I am so excited to have been able to interview Bill Walker, the author of Note from An Old Acquaintance. I read an loved his book, so go check out my review, and then come back and enjoy this wonderful interview.
BBB: We'll start with the most important question first. What inspired you to become a writer?
BW: It was really the desire to extend and sustain the joy I experienced from reading. I noticed from an early age that I had a natural affinity for putting words together. It was math I couldn't handle ;-)
BBB: Oh no! I loved math! I actually have a masters. Lucky for us, though, your affinity was words. Now, how old were you when you wrote your first book?
BW: My first book--all 62 pages of it--was a pastiche entitled, The Adventures of Mouser, an episodic story about a boy with an intelligent mouse for a pet. I was nine years old and it was a slavish homage to a favorite book called, Ben and Me. The funny thing about my book is that an old friend borrowed it not long after I finished writing it. He ended up moving away before returning the book. To my great surprise he'd kept it, finally sending it back to me after nearly forty years, complete with its original hand-drawn cover. It was quite a trip down memory lane.
BBB: Wow! That must have been amazing to get the book back after so many years! I'm sure quite a few of us would be interested in reading that!
What kind of books do you most enjoy reading? And, more specifically, do you have a favorite book?
BW: I enjoy all kinds of books. For fiction, it's suspense/thrillers, horror, romance (just not the extremely formulaic type), mystery, alternate history, science fiction, really anything where the premise strikes a chord. I have a hard time enjoying what is commonly called "literary" fiction, however; because in my humble opinion, in a lot of these works, the authors seem to be trying so hard to be vague and trendy. I like books where things happen. For non-fiction, I enjoy biographies and history, especially those dealing with World War II.
As for which is my favorite book, I would have to say Jack Finney's Time and Again, the original time travel mystery/romance. I also think this book greatly influenced Richard Matheson in the writing of his classic, Somewhere in Time, which is a close second favorite of mine.
BBB: I completely agree with your comment about "literary" fiction authors trying to be vague and trendy. Sometimes it really irks me. I've never heard of either of your favorite books, though. I'll have to look into them.
I know some tragic things happen in the beginning of "A Note From An Old Acquaintance." Was this in any way based on real events from your life?
BW: I lived in Boston for nearly fifteen years, so that setting was a natural choice in that the spirit of that great city impressed itself on me at an early age. I needed a setting that spoke to me and would induce a nostalgic frame of mind and mood. To me, Boston is another character in the book. As for the human characters, and the incidents portrayed in the book, those sprang from my imagination. And fortunately, my wife and two sons are healthy and happy, for which I'm very thankful.
BBB: Glad to hear that all of your family is alive and well. :-)
How long did it take you to write "A Note From An Old Acquaintance?"
BW: I started writing it in May of 2005. I had the first draft completed in August of that year. What followed were years of re-examination and re-writing, punctuated by periods where I let it sit so I could try to clear my mind of any pre-conceived notions and biases. Once I felt I'd distanced myself from it long enough, I would come back to it again for a fresh look. I believe both the story and I needed that time to bring out the best in both of us. I truly admire these authors who can crank out high-quality books year after year, and I often wonder how many of them might have "help" in doing that. I do know, for instance, that Danielle Steele hires writers to work on her books. I don't ever want to have to get to that point, if I can help it. I love the process of writing, and sometimes you just can't rush it.
BBB: I agree that sometimes you really can't rush writing. It's nice to hear you so passionate about it. What kind of distractions do you need when you are writing? What kind of distractions do you do your best to avoid?
BW:I avoid ALL distractions when I'm writing, or at least ones I can control. I do take frequent breaks, especially if I'm stuck on a passage and need time to think. When that happens, I'll often simply pick up one of my guitars and play for a bit. That usually helps to break the logjam, and I can continue where I left off.
BBB: You're a musician, too! Very cool. Does this book have a soundtrack - music that you listened to that helped the writing process? Is there a general certain type of music that you listen to when you write?
BW: The book does indeed have a soundtrack, but it's all in my head. Some of the music is actually mentioned in the text, such as Boston's "More Than A Feeling," which to me is the ultimate lament to lost love. If this story were ever to make it to the screen, I believe that song would be perfect music for the beginning title sequence and opening scenes. Of course, affording the rights is another matter. As for listening to music when I write? I never do. When I write, I literally step out of this world and into the one I'm creating, living it and breathing it. Playing music would destroy that illusion completely.
BBB: Is Brian's experience as a writer anything like your experience as a writer? What's the same; what's different?
BW: I think we're similar in the way we write. I like to get up really early, too.
I'm freshest at that point in the day, although, like Brian, I will write any time inspiration strikes. The biggest difference between us is that Brian's career is HUGE. I certainly wouldn't mind having that kind of career, too, but certainly hope that I would possess his equanimity and his humility with regard to dealing with large crowds and the everyday burdens of fame.
BBB: Quick - describe yourself in 5 words!
BW: Honest, passionate, committed, incurable romantic.
BBB: You actually do sound quite a bit like Brian, when you describe yourself that way. What's up next?
BW: I do have a couple of projects on the backburner, but dislike talking about them in the formative stages. Call me superstitious ;-)
BBB: I know a lot of writers don't like to talk about their work before they're done. I completely understand. Now, one last question. At some point in the book, Joanna mentions to Brian that he should try to incorporate a love story into his writing, as the majority of readers are female. Did someone at some point in time give you this same advice? Is that partially how A Note from An Old Acquaintance came to be?
BW: I gleaned that bit of advice from articles I've read in Writer's Digest as well as anecdotally from agents and others in the trade over the years. I decided to give that bit of sage advice to Joanna as a way of showing that she is tuned in to Brian's true wants and needs, as well as his creative spirit. Part of my desire in writing this book was to portray two people who, besides any physical attraction, are also artistically attracted.
BBB: I just want to say a HUGE thanks to Bill for taking the time to answer my questions! It was such a pleasure! He'll be back at Brizmus Blogs Books next week with a guest post, so be sure to check that out! I know I'm looking forward to it!
I'd also like to say a big thanks to Tracee at Pump Up Your Book Promotions for making this tour happen!