Author Interview with Bill Blais

Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Bill Blais is a writer, web developer and perennial part-time college instructor. His novels include Witness (winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Award for Fantasy) and the first two books in the Kelly & Umber series. Bill graduated from Skidmore College before earning an MA in Medieval Studies from University College London. He lives in Maine with his wife and daughter.

Interview Time

RBTL: Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

Bill Blais: Well, I live in Maine with my wife and our new baby daughter, and though I have a Masters in Medieval Studies, I've spent most of my professional life designing web pages, coding databases, and torturing college students in various English courses. In between, I've written several novels and short stories and I keep getting ideas for more. It's a good, good life.

RBTL: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting published?

Bill Blais: The real challenge was getting my own psyche past the indoctrinated stigma of self-publishing. For years, I followed the traditional publishing route and I had some bites, and even one extremely promising lead with a major publisher, but nothing ever came of any of it. The rejections were never easy, but I was so ingrained with the attitude that self-publishing automatically meant that the work wasn't good enough, that I kept turning away from that option.

Finally, when I realized the rejections weren't stopping me from writing, I took a long, hard look at both self-publishing and my own insecurities. The environment has already matured quite a lot in its first few years and after much internal struggling (and with the amazing support of my wife), I decided to jump headlong into self-publishing and I'm very happy with how things are going.

RBTL: Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?

Bill Blais: Well, *takes deep breath*, the finalized outline for Kelly & Umber #3 (currently titled The Road To Hell) is sitting on my desk and I expect the book to be available this winter, but right now I'm finishing up a more traditional fantasy novel (Another Night at the End of the World), which should be available in a month or so, and the next book in my All Prophets Are Liars series will follow that sometime next summer, plus a science fiction novel that wants to go back to being an epic is screaming at me from the shelf, and there are a handful of short stories in various stages of development/out to markets.

RBTL: If someone wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?

Bill Blais: The Luckiest Man in the World.

RBTL: Which character did you enjoy writing the most? Least?

Bill Blais: Kelly was definitely the most fun, as well as being the most instructive. I learned a lot about paying attention and letting characters be themselves, rather than pushing my own agenda upon them, and I really enjoyed getting to know her. Even more cool is the fact that I'm still excited to see what comes next. She still has plenty of surprises for me, I'm sure, and for readers, too, I hope.
I don't know about a least favorite character. Even the unpleasant characters were enjoyable. Okay, that sounds a little weird, but it's true. Even when I was writing characters I would never associate with, there was a perverse enjoyment in working with them. Read into that what you will . . .

RBTL: What are some of your writing rituals and/or quirks?

Bill Blais: Music and tea are my most prominent writing rituals. I generally find music that strikes me in a particular way and listen to it on loop for days on ends as I write. Sometimes, this is only a single song (Marc Broussard's Home, for instance, is a common go-to for climactic scenes), so it's a good thing I do most of my writing in the room above the garage.

The only other thing I can think of might be called a quirk, especially in this day and age, but it's just what works for me: I hand-write every first draft in pencil, and my edits are all handwritten, too.
Anna: How did you get into writing in this genre?
Bill Blais: I've always been a fantasy-kid, but usually the more traditional style. My first novel, Witness, was predominantly traditional, though it had a bit of cross-pollination. I wasn't actually thinking about going into urban fantasy, per se, until the idea for No Good Deed punched me in the head and refused to go away until I wrote it. I am so glad I did.

RBTL: Who are some of your favorite authors?

Bill Blais: Most of my favorites are dead (again, read into that what you will), but they include Patrick O'Brian (the wonderful Aubrey & Maturin series), Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice is very nearly perfection), Henryk Sienkiewicz (the breathtaking With Fire and Sword and others) and Charles Dickens.

RBTL: Do you feel that any of your favorite authors have inspired your writing style?

Bill Blais: Without question (for better and for worse). I love language and these authors are some of the masters. I don't claim to be among them, by any means, but while they are always models I strive for, they are, first and foremost, never disappointing to pick up and read, time and time again. The 'for worse' part comes from the fact that my love for writing means I regularly over-indulge in my own work. Thankfully, I can revise.

RBTL: Most challenging or rewarding part of writing?

Bill Blais: The most challenging thing for me, without question, is starting a book. While I've written several at this point, and my process has gotten better each time, I still balk at the beginning. I can be a fast writer but my revisions are rollercoaster rides that also involve weighing the value/impact/sound of each word, phrase and sentence. As a result, every new book means devoting months of my life to it, and I always need a bit of cajoling to finally put pencil to page. Once I start, though, watch out.
The most rewarding part is revising. Rollercoaster that it is, I wouldn't trade it. Credit my English teacher alter ego, but I genuinely love the act of crafting the language, trimming down and building up the raw work into a final, polished piece. Even throwing away the parts I really love but which have to go is a powerful, inspiring thing.

RBTL: Can you share with us your typical writing day? Is there anything you have to have while writing?

Bill Blais: Well, having a day-job and a new baby means a typical writing day is actually not a full day, but using the time that's available. Since I'm a morning person (I tried to pull all-nighters in college, but I was utterly useless as a result), I try to get up at 4:30 or 5 and put in an hour or two before starting the day.
I try not to need anything when I write, to make sure I can write anytime and anywhere without giving myself an excuse for not doing it, but I confess I do like my tea and biscuits (or cookies or coffee cake or slice of banana bread or Pop Tart or . . . Gee, where does Kelly get her love of food?).

RBTL: Anything you would like to share with your readers or aspiring writers?

Bill Blais: For readers, I can only hope folks enjoy the books, and to thank everyone who has given them a try.
For aspiring writers: Write. And Read. A lot. If you do the work, and enjoy doing the work, I believe the rest will come.

Just For Fun

PC or Mac? 

PC, but always looking over the fence…

Favorite Quote?

Write something new every day and read something new every day.

Favorite Place to Travel? 

Ireland (but as of 15 years ago)

Coffee or Tea? 

Tea (Irish breakfast, Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Rooibos, Green, White, Fruit…). Can't stand coffee. I hate that the blends can smell so great and taste so . . . not great.

Favorite Snack?


E~book or Print?

Print. It's how I fell in love with words. Ebooks are obviously great, too, but for me, print is still preferred (sorry, trees).


Bill Blais said...

Thanks for the great questions, Anna, and for being part of the tour!

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I would love to hear your thoughts. :) HAPPY READING !!!!