Tell me more about yourself:
I got into writing later in life. I've had a few career changes so the idea of becoming a writer is very much in character. I began as a hospital administrator having graduated from the Fox School of Business at Temple University. I quickly became bored with line administration and jumped an opportunity to move into public policy analysis and development at the Ontario Workers' Compensation Board. I was asked to assist a government secretariat that was introducing no-fault auto insurance. My six-week assignment turned into a twenty-year career. During that time, I became the authority on auto insurance in Ontario. I left almost six years ago to do some consulting and find search for another career. About three years ago, I decided to take a stab at writing a novel. I have always lived in Toronto. I've been married 36 years and have a daughter and a grandson.
What inspired you to first start writing?
I had done a lot of writing during my career but it was all very technical and boring. I wanted to do some fun writing and try to write a novel. It was months before I started telling