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(No Good Deed and Hell Hath No Fury).
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.
Be sure to check out Tori’s review of No Good Deed! Bill is going to spend a little time at OUAC and answer a few questions for us. I hope you enjoy them!
OUAC: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
BB: I’m a pretty boringly average guy, who’s had some very cool experiences, including studying in Ireland, getting an MA in Medieval Studies in London and travelling to Australia.
I’ve been making up stories since I was nine years old and am happy to have found a home writing for Harlequin American Romance. My books are short contemporary, category romances. Of course, my stories focus on the heroes and heroines, but I also have lots of room for kids and quirky small-town characters. I hope my books give readers a heartwarming, emotionally satisfying feeling.
OUAC: What is your favorite genre you like to read?
BB: All of them. Seriously. Aside from the fact that I think it’s important for all writers to read outside their comfort zones, I really enjoy learning new things and experiencing new voices. That said, the books need to be well-written. I don’t care who writes it, as long as it’s well-written. Life is too short (and free time too rare with a new daughter!) to spend on poor or mediocre writing. Obviously, that’s a (un)healthy dose of hubris right there, coming from an unknown indie writer, but there it is.
OUAC: Do you have a favorite book?
BB: A single one? No. The books I keep returning to read, though, are generally classics (or should be), like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, any of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, and Henryk Sienkiewicz’ With Fire and Sword.
OUAC: Edward or Jacob?
BB: I’ll be honest, I haven’t read the books, but from the films I’d have to say Jacob. He does the right thing even when it means losing what he really wants.
OUAC: How did you know you wanted to be a writer?
BB: There wasn’t any particular moment, but several experiences (realizing with the arrival of Algebra that ‘math genius’ was not on my career path, reading Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings, writing my first short story in high school), that slowly coalesced into this dream. Even then, it took several more years before I really buckled down and got serious about it.
OUAC: Do you write any other genres?
BB: All over the map, really. My first book was Witness, a cross-over fantasy that’s the first in the All Prophets Are Liars series (second book due out next summer). I also have a more traditional fantasy novel somewhere in the midst of final revisions, a science fiction novel that really wants to be an epic, a contemporary fantasy novelette that was just published (The Revisionist), plans for a historical fiction novel, a non-fiction book, and (surprise, surprise) a children’s book.
OUAC: What drew you to writing paranormal?
BB: It wasn’t a conscious decision, really, so much as the inability to ignore Kelly once she got into my brain. I was fascinated by the idea of writing a ‘real-life’ character who gets involved in this bizarre activity, and I wanted to see how she would hold up.
OUAC: What advice would you give any aspiring writers?
BB: Decide if this is something you would ever consider doing as a day job, because this job takes immense discipline. Particularly because it usually has to start in the small hours of the morning or night, on lunch breaks, etc.. You only do this if you love it.
Other than that, I can’t overstate the importance of writing and reading something every day (or nearly so). First drafts don’t cut it and if you’re only reading what you write, your writing will never grow.
OUAC: Can you walk us through a normal writing day for you?
BB: Actually, that’s undergone significant flux with the arrival of our daughter, but, generally speaking, I get up anywhere from 4-5 to get an hour or two of work in before the baby wakes and the day starts. Of course, babies have their own schedules…
OUAC: Did you take any classes to be a writer?
BB: Not really. I teach writing as a college English instructor, which has given me (I hope), a solid grounding in mechanics and structure. As for ‘story’ and the more artistic elements, though, I’m still working from an ‘un-tutored’ perspective, though I have a group of beta readers and critics that I respect and who are good at reminding me when I’m going off track.
OUAC: What do you enjoy most about writing?
BB: The discovery. For me, that’s what writing is all about. I don’t feel like I create the characters or the story so much as discover them. This is a qualified statement, though. I do a lot of prep work, from in-depth character sketches to multiple outline revisions (sometimes too many), which is, in a sense, ‘creating’ these characters. All of this is guideline work, though. Once I start writing the story proper, my best days are when I’m listening to the characters’ conversations and observing their actions, even when they’re entirely ‘off-script’ from the outline. This is when things come to life for me and I don’t know any other experience like it.
OUAC: I love reading paranormal books. I love that you used a housewife as a monster slayer. I am curious to know what inspired and motivated you to use a housewife?
BB: That’s easy: I didn’t see any heroes (male or female) that made me feel any real sense of empathy (mind you, I’ve not read everything, by any means and I’m sure I missed some, but at the time I got the idea for NGD, that’s what I felt like).
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely days I wish I was the sexiest, strongest, smartest hero of my own storyline, but that’s just the thing: I’m not, and I know I will never be.
So I wanted to write a hero that could be someone we might see on the street, meet in the supermarket, or sit next to in the office. Why? Because I think normal people make the best heroes. We are all capable of greatness, not because of any innate power or inherited destiny, but because we are capable of giving our all to something we care about. So, when a realistic mother and wife takes on demons, and lives to tell the tale, I feel like that’s someone I can empathize with and cheer on.
OUAC: What inspired and motivated you to write this story line?
BB: Well, it’s an origin story, basically, which can be a lot of fun, but I wanted to play with the expectations there. Just following Kelly’s character through this experience meant many of the clichés were already out the window, which was great, but (without giving away too much) I think that Umber’s arrival, as well as Kelly’s situation at the very end, go the most against type, which was a lot of fun to play with. I knew some of these choices might not work for some readers, but I had started with the intention of being honest with the characters and this was where they lead me.
OUAC: I found the heroine a very strong character. I love the monster she bonds with. Do you think the relationship between the heroine and the monster added to the book?
BB: Yes, though I think it flies in the face of the genre expectations by not being a traditional paranormal relationship and by the timing of the monster’s appearance. The first part was a driving reason behind writing this story, but the second part was actually a difficult thing for me to resolve. In the end, though, I had to let the story have its way.
OUAC: Can you tell us a little bit about the next book in the series?
BB: It’s a darker, more intense!
OUAC: Can you tell us if you are working on anything else now?
BB: Until recently, I was hoping to finish the last revision of a more traditional fantasy for release this summer, but this was not going as planned, so I’ve semi-shelved it for the time being. This wasn’t an easy choice, but it did mean that I’m now working on the third Kelly & Umber book, to be released this winter.
Thank you so much for stopping in Bill! I can’t wait to read your next book!
No Good Deed by Bill Blais available on Kindle!
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(No Good Deed and Hell Hath No Fury). 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.He can also be found, much to his own amazement, here:
Facebook Fan page: AuthorBillBlais