My personal and pen name are one and the same–William Fietzer–one of the lesser-known Williams of American and English literature. I have been writing in one capacity or another since my undergraduate days at the University of Wisconsin though my writing aspirations surfaced in my early teens when I drew the cover for a proposed project imitative of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series of books. Mine, Black Phantom, never got beyond the cover, however, due mostly to an unfamiliarity with the subject matter of thoroughbred racing and mistrust of horses in general.
But in college, I knew I wanted to write fiction after submitting my term papers in screen dialog form. The pull of writing about my own experiences grew stronger after spending 21 months as a noncombatant in the Army where I witnessed numerous forms of man’s inhumanity to man, primarily among the angry draftees and medical misfits who comprised the unit in which I completed basic training and became the inspiration for my first published short story, “Special Training.”
After completing my military service, I returned to academic life with the intention of gaining my Ph.D. in English literature. But studying about generative grammar and Jonathan Swift’s satire, “The Battle of the Books,” proved unfulfilling, to say the least. I wanted to write about my own experiences, not celebrate the writings of others. So, one evening, with another term paper due, I sat down with future wife and talked about the things we wanted to do with our lives. Both of us always had wanted to live on the East coast, but never acted upon our dreams and accused each other of never having the courage to do so. After going back and forth like this, I told her I’d leave school the following morning if she dared to come with me. She agreed, and the next morning she quit her nursing job, I dropped out of graduate school and we left for Boston the next morning.
Looking back on the experience, I don’t feel our decision was the best way to address our wanderlust, but it seemed at the time the only way to break the comfortable, yet boring lives that loomed ahead of us. Neither of us would likely have had the learning experiences we endured: My wife wouldn’t have become a head nurse of an Intensive Care Unit and I wouldn’t have been a taxi driver, proofreader, and ultimately, a professional librarian after serving as a paraprofessional at Boston University.
But my professional library career was still some years in the future. Only after a four-month tour of Europe, a return to the Midwest (Madison, WI again), and the births of our two sons did I consider pursuing a professional library degree. By that time I had written and published an award-winning play, A Question of Benefit, and become the first non-professional to edit the Wisconsin General Library System’s newsletter, “Added Entries.” With the Library School just a block and a half down the street, obtaining a professional degree seemed an easy and logical next step. And while obtaining my masters in library science, I also became editor of the School’s newsletter and published my first academic paper on the hiring practices of academic libraries in the “Journal of Academic Librarianship.”
In the meantime, I continued to write fiction and non-fiction for local publications. Little of my fiction-writing received publication, however, until I wrote about an incident our family experienced riding home from dinner one evening. A man lurched across the intersection in front of us and careened into the hood of our car. I might have dismissed him as another drunk except for the fact that under the hoodie he wore the man had no face, just holes where the eyes and mouth should have been.
After he lurched off, my oldest boy, then about six and warned about talking to strangers in pre-school, asked “Was he a bad man, Daddy?” Assuring both boys that this unfortunate man wasn’t, the experience provoked my first novel, Penal Fires, a narrative about an ex-con found over the stabbed body of a street person who has to clear his name by investigating the deaths of this and three other street people murdered in similar fashion and whose only connecting thread is that they all were patients at the ex-con’s father’s psychiatric research institute.
As this incident suggests, most of my writings stem from kernels taken from my past experiences. My second novel, Metadata Murders, originated out of the discussions and suggestions library and automated information experts contributed to our Metadata and Networked Resources committee when the American Library Association asked us to formulate definitions for these topics for the Association. The concept of identity theft, unheard of at the time but a billion-dollar business now, intrigued me as the basis for my next mystery/thriller. In it, an internet security expert, is directed by an email allegedly from his daughter to a web site where he witnesses a video of what appears to be her murder. Checking up on her, he discovers her phone has been disconnected, her bank accounts withdrawn, and her whereabouts unknown. All of which leads him down the dangerous path of the Dark Web and human trafficking.
