Author Interview with William D. Prystauk


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.

Welcome, Bill!

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.

Ebook Blood LettingHow did you come up with the title?

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?

Bloodletting is available at Amazon in paperback and for Kindle (, and from Barnes and Noble for Nook (

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:

Amazon Author Page:

Barnes and Noble:

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!

About Eleanor

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.

The Dreaded Blank Page

Merry Christmas you filthy animals

Early this morning, we were blessed with cloudless, blue skies and a warm sun.  There is an inch of snow on the ground with a fine layer of ice beneath, and the winds are still blowing like crazy. Normally, this type of day energizes me and puts me in a good frame of mind, but today I closed all the curtains. For self-preservation, I will become a hermit for a few days, nursing what January usually brings me–feelings of joy mixed with nostalgia. My negative feelings and emotions can’t be helped, so I allow them to wash over me today.

You see, my son was born in California on January 14, 1988, and my mother passed away on January 22, 1992. My son is moving to Amsterdam on January 16, 2015. Yes, in a week’s time, I’ll be driving him to the airport, and I don’t know when I’ll see him again. He has been coming and going for years now with work-related travel, and a three-month stay in Thailand, but this is different. He says he’s not coming back. It’s not that we’ve quarreled or that he’s running away from home, nothing like that–I raised my kids overseas. What did I expect would happen? One or both of them were bound to travel extensively and live abroad; it’s what I hoped for.

Well, it is what it is, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. My daughter and I send him off with much love, admiration, and enough hugs and kisses to keep him warm in Holland until we visit. Maybe we’ll return to Holland for a Spring visit, in time for the tulip festivals, as we did during our many years of living overseas. I try to look at the bright side of returning to Europe with my daughter for family visits with my son, but today it was hard to see the silver lining of his decision. I wondered how many decisions I’d made as a mother that caused my children the same pain.

So, after taking a week and a few days off to celebrate the precious Holidays with my beautiful children and my wonderful family, I sat at my desk this morning. I opened the new journal I bought in early December–one hundred and twenty blank pages of journal, to be exact, and closed the book. I’d vowed to begin writing on the morning of January first, but I couldn’t. I knew it would help me tremendously as I’ve journaled for over twenty years as an advocate of keeping a journal, but every time I sat down to write–I froze. There was too much swirling, swishing, and slopping around in my brain to get it down on paper. I’ve felt overwhelmed this first week in January. What a pain in the ass. It’s not like I have tremendous burdens on my shoulders, we are all happy, safe, and healthy. I am looking forward to my novel, A Decent Woman, coming out this Spring, my daughter started a great new job as a therapist, and we three are embarking on personal journeys, but life is changing. Our family dynamics are changing and deep inside, I don’t like it one bit.

What did I do after closing my journal? I prayed hard. I cried even harder. I released. I counted my blessings. I shoveled my sidewalk, laughed at my Sophie’s Chihuahua antics in the snow, and I stroked my cat, Pierre. I made a tough phone call, one that I’ve been avoiding since early December, and I called to check on a new friend who just found out she’s in stage four of lung cancer. Please pray for my friend, Myrtle. Then, I sat with my unopened journal and realized I hate blank pages. I’ve experienced this fear of getting back on the creative horse before with my painting, after a long holiday. I’d sit in front of the easel, staring at my full-size, D’Arches, hot press, watercolor paper stapled to the board, hating the whiteness of it. The blankness of it. And I’d stress the mistakes I was sure to make as watercolor is such an unforgiving medium, but to which I took to like a duck to water. I like a challenge.

Bite-size pieces, I told myself after lunch. Own it and just do it for God’s sake. But, the words didn’t come. As much as I hate routine, I am a stickler for routine. My usual routine is to pray, meditate, journal, and write long into the night with breaks for walking the dog. What the hell was I so afraid of? That I might start writing, crying, and never stop? Was I pissed I hadn’t followed through with my plan of starting the journal on the first of January? It’s a Virgo thing. Was I grieving the past…again? Enough.

