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.
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.
About the Author
I’m an award-winning screenwriter, film producer, and teacher in higher education, as well as a published poet and essayist. My novel, BLOODLETTING, has been adapted from my script of the same name, which won Second Place at the Screenwriters Showcase Screenplay Contest in 2006, and was the leading script in the mystery category. I have a BA in History from Rutgers, an MA in English from Slippery Rock, and an MFA from Wilkes. I am an Assistant Professor of English at Kutztown University, where I teach business writing, including public relations. (If you love horror, you can find my weekly podcast, THE LAST KNOCK, on iTunes.)
Q&A with William Prystauk
When I was young, I was inspired to write because I was more of an introvert and was prone to bullying. Since I lived in my own world (though I never had an imaginary friend), writing stories was my connection to the world, and revolved around my daydreams, which ranged from science fiction to action/adventure. Although I became much more confident and sociable in my late teens, I still loved writing because writing became therapeutic and cathartic. As an adult, it seems that the only thing I have control over are my thoughts, and I don’t have to answer to my boss, worry about money, or hanging onto my house. Writing is freedom. Therefore, I’m inspired to dive into my mind again to write escapist yet what I hope is compelling and thematic fair for readers who enjoy the thriller, horror, and science fiction genres expressed in dramatic fashion.
However, please don’t think I live in my own head and nothing more. I can be quite the extrovert, and I love to engage with people from all walks of life. If I didn’t do this, then readers would not be able to connect with my writing since it would be unreal and distant. I guess this is a safe way of saying that I’m inspired by everything around me, though I must admit I have a special love for history and science. Regardless, since I have a strong inclination towards the alternative elements in life, from art to music and more, I enjoy incorporating them into my writing and presenting them as the norm for the universes I create.
Can you tell us about your latest book and your amazing characters?
In my crime thriller, “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. 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.
The story showcases an array of “regular” and alternative characters from different orientations and ethnicities that still thrive in the Bohemian environment of Greenwich Village. Collectively, the characters bring a stronger and more honest New York based narrative to the reader.
Denny Bowie may be a punk rocker, but he has a brain. Unlike other hard-boiled crime thrillers, he’s not a veteran or a former cop, and has no genuine connections to law enforcement, yet he loves puzzles and dives into the mystery. His girlfriend, Penny, is tough as nails, but passionate and loving. Erin Marr isn’t just a transvestite dancer, but has a thing for numbers, finding answers in the fog, and driving muscles cars at excessive speeds without so much as a care. As for the rest, I’ll leave them for readers to discover.
However, all of the women in the book have a strong spine and can handle themselves well – most often better than any man. My mother was a strong woman who had survived the tough streets of Newark, New Jersey as well as the stigma of being poor. Due to her example, I was never a fan of weak women in fiction or film, even at a young age, and I have no intention of presenting that ludicrous “fair sex” ideology in any of my writing.
I hope readers find the array of characters refreshing as well as compelling.
Do you write from an outline or do you let the story take you where it wants to go?
I learned a long time ago that simply sitting down to write leads to roadblocks, nightmares, and unfinished manuscripts. However, I find that extensive outlines can be too restrictive and ultimately lead to the same negative results. For “Bloodletting” the original screenplay served as what I call a “glorified outline” for the book as if I was finally getting the chance to color in the numbers and bring the story to life in a bigger and better way.
Before I write a screenplay, story, or novel, I usually take some notes and have a rough idea of the structure in a mini-outline that might not even take up a third of a page. I keep it loose so I can let my characters stretch, move, and create their own paths. This usually brings some great surprises to the story.
Do you have any good marketing tips for authors trying to spread the word about their book?
Have a fan base in place before you market your novel. I’ve seen many writers create a Twitter account at around the same time their novel is coming out, and this is a big mistake. You can’t sell books at the same time you are trying to build a social media platform.
Take the time to study the top twenty social media entities available to you, and then choose two to begin your marketing journey. In fact, do this about six months to a year before your book comes out. This way, when your work is released, you’ll have an audience to sell to.
As of this writing, my Twitter account has 14,700+ followers and gains nearly 1,000 new followers a week. On Twitter, although I promote my podcast, the bulk of my time is spent in the promotion of other writers, poets, and filmmakers, which was my plan from the beginning – and it’s a great feeling to help others bring their art to fruition. Yes, I will ultimately promote my novel on Twitter, but I will not beat people over the head with any crazed marketing. All too often, I see many authors retweeting their own material like mad, while others beg, and this is as sad as it is embarrassing. Don’t be that person! Establish a following, help others, and be subtle if not matter of fact. If people respect and admire you, and if they can’t afford your book, they will at least help you with sharing and retweeting, or inviting you to appear on their blog or podcast. The great thing is that you will meet new, wonderful, and creative people – and you never know where they’ll take you. So be kind and network, and never use or abuse people.
