. The self publishing industry was my first adventure in publishing so I’m not sure how the ride compares to those who work with mainstream publishers.
For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?
From the time I submitted my finished manuscript to the release date was about six months.
Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?
I don’t have an agent and I know that if I’m going to be taken serious by traditional publishers I will need a good one. Finding an agent is my number one goal for 2009 as I attempt to leave my POD past behind me and sign that elusive contract.
Do you plan subsequent books?
Definitely. 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 should be available by Christmas 2009—fingers crossed. I think the Detective Jack Staal character is strong enough for a series 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 in a freak kitchen accident. “Falling Down The Hole” is my 2010 project and I daydream about it becoming my first book published by a traditional publisher.
Are you a morning writer or a night writer?
Any chance I get at the computer works for me. However, 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. I get up at 4:30 or five in the morning most weekends and fuel myself with a few gallons of coffee and then type away on my laptop until the kids wake up three or four hours later.
If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?
Unfortunately you can’t see the smile on my face as I answer this one! I would write a two or three minute video trailer and then hire the best in the film business to produce it. M. Night Shyamalan or perhaps Marty Scorsese would direct. U2 would record the sound track—hey you said money was no object—and an all A list cast would be hired to play the characters form each story. Then I would unveil it during the next super bowl.
Seriously if I had a larger budget I would try a shot gun approach running ads in newspapers and magazines around
How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?
For self published authors self-promotion is the only promotion. I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities to market my book. I am a member of Authors Den and several other sites that connect writers with readers. I try to spend at least an hour a day posting in forums, writing articles for blogs, and for maintaining my websites. Despite the negative reactions of bookstore mangers toward POD books I continue to investigate the possibility of a signing in the near future.
Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?
Write something, anything every day and read as much as you can. Set realistic goals for your self such as how many pages you write every day or each week. Pick a date for when you will be published and then be prepared to work your tail off to reach your objectives. If you have a burning desire to be an author then keep at it and never give up until you get to where you want to be. Most of all—have fun with it!
Thank you for coming, Mr. Potter! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?
My book is available at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, Borders.com with the current best prices found at Tower.com.
This post was originally published in the Writers Life http://www.thewriterslife.blogspot.com/