William Dickstein is the author of Ch05en: Ivy.
Synopsis (Amazon): Ivy Roupell, fresh recruit at the academy for the Global Heroes Society, is finally ready to leave her terrible past behind her. Suffering the death of her father at a young age, growing up as a ward of the state, Ivy will have to work hard to get through the academy and get herself onto a team with other Capes. With voices in her head as the source of her mysterious powers, she’ll do whatever it takes to find her place in the world. Government employee, android, and overall no-nonsense kind of guy, Lochlan is an Agent of The Control, the branch of the World Government designed to recruit those with powers into the Global Heroes Society, effectively stifling the growth of the Freelancer population. Lochlan has his sights set on becoming leader of The Control, playing The Game as he amasses political points to achieve his goal. When Khard, a former Senior Cape turned Agent, approaches Lochlan with a way for both of them to score massive points and form a powerful alliance, Lochlan finds himself back in the field for the first time in years, heading to the city of Choudrant in Louisiana. Enter the notable people of Choudrant: The Chief of a police force that has dwindled into the double digits, and the local team of Capes, Gil, Frikshen, and O-Rell. Sent to Choudrant to uncover a mystery surrounding O-Rell, Lochlan and Khard quickly realize that the dilapidated city has many secrets, and that much of what it’s hiding is quite deadly.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with me! When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think the idea really solidified for me in the 8th grade, when something creative I’d written was used as an example for the class. There were plenty of creative writing exercises before that day and lots of little things I’d written just for fun, but that particular piece and the praise it received came at a time where I wanted as much attention as I could get. I already liked writing, but when I realized that writing something interesting would get me attention, I think that made me really fall in love with the process. We’ve (mostly) moved on from that being my motivation behind my art but the day I decided I wanted writing to be part of my identity was that day in 8th grade.
That’s so awesome. What an important moment that must have been for an young 8th grader. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I think that this answer changes depending on who is on the receiving end of the question. For the most part, I lean heavily towards a big ego helping writers. Making things that are available for criticism takes thick skin and quite a bit of courage. It’s not easy to have something you worked hard on be criticized, especially when the person telling you what you should have done better has spent 1/100th of the amount of time with your art that you have. In my opinion, a big ego helps you throughout every step of the process and, more than anything else, will keep you motivated to do it all over again. Most people never even try and a lot of the ones that do never manage to try again. Having said that, a lot of making something worth reading is collaboration. If your ego is so big you can’t take feedback from test readers or editors, or worse, can’t let someone who knows what they’re doing make changes to your ideas in general, then your ego is what will likely hold you back. So, have an ego, but be smart about it.
I absolutely agree. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first full-length work when I was 20. It’s an Urban Fantasy novel called Double Skins about an orphan named Dave who is actually a fabled Chosen One who was mistakenly transported to our world. The kicker is that he came here hundreds of years ago and has lived for centuries without having any idea why he is immortal or why he can transform into a much cooler (and armored) version of the Jersey Devil. When Dave’s father and the Sheriff of Knottingham equivalent are transported to our world, chaos ensues. The reader gets half of the story told in the present and the other half told hundreds of years ago in alternating chapters where a war between the Shamnu (an anagram for humans) and the Du’Osteons (a word I made up to mean dual bones/skin) unfolds. Dave is, of course, the lost Du’Osteon Chosen One. The premise actually doesn’t sound too bad typing it out like that, but the writing was and is still terrible. I won’t say I’m a master of my craft now, but when I wrote that book ten years ago I was bad. I knew the only way to get better was to write, though, so that’s what I did. That was more than what you asked, but it felt nice to get it out.
Oh! That sounds like a fascinating book. I have one similar – the premise wasn’t bad, but my writing was terrible. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to stay active. For a long time that was lifting weights and running but for the last two years or so I’ve developed a real passion for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling in general. I train anywhere from 2 to 4 days a week. As someone who writes a lot of fight scenes, training MMA has given me a fresh perspective that I hope has started to shine through in my writing.
That’s great! My son and husband are both black belts in TaeKwonDo and my son started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, so any time I have fight scenes, the three of us are in the living room working it out. Hopefully no one is looking through the windows at us. haha!
How many works have you written? Which is your favorite?
The majority of my work has been in Ch05En, the dystopian superhero setting that I’ve been writing in since 2013. To date there are 12 novellas, 8 comic books, and a debut novel called Ch05En: Ivy that releases on July 25th. There’s also a new one-shot comic called Ch05En: Kris that should be out by the end of the year, fingers crossed. My favorite Ch05En work so far has been Ch05En: Ripsaw. That was the one that, for me, made me feel like I’d reached a sort of next level as a writer. I’m still very proud of that novella and even if my works that came after have been better, I still enjoy convincing people to start with Ripsaw.
Do you like to create books for adults?
I do – so far there’s only one Ch05En work specifically for kids, Ch05En: No Nose. That novella follows Devin Slon, a boy with an elephant trunk for a nose who is struggling to fit in at his new school. His personal bully is a rhino and his best friend has Death Touch, everything she puts her hands on begins to rot. Writing for kids is very fun and it’s nice to not be so subtle in my messaging while writing. I’ll definitely write at least two more novellas for children, but I prefer writing for adults.
What do you think makes a good story?
Any story that makes the reader feel something is a good piece of art. Beyond that, art is too subjective for me to think that my personal opinion counts for anything. I like stories that don’t want me to know how smart the author is, and I don’t care for stories that take too long to give you history or background. I used to love Chuck Palahniuk because he never bothers to give you even the vital information about his characters until you were already too far in to care. You can read a quarter of one of his books before you know how tall a character is, or that they have a physical deformity. It’s common advice to not overload a reader with details at the start of a story, but Palahniuk goes to the extreme and only tells you what is relevant to the plot at that point in time. I love stories that do that without feeling gimmicky.
Yes! I absolutely agree. Getting bogged down in useless details is the worst. Do you try more to be original or deliver to readers what they want?
I’m mostly writing things I think I’d like to read, or that sound cool. As I am transitioning to novels, I have started to try to make sure my work is a bit more “to market” so that I can appeal to a wider range of people. But I’m still doing weird stuff in there. In my new book, you watch a character suffer from severe radiation poisoning. The scene is very 1980’s John Carpenter and does not end the way you think it will at all.
What does literary success look like to you?
As long as more people are reading my work over time and increasingly more people have opinions about what I’ve written, I think that makes me a success. I have a day job, creative writing may never pay my bills 100%, and that would be alright. If you’re being read, you’re successful.
I think that’s a very healthy way of looking at it. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I read all of them, sometimes more than once. Good reviews make me happy and bad reviews make me happy. None of my work is meant to be anything other than enjoyable, so I don’t take it personally if someone leaves a public review that bashes what I’ve written. I think it just means that person felt so strongly about my work they just had to let me know about it, and honestly, that’s a real win. If I’ve made you feel anything at all, that’s good with me.
Thank you so much for answering my questions!