Please welcome William Steven Frank to my blog. Shall we Get started?
1. Please introduce yourself to those reading this blog post.
Hello! My name is William Steven Frank. I am grateful to have this opportunity. I am a middle school teacher, and an author when I can find time! I have self-published one book using Xulon Press. Its available in all of the usual places. I am married, with one son, and 2 cats.
2. Has writing always been part of your life and when did you “know” that it was time to start writing your first book?
I have always enjoyed writing. I wrote a short story, and published it using Amazon’s self-publishing program. When I received my first royalty payment, I was astounded. Not only because I had done zero marketing for it, but it seemed incredible to me that people would pay to read what I wrote!
I knew it was time to start writing my first full-length book back in 2015. At the time, I was unemployed, so while I was seeking employment, I decided to ‘create a job for myself’. I knew I had some writing skills, so I started going to my local library everyday with my laptop with the goal of writing my first book. I came up with the general concept, did extensive research, and spent that summer writing Vianden.
3. How difficult was it writing your first book?
I knew I could write well, but I had never written a novel before, so I had plenty to learn. I spent time watching some YouTube videos about writing novels, and went through a deliberate, outlined process to create my characters and storyarcs. Since I was writing historical fiction, I needed to research events in the 20th century, and other details. This book is an accomplishment for me, but I know I can write a better book next time. There is always room for improvement.
4. Have you ever wanted to give up and what stopped you?
Writing my first draft was not too difficult, but what became difficult and discouraging was realizing that I had more to learn than I thought I would. After I wrote it, I had no interest in publishing it through Amazon because they take a large portion of your royalties, but I did nothing with it until last year. I did not have the money to publish it myself, and I had no idea how to market a book.
What stopped me was that I saw an example of someone else who had done it. The mother of a student of mine had published a book through Xulon Press. I looked into their services, and with the support of my wife and son, made the financial commitment to make Vianden a reality.
After gaining approval through my school’s process, I was able to add my book to the curriculum. I wrote a study guide for it, and now my 7th graders read it as part of their Literature class. The school bought copies, my publisher sent me some free copies, and I kept the ball rolling. My son paid for a voice actor he found on fiverr.com, and with his recording I was able to create an audiobook for Audible and iTunes through ACX.com; Audible’s publishing program.
5. Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?
Without a doubt, my wife and son were the most supportive of my dream. From a summer’s worth of work in my local library, to it being available in all formats in multiple places, and eventually approved to be a part of my curriculum, my family has been with me every step of the way.
6. Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Take the time to create your story. Invest in research and solid character development. Invest in yourself by learning from other authors. You do not need to reinvent the wheel, but you do need to make your work unique and special, even if it is only special to you.
7. What is the best advice given to you (book or otherwise), and by whom?
The best advice given to me is from the Bible, Micah 6:8. “It has been told to you, what is good and what does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. This verse means a lot to me. It was my grandfather’s verse as part of his Bar Mitzvah, and my father’s Bar Mitzvah, and my Bar Mitzvah. I have become a Christian since then, and I have the phrase posted in my classroom. It is a good way to live, and I want to live it our as best as I can.
8. What is your target audience and what aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
My target audience is middle school age kids primarily. I have researched the text difficulty using this calculator. The scores presented from the 8 different measurements gave me a good indication of what audience would be best for my book. The site lists the scores and how to interpret them. I highly recommend this resource to any writer.
The writing targets my audience because many young people today are not familiar with the events of the 20th century, and my book surveys the history in some detail, but not an overwhelming amount. Likewise, the vocabulary used is meant to be challenging and an opportunity to expand their knowledge.
It is my first novel, so like anything else, I will get better at writing over time.
9. Did the cover evolve the same way, or did you work with someone to make it come together for you?
In my case, the cover was not a difficult project. Vianden is a real castle in Luxembourg, so the only challenge was finding a good picture of it that was in the public domain. My publisher helped me with that. For the audiobook, I used the same cover, but in order to get it into the required format for ACX, I enlisted the aid of one of my oldest friends who has a graphic designer on his payroll. He did the work for free and in a short time frame.
10. What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt?
I am currently working on a different book I wrote the same summer as Vianden. I wrote 158 pages consisting of 40,538 words before I decided to put it on hold and work on Vianden. It is a work-in-progress, and I have an extensive amount of re-writing to do. Here is a small excerpt from it:
The 1970 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser with its V8 engine was hurtling down the Edens Expressway at speeds that Roger Stein, my soon to be father, would normally never drive. Next to him, Rebecca Stein, my soon to be mother, was concerned and struggled to keep me from being born in the car. It was a beautiful, sunny day in the Chicago area, so as the tension was high in the roaring testimony to the glories of Oldsmobile prowess, the mid 70’s temperature went largely unnoticed.
Highland Park hospital would have been a much closer alternative, but it was ruled out due to a discovery that had arisen in the latter part of the pregnancy. Previous rH compatibility tests had not indicated an issue, but now that problem was detected and could possibly require a blood transfusion at birth. It was an unlikely situation, but my soon to be parents refused to take any chances. It was determined by the obstetrician that Michael Reese hospital in Chicago would be better capable of handling this situation. If this had been her first pregnancy, it may not have been as much of an issue, but this wasn’t. Her beautiful daughter, my soon to be sister Rachel, had been born in 1967 during a horrific blizzard in New York. My mother’s blood cells were recognizing my blood cells as potential threats, and had antibodies ready to attack my blood cells as invaders. The possible complications of this situation could include brain and/or mental functioning damage. I was already in peril before I even had taken my first breath outside the womb.
The Edens merged with the Kennedy Interstate and the trip was close to being complete. Miraculously, no police detected this hulking blue monstrosity of American might during its charge down the highways. My father’s stress mirrored my mother’s, but her pain was escalating. It seemed as if I was either desperate to get out and start living or I was terrified and was doing everything I could to hide from the life that was rushing towards me. I can’t say that I remember which it was.
11. Any last words before we wrap things up?
Thank you again for the opportunity to work with you. I hope your readers appreciate the work you do, and if they like historical fiction, they just might like Vianden. Free samples are available on Amazon at the link above.
Lastly, I would encourage your readers to not give up. Anything worth doing, takes time and effort. There are thousands of authors out there, there is no reason you cannot join their ranks and bring joy to someone’s life by reading your story.
William Steven Frank was born and raised in Highland Park, IL. He received his B.A. degree in criminology with a minor in political science from Northern Illinois University. He has been a middle school social studies/history teacher for 5 years, and a middle school English teacher for 5 years. Currently residing in Wisconsin, William enjoys spending time with his family and their two cats. His interests include sports cars, politics, reading, some video games, history, and writing. This book is fictional. The real names, locations, and events used in the book are present to communicate the story in a historical context.
Audible (Available on iTunes, and Apple Books as well)