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Bill Mesce


Welcome to the Author of the Week Page, where I set up a project to support Indie Authors by interviewing them and helping get their name and books out there! This weeks Author of the Week is Bill Mesce Jr!

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Hello Bill, welcome to your interview! It's taken us long enough to get here! So this is really a heartfelt welcome to you and thanks for being so patient! So can we start with some basics? Tell me about your books.

Hi Elizabeth, thanks and yes, it's taken a while! I've been writing a long time and have many books out, so if everyone is ready, i'll post a list!

Median Gray (fiction, Willow River Press, 2020)

A Screenwriter’s Notebook: Reflections, Analyses, and Chalk Talks on the Craft and Business of Writing for the Movies (nonfiction, Serving House Books, 2020)

Tides (short story collection, Unsolicited Press, 2019)

The Wild Bunch: The American Classic That Changed Westerns Forever (nonfiction, McFarland, 2019)

Four Days to Trinity (fiction, Endeavour Press, 2018)

The Rules of Screenwriting and Why You Should Break Them (nonfiction, McFarland, 2017)

Legacy (fiction, Impress Books, 2017)

No Rule That Isn’t a Dare: How Writers Connect with Readers (essay collection, Serving House Books, 2016)

A Big Hug for Li’l Fox (children’s, Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016)

Idols, Icons, and Illusions: The Movies We Love – and Love to Hate – and the People Who Made Them (essay collection, Stephen F. Austin University, 2015)

A Cold and Distant Place (fiction, Endeavour Press, 2015)

Inside the Rise of HBO: A Personal History of the Company That Transformed Television (nonfiction, McFarland, 2015)

Reel Change: The Changing Nature of Hollywood, Hollywood Movies, and the People Who Go to See Them (essay collection, BearManor Media, 2014)

Precis (short fiction collection, Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2012)

Four Day Shoot (fiction, Hilliard& Harris, 2007)

Overkill: The Rise and Fall of Thriller Cinema (nonfiction, McFarland, 2007)

Artists on the Art of Survival: Observations on Frustration, Perspiration, and Inspiration for the Young Artist (nonfiction, Hamilton Books, 2004)

The Defender (fiction, Bantam, 2003)

Peckinpah’s Women: A Re-Appraisal of the Portrayal of Women in the Period Westerns of Sam Peckinpah (nonfiction, Scarecrow Press, 2001)

Officer of the Court (fiction, Bantam, 2001)

The Advocate (with Steven G. Szilagyi)(fiction, Bantam, 2000)

Thanks Bill, that's a lot of writing you've done! So I'm going to get nosey now, can you tell me a little about yourself?

I live in New Jersey, a town called Linden which is part of that great metropolitan “slurb” that spreads out from Newark, with my family. For going on eleven years, I’ve been a college adjunct instructor which hasn’t allowed me a lot of spare time. I don’t know if you’d call it a hobby, but movies have been one of my passions since I was a kid. I used to play around with photography, sometimes just taking a long drive to nowhere, but, as I said, I haven’t had the time for that kind of thing for a while.

It sounds like you lead a busy life, what got you into writing?

I get asked this a lot and I’ll be damned if I know.

What a wonderful answer! Sorry to interrupt that that's got me laughing. Do carry on.

Okay, I don’t know that it was any one thing. There were always a lot of books in the house when I was growing up, so I started reading adult-level books quite early so I’m sure that was part of it. It’s probably also tied to all that movie-going (I have done some screenwriting). I don’t know; from the time I was maybe in junior high or so, I would write stories, me and my friends would go out with a movie camera and make little skits. It’s always been there, I never gave it much thought.

So is there a main thing you love and hate about writing?

I can’t remember who said it, but one of my favorite quotes about writing is, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” There is a sense of accomplishment afterward, but the actual process – for me, anyway – can be tedious. Somewhere about halfway into a manuscript I can’t wait for it to be done because it increasingly feels like a chore.

The sense of accomplishment is something special when you finish a book. Who is the worst villain you’ve ever written, and why?

I don’t write villains. I have written characters who do bad things, but it’s usually rationalized in their own minds. I find it more interesting – and more realistic – to write people whose judgment has been corrupted by circumstance. I know that there are truly evil people in the world, but I find that most bad things are done by people who don’t think they’re doing bad. I like writing in that grey area where someone does good for a bad reason, and/or does something bad for a good reason.

The grey area interests me too, a man who kills is a murderer, but if he's killing to save a victim, is he really that evil? So many grey areas out there. What is next on your list to write/publish?

