It’s a real pleasure to have the multi-talented and witty, William Prystauk, at The Writing Life this morning.
An award winning screenwriter, filmmaker, and educator, Bill began writing stories in first grade when he still had hair. A former member of BDSM groups in New York and Philadelphia, he brings his knowledge of the subculture to BLOODLETTING, adapted from his script which won Second Place in the 2006 Screenwriter Showcase Screenwriting Contest and was the top mystery submission. Currently, he is an active member of the New Jersey Screenwriter’s Group, and teaches English as an assistant professor at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. When not writing, he’s busy co-hosting The Last Knock horror podcast on iTunes. Bill enjoys life with his wife, author and editor Ally Bishop, and their two puppies, Suki and Karma. He’s proud of his alternative music and horror movie collections, and the fact that he never leaves any sushi behind.
What is your book’s genre/category?
Bloodletting is a hard-boiled crime thriller.
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Punk rocker and sadomasochist Denny Bowie, a “legwork guy” for a private investigation firm, is out to find the killer of five masochistic men and his childhood friend, fetish photographer Tommy Heat. He gets back with Penny Dallion, the Goth-girl of his dreams, and is enthralled by the hot and androgynous Erin Marr, his new boyfriend. While investigating Tommy’s murder, Denny discovers pictures missing from Tommy’s meticulous collection. These photos not only hold the key to the killer’s identity, but may also prove Penny’s involvement in the murders.
Embroiled in New York’s vibrant S&M subculture, Denny revisits old haunts: fetish clubs in Greenwich Village to find the killer who’s a step ahead of him – and maybe right behind him.
Usually, titles are easy for me, but not this time around. However, as the story developed, Bloodletting became the clear winner due to what occurs to some of the characters on a physical level as well as on a thematic level.
What is the reason you wrote this book?
I wanted to write a mystery that didn’t embrace the typical tropes and trappings of the genre. As a reader, I had become bored with the same safe writing and story foundations, and I wanted to deliver something more visceral.
To do this, I began with the protagonist, Denny Bowie. He’s not a war vet or a former cop. Instead, he’s a late twentysomething punk rocker who loves to solve puzzles. In fact, although he has his private investigator’s license, he’s simply what he calls a “legwork guy” for a law firm in another city. If he can solve this case, Denny hopes to become a full-fledged PI where he works.
In addition, I wanted a story that focused on alternative lifestyles and subculture. In this case, punk, Goth, and sadomasochism. The goal was to present a fair representation of that trifecta without falling into the usual misconceptions perpetuated in fiction and film. Quite often, novelists and filmmakers seem to rely on stereotypes of what they think those worlds and people are like, and that has always bothered me.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Writing is freedom. As a writer, I have control over the worlds I create and the characters that inhabit them. It’s my escape from the confines of the daily grind, and I get the chance to entertain others because I want to share what I do.
What is the most challenging aspect of writing?
Besides finding time to write, the main challenge is to kill the editor inside my head so I can “just write” with abandon. As writers, we must do so in order to move forward. If we allow that internal editor to play both angel and demon on our shoulders as we try to write a story, we’ll continually stop and never complete the work. At some point, the story comes alive, and that editor’s gone – until I bring him back for revision.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Henry Miller (without the misogyny and anti-Semitism, of course) because I love the genuine nature of his writing. I also enjoy F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, and their work inspired me to earn my masters in English. I can’t get enough of Gemma File’s amazing short stories, and Ellen Miller’s brilliant novel, Like Being Killed, the only novel she published before her death, blew my mind on every level.
What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
Henry Miller due to his honest voice, Charlie Bukowski and William S. Burroughs for showing me that anything is possible with the written word, Ernest Hemingway for his precise plotting and poetic use of repetition, Gabriel Garcia Marquez who brings readers a story on every page, Muriel Spark for her transitions, Edgar Allan Poe for his sense of atmosphere, Frederick Busch and Ellen Miller for their phenomenal character building, Matthew Stokoe who delivers suspense like no other author, and Gemma Files for her depth of story and clear love of knowledge.