I gathered old magazines, found a glue stick, and created a mini-vision board for 2015 on the inside cover, which includes the cover my book. I thought of crossing off the numeral one I’d written in anticipation of starting the journal on January first, but instead, I changed the one to a seven. I christened the journal. I added the weather and temperature in the right-hand corner, as I’ve done for years, and I wrote three pages of my thoughts, hopes, and dreams. I added St. Michael’s prayer and the Memorare for protection, which felt great, and I closed the journal until tomorrow.

No, 2015 didn’t start exactly as I’d hoped, but that’s okay. I will celebrate my daughter’s new job in Northern Virginia; I will celebrate my son’s birthday and new life in Holland; I’ll cry for my mother on the anniversary of her death; and I’ll wave goodbye to my son as he disappears through airport security with tears in my eyes. I will continue celebrating and honoring life, and continue counting my many blessings, which includes my creative life. I look forward to launching my book, holding it in my hands, and sharing it with the world.

I tackled the beast today. No more will the blank page cause me anxiety and fear. Eff it; I’m stronger than that–I wrote a freaking book.






The 2014 Joy/Happiness Jar Challenge

#JoyJar #HappinessJar 2014

Do you like challenges? I always like a good challenge that doesn’t involve alligator wrestling, bungee jumping off a bridge or sticking my hand in a bee hive. If you like those sort of challenges, good for you. I’ll fearlessly root for you at a safe, dry distance with the first aid kit. I’ll remain poised, ready to punch in the numerals, 9, 1, 1 on my cell phone, and I might even take a photo or two for posterity’s sake. But then my fingers wouldn’t be poised and ready to punch in 911, would they? Scratch that then.

In late December 2013, I accepted a friend’s Facebook invitation to begin a year-long Facebook challenge to keep a Joy/Happiness Jar for 2014. The instructions were to begin writing little notes on January 1st and continue throughout the year with our joyous life events, and dropping them in a jar or container until the following January. I loved the idea and being an optimist, I found a larger-than-normal Bell jar at Walmart and couldn’t wait to begin filling it. I went a step further—I bought beautiful papers at the craft store on which to write. I cut the 11×14 sheets of paper into one-inch squares and away I went. I’m a Virgo. We do things like that, but I didn’t decorate my jar, which many friends did. I was proud of my restraint as I remember the year I decoupaged everything in my home that didn’t move. Trust me…everything.


January 2014 was the perfect year to begin my joyously, joyful Joy Jar as many lovely things happened to me, my family, and our friends. The previous year would have been okay, but the little notes would have included more personal wishes than joyous occasions as I was still waiting, waiting for many projects to take flight and situations to unfold. There were engagements, weddings, graduations, new babies, reunions great trips and road trips, new adventures, and my publishing contract with Booktrope Books in February. After many years of quering agents, my historical fiction novel, A Decent Woman, was accepted for publication! A huge blessing. It was very easy to think of joyous, surprising, and amazing occasions this year, for which I am thankful. When nothing newsworthy happened that week, I wrote that I was happy to be alive, healthy and safe as were my kids and my family.

Yes, we experienced a few disappointments, some sad moments, confusion, major delays (my book), frustration, a big fright, and a bit of anger, but that’s life. I lost my beloved Pug, Ozzy. RIP, buddy. We must take the good with the bad. Thankfully for my family, the negative moments were short-lived, and many of those moments unveiled hidden blessings for which we are extremely grateful for today.

So, I have less than ten days to finish filling my Joy Jar, which is nearly full. This afternoon, I wrote ten joys on ten little squares of paper and dropped them in the jar. On New Year’s Day 2015, I will empty the contents, unfold the notes, and read back over the year. I am thinking of having some type of ceremony–a symbolic burning of the small, folded pieces of paper as an offering of thanksgiving for all our many blessings in 2014, along with prayers. That sounds good to me and appeals to my spiritual side. After the ceremony, if I don’t catch the house on fire, I will go out and ring in the New Year with friends and family.

