AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Bill Kieffer

Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.

Today, Bill Kieffer – Bill Kieffer was born in Jersey City, NJ. He never fully recovered.

Bill Kieffer

Thanks so much, Bill, for joining me!


Giveaway

I’d like to offer up a signed copy of the Goat in the USA. It’s a m/m novel about magic and abuse, so adults in the USA only.


J. Scott Coatsworth: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Bill Kieffer: I wanted to be a preacher.

I mean, the rules were all pretty much laid out for every one… yet, no one followed them. And then they were all gobsmacked that shit went wrong with their lives. Yes, I knew that life was pretty complicated even then, but it seemed pretty obvious that the adults were doing their best to make it even more complicated.

In my day job, I fix problems. And when I write… well, I try not to preach.

But, really there’s some fucked up people out there and I’m ready to show them a furry mirror.

Describe yourself using… ( a food, a book, a song, a movie, an animal, a drink, a place etc)

I am a draft horse. I should say a rough draft horse. I’m not really good at plowing straight lines. But I like knowing that I have plowed, that I can plow at anytime. I call myself The Typing Horse for that reason.

Writing is my the one field that I feel strong in but I am no racing thoroughbred. When I’m yoked to the right editor, I can produce a nice harvest.

JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?

BK: When I was here last, I described how I would dictate stories to my mother as a child in a notebook I had found. Sometimes, I still feel myself sitting on the steps to the basement, reading the words I had spoken and feeling my own stories come alive in my head again. We didn’t have so much as a tape recorder back in the day and, maybe I didn’t want to be a writer so much as I wanted to be immortal.

And that’s what being a writer is. A journey down a path of uncertain immortality.

But like a lot of writers, I have to keep discovering that I am good at it. I just won an award from my peers for The Goat, and already I’m beginning to wonder if it was deserved or how many just like my cover and didn’t really read the book (I mean, it’s a great cover).

I’ve another book coming out later this year or early 2018 from another publisher, Jaffa, and I just spent 20 minutes chatting with him over cover details for Cold Blood because I suddenly felt insecure because I haven’t been asked to revise anything yet.

Maybe it’s the Impostor Syndrome I hear about, but last week I knew I was good at writing. This week, I finished a short story that I can’t find a market for and suddenly I am not sure that I am a good writer.

JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?

BK: Actually, not so much as you’d think. I didn’t thirst for reading, so much as I thirsted for stories. For me, that didn’t always mean books. Sometimes it meant comic books or non-fiction magazines, but mostly it meant television in an age and location where we got good reception on four or five channels. Six, if the cloud cover was in the right place to bounce the UHF channel from Delaware, or some other exotic place.

What few friends I had, had horribly boring stories and some weren’t even interested in the concept of what if? It boggled my young mind and I learned to find my own stories in the woods and the swamps at an early age. I made up quite a few characters and sometimes I even brought them home.

JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?

BK: I swing a mean allegory and I like to think my style invites the reader to invent their own mind cannon. With my mild prosopagnosia, faces are often the last thing I think of when I think of people. That’s why I like using my talking animals… plus, – in my head at least – it turns every story into a science fiction or a fantasy story, depending on where I put the weight.

JSC: What’s your greatest weakness as a writer?

BK: Besides the lack of discipline, which I am working on, I think my next hurdle is writing a soft and warm story of hope and happiness with hidden depths and complexities. I see writers do that and I am amazed to see it pulled off. I must be too cynical to do it… or maybe I am just too damaged. I tried to write a story of brotherly love and… the damn thing turned into a blood bath that is Unbalanced Scales.

I have recently come close with a little kink themed short story that will be out in the next year called The ABCs of Kinks. I had to restart it three or more times and back it up to a time when the two characters were happy. And safe. Again, that was harder than it should have been.

So, yeah, there’s something about love and happiness that frightens me… maybe it’s because I’ve hurt all the people I love. But I plan to return to their story and add more happiness.

JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.

BK: In the early 80’s I sold some really bad porn stories under a variety of pen names to a variety of cheap and sleazy porn mags. I wasn’t of age when I was doing this and I had to get most of my research out of the dumpsters behind convenience stores. I was mostly excited that I was getting mail and I felt more like a scam artist than a writer. Today, I couldn’t point to a single one of those stories with pride, but it was fun.

I submitted lots of SF and Fantasy stories in the days of carbon copies and later xerox copies but I didn’t sell anything until I started reaching out to comic books. It’s a little maddening because when you’re a comic book writer, you’re only half an act. But when I started getting personally written rejection letters (Bob Goldberg from DC comics called me mean and I’ve loved him for that), I kinda knew I was on the right track.