I’ve been very fortunate that almost everything I’ve completed to date has been published. I don’t have much left on the shelf. I tried giving romance/mystery a whirl, and I have a manuscript under consideration at a house so I’m waiting to see what happens to that. I also have a noirish manuscript that I’ve been working on off-and-on for quite some time and would love to finally get that done and off my back; it’s sort of a companion piece to Median Gray – same era, same general location, but the other side of the law. Other than that… I often find myself feeling I’ve come to the end, but then some projects I never anticipated come up. That’s happened frequently with my nonfiction work, and I’ve had a few ghost writing gigs; in fact I’m on one now. I’ve never really worked with a plan.

I'm aghast, a college adjunct instructor without a plan! Who is your favourite author, and why?

Oh, man, that’s tough. There’s a lot of authors I like for different reasons, and more than that, there are specific titles that have hung with me all my life, like Ernest K. Gann’s memoir Fate Is the Hunter, and David Eastlake’s Castle Keep, probably my two favorite books. But as for authors, probably Steinbeck, especially the way he evolved over the years, I learned a lot from his work; Hemingway although toward the end he almost sounded like someone parodying Hemingway; Twain; Dickens who was just a great storyteller. Love George V. Higgins for his phenomenal dialogue, I learned a lot from his work. Evan Hunter because of the way he bounced between being Evan Hunter and Ed McBain (loved his cop novels). Ross Macdonald and especially John LeCarre whom, if I hadn’t read, I might not have been able to find the voice for my first three novels. I’m also a huge fan of Richard Russo; I don’t think anybody does sense-of-place better.

Sorry to say, I'm not familiar with any of those authors, apart from Twain, Dickens and Hemmingway. Who encouraged you the most to write?

Thinking back, I’m not sure anybody really did. I’m not saying people weren’t supportive – family, friends – but I can’t recall somebody saying, Yeah, boy, go do this!

Are you as avid a reader as a writer?

I try to be, but over the last few years – partly because of the time-suck of teaching, partly because of finances, I haven’t read as much as I’d like. When I was still working in the private sector, I had a great situation: I had a friend who only read the classics, and another friend who read new stuff. I would bounce back and forth between them borrowing whatever they had so I was always reading something. It turned out to be a great self-education, particularly on the classics side since I’d never had much exposure to that even in college.

I think we can guess but what is your favourite genre?

I’ll read anything that seems interesting, but I do tend to gravitate toward stories with high stakes: thrillers, suspense, etc., but, like I said, if I hear good things about something, I’ll give it a whirl. For instance, I loved Maria Semple’s Where Have You Gone, Bernadette? I loved the epistolary construction of it, the way the tone gradually shifted from something an acidic skewering to something actually quite sweet.

It takes great skill to write like that. Do you listen to music when you write?

When I was single, I did. Only occasionally now. It would usually be music from movies, something appropriate to what I was writing, like it was the soundtrack to whatever I was working on. I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to need it as much now.

If you could interview any famous author who would it be and why?

It would be a toss-up between Richard Russo, with whom I did exchange some correspondence, and John LeCarre, because I’ve taken so many lessons from their work into mine. Each in their own way is probably most relevant to my work.

Now i'm going to get very nosey, tell me a secret that none of your fans know!

I’m laughing at the idea I have fans! I don’t think I have any particular quirks. Maybe because my desk is next to the water heater and it gets kind of warm there that I often write in my underwear.

Bill, of course you have fans, people read your books! Did you notice i didn't comment on the underwear part? And now I did! Tell me what your main character would say about you!

Wow. They’re a rather motley crew, and one or two of them I wouldn’t want to spend much time with. One or two of them probably wouldn’t want to spend much time with me.

Still stuck on underwear.... finally, any words of advice?

I get balky about answering this kind of question because my experience is my experience. I’ve known a couple of writers and it seems like we’ve all come to this along different paths, and you learn that what works for you may be absolutely terrible advice for someone with a different mindset, a different sensibility, a different ambition from you. It’s not for the faint of heart; it’s a path filled with rejection, frustration, and criticism even when things are going your way.

Two things I would offer that do seem to be universally true: Take your writing seriously, but not being a writer. Writers mow the lawn and walk the dog like everybody else. You’ve got a gift but don’t be a pompous ass about it.

If it comes easily to you, if every time you sit at the keyboard you’re having fun, it’s a pleasure, then you’re probably might doing it right. It’s like going to the gym: if you don’t work up a sweat, you didn’t really work out.

Actually I love those two pieces of advice, especially the pompous ass, lol. Thank you for taking the time to sit down and for the wonderful interview. To keep up to date with Bill please find him at,

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/854966.Bill_Mesce_Jr_

https://www.facebook.com/bill.mesce.7

https://twitter.com/MesceJr

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