Favorite place to write?
My home office. Bettie Page, Deborah Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, fossils, seashells, alternative music, and books surround me. It’s my sanctuary from the world. But when I revise, I can do so anywhere.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
At one point in my life, I was enamored with King Henry V and his victory at the Battle of Agincourt. When my first wife and I visited Westminster Abbey, which made me cry from its beauty and history, I climbed onto his wooden sarcophagus and kissed his head. I didn’t get arrested, though my wife had bail money ready.
Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?
Like Hollywood, the big five want to hit nothing but home runs, and this is why I looked for a small press for my book. After all, how many protagonists are punk rock bisexuals with a desire for BDSM? Although three publishers were interested in Bloodletting, I chose Booktrope because they allow writers to take part in the publishing process by creating their team of book manager, project manager, editor, proofreader, and cover designer.
The sad part about publishing today, besides a lack of editing, is a major lack of marketing support. Each author must become his or her own marketer. This isn’t necessarily fun, and it deprives one from writing because the writer has to promote, but without the effort, the author’s opus will rot.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
Originally, Bloodletting was an award winning screenplay. In the 2006 Screenwriters Showcase Screenplay Contest, it led in the mystery category and won second place overall, which made it clear to me that I had a viable, entertaining story to share. Though the script has yet to be produced, the screenplay served as a wonderful and glorified outline for the novel.
During my MFA program, I used the manuscript as my final project. Although I listened to my mentor, my beta readers, and an outside fiction editor from a respected small press, there were elements of my manuscript that needed work. By the time Bloodletting had been accepted for publication, it had been almost two years since I had read the manuscript. This gave me enough objective distance to make the cuts I really needed to make the book worthwhile.
Any advice for writers looking to get published?
As a writer, make certain you are honest with yourself. This means you must know when you are writing something stellar – or something that is pure garbage (I have two banker’s boxes of bad writing, including failed novels to prove this point). If your manuscript pasts the test of quality, then get yourself a great editor. Yes, the best ones cost a lot of money, but it will be money well spent. After all, the editor is your partner and has the best interests of your story in mind. You can also look at the editor as your behind-the-scenes publicist because if your story is at its very best, sooner or later, a publisher will most likely want your work. If you self-publish after consulting with a qualified, professional editor, this means people besides friends and family will probably want to read your work. I see many writers submitting manuscripts without using an editor, or even self-publish with not even a cursory proofread – and that is a major mistake.
Through my publisher I connected with editor Gerald Baude. I knew he was the perfect choice because he sent back my first chapter as a sample, and he picked out all of my writing weaknesses. And yes, every writer has weaknesses. Thanks to his expertise and insight, I shaved 14,000 words off my manuscript, and delivered a novel with a faster and more compelling pace.
Always make certain your work is at its very best before submitting a manuscript – because you only get one shot.
Where can we find your book?
For readers of Bloodletting, there is a link and password after the Epilogue to the “Books” page on my website. This page will allow the reader to access deleted scenes, to check out a playlist that matches the artists and songs mentioned in the book, and I’ve included my original, award-winning screenplay from which the tale has been adapted.
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23365977-bloodletting
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Bloodletting-William-D-Prystauk-ebook/dp/B00RB8FLZS
What’s next for you?
I am revising a paranormal crime thriller called Red Agenda (as well as writing its sequel), which is also based on an award-winning script of mine. In addition, I’m revising a dramatic science fiction screenplay, outlining a horror screenplay, and I’m taking notes for a horror book I’m writing. Thankfully, many readers have called for a sequel to Bloodletting, so I’m working on notes and conducting research for that as well.
Ellie, thank you so very much for having me. I am truly grateful!
It’s been a pleasure, Bill! Best wishes with Bloodletting and your many creative projects!
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.
A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon
Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.
Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.
Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.