An Interview With Author Will Entrekin
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to get to know some truly amazing and talented authors who have taught me a lot and who have ultimately made me a better writer. I believe author Will Entrekin is another one that I’ll be adding to that list.
Will and I have been chatting a little bit over the past couple of weeks about his novels, Meets Girl and The Prodigal Hour. We’ve also discussed writing and certain methods we use when crafting a story.
During our messages back and forth I mentioned I would love to interview him if he was interested. He was. So I, in typical Nikki style, agonized over the questions to ask him. I finally put together a list of questions I liked and sent them off. His answers are below. Enjoy!
Will: I’m from Jersey. I was born and raised in a small town about twenty minutes away from Philadelphia, and then I went to college in Jersey City, where I subsequently lived while I worked in Manhattan. So I basically lived in New Jersey until I was 28.
Will: Sure. Love to. They’re ludicrously different beasts that probably would have required a pen name were I with a corporation.
The Prodigal Hour is the book I completed first, at USC, where I worked on it as my thesis with the help of Irvin Kershner and Sid Stebel. It’s a big, mainstream time-travel adventure story that’s set (mostly) on October 31, 2001. It’s about a young guy named Chance Sowin, who moves back home after September 11, hoping to regroup, collect himself, get his head together (“Some damned thing,” as I think he puts it at one point), but whose father—who accidentally discovered a way to time travel—is murdered. So here’s this guy trying to cope with grief and tragedy on several different levels, who suddenly finds himself in possession of a time machine.
Meets Girl, on the other hand, is a smaller book. I wrote after I’d finished The Prodigal Hour, and it’s about a young unnamed narrator who lives and writes in Manhattan, and who falls in love with a girl who doesn’t love him in return. About midway through, he meets a guy named Angus Silver, and it basically becomes a contemporary retelling of Faust except way more meta. To me, I sort of think of it as The Colbert Report of debut literary novels.
Nikki: I have to say yet again that I’m psyched to read The Prodigal Hour, as I’m sure others are, too. For those who are interested, when will it be available for purchase? How will you be publishing it?
Will: In several ways. It’ll be live on Kindle on July 1st, and I’ll post the first chapter that day, and then the second on July 4th, with the basic hope of outright owning July 4th weekend—appropriate, I feel, for an independent author. I plan to continue to serialize the book through to the end of its second act—roughly thirty chapters.
Nikki: What comes next? Are you working on something new?
Will: Pretty much always. Personally, I’ve got several projects in process, one of which is related to The Prodigal Hour, because really, how does one accidentally discover a way to time travel? Also, some short stories and a non-fiction project. I’m hoping to publish fairly regularly until my next big novel.
Professionally, I’m opening the press I founded, Exciting Press, to other authors. I worked with a colleague to publish a short story collection over the holidays, and it came off really successfully. I’d like to work with other authors to continue that. I met a terrific editor at USC, and I’m about to finish my MBA in marketing, so it feels like a natural progression. I’m about to incorporate, because you sort of have to, legally and all, but we’re going to be more of a service, I hope. We’ll have author and reader centric practices in place, and we’re going to move away from this absolutely failing business model that has basically killed the corporate and retail bookselling industries in favor of one that makes sense.
Will: Lately, I’ve been trying to be more grateful for the reward that comes from good work, and not worrying about arbitrary indicators that probably don’t even really correlate to success. Over the holidays, the short story collection I mentioned ran up the Amazon rankings, and it was great to become a bestselling author (and go higher than James Franco), but really, the best part of the experience was working with someone I respected to produce something we were both proud of.
Those two stories, in fact, were part of it. I wrote two—“Blues’n How to Play’em” and “Struck by the Light of the Son”—and both were among the best things I’d ever written. I was rarely successful with short stories, and I struggled with “Blues” for years, but I still think there was something in finishing those right that was more rewarding than anything else ever.
Same with The Prodigal Hour. I’m obviously hoping it does well, and has a successful launch, and all those things, but really, I wrote a book I’m damned proud of, and I think it’s awesome. Doing justice to a story was about as rewarding as life ever gets.
Nikki: What has been your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
Will: Still struggling with that idea of being grateful for the work and finding reward from writing well. For a long while, I became very bitter about the state of the publishing industry, but I’m working hard to put those feelings aside by putting my best stories forward.
Nikki: We all have our own writing process. I use to outline stories, but now I tend to shoot from the hip. What is yours? Do you outline or just start writing and see what unfolds?
Will: It tends to vary. There’s usually a lot of percolation. I tend to outline (even if only in my head) longer work. I remember I had a chapter outline of The Prodigal Hour when I was finishing its current draft. I worked closely with Sid Stebel on novels and Syd Field on screenwriting while I was at USC, and both men had somewhat similar ideas in terms of stories, dramatic structures, conflicts, beats, all those things that make stories more exciting. I took a lot from those classes. I find, for example, that I tend to think in either three-act or five-act structure for anything longer than 50k words (in fact, I think those are the only structures there are. Unless you don’t have structure, and in which case, well, there are probably bigger issues to worry about).
Anyway, I tend to have some sense of where things are going, either by instinct or outline, and then method write the scenes. One big thing is awareness of what characters want/need. Follow that, and you’re golden. Can’t go wrong.
Nikki: I always ask this during any interview that I do with a fellow author. What advice do you have for those looking to follow in your footsteps? What advice do you give to your students?
Will: I used to say my advice was to give up, because if you can, you should, and if you can’t, you need to find your own way, anyway.
For my students, though? A line from The Prodigal Hour: “You need to stop worrying about some grades on a transcript and start writing something you believe in.”
Nikki: Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten?
Will: Good question. Especially since I’m finishing that MBA and wondering myself. Likely independent. Hopefully a dozen or so books (novels, stories, poems) on Kindle. A great job.
Nikki: And last but not least, I was recently asked in an interview to provide five unique facts about myself. I thought it was fun, so I’m going to ask you the same thing. Please provide five unique facts about you.
Will: I seem to be just ahead of trends. I got two Japanese character tattoos in 2000, right before getting them became way more popular. I bought a Kmart fedora in 2005, right before everyone started wearing them again. Just recently, I started wearing bow ties. Which are, apparently, making a comeback. I know, right? Color me surprised.
My Eagle scout service project involved publishing.
I swam the individual medley in high school.
That’s three, but that first one was long, so maybe that counts? I don’t know. There are, what, 8 billion people here? Honestly, the only five unique things about me are the five books on my Amazon page.
Nikki: Thank you so much, Will, for stopping by The Evolution of Nikki. Before you go, please let everyone know where they can purchase your work and how they can find out more information about you.
Will: No problem! Thanks for having me!
The easiest spot is my site: willentrekin.com. That’s where I’ll be posting chapters, and it connects to my Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as my Amazon author page, so that’s pretty convenient.
That Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.com/Will-Entrekin/e/B004JPDYBY