If you were not a writer what do you think you'd be doing for a living?
Wow. Although I teach writing for a living, I most likely would have ended up in a different field. That means I would have pursued my masters in history, or maybe even archaeology. I might have even gone for my PhD in lieu of my MFA. (Originally, I was a geology major but didn’t have the math skills to continue with the major. Sigh. But in an alternate universe, who knows?)
What books have most influenced your life?
In my adult life, the one novel that made my mind explode due to its depth and perpetual imagery was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary miracle, “The Great Gatsby”, which single-handedly inspired me to pursue my masters in English. I learned the art of the seamless transition from Muriel Spark’s “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”, and thanks to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he proved in “One Hundred Years of Solitude” that each page of a book could harbor its own story. The honest, shoot-from-the-hip style of Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” showed me that narratives could be honest, visceral, and bold, yet still shine within the realm of literature, while the great anti-book, due to its haphazard structure, “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs, taught me how to write outside the lines and still deliver a worthwhile tale. While writing “Bloodletting” I came across Matthew Stokoe’s brutally honest “High Life” as well as Ellen Miller’s phenomenal “Like Being Killed”, and both helped me realize that the darker sides of writing didn’t need to remain hidden from the reader, but helped create a more sincere and adult experience.
Do you have any words of wisdom for any new or aspiring writers?
Read – a lot. Read new and old works. Read inside and outside the genres you love, because reading and writing go hand in hand. Just make certain you know good writing from bad before you’re led astray.
Writers must write to practice craft because every writer must know when they are writing something worthwhile and not garbage. I have a couple of bankers’ boxes and computer folders filled with failed attempts at poems, screenplays, short stories, and novels. It’s all part of the process, and I’ve learned from every failed attempt.
All writers must know two important factors: their strengths and weaknesses as a writer. After all, writing is foreign and alien, and is not an innate characteristic. Writing is a human based creation, and we must learn this craft from other informed people – which means we will spend a lifetime pursuing something we can never really master.
If you have a hard time coping with constructive criticism and/or rejection, it’s time to abandon writing altogether unless you like to write only for yourself as an escapist hobby, but if you want to be published, you have to embrace criticism. Critiques from others will definitely make you a better writer in the long run – trust me.
After you write, proofread aloud before you revise. Nothing works better. Studies have shown that proofreading silently allows the brain to fill in missing words and correct minor errors, but when we hear the story aloud, we are more apt to catch those mistakes. Thanks to proofreading aloud, I captured an important plot hole in “Bloodletting” when I had not recognized it during many previous silent readings.
Get outside readers who you trust to give you an honest critique – save the pat on the head for your mommy and daddy, or significant other. Then revise again.
When the manuscript is the best you think it can be, hire a professional editor to make certain your narrative works from concept to individual words. The editor is that important team member who can see the strengths and flaws in a tale better than you ever will because the editor’s entire purpose is to make certain your story shines. Do not skip this step – ever. I chose Gerald Baude because he edited a “Bloodletting” chapter as a sample, and the first thing I noticed was that he zeroed in on my writing weaknesses. How could I pass up Gerald and his eagle-eye expertise?
Any new or exciting projects coming up that we can look forward to seeing from you?
The short crime thriller I directed, CASE #5930 will be ready for festivals in early 2015. In addition, I am working on two short horror stories for the “Spirited Tales” anthology from AA Publishing for 2015 as well as a horror novella, and the revision of a feature screenplay.
Finally, I am finishing a paranormal crime thriller called “The City of Bloody Love: Red Agenda”, which is based on my award winning script “Red Agenda.” The story involves detective Bobby Keagan and his Philadelphia Police Department’s Paranormal Crimes Unit as they work to bring down a vampire terrorist organization out to kill the president. This will be the first in my “The City of Bloody Love” series.
How can my readers connect with you or learn more about your books?
They can connect with me on Twitter @crashpalace, or visit my website at www.crashpalaceproductions.com. They can also follow me on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/William-D.-Prystauk/e/B00RDH8PUA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419830391&sr=8-1 and on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23365977-bloodletting. I love speaking with fellow writers and readers because I always learn so much. I hope they take the time to say hello!
Merrie, thank you so very much for having me. I am truly grateful as well as honored.