Christmas blessings to you and yours. x

Author Interview with Rachel Kambury

I met Rachel Kambury in November at Historical Fiction Night at the KGB Bar in New York City, hosted by Monique Lewis, the founder of At The Inkwell. Rachel and I enjoyed each other’s readings and I knew then, I’d invite this talented writer to The Writing Life blog.

rachelk_7 small Born and raised in Oregon, Rachel Kambury developed a love for writing at the age of five. She decided to become a novelist after reading Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, when she was eleven.

Rachel self-published her first work of WWII historical fiction, GRAVEL, in 2009, two months before she graduated high school in her hometown of Ashland. Following a six-week battlefield tour of Western Europe that summer, she moved to New York City for college with her first novel in tow.

In September 2010, Rachel began her second work of WWII historical fiction, The War Bound, writing the entire first draft and part of the second while in school. The novel is currently in its third draft stage undergoing rewrites.

Rachel graduated from Eugene Lang College – The New School for Liberal Arts with a BA in Literary Studies in May 2013. She lives in New York City.

Welcome, Rachel!

What is your book’s genre/category?

The War Bound is historical fiction.

TWB Mockup copy (1)

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Six days before the Allied invasion of France, Sebastian, a Nazi Lieutenant along with his young brother Jürgen attempt to escape Europe while their father Christoph, a Nazi Colonel, hunts them down for desertion.

As events unfold, the story’s more vulnerable underbelly becomes exposed, revealing what is at the heart of the novel: an intimate family drama about loyalty, trauma, free will, and sacrifice set within the horrendous conflict of World War II.

How did you come up with the title?

I knew I wanted the word ‘war’ in the title, for various reasons: it’s a word that people notice straight away and are drawn to; it’s also a very heavy word – when you see it, you have an almost instinctive understanding of its meaning, if only in a very general sense. I didn’t come up with the whole title on my own, though: I had a conversation over text with my dad and my sister where we bounced variations around to each other, things like “The Bonds of War” and “Bound by War” and things like that. Eventually we struck on “The War Bound,” and after a cursory Google search to make sure it wasn’t already taken as a novel title*, I decided that was it.

*The only other thing with a similar name is a group of MARVEL characters called “The Warbound,” which if anything is rather fitting given my love for MARVEL superheroes.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

There are so many, and frankly I could probably write a thesis paper about this.

I started writing the book because an idea came to me in class one day, but I’ve kept at it because in the four years since, I’ve discovered so many things about these characters and their interior lives and the world they live in and can’t give it up. I care so much about this history and the stories that have come out of it (and those that haven’t). As tasking as it is to write a long novel about Nazis, it’s also hugely rewarding.

It was important to me to delve into what it would mean to abandon the only life I’ve ever known for the sake of survival, which is a story that resonates with so many people but takes on an entirely new dynamic when it’s a story, however fictional, about the lives of Germans during WWII. I realized halfway through writing The War Bound that my groove, so to speak, is taking fictional characters and inserting them in very real historical contexts in order to get the audience – and myself – closer to the events and hopefully that much closer to a deeper level of understanding. Fact plays a very large role in my work, but so does the human aspect of what is a singularly human endeavor.

What is your favorite part of writing?

The buzz is nice; that creative high that keeps me coming back time and again. But more so it’s the characters themselves, especially after a good amount of time has passed and they’ve gone from being stick figures in the back of my head to fully realized people always hovering in my peripheral vision; they come to mean so much to me and writing the story they belong to feels like the only way to not let them down. I’m also a total sucker for that moment when a reader comes up to me and tells me how the story affected them. I’m seem to have a real knack for getting people’s tear ducts working…

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Sitting down and doing it. When I was in high school and college I had the luxury of having demands on my time that made me want to get around to writing as quickly as possible. As writing more and more becomes the center point of my life, I find it increasingly difficult to just do it. If we’re talking nuts and bolts, the hardest part for me is POV control. World building and detail? No problem. Dialogue? Sure! But hell if I can’t pick a POV and stick to it.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

J.R.R. Tolkien and Kurt Vonnegut; William Shakespeare. Michael Chabon, Haruki Murakami, and Jane Austen; Jonathan Hickman and Frank McCourt. John Le Carré, Sebastian Junger, Herman Melville, Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley, and Charlotte Brontë are also choice.