Meanwhile, my librarian and academic writing career flourished. I became the cataloger in Western European languages and bibliographer in African studies at the University of Minnesota. As a result, I co-authored several published reference texts on these subjects. But I was floundering for a topic for my next mystery/thriller until my wife and I discussed her increasing involvement in holistic nursing, specifically as a reiki therapist. Disdainful of nursing treatment at a distance, she explained to me how the good energy expelled from her hands had a provable beneficial effect on some patients’ maladies. Still dismissive, I asked her what happens to the bad energy? “Oh, no one talks about that!” she exclaimed. But maybe somebody should, I thought, which became the basis of my latest novel, the visionary thriller, Mission: Soul Rescue, in which a psychologist after learning about shamanic practices from natives in the Amazon, returns to the states to discover that the female patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease he’s asked to examine is his ex-wife with no previous symptoms of the disease. Unable to penetrate her conscious nor subconscious mind, he knows that she is possessed by paranormal forces more powerful than the techniques used by conventional medical practitioners. But who would steal her soul in this way? And for what purpose?
I ramble on at such length to give some idea of the creative process behind my stories. They originate out of some of the simplest, everyday experiences, but serve as the basis for dramatic and, I hope, compelling accounts about the human condition. In the process, I’ve learned a number of things:
1. Creative block is real, but its impact can be reduced or eliminated by additional research, working on other projects, and trusting in your subconscious creativity. Many times a problem that seemed intractable one day, solved itself the next when I sat down before my laptop. Self-trust and a regular writing schedule work wonders to alleviate writer’s block.
2. The biggest mistake I make from time to time is assuming my readers know as much as I do. I’ve done the research, but my readers haven’t. Inserting a concept or incident without providing sufficient background is the quickest way to lose the reader’s trust, or worse, their interest.
3. Titles and covers tend to be collaborative affairs between the author, publisher, and illustrator, if you have one. I supplied the basic theme for the cover of my last book and the illustrator did a fine job of realizing the subconscious dread I wanted to invoke. But she wanted the background to be an underwater shade of green while I wanted a more lurid fuschia tone. Ultimately, we let my readers decide with a vote on my web site: they preferred fuschia over green 2-1.
4. Bad reviews used to bother me a lot, and they still distress me a little bit. But you try your best, knowing you won’t please everybody and that some reviewers are using your work to score points for their readership. They prompt me to treasure the favorable responses that much more.
5. The next four questions address the creative process in general and I’ll answer them this way: the thing I’ve learned over the course of writing and publishing three novels is to trust the process, the effort I put into research, and myself. As mentioned in the discussion about writer’s block above, I’ve learned to trust my discipline and my subconscious in supplying the means to overcome obstacles, whether they’re in the dramaturgy of getting my characters on and off stage, out of a tight situation or finding the right word to describe a situation or feeling. Don’t be afraid to plunge down the rabbit hole or slam into a dead end. Some of my best writing occurred trying to redress or incorporate these serendipitous “mistakes.”
6. As a result of the writing practices cited above, I start out writing to please myself, to see if I can address or solve the problem or incident I’ve encountered. After that, I shape the story to insure the reader understands what’s transpired, not by spoon-feeding or talking down to them, but by giving them sufficient information to understand and appreciate what I’m trying to communicate.
7. Emotions are very underappreciated in terms of the creative process. If I don’t feel passionate about the topic I’m writing, I can’t convey the topic in a meaningful way to the reader. Particularly, if you’re writing about a character in great danger or a time of crisis, you need to convey that emotion to the reader. In that regard, writers are empaths in that they transmit the feelings of their characters through their words to their readers, a transference ineluctably akin to reiki therapy.
To achieve these effects, I often resort to music to set my mood which I hope transfers through my fingers onto the keyboard into the computer screen and ultimately into your eyes, psyche, and values.
8. As far as my future plans are concerned, Mission: Soul Rescue is the first in a series titled “Escape from the Immortals,” the second volume of which is entitled, Mission: Soul Sacrifice. I anticipate writing at least two more volumes in that series. I also have planned a stand-alone based on the death of the Lenin and the fate of the German doctor who treated him
9. The only quirky thing I can add to those mentioned above is that I once was a carnival barker for a summer. Otherwise, I’m a devoted grandfather, golfer, and cat lover, not necessarily in that order.
My web site address is: williamfietzer.com.
Links to my novels can be found on amazon.com
Mission: Soul Rescue: https://www.amazon.com/Mission-Soul-Rescue-Escape-Immortals/dp/0997536381
They’re also available from my publishers, Mission Soul Rescue from Cactus Moon Publications http://www.cactusmoonpublishing.com/mission–soul-rescue.html and the other two from iUniverse: https://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookSearchResults.aspx?Search=William%20Fietzer