Interviews

‘Writing Screenplays Helped Me Become a Better Storyteller’

When renowned author William D Prystauk was in first grade, he’d to rewrite a story his teacher, Mrs McKelvey, had shared in the class. ‘The teacher was a tough one, so when she told me she’d loved my ending, I took that to my heart,’ begins Mr Prystauk, speaking to the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction. He tells us that at the time he was a quiet kid and writing thereupon became a fun and enjoyable venture. ‘And thanks to a teacher’s encouragement, I have yet to put the pen down for good,’ he says with a smile.

William D Prystauk

Nothing’s Amiss

Talking about his latest book Debauchery, which happens to be the third book in the Kink Noir series, the author, who has a BA in History from Rutgers University, an MA in English from Slippery Rock University, and both an MA and MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University, lets us know that it features Denny Bowie, a twenty-something private detective solving crimes in New York City’s BDSM and LGBT communities. ‘Although all the novels in the Kink Noir series feature Denny Bowie, in Debauchery, Denny has to find a missing gay man on a sadomasochistic rampage through Greenwich Village. But when Denny crosses paths with the unexpected, the aftermath could send him to jail for life,’ he explains.

Telling us how the story came about, the fifty-five-year-old, who exuberates with the energy of a twenty-five-year-old lad, avers that he challenges himself to take every hard-boiled thriller trope imaginable and throw it by the wayside. ‘I have endured enough of the same old heterosexual white male characters who are rough and tough, and have a former military or police experience,’ he says.

NOTE: Do you find Debauchery’s plot intriguing? Well, we do! We, therefore, suggest you give the book a read. You can make the purchase right off the bat by clicking on the book’s cover image you see below.

Spinning a Different Yarn

Denny Bowie is different. We learn he is not all white, does not have a police or military background, and has both a girlfriend and a boyfriend. A long-haired punk rocker from northern New Jersey, Denny doesn’t fit the traditional mould. ‘And in Debauchery, I wanted something to happen to him that has never happened to a hard-boiled detective before, so I built the story around that major incident,’ says Mr Prystauk, who grew up outside of New York City in the US.

Currently residing in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, the author states the Kink Noir series began with Bloodletting, which went on to earn the Grand Jury Prize at LANEFF. ‘Bloodletting is Denny’s first big case where he tries to find the killer of masochist men in Greenwich Village, which was adapted from my award-winning screenplay of the same name. After an independent production company collapsed and could not make the film, I turned the screenplay into a novel,’ he shares with us.

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‘Daydreaming’ to a T!

Mr Prystauk, who juggles writing, podcasting, photography, filmmaking and a nine-to-five job, says Punishment, the second book in the Kink Noir series continued with Denny’s non-traditional neo-noir ventures. ‘This time, someone is brutalizing professional Dommes, the oft-named Dominatrix; and he’s out to stop the carnage, which becomes something far bigger and far stranger than he had anticipated.’

The stories come together in different ways, underlines Mr Prystauk. Quite often, he sees a character in his head, thanks to a dream or from someone he passed on the street. ‘Daydreaming ensues, and I follow them in my head and see how they interact in the world. I also may have the smallest seed of a theme or a plotline, and as I think of the characters and those thematic elements, the narrative slowly takes shape, and subplots are born from there,’ he lets on.

NOTE: You can also purchase Bloodletting and Punishment by clicking on the cover images of the books right below.

Research ‘Matters’

When Mr Prystauk is note-taking for a novel or doing research, which, by the way, takes months, writing can happen at any time. ‘But when I start a novel, it’s all-consuming. I can write anywhere, day or night although my office is currently a kitchen table,’ says the author, adding, ‘I once spent ten hours glued to the chair during one writing explosion. In the end, from notes to revision, each novel takes me about a year to complete.’

He also lets us know that he tends to do tons of research along the way. He shares, ‘I interview police personnel, therapists, doctors, private investigators, and anyone else who can help me keep my stories honest. I have even changed story elements because they were not in line with reality.’

Like Being Killed a Complete Package of Incredible Writing’

Upon being asked if he draws inspiration from any authors, Mr Prystauk says that outside of the crime fiction genre, he loves Henry Miller, F Scott Fitzgerald, Muriel Spark, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, William S Burroughs, Charlie Bukowski, Ursula Le Guin, and Ernest Hemingway. ‘Each author has impressed me on some level with their storytelling: Burroughs’ lack of self-censorship, Hemingway’s economic writing style, Spark’s flawless transitions, and more. But the late Ellen Miller and her only novel, Like Being Killed, is a complete package of incredible writing from pace to descriptions to dialogue,’ he elaborates.