Can you tell I was a lit studies major in college?

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

This is one of those Pandora’s Box questions – I could go on for days. Kurt Vonnegut made me want to be a writer and Tolkien taught me how to write, and like most writers I’ve learned to create my own voice by reading novels by a lot of different writers, but the people I’m influenced by vary widely and change often. A lot of people in film and entertainment, definitely; Charlie Chaplin, Steve McQueen, Robert Downey Jr., Ruth Wilson, Kathryn Bigelow, Peter Jackson; George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Eddie Izzard…

The men of Easy Company (of Band of Brothers) are hugely important to me, too. Perhaps most of all.

Favorite place to write?

The lobby of the Ace Hotel in NYC, or in my room with my cat snuggled on my lap; there are a number of other coffee shops I’ve come to love over the years, both in NYC and elsewhere. I like places with lots of activity, a warm atmosphere, good music, and spectacular coffee.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I have four tattoos (and have plans for many more)!

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

It’s amazing how important the little things are. It could be a missed comma here or too much white space there, but every time I flip through my first novel, I see something – a formatting mistake or a typo or a missing word – that pulls me up short. They’re the kinds of mistakes I know would make me put down a novel by another writer, and so I’m extremely aware of them now in my own work, especially since that kind of stuff can make or break me in the submissions process.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I listened to my mentors and readers. When a friend who works at a high profile literary agency told me “You need to work on your voice,” I took it to heart along with the line edits a former professor of mine sent along. Another friend mentioned that the manuscript was overly long and that one or two characters needed some fleshing out. I live for that kind of feedback, and it all makes each draft stronger than the last. Having people who provide unbiased constructive criticism as well as words of encouragement is absolutely invaluable, and I’ve only come as far as I have because of people who do those things for me. I am beyond lucky.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Be patient. Give the manuscript the time it needs to settle before you go around putting it in front of people’s faces. GRAVEL could have easily gone through another one or two rounds of edits before its publication, so now with The War Bound, I’m taking a lot more time to be diligent, to edit thoughtfully and carefully; the worst that can happen is that I start sending out queries later in the year instead of right at the beginning.


I’m also on all major social media channels as “rkambury”

Where can we find your book?

GRAVEL can be purchased online on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu (for the ebook). Links are available on my website! And you can follow me on Twitter to get updates on my progress with The War Bound.

What’s next for you?

I’m gearing up for my first-ever crowdfunding campaign with Pubslush beginning January 1st! The goal is to raise enough money to give GRAVEL a second chance at life, so to speak, with a once-over for line edits, formatting, a new cover, a marketing campaign, and a whole slew of goodies for people who donate (signed copies, free ebook editions, posters, and more)! Be sure to check it out – click “Become a Fan” and be among the first to know when the campaign launches:

I’ll also continue working on rewrites for The War Bound, which is proving to be a rather daunting task considering I’m having to rewrite the first half, more or less. Just have to keep reminding myself that all good writing is rewriting, and each new page is a step in the right direction. Here’s to making some big strides in 2015!

Thank you for a great interview, Rachel. Best of luck with The War Bound and the crowdfunding campaign for Gravel!

What NOT To Do in a Podcast Interview

Today was my first ever Podcast interview with Ally Bishop of My interview airs on September 28, 2014, and I hope you’ll join us. My thanks to Ally for having me on her super show!

As an author, I’ve been interviewed by fellow authors at their blogs, but the idea of this interview going ‘live’, being aired, and the fact that I couldn’t edit out dumb things I might say, kind of messed with my mind a bit this morning. Now, I’ve been told I’m well-spoken, and I enjoy public speaking, but boy, you couldn’t tell any of that on my first two takes today! I’ve listened to many of Ally’s awesome Podcast interviews, so I knew I was in her kind and very capable hands, and needn’t have worried. Ally always puts me at ease, and after a few funny false starts–me getting tongue-tied twice, and our dogs barking in the background–we were off and running. It was a fun conversation/interview once I relaxed.

