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.
Thanks so much, Bill, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Bill Kieffer: I remember dictating stories to my mother before I was in kindergarten. I filled one of those composition notebooks before I could read. I was always fascinated by words and I was appalled that people cursed or used words without meaning what they said. Not the lying exactly, but the logical contradictions of largely uneducated people. I felt like I was surrounded by mad people.
And it didn’t help that I had some diagnosed brain damage from an accident. It made speaking clearly hard. I had to concentrate on so many choices to get the words out.
The real world made me anxious. I found relief in fiction.
When I took up writing in high school, it was a relief. I could write with the complexity and the assuredness my speaking voice denied me. It seemed like destiny. I knew I was a good at writing by the most unusual metric… my high school allowed me four study halls in a row so I can write. And the librarians gave me an unused office so I could write in.
Maybe that just made me a good student.
I knew I was getting close when the editors began sending me back hand written notes on the rejection letters. I felt thrilled when Bob Greenberger of Marvel Comics called my submission mean. When Astounding wrote back that he’d like to see something shorter, I was dancing for the week.
Or maybe it was when Weasel accepted The Goat: Building The Perfect Victim after only four days. Yeah, that was an excellent ego boost; although I am probably spoiled for life.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
BK: My wife says my style allows the reader to do the heavy lifting; which is to say that I let the reader fill-in some blanks. Part of that is because I suffer a bit from face-blindness. For example, all my white, heavy bald-headed friends all look alike to me until they move. Which is a problem, since as I get older, my collection of bald friends keep growing at an alarming rate.
In my writing group, Furry Writer’s Guild, my style is described often as dark and dense. It’s unusual in a niche like Furry, I suppose, where most people are there to escape the harsh reality. I just want to evoke feelings and that includes the “bad” feelings.
My genre is Anthropomorphic Fantasy — or Furry, if you will. I love the allegorical aspects of Furry. Plus, I think animals are cool and its easier for me to tell animals apart then people.
I’m also a Transformation writer, so the horror and SF come into the mix easily. They are both great platforms for discussing humanity… how you lose it, how you keep it, and, sometimes, how you regain it.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
BK: The first published work that I got paid for under my own name was a short comic book story in Tipper Gores Comics and Stories #3. I had gotten Tipper Gore #1 and I wrote to Todd Loren via snail mail because it was 1989 and that was the only way to do it. I asked for his guidelines and, in my very charming way, I told him I could do better.
He wrote back. He had no guidelines; he just pretty much told me how much he paid and dared me to try to do better. So, I typed up a script and sent it to him and six weeks later I had a contract in the mail.
Getting a check out of him was also an education, but that’s another story. I did get paid and I sold a few stories to him and he assigned me to write a series, Great Morons In History. Todd died before the 1st issue hit the stands, but at least I get to brag that I wrote the definitive Dan Quayle Biography.
With Trump the President Elect, I really wish this series was still around.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
BK: Until recently, 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.
With The Goat, I started with the ending and kept adding to the story, and then taking out a bunch of explicit sex scenes. Then I would go back and write some more. I was writing a lot of abuse which I’m against… but I kept adding erotic elements because Glenn was written for my online boyfriend. So, the whole thing was organically conflicted from the start. I like to think that shows. Even abusers deserve love, but victims don’t deserve abuse.
For Brooklyn Blackie and The Unappetizing Menu, I used an outline. I had never used one before outside of a class assignment. But I had an idea for a noir type mystery and I’d never succeeded in writing a proper mystery. It worked really well. Having an outline carried me through the parts where compulsion failed me and when impulses threatened to side track me.
I use outlines more often now but there are still a few stories that just want to flow out me organically. I’m grateful for those when the mood takes me.
JSC: Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
BK: I have a Tea Queue.
I love tea. Love. Love. Love.
And I like buying new flavors. Esp. weird ones like Earl Grey with Lavender or Chocolate Chai. And for a very, very long time I would impulse buy whatever weird tea I saw. So, by the time I was 45, I had a lot of very expensive but very stale tea leaves. So, not that I’m a control freak or anything, I set up a tea queue in my pantry.
I have room for four boxes of tea and I only open one box of tea at a time (unless company wants one of the other flavors) and drink that tea every morning until its gone. Then I can buy ONE NEW BOX OF TEA… because there’s room.
In the winter, Trader Joe puts out their lemur tea and then I stock up on that. Vanilla Cinnamon Black tea! Nom! Nom! Nom!
JSC: If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
BK: Al Franken
You saw this train wreck of an election year. I never believed in the Anti-Christ until Trump was elected. “Al,” I would ask, “What the fuck do we do now? Just what do we do now?”
I really thought reading Stephen King and Dean Kontz most of life would have prepared me for this, but not so. Not at all.
JSC: What action would your name be if it were a verb?
BK: Well, my middle name is TMI, so I can’t use that. Plus technically, not an action word.
I asked my wife. She said, “You’re not a Verb type of guy. You’re an Adjective.” Well, she was an English teacher, so she would know.
My friend Brian pointed out the word Bill is a verb. “to enter in an accounting system : prepare a bill of (charges)” On the other hoof, I’ve been told that there’s no accounting for me.
JSC: What kind of character or topic have you been dying to try to write, but you’ve never worked up the courage?
BK: Until recently, I would have said Private Detective, but I got one of those under my belt now. And before that, I wanted to write a story for my boyfriend with magic and BDSM, which I did with The Goat: Building the Perfect Victim (the hard part actually turned out to be having the courage to submit it).