Eventually, I got accepted by Revolutionary Comics, then Alpha Comics, and a few dozen publishing efforts that never got off the ground. It got my name out there, I got paid, and if my publisher, Todd Loren, hadn’t been murdered, I might still be in comics.

My first prose sale was to either Black Petals Magazine or Anthropomorphine. They happened at about the same time, if I recall correctly, and they were both stories that I had developed while I was working with an email writer’s group, TSA-Talk (not the TSA that we know and love today). One was a furry story, but they were both transformation stories, or what we call TF. Transformation remains a huge central theme for me.

JSC: If I were a Hollywood producer about to put your book on the big screen, who would you want me to cast as the leads? Why?

BK: If we are talking about The Goat, an S&M story with magic and transformation, then I’d have to have Jackie Earle Haley as Glenn, the masochistic man trying to shed his humanity. I could see him bleating like a goat and taking abuse with a sense of gratitude and maybe a hidden agenda.

Vincent D’Onofrio would have to be Frank, the sadistic man who refuses to admit that he’s bisexual and loving the excuse to destroy what he loves. Frank is a very, very bad man but there is a twisted amount of love in him that I think only D’Onofrio could project. And Glen brings out talents that Frank had suppressed and ignored over the years, so that journey of discovery is something they could portray well.

I’d want Frank’s wife to be played by Michelle Visage, because she’s everything I love about New Jersey and she’s fierce enough to keep a sadist in check.

Cold Blood: Fatal Fables would have to be an animated film with Vin Diesel as Brooklyn Blackie. Who else would you want for a gun-toting Wolf suffering from PTS? Brooklyn doesn’t have a Brooklyn accent, which I’ve never got around to mentioning. Uptown Manhattan.

JSC: What’s your writing process?

BK: Until recent years, my writing process was either write a pun-ish title and then write a story to go with it or get the story concept version of an earworm and just write it out until I was exhausted. I was a compulsive writer. It was a stress reliever and writing was cheaper than therapy.

When I returned to writing prose after a few years of depression and then dealing with the medicine for depression, discovered that I am not a compulsive writer any more. I had to learn how to be diligent.

And I’ve got to say, I hate being diligent, but the rewards are worth it.
Of course, I cheat whenever I can. I really like to create characters that will take over a story and run with it. If I can get the lead into the driver seat, that’s what I’m going to do. I only do outlines when I’m writing mysteries. Otherwise, I’ll just let the characters run amuck until I hit my word goal and then pull a solution out of my ass.

That kind of thing tends to show.

When I need a story idea or get invited to a submission call, I’ll reach into one of my story-verses. I’ve got two main ones I lean on, one where humans and zoomorphic mages interact (2 by 4) and another with 100 species of anthropomorphic animals that consider themselves human (Aesop’s World).

JSC: What’s your greatest weakness as a writer?

BK:  Besides the lack of discipline, which I am working on, I think my next hurdle is writing a soft and warm story of hope and happiness with hidden depths and complexities. I see writers do that and I am amazed to see it pulled off. I must be too cynical to do it… or maybe I am just too damaged. I tried to write a story of brotherly love and… the damn thing turned into a blood bath that is Unbalanced Scales.

I have recently come close with a little kink themed short story that will be out in the next year called The ABCs of Kinks. I had to restart it three or more times and back it up to a time when the two characters were happy. And safe. Again, that was harder than it should have been.

So, yeah, there’s something about love and happiness that frightens me… maybe it’s because I’ve hurt all the people I love. But I plan to return to their story and add more happiness.

JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?

BK: I am waiting on edits for Cold Blood: Fatal Fables from Jaffa Books, an Australian publisher. It takes place in Aesop’s World, an alternate version of Earth where Aesop is treated as a prophet, where the Gauls never let go of France, and the royal families of Europe are all Avians. Humans as we know them do not exist exist in myths and religious texts.

Cold Blood has six stories, some previously published. Two of these stories are very long shorts. Five of them follow Brooklyn Blackie thru a furry version of the Noir 1940’s as he deals with murder and his own bisexual desires. He deals with so many dualities that he sometimes has to flip a coin to make a decision. Brooklyn is a Wolf/dog hybrid with an impossibly black coat. After I created him, I discovered the Black Dog mythos by way of a story by Huskyteer in the same anthology – Inhuman Acts – that Brooklyn debuted in. I’ve totally appropriated that mythos for futures stories.