Of course, we spoke about my debut novel, A Decent Woman, set in 1900 Puerto Rico coming out December 12, 2014, my second novel, Finding Gracia based on my walk on the medieval pilgrimage path of El Camino de Santiago in Spain, and Mistress of Coffee, the sequel to A Decent Woman, which picks up the story in 1928. Among Ally’s great questions were: how I came up with my protagonist, what my writing process is, what research I did, and why I started writing novels after 25 years as an exhibiting artist.

One interview question that sticks out in my mind tonight as I write this blog, and has me laughing, was this question:

‘What is one mistake you’ve made as an author?’

Well, I drew a complete blank. In that moment, I was thinking author/writer, and not about selling books, marketing, and social media, because I’ve certainly made early mistakes in those arenas. But, I couldn’t come up with an actual mistake I’d made in the writing of A Decent Woman beyond finding typos, and a weak sentence here and there in my draft manuscript.

The answer I came up with after the Podcast, of course, was I wish I’d written a very detailed outline of A Decent Woman at the beginning because when my awesome editor, who happens to be the awesome, Ally Bishop, asked me to send her a detailed outline, I immediately saw where the story needed more tension, and where the arc in the story really should have been. That has all been fixed!

And then as a newbie to ‘live’ interviews, I made what is possibly the faux pas for an author – I fumbled when I recited…er, tried to recite my author website. Yes, I did. The ONE thing I needed to state clearly for all to hear and remember, and I messed it up. Don’t ask me what I was thinking! I eventually got the web address out, so here it is in case you don’t catch it in the Podcast interview. All I remember in that moment was not remembering whether or not I’d bought my domain name, and I had. Stage fright!

Ah, the writing life.

** Don’t forget to listen in on September 28 for my Podcast Interview with Ally Bishop at ** You have my permission to giggle at the end when I fumble with my website address!

Thanks so much.


Does This Sound Like You?

Congratulations! You’ve written an awesome novel, and you’re ready to send out queries to agents and publishers! I’m excited for you! Writing a book is no small feat, I applaud you! But…

is your manuscript ready to send out?

You’ve sacrificed a lot to write this book, I know. You’ve lost sleep you might never recover by staying up late plotting, agonizing over the perfect word for that sentence, and you’ve laughed and cried with the characters in your beloved story. Perhaps you gave up your day job to write full time, got rid of cable television, and sold items in your home to purchase more books to accompany the stacks of books against the wall of your writing nook because you must read in order to learn to write well! Your friends and family are a bit irritated with you for declining invitations, and they’re ready to have you back in their lives. Your dog no longer comes when you call him for a walk because you write in silence, and he’s forgotten the sound of your voice. You seem to turn every single conversation with family and friends into a plug for your book because that’s what you eat, drink, dream about, and breathe these days, and you can’t stop it. You no longer accept dates on weekends because you write 24/7, and you pray you meet the person of your dreams at your book launch, book signing, or a writer’s conference because you don’t get out much.

Welcome to the writer’s life. Wait, that’s my life, but the questions remains: Is your manuscript ready to send out?

No doubt you’ve purchased the current Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, and spent hours combing through every page, highlighting agents who represent your genre. All this while editing the heck outta your novel, right? You’ve enlisted family and friends to read your draft manuscript, and they’ve given you the thumbs up. A few intrepid souls have read your manuscript again after you’ve made changes, and you’ve promised them the world and then some for the wonderful gift of reading your book. They’re awesome!

Does this sound like you?

You’ve removed all unnecessary adverbs, and reworded every sentence to get rid of the words, ‘that’ ‘really’ ‘just’ don’t help your story. You own a great dictionary, thesaurus, and books on character traits, writing the perfect novel, editing the perfect novel, and books on creating believable characters and dialogue. Perhaps you’ve hired a professional editor for a concept edit, and you’ve decided to do your own editing. Maybe it’s the other way around, you’ll take care of the concept edit because hey, it’s your story, right? You’ve read your story aloud to get the rhythm right, and you’ve even taped yourself reading your book. You’ve read other books in your genre to see what’s out there, and to make sure your story is unique and interesting. Your dialogue is natural, there is tension on practically every page, and the arc of the story is fabulous! Your manuscript may be ready!

