Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
William “Bill” Latoria is the author of the groundbreaking sci-fi series, The Blackshade Machine, & the thought-provoking Vella thriller, Uninhibit-ID.
Born and raised just outside of Chicago, Bill survived in Louisiana for almost 20 years before settling comfortably in Massachusetts. There, with the permission of his loving wife, he works on his many projects. These include collecting calories in the form of tasty treats and ciders, remedial wood working, and writing the kind of stories that make people question reality just a bit. (It’s his niche)
Bill’s writing acumen didn’t come from a fancy degree but from years of honing his skill in the most unforgiving and brutal environment an author can immerse themselves in… crafting epic adventures for various role-playing groups, as a Game Master. (Seriously, you want brutally honest feedback? Run a game session at a local game store. Pro Tip: don’t let them see you cry!)
You can connect with Bill in two ways:
How often do you base your characters on real people?
Most of my characters are based off people I’ve met throughout my life. They aren’t exactly them, but I take parts of the personalities I need from the people I know in order to create the characters in my stories. In my opinion, that’s what makes them feel so real and fleshed out. Authors write what they know and I’ve met quite an assortment of colorful people in my time.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Typically, I do a lot of research when I’m creating the outline of my story. When I get to the particular part of the story where the information is required, I’ll look up that information and try to find it from three sources. Two of those sources need to be reliable, and one needs to be VERY sketchy. From there, I mix up the knowledge and craft it into an entertaining part of my story. The pseudo-science in my stories works because its 80% truth, and 20% fabrication/imagination.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Both. I definitely try to be original and create an interesting world that my readers can get immersed in while avoiding the uncanny valley. At the same time, I take the feedback I receive in order to craft the narrative in a way that stays true to what I envisioned, but at the same time, gives the reader the endorphin rush from getting it how they wanted.
Do you read your book reviews? Do they please you or annoy you? Do you think you can learn a lot from reading criticism about your work?
Yes! I crave feedback, whether its positive, negative, or a blatant threat. I think that’s common for any fledgling author. The fact that anyone has taken the time to read my book, and was moved enough by it (good or bad) to leave a review, I find is the highest form of flattery. It pleases me to no end to read how my story affected a reader, and while I obviously enjoy the positive feedback a lot, the negative feedback is even more valuable, even if it’s harder to process occasionally. Knowing how my story effected the reader lets me know if what I wrote is working.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
My bills, my concerns, writers block… oh! You mean what good thing would I sacrifice in order to become a better writer! Honestly, I was asked this question once but there was a twist. The question was asked, “If someone wanted to buy the rights to The Blackshade Machine from you, but the money would allow you to focus on writing solely as your career, would you do that?” The honest answer? Yes, I would sacrifice the rights to my series in order to be able focus 100% on writing. My hope would be that with the lack of distractions my writing would improve as I would be able to dedicate more of my time to the craft. If that didn’t work, I’ve heard the selling of one’s soul occasionally results in improved aptitude in a chosen skill. I might look into that. Lol! (KIDDING!)
What are your favorite books?
I was brought up on the Dragonlance Series by Margret Weis and Tracy Hickman. As far as I’m concerned, these authors are living legends. However, my favorite series ever is The Dark Tower series, written by the man, myth, legend, Steven King. The Dragonlance series solidified my geekiness and love of the mystical, while The Dark Tower series showed me just how powerful and inspirational a dark story can be. I try to write my stories in the median between these two juggernauts.
Who and what ultimately inspired you to become a writer?
110% my wife. I was away on business back in 2009 and I was bored out of my mind. The internet was awful where I was, there was no TV, and my nerd buddies were all back home. I had some books, but I was going to be there for 6+ months and I wasn’t able to bring any of my hobbies with me. About two weeks after I got there I was on the phone with my wife and she encouraged me to write my first novel. I had never done anything like that before and had no idea how to even start. So, with her encouragement and support, and with absolutely nothing better to do, I wrote a 600+ page dark fantasy novel. It was so much fun that I’ve been hooked ever since. The Blackshade Machine and Uninhibit-ID is really all my wife’s fault. Feel free to blame her for my joy and fulfillment. 😊
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The writing itself takes about 4-6 months of actual banging away at a keyboard. Getting the cover created, getting my editor (My wife, she has a BA in English so she’s awesome) to work through the slew of errors in my 1st draft, and the waiting for the copyright to go through make the process take about a full year from start to finish.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
For me, characters are the most important thing your story. If your characters are soulless cardboard cut outs that your reader can’t get invested in, then your plot could rival Tolkien’s and it won’t matter. The reader will put down your story before the plot can ever get going. Characters are the first connection the reader is going to make, without that connection, there’s no gateway to your world, plot, or adventure. Characters are what the reader identifies with, so if your characters aren’t intriguing, then the rest of your story will go unread.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?
Marketing! UGH! I have no idea what I’m doing, what works, and what doesn’t. Also, there are five billion scammers, liars, and vanity predators out there waiting for a naive author like me to stumble across their path, where they can’t wait to pounce. Marketing is my nemesis… and I’m still working on conquering this monster.
What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
I got my start in writing epic adventures without fully realizing what I was doing. I was with a group of about ten guys back in 2001 in South Korea (long story, not super interesting). A new version of D&D had just released. One of the guys picked it up and we spent many nights playing his game. He bought a module, but it wasn’t as fun as it should have been because other people bought the module and so knew what was coming next. This frustrated me so much that one day I decided I was going to run my own adventure, but in order to stop the cheaters, I would create my own campaign, from scratch, and go from there. In a day I wrote over thirty pages, by hand, going through about five pencils. (It was 2001, they still existed back then!) That adventure was so enjoyed that by the end of the we had over 20 players. The only reason it ended was because we left. To this day, when I run into one of the players, we inevitably reminisce about the adventure we had over twenty years ago. It wasn’t until 2009 that I sat down to write my first novel (not The Blackshade Machine) but between 2001 and 2009 I have written quite a few role-playing adventures for my friends and fellow nerds. Some of the campaigns were universally loathed, but most were loved and have created little legends in the community. When I write novels, its my intention to capture that lightning in a bottle. I would love nothing more than to bring a broader audience the kind of fun, adventure, and memories that some of my D&D campaigns achieved. Getting paid to do it would be a pretty nice bonus too. Lol!
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