The sixth is a sequel of sorts to a Brooklyn Blackies story and doesn’t even mention him. Unbalanced Scales is one of my favourite stories in the collection because I didn’t want it to be a dark story of madness and murder. The lead character just took over and made it happen. It was incredibly frustrating as I had an outline I written for an anthology called “Fragments of the Heart.” I had this idea for a furry version of the Jazz Singer, inspired by my friend Dwale who suggested the idea of a rap star dragon with a gold grill on his sharp teeth. It was such a great image to me.

But, you know… you just can’t change the species and the settings of an American Classic and get away with it. So, I took the essence of the story, a talented man rejected by his father for rejecting his heritage and going out into the mainstream world. I hadn’t seen either movie in almost 30 years so I figured I was safe from lifting the plot outright, but just to be sure, I added this character, the lead’s brother who was caught between the two worlds as the central point of view.

Yeah, turns out that Frosty Pines wanted the lead role. And instead of just the struggles of a love-hate family relationship, I ended up with bodies all over the place. I kept live tweeting the unexpected body counts. I hated the lack of control, but I really loved what I ended up with.

Obviously, it did not make it into Fragments of the Heart, but it did end up in Roar 7 and now in Cold Blood.


And now for Bill’s forthcoming book: Cold Blood: Fatal Fables:

Brooklyn Blackie’s soul cries out for justice. But he’ll be satisfied with bloodshed.


Excerpt

It was 1945 and the world at large had trouble accepting Repts as people and not the alien monsters they looked like. Still, given the choice between a Warm Pervert and a Cold Xeno, they’d take the Reptile any day. My recent disgrace had me reconsidering my birth father’s advice when he’d packed me off to college in Europe. I needed to get straight. Stay straight.

Still, the Stoat was a temptation. His face had the triangular shadows around the eyes that my first lover had had. Ricky had been a Sea Otter, all whiskers and sharp beady eyes in a face of fluff. But when he was on top of me, grinding his stiffening member against my balls, he would look down at me with this hungry face. Sharp shadows made him look rat-like and unstoppable.

A woman. I needed a woman. Because I needed a relationship, not love, not sex, not a john or a trick or a hustler. I needed a wife and not a secret. No man could give me that.

I could just buy a dildo. I comforted myself by pretending that I didn’t need the warmth or that I didn’t need to surrender, to stop trying to be a Wolf, and to allow myself to be someone’s Dog. A dildo would never look at me with sharp black eyes.

I’d seen those same eyes in Phil, but only at night, and I had to squint. I had to ignore his snout. He was beefier, his dick long but narrow. He was unimaginative but forceful in the sack and that made up for it. We’d seen each other almost every day for a year. I hadn’t thought it all a lark. I thought we were settling into something. I was happy.

Aesop had warned us about fair weather friends. I should have listened better to the fables. I was never Aesop’s best student, of course.

I fingered the alph that hung from my neck, the inset sword reminding me that I was, whatever else I was, a warrior. A warrior chooses his battles. A one night stand would not solve my problems.

I gave a tight smile, trying not to look open and inviting. “He thought me a lot. Especially, about keeping my personal life separate from my professional.”

Ivory raised an white on white eyebrow but merely said, “Oh.” He kept his poise, but I saw him squirm a little. Might have been deep thoughts or the urge to gossip about an ex-lover. He looked down and I knew he’d been burned by Phil, too. I also, saw that he was probably like me. Tough and steady on the outside; an emotional powder keg on the inside,

An analyst would probably tell me that I was projecting.


Author Bio

Bill Kieffer was born in Jersey City, NJ.

He never fully recovered.

A brain injury at an early age left him with some mild issues and just enough aphasia to be amusing at parties. He tries to be very open about these. He doesn’t drink, having the bare minimum of inhibitions to begin with. He also tends to describe himself in negatives.

He’s happily married to a woman who also writes erotica. She also encourages him to keep on his meds. He is bisexual but does not stray. She is straight and the relationship is only open in the sense that he tells her everything (they blame rumors to the contrary on his aphasia).

When he is not looking in the mirror, Bill Kieffer is actually a 6 foot tall gray anthropomorphic draft horse that types as Greyflank. He is a member of the Furry Writers Guild and has recently published short stories in several Furry anthologies put out by Fur Planet.

His novella, THE GOAT: Building the Perfect Victim, winner of the 2016 Coyotl Award for Best Novella is now available from Red Ferret Press. COLD BLOOD: Fatal Fables is coming late 2017, early 2018 from Jaffa Books.

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One Reply to “AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Bill Kieffer”

  1. J. V. Speyer

    I love the description of Frank’s wife as “Everything I love about New Jersey.” It’s a perfect phrase for those of us with ties to the Garden State!