I think the 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.
So, yeah, there’s something about love and happiness that frightens me… maybe it’s because I’ve hurt all the people I love.
JSC: If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose?
BK: Oh, I wasn’t looking forward to this question when I started this.
The year after I graduated, my girlfriend died from CF. I made promises to her that I wouldn’t let her die a virgin or unmarried. But she did. And not coming thru for her, just messed me up. But I was having so many conflicting thoughts, and I hadn’t accepted my bisexual self yet and… well, things were confusing for everyone.
So, I would relieve 1983 over, although knowing that she was dying would hurt. And I would keep my promises. Her parents would hate me, but it turned out they hated me anyway and didn’t invite me to the funeral.
And then there’s my friend, George, who I now know was suffering with his own questions and loneliness. That after Debbie’s death he would never have another female friend, that he would explore our small town’s gay scene until he caught HIV and then developed AIDS in quick order. In what I know know was a weird prolonged suicide attempt trying to make a connection with another human.
I feel responsible for that. He tried to tell me, once, that he’d been watching an adult movie when “something” came poking thru the wall. And I laughed… and I didn’t ask him what he did or thought about it or anything. I just laughed because I didn’t think he’d be anything but disgusted.
I didn’t think that he could be a bit like me.
I didn’t think that we might be more than friends.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
BK: Currently, I am still pushing my first novella The Goat: Building the Perfect Victim; trying to get sales and reviews. These days, selling a book doesn’t stop with the publication. I don’t know if it ever did.
I am also doing interviews with publishers for The Underground Book Review. They concentrate or reviewing Indy Writers and Publishers. That will start in 2017.
I am cleaning up a collection of short stories set in a Furry Universe I call Aesop’s World. Imagine if people came in 100 different species with thumbs… and then imagine that Aesop was their version of Jesus. That’s the basis if this world, and it’s far from a children’s storybook.
Four of the five stories feature Brooklyn Blackie, a bisexual dog/wolf hybrid private investigator. He’s cunning linguist with a thirst for justice. Too often, he has to settle for bloodshed, instead. He’s cursed with a dual nature, the dog and wolf, that I think a lot of people can relate to.
Cold Blood: Fatal Fables will be published by Jaffa Books sometime in 2017. There some M/M sex and romance and a little MFM menage-a-trios, too. But I don’t know how explicit the final version will be.
And now for Bill’s new book: The Goat:
This is the story of Frank, a self-loathing gay/bisexual 40-something man, having a mid-life crisis ‘affair’ with his high school bullying victim.
Glenn is a Furry, human in real life but online, he plays a sexually active Goat in several Furry communities. Glenn not only allows Frank’s abuse, but he seems to encourage it in order to get what he wants.
Still, Frank is what our HS teachers would call an “Unreliable Narrator.” So, it’s up to the reader to decide who the real victim is in the story.
It’s set in an Urban Fantasy world where computers and magic exists side by side. iMacs and Werewolves. Muscle Cars and Shape Shifters. Micro Brews and Healing Potions. The society resembles pre-cell phone America and people are more afraid of the LGBT community than they are of werewolves. Well… some people.
The Goat touches on abuse, secrets, desires, shame, denial, and the agendas we sometime bring into a relationship.
Contains graphic bdsm content.
Glenn drank from the bottle greedily, but he was still drained and a bit disorientated. “It worked? It worked?”
I smiled and nodded. I stroked the back of his hair, wondering if I could get one for the road. “It worked. You were a beautiful brown Goat. We went for a nice long drive, don’t you remember?”
Glenn began crying and shook his head, no. I held him, marveling at how fragile he now seemed. I kissed the top of his head gently. “I washed you, like I do sometimes.”
Glenn sniffled. “You did? Why don’t I remember?”
I smiled widely. “I did.” I helped him to his hind legs… I mean feet. “You passed out, but I can fix that. I have wards that’ll keep you aware… they’ll only work when I am near you… when I am not you, you’ll be mindless… I figure it’ll be easier that way.”
I could see the gears turning in his head. He wanted to get word out to North Star, to come rescue him, but he didn’t want to be totally mindless, but he would prefer that over being human. “Only when I am a goat, right?”
I had to laugh at that. “Yes, when you are human again, you’ll never be more helpless than you are right now.”
Glenn smirked gently at the playful tone in my voice and then nodded.
I cast the ward I’d been working on all week. It was rather simple, really. No matter the pain, Glenn would simply not pass out, nor would he go mad. It settled over the spell that permeated every last cell in his body and, as I promised, it would only become active when Glenn was transformed or being transformed.
He almost collapsed under its weight. “I never felt a ward like that before.”
“It’s an olden ward,” I said casually, “used by torturers to keep the subject alive and awake as they were disemboweled.”
Glenn smiled weakly. “Lovely. I think I used that ward in a rave once.” He leaned into me and then kissed my chest gently. “Thank you. For everything.”
“If you really want to thank me, you know how.” And, indeed he did, moving down my chest with his lips and eager fingers. I knew he was truly grateful to me, just as I knew he thought he could still get away from me. I let him thank me and I did not rush him. I did allow my hand to grasp that sweet back of his skull and steer him where I wanted him to go.
It was something he was going to have to get used to.
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 encouraged him to discover and explore his sexuality. She also encourages him to keep on his meds. They both dabble in writing erotica. 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).