May I offer you a bit of unsolicited advice? Read your manuscript again. Edit again and again until you have the most wonderful piece of literature; a book you’ll be proud of. If you haven’t enlisted the help of an editor, please do. Then, send those queries out! Best wishes!









Author Interview with Jonathan Marcantoni

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It is my great pleasure to welcome author, Jonathan Marcantoni to The Writing Life. I followed Jonathan on Twitter where we discovered a mutual friend–author, Mayra Calvani. I’d read Mayra’s interview with Jonathan a while back; it is indeed a small world. I am excited to read his Latino Crime Noir novel, The Feast of San Sebastian.

Jonathan Marcantoni is co-founder of Aignos Publishing, and author of Communion (with Jean Blasiar), Traveler’s Rest, The Feast of San Sebastian, and the upcoming Kings of 7th Avenue. His works focus on the struggles of Puerto Ricans on and off of the island. He is also the founder of the YouNiversity Project which helps college students learn about the publishing industry and prepare them for careers as professional authors. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife and three daughters.

Welcome, Jonathan!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Latino Crime Noir

Please describe what the story/book is about.

The Feast of San Sebastian is about a middleman, Ilan, who arranges illicit deals for drugs, guns, prostitutes, and anything else his clients need. A former human trafficker, he has distanced himself from that life, but the deals he now makes still haunt his conscience since he knows that he is contributing to the destruction of the country he loves, Puerto Rico. To appease his demons, he turns to drinking and gambling, which land him in debt to San Juan’s biggest crime boss, Antonio. Antonio respects Ilan and approaches him with a chance to free himself without having to pay back another dime: by arranging the assassination of Aurelio Oviedo Narvaez, the corrupt Superintendent of Police. The plot will force Ilan to face his past as a smuggler and confront the contradictions and consequences of his actions, which are a microcosm of the moral and political dilemmas which face all Puerto Ricans.   

How did you come up with the title?

The climax of the book is set during the Calle San Sebastian street festival, which leads up to the religious festival which gives the book its title. I chose that title for the contrast of religious ideology and theory going up against the corrupt reality of everyday life. It emphasizes how far the people in the book have strayed from living honorably and humanely.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

To educate people on and off of the island of these issues that are so often swept under the rug or deferred to someone else to deal with. Many Puerto Ricans are not even aware that human trafficking is such a huge problem, since the victims are most often the poor from rural communities or foreigners. In the case of the book, the victims are Haitians, who are subjected to extreme prejudice on the island. Our modern mentality is to dehumanize in order to defer responsibility for injustice. It is much easier to say that an atrocity is someone else’s problem, but the world is so interconnected, now more than ever, that everyone is guilty to some degree. Human trafficking occurs because we want cheap products and cheap thrills like drugs and prostitution. General society makes human trafficking possible, without the demand there would be no need to exploit people in this manner. So we are all at fault, including myself.  

What is your favorite part of writing?

That moment when you finish a scene and know intrinsically that you hit it out of the park. It does not happen often, so when it does, you savor it.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Working with an editor and performing self-editing. The whole editing process really is painstaking and rarely fun. When your edits are done and you are happy with the book, the suffering pays off, but the editing process, second only to the post-publishing process of marketing and fighting for readers in a sea of indifference (which I consider to be a part of being a writer, but not of writing itself), is the most humbling part of writing, and therefore the most challenging.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

That is too long a list to name everyone, but briefly, Toni Morrison, Hubert Selby Jr., Julio Cortázar, Juan José Saer, Fernando Pessoa, José Saramago, Naguib Mahfouz, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Luis Rafael Sanchez, Miguel de Unamuno, Julia de Burgos, Luis Llorens Torres, Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Rulfo, and Pablo Neruda, to name but a few.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My biggest influences have been Cortázar and Selby Jr. I borrow a lot from both of them, but Saer wrote my favorite book of all time, El Entenado, and his combination of poetry, horror, and philosophy is something I am moving toward. My newest works keep inching more and more toward allegory and spiritual meditation, not in a new agey way, but in a thoughtful way. My books so far have been very much about photo-realism, capturing life as it is. But now I am most interested in the transcendence of human nature and that internal struggle to be more than what society offers.

