WELCOME to the first in this year’s author interviews series where my guest today is William D. Prystauk, an award-winning screenwriter, film producer, and teacher in higher education, to mention only a few of his talents. He is the author of “Bloodletting“, a dark, mystery novel, and if you love horror, you should tune into his weekly podcast, “The Last Knock,” on iTunes.
Q: Imagine I’m a new reader. Tell me a little about your books to pique my interest further.
Although I’ve wanted to write a novel for many moons, I indulged in screenwriting for many years to help cement my storytelling. Due to the nature of the film industry, which means few production companies buy scripts, I decided to adapt my award-winning screenplay “Bloodletting” into a novel. The screenplay, which led in the mystery category at the Screenwriters Showcase Screenplay contest in 2006, ultimately won second place overall. I used the screenplay as a glorified outline to shape my hard-boiled crime thriller.
In “Bloodletting”, 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. Now, 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.
If you’re like me and become critical of what you read, please know that I met with a former homicide detective, a private investigator, a New York City court reporter, a police officer, and more experts to make certain “Bloodletting” is accurate. In addition, I visited or lived in all of the places I wrote about. One can say I took “write what you know” seriously!
Q: What motivated you to write in your specific genre?
The story and characters always determine genre for me. However, in the case of “Bloodletting”, the hard-boiled subgenre allowed me to go a little bit deeper and get more “real.” Since the story is base on my experiences in New York’s Greenwich Village, this allowed me to create an honest narrative. Moreover, I have always been compelled by great mysteries, whether it’s Gillian Flynn’s “Sharp Objects” or Frederick Busch’s “Girls”, and as a boy, I’d soak up as much as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew as possible. In general, mysteries keep our minds alert and ablaze – we can’t check our brains at the door – and I wanted “Bloodletting” to be a journey that would entertain as well as keep readers’ minds engaged in the suspense.
Q: If you were not allowed to write horror, what would be your next best pick and why?
I’d have to go with thrillers like “Bloodletting” because conjuring suspense is no easy task. I love horror because it’s such a challenge. After all, creating a scare per page is far from easy. Thrillers, like horrors, allow me to draw out the intrigue while keeping the goings-on mysterious for as long as possible. The only thing a thriller doesn’t offer is the element of the uncanny or supernatural, and I like to write without those factors because real life comes with its own nightmares. The aspect of the thriller allows for a sense of reality most horror lacks, and this means the reader has a better chance of finding the story relatable.
Q: What do you love most about writing, and is there any element you dislike, if so, what?
I love the escapism associated with writing. It’s like being in the shower where no one can get to you. Plus, no matter what I write turns out to be a bit of therapy and leaves me feeling better about the world I live in. Finally, when writing, I create a universe where I control everything that happens: I chose who lives and who dies, if it will or won’t rain, and who gets the boy or girl. In real life, I rarely have that kind of control.
When it comes to dislikes, I sometimes wish I could blink my eyes and complete a troublesome manuscript. But the pitfalls and challenges of storytelling are part of the journey. Therefore, I hunker down and write through the problem. On some occasions, I let the manuscript go for a while and work on something else. Afterwards, I’ll go back to that pesky story and look at it like an editor. This usually provides me with new ideas to see the story through. It’s amazing what a little time off can accomplish. Allowing the manuscript to ferment on its own for a while is often a critical step between a great story and a weak one.
Q: Are your main characters based on people you know or are they imagined?
A little bit of both. Most character backgrounds include a hodgepodge stories from other people I know, though I never use anyone’s physical appearance. However, in “Bloodletting” the character of Penny is sort of a mix between an old friend, musician Siouxsie Sioux, and the one-time drummer for the alternative electronica band Indoor Life (I never got her name).
Usually what I do is daydream of my characters and follow them around in my mind to see where they take me. Eventually, they fall into place with their strengths and weaknesses, goals, loves, and hates. When writing a story, I usually think about them before bed, and that helps me relax and fall asleep. Sometimes, when I’m unconscious, this will unleash other things about the characters I can use in my stories, and I may even dream about them, which opens up even more doors.
Q: What one piece of guidance would you give to a novice or aspiring writer?
Read – a lot. Read inside and outside the genre you love most. This is because reading and writing go hand in hand. In addition, read books on craft and gain a better understanding of your new pursuit because you must know your writing strengths and weaknesses – and every writer has weaknesses regardless of skill level.
Ultimately, you must know good writing from bad, and as a writer, you have to be honest with yourself and know when you are creating something wonderful or something for the trash. I have many failed manuscripts to my credit, and they were all practice pieces that brought me to where I am today as an award-winning writer.
Furthermore, proofread aloud – when you read silently, your brain may fill in missing words or correct errors, but you will usually hear a mistake when reading aloud. And make sure others critique your work. I’m not talking about people who will pat you on the head like daddy or your girlfriend, but people who will give you honest feedback to help you improve your craft. For instance, I joined a professional screenwriter’s group and their expert recommendations made “Bloodletting” a better story, otherwise, it would not have won that award, would not have earned me an agent, and would not have been accepted for publication. But if you can’t handle honest criticism of your writing, it’s time to do something else.
Otherwise, practice your craft – and WRITE ON!
“If Philip Marlowe was reincarnated as a punk rock sadomasochist private eye working the mean streets of New York’s S&M subculture, his name would be Denny Bowie and this would be his story…”
Ken Vose, award-winning screenwriter of Greased Lightning and author
“What rides through this novel is Desire and it’s Desire as we actually know it—not the desire that can be easily placated, bought off with good deeds or bargain basement optimism or forgotten with love or put to sleep with a warm glass of milk. Here, Desire is insistent, hungry, ever present and shadowed by The Reaper.”
Ross Klavan, author of Schmuck and screenwriter of Tigerland
“A thrilling ride through kink and murder, Bloodletting will stay with you long after the last page.”
Patricia D. Eddy, bestselling author of erotic suspense
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ANTHONY DONNELLY blogs about all things writing, inspirational, and motivational. He has published a number of books for children and adults. His first novel 49Q? THE ENIGMA CONTINUES is currently climbing up the Amazon charts, and is available in Kindle or paperback. When not sat at his keyboard writing, he can be found in Costa Rica, North America, or somewhere in Europe motivating and coaching individuals and groups in self-development techniques and life-balance.