As far as the crime genre is concerned, the author finds Raymond Chandler amazing and feels no other thriller writer comes close to his use of language, his character development, and his solid storytelling. ‘Ed McBain’s “So Nude, So Dead” gets some really high marks, but Chandler’s consistency is unparalleled,’ he states, adding, ‘I only wish Chandler had told us more about Marlowe, but he felt that the narrative should focus on the crime and story and not the protagonist.’

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Turning Failures Into Successes

As the conversation assumes momentum, the author divulges that although he always wanted to get into writing, he discovered he was really bad at it. ‘After so many disappointments, I put my pen down for a few years and got to work,’ he says.

His inability to write well didn’t deter him from pursuing his passion, however. ‘I read books on writing as well as great novels, I studied craft, and I practised and took criticism from writers and editors as well as readers. Something was still missing, yet I couldn’t get that original story of Bloodletting out of my head, and I wanted to get that down on paper,’ Mr Prystauk shares with us.

He goes on to state that since he visualizes every story in his mind as if he is watching a movie, he studied the craft of screenwriting and turned that Bloodletting idea into a script. ‘After reading the rough draft, I said aloud, “It works.” Soon after, I joined a professional screenwriter’s group in New Jersey, listened to their critique and guidance, and found myself earning second place in a major script contest and getting my first agent,’ he explains. He then adds triumphantly, ‘I finally found that missing piece: Writing screenplays helped me become a better storyteller.’

Writing to Help Healthcare Workers

Mr Prystauk underscores he had always wanted to make a living writing, but he has hitherto not been able to do that on a creative level. ‘But I have done so professionally as a marketer, writing professor, and medical copywriter. Overall, I’m happy, especially since the professional writing I now do helps healthcare practitioners help their patients,’ he tells us.

He also lets us know that to date, he has directed two short films. ‘And I’m currently raising money for my first feature film,’ states the author, who also co-hosts The Last Knock, what Entertainment Weekly has called one of ‘five essential podcasts for horror fans.’

‘Competition Is Fierce, Courtesy Self-Publishing’

While being grateful for having a micro-press publisher that enjoys his Kink Noir series, the author emphasises that without a contract from the big-five, becoming a full-fledged author is not about to happen. ‘That is because self-publishing has led to a deluge of books hitting the market at a daily rate. The competition is fierce, and there is a bottleneck of novels to choose from. I can only hope that writing non-traditional neo-noir thrillers with erotic elements will carve out a niche,’ he explains.

On being asked if he has any works in progress, he lets us know he is taking notes and conducting research for his fourth novel in the Kink Noir series. ‘In the others, I’ve brought erotic elements and crime thrillers together, and with this one, I’ll make it a “Whodunit?” like no other,’ he states.

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Some Worthy Advice

His message to budding authors is crisp and direct: If things are not working out, do not get discouraged, but take a step back. Are you just writing a novel because you have an idea? If so, studying the craft and reading novels by the ton, especially within your genre, maybe the thing that helps you become a better wordsmith.

The author also stresses that it is important to hire an editor as well as a proofreader. ‘I have found that many independent writers never go this route, which only damages their storytelling. I once knew a woman who announced that she just finished her novel that morning and it would be “published” that evening. That is frightening!’

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And the Final Word

Mr Prystauk, who also eagerly wishes to bring back social discourse to the US, points out that revision is where storytelling begins because that first draft is a lump of clay that can finally be moulded into something worthwhile. ‘I usually revise up to a dozen times and proofread aloud before I feel comfortable sending the manuscript to my editor. That has made all the difference,’ he asserts.

Mr Prystauk also gives us a glimpse of his personal life before bidding adieu. He says he loves watching movies, dining out, and exercising. ‘Also, I write like a madman,’ he adds with a guffaw. Furthermore, he tells us that as a writer, accepting criticism is key. ‘Before I put my pen down for three years to study craft, I had sent a New York literary agent a manuscript and asked if he would represent me. His written response: “I threw that shit out in the trash!” I laughed because I knew he was right,’ he says.

‘If a so-called writer cannot handle criticism and learn from it, there is no point in sharing one’s work with the world. Write, read, learn, grow, and keep becoming a better writer – but know it is something that can never be mastered,’ he says, signing off on a thoughtful note.

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