Interview with Bill Long, Author of “Twist”

TwistWhat is your book about?

My novel Twist is a police-procedural thriller about three criminal factions dealing with narcotic investigation ultimately brought together by character Shawna Quinn, a twenty-three year-old rookie taken from the Sacramento Sheriff’s Academy. It happens in 1985, when Quinn is assigned to work undercover in a local high school. Things get complicated by Quinn’s love relationship with a narcotic detective, then even more complex when she stumbles upon a major drug operation directed in part by a local attorney, who happens to be the father of a popular high-school student who has become infatuated with her.

Did you do any research for the book?

Research for Twist was minimal. Most of it is a page from my personal past. The characters are composites of people I knew. Many of the events mentioned really happened, though there was some changing and sculpting for dramatic effect. But the danger involved in the enforcement of narcotic laws is all too real and I still get chills sometimes when I think about it. I often wonder how I managed to come through it relatively unscarred.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I was inspired to write this story because I cannot forget about the enormity of the drug problem facing not only America, but the entire world. I also wanted people to know what it’s like for narcotic investigators who investigate so-called victimless crime. Sure, it’s dangerous. All police work is dangerous. But narcotic investigation is especially difficult and dangerous because there is no apparent victim. Not until you get into it do you realize that we are all victims, drug-users and non-drug users alike.

How long did it take you to write your book?

It took me about six months to write Twist. The first time. It took me another two and a-half years to rewrite it six more times.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

The main challenge I had in writing Twist was caring too much about what others might think. The others I speak of are my professional colleagues in law enforcement. When I was still a working lawman, I tried to write this story and many others about the people in law enforcement. I couldn’t do it. I was too close to it. Now, many years later, I don’t worry too much about what others think. I know I cannot get everything absolutely correct and I am long past trying to please everyone I ever knew. I simply try my best and let it go at that.

Is there anything you have learned while writing this book?

The greatest lesson I’ve learned about writing is to never give up. Never. It is true that the more you do something the better you do it. It could perhaps be compared with the game of golf. No matter how good of a golfer you are, you will never shoot eighteen on an eighteen-hole course. All you can do is try.

What kind of stories do you like to read?

The stories I like to read are well-written stories of adventure. I want to go somewhere I’ve never been. Though I realize exposition and narration are necessary, I don’t want to get bogged down with too much of either. I prefer it be slipped into the story in a subtle manner between action and emotion. If it is a story about hunting in Africa, I want to see the hunter draw down on a charging rhino. I want to feel what the hunter feels at that moment he pulls the trigger on his Remington 700 chambered in 375 H & H. In short, I want to live it.

Do your characters ever take on a life of their own?

The characters in my stories do take on a life of their own. I try to do my writing late at night, when I am less likely to be distracted. It takes me a little while to get into the minds of my characters, but once I do I know they will respond to the situation as their motivation dictates. Sometimes I feel as if I am simply recording what is going on rather than creating it.

What one book written by someone else to you wish you had written?

One book I wish I could have written is The Blue Knight by Joseph Wambaugh. I did have a character in mind for that kind of a story, even before Wambaugh wrote it. But at the time I was still too close to police work. I couldn’t write it then. I doubt I could write it now. Even If I could I wouldn’t. The story has already been told.

What are you currently working on?

The book I am working on right now is Twist Again, a sequel to Twist. I am about 25,000 words into it and I must admit I am having the usual problems with plot. This story begins where Twist ended, with Shawna and what happens to her now that……oops, I almost gave it way.

How do you come up with the names of your characters?

I create the names of my characters, for the most part. I try to keep them in line with the character’s traits. Rick Mason in Twist, for example. He’s tough but he’s smooth. His first name is common and short and ends with a K. His last name is smoother, more indicative of someone who can think as well as be fast acting. Or sometimes I use names in line with the ancestry of the character. If the character is Hispanic, it is probably more believable to name him Martinez than Smith or Jones. Another thing, sometimes hard to do, is to keep the name in sync with the time period. Names such as Mabel or Opal aren’t real popular these days, but if the story is set a hundred years ago or more, they might work just fine.

How do you deal with the problem of exposition?