Favorite place to write?

I do not have the luxury to have a single place to do my creative work. I am a father and husband with a day job who also co-owns a publishing house, I am all over the place. So I write where I can, though I will say that music being present is a necessity, no matter where I am, even if it is just a tune in my head, music has to be present. 

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know? My day job is in the military, which is especially contradicting because I am a Puerto Rican independentista with an ideology similar to the macheteros, but you do what you have to do to make a living, I suppose. Even Albizu Campos served in the military, it is an honorable thing. I do not find it prevents me from believing in and supporting a free Puerto Rican nation. 

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Well, I have had the great opportunity of being an author, editor, editor in chief, and co-owner of a publishing house, so I have experienced publishing at every stage. I can say the biggest thing I have learned is to be patient and to be educated. The more you know about the process, the less of a headache it is. A lot of frustrations writers have come from a sense of entitlement that at times is essential, since you should not be a push over and having a sense of self-worth prevents a lot of people from taking advantage of you, but at other times gives both you and other writers a bad name. A writer must know when to be headstrong and when to be humble. Too many writers think because they do not get the world handed to them on a platter, especially the first time out, that publishers are evil or just want to hurt them and their work. There are legitimately bad publishers, but most of them are the biggest champions of literature and who love books in the sincerest, most profound way possible. But publishers have to always keep an eye on the business side of writing, as much as they want to be all about the art, they cannot do that and stay in business. Many writers resent the business side, but that is essential if you want this to be your profession.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I guess I did not burn the wrong bridges. Had I, I do not think the book would have come out. I met the right people to support this kind of story and cultivated those relationships, and that is perhaps the biggest reason you are interviewing me right now. Had I been like I was at age 19, when I had my first paid writing gig, I doubt I could land a publisher. I had to humble myself and build friendships to have the opportunities afforded me today.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Get educated about the process so that your expectations are realistic. The more measured you can be about the process the better. Clear minds win good deals, and I do not mean that as solely financial. I mean working with the kind of people who fit you and your aesthetic. It may mean you are not making six figures as a writer, but a lot of writers who get the big bonuses end up with books being released that do not reflect their vision, where they had to make big sacrifices in the name of marketability. There is nothing wrong with being marketable, as long as you can live with the sacrifices. Even at a good company, cuts and changes will be made, but when you work with the right people, those changes will not only be less painful, you will find once you do them that you love them. But you need that team, I am a stickler for the team that a publisher gives a writer. That is why so many self-published books are awful, writers take the whole vision thing to an extreme that only feeds their ego. So find that community of people who force you to make the tough decisions because they are right for your story and right for you, and be willing to get your hands dirty promoting the hell out of the book that you and your publisher have put together, that is the only way people will take notice of you. 


YouNiversity Project and Facebook and Twitter.

Where can we find your book?

The Feast of San Sebastian is available in English at and in Spanish as an ebook at Casa del Libro. The book is also available for sale at La Casa Azul Bookstore in New York City and Twig Book Shop in San Antonio, TX.

What’s next for you?

I am currently, along with author Chris Campanioni, heading the YouNiversity Project. We have three amazing students, Yma Johnson and Emma Mayhood from Eastern Michigan University, and Julia Horniacek from Ramapo College, who are embarking on a year-long journey where we will assist them in writing a query letter, building up a web presence on social media, networking with other writers, publishers, agents, graphic artists, and radio personalities to learn about the interconnected world of publishing and entertainment, and workshopping their own writing so that by next year, they can begin seeking out publishers and/or agents.

I also have a new book coming out, Kings of 7th Avenue, which is a surrealistic drama set on the Tampa club scene that explores the effects of misogyny and abuse on individuals and society. I am also working on a Spanish novel for Araña Editorial.

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Thanks for a super interview, Jonathan! It was an honor to have you with us today.