Getting into writing – an interview with Bill Adler Jr

Bill Adler author photo

Bill Adler Jr. is the author of many books, including No Time to Say Goodbye, a time travel love story, The Binge-Watching Cure, a short story anthology, Tell Me a Fairy Tale, a storytelling guide, and Outwitting Squirrels, which the Wall Street Journal called “a masterpiece.”

He’s the publisher at Claren Books, http://www.clarenbooks.com, a fiction publishing company.

Adler grew up in New York City, went to college in New England, lived for two decades in Washington, DC and now makes his home in Tokyo.

He’s a licensed pilot and unlicensed writer.

Personal website: www.adlerbooks.com

Publishing company: www.clarenbooks.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/billadlerjr

Twitter: www.twitter.com/billadler

What got you interested in writing?

I like stories. Reading stories, seeing stories in movies, hearing stories. Books were the most accessible way me to tell all the stories that I had in my head.

I’ve wanted to be an author for a long, long time. But I got sidetracked and became a literary agent instead. Being an agent was sometimes rewarding and fun, but it was also frustrating because I want to spend time writing books, rather than representing them.

Now I’m much happier spending my days as a writer rather than an agent.

When I was a student, I was a terrible speller. I still am, but in the pre-spell check days, every word I wrote had a chance—make that a likelihood—of being misspelled. Our English teacher marked down papers for misspellings. Because of that, I tended to use words I was reasonably sure I could spell: slim words, simple words, safe words. My English teacher noticed, of course, and she thought I had a small vocabulary. She offered this advice: “Your vocabulary isn’t good. You should not consider a career as a writer.”

I didn’t take that advice. And, fortunately, there’s spell check now.

Tell us a little about your chosen genre.

I like to write scary stories and science fiction. Fear, which what horror is all about, is the most basic, and perhaps most important emotion. You can procreate without love. You can earn a living without being greedy. But eliminate fear and you’re going to be lunch for tiger.

I grew up on Isaac Asimov’s science fiction novels, which inspired me to write science fiction.

What are your happiest memories in your writing career?

Before I wrote fiction, I wrote nonfiction. One of my earliest books, Outwitting Squirrels, was rejected by 20 publishers. The 21st said yes, and offered me a whopping $800 advance. (That’s $400 up front; $400 on completion.) Now 300,000 copies sold later I’m happy.

The other happiest moment is when I had lunch with William Peter Blatty, who wrote The Exorcist. At lunch I found out that writers are regular people, worrywarts, mixed up, happy at times, unhappy at other times — there’s nothing magical inside. Having lunch with William Peter Blatty made me realize I could be a novelist, too.

How do you handle success and failure?

Nobody in publishing owes you anything. You have to earn success with hard work, talent and mostly by learning from your mistakes. I treat failure as a mistake I can learn from. I keep a list of my own writing problems and consult that list whenever I edit my writing.

As for success, I’m a wrist watch collector. There goes my royalties.

Bill_Adler_No_Time_To_Say_Goodbye

What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?

A change of view is all I need to write when I’m feeling worn out. I sometimes take trips to remote places where I’m able to happily write. Not because there’s nothing else to do there, but because I’m surrounded by new sights. In fact, I write during the journey, too, which, in Japan is almost always by train.

I’ve never tried writing on a local Tokyo subway train, but I imagine that would work for me, too, when I’m wiped out and can’t think of any words to put on paper.

What is your advice to young and new writers?

Carry a notepad, digital or electronic and write down every thought you have for stories, plots, characters, scenes —everything and anything— the moment you have that thought. You’ve got about twenty seconds before your idea disappears. You won’t know until later if your idea is a good one, but unless you write it down, you’ll never find out.

Find a good editor or critic, somebody who can make your work better. An editor or critic does more than just make repairs. That person can be your best teacher, too. Learn from your mistakes.

Akiko_and_Peter

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)

When I moved to Japan about three years ago, by necessity I had to leave my books behind, so I’m an eBook guy now. But you know what? There’s less dusting to do with eBooks.

Do you blog?

I post about writing on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/billadlerjr.

Do you self-publish?

I own Claren Books, www.clarenbooks.com, which publishes my fiction (as well as other authors.) I sometimes have nonfiction published by other publishers.

If you have a publication or promotion – tell us.

My latest novella, No Time to Say Goodbye, is on Amazon at http://tiny.cc/ntsg. It’s a time travel love story. And there’s a theme song for the novella, too! The song is by Marina V and you can hear it at http://bit.ly/NTSGsong.

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