Dealing with background exposition is a tough one for me. Of course, it is absolutely necessary. I think you have to be careful here because when you are writing exposition your story is usually not going anywhere. It is so easy to deceive yourself, thinking your story is just whipping right along and you’re getting many words down on paper. That may be true, but it is more likely all you’re doing is putting the reader to sleep. You can never forget about the reader. You must never forget that the first unwritten rule is to communicate. Is the information you are sending being received by the reader as you intended? Of course, you can never be sure, but you cannot forget what you are trying to do. Also, is it entertaining? Keep rewriting it until it is. The expositional background should be stated in the shortest use of words possible in an entertaining way. Whew! Easier said than done.

If you could have lunch with anyone, alive or dead, who would that person be?

If I could have lunch with one person, that person would be the late Ernest Hemmingway. I’d buy him a couple of drinks, too. In fact, if I could get him to talk about his writing and life experiences and how they shaped and influenced his stories, I’d buy him all the drinks he wanted.

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

I have quite a few other stories in mind, many of which exist now in my computer in the form of short stories. All of them could be made into novels. Two that intrigue me the most right now are from my younger days when I was in the Submarine Service, first being assigned to a submarine and then later to a submarine rescue vessel. I’m almost seventy-four, so I’m afraid I am not going to be around long enough to tell all the stories I would like to tell.

Do you have a goal for your stories?

The goal of my stories is to leave the reader wanting more. I want him or her to question why the story had to end. And why did it have to end it that way that it did?. As somebody famous once said, perhaps Al Jolsen or Eddie Cantor, “Always leave them wanting more.”

Where can people learn more about Twist?

From Second Wind Publishing:!product/prd15/3646382061/twist

Steven Hart, Author of “We All Fall Down” (Interview)

What is your book about?

“We All Fall Down” is a police procedural, a crime novel set in a fading New Jersey town. The heroine, Karen McCarthy, is the town’s first woman cop. When the police chief and his wife are murdered in their home, Karen bungles the capture of the prime suspect. Her efforts to run him down, and to prove she has the mettle to be a cop, brings her face to face with the dug-in corruption within the force.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

During my years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I sometimes encountered women cops and found them to be nothing like their counterparts in film and television. In one of my towns, the government of a pretty well-off and forward-looking community had to settle with a woman cop who had been viciously harassed by the male officers on the force.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I don’t know about “myself.” Certainly bits of my experiences and my observations turn up in all the characters.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite?

Karen McCarthy is more than a bit of a misfit, an unattractive woman of the sort men tend to ignore — except she has a job that makes her impossible to ignore. She has a lot of buried rage to deal with, and a moral code.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

To be involved in a long-term creative project, to bring it to completion and see that you have willed something into existence using nothing but your own talent and determination, carries enormous personal benefits regardless of what happens next.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I go for realism in my writing, and my newspaper background has aided me immeasurably in seeing how the world works.

What’s your writing schedule like?

I’m a morning man. I aim for a page a day at minimum.

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

Getting vertical, mostly. And coffee. Oh yes — coffee.

Do your characters ever take on a life of their own?

I know what you’re getting at, but I wouldn’t exactly put it that way. It’s more like everything goes stale and dead if I’ve established a character’s personality and motivation, then try to make that character do something out of step with those qualities. That’s when I try to shake up the plot and see how things develop.

Have you written any other books?

Yes. I have a nonfiction book out called “The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America’s First Superhighway.”

How do you deal with exposition give readers the background information they need?

Do it on the run whenever possible. Your character’s actions and reactions should do as much of the heavy lifting as possible.

Do you keep a pen and notepad on your bedside table?

No. I don’t keep a journal, either. It’s a cool idea, but it’s not how I roll.

Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?

P.D. James, a late bloomer as a writer, explained in a “60 Minutes” profile that she became a serious writer when she realized that nothing was going to happen unless she made it happen, and that she would have to change things in her life to accomplish that. It could be as simple as getting up an hour earlier in order to have uncluttered creative time. But it’s all on you.

What one word describes how you feel when you write?


Where can people learn more about your books?

Come visit my blog or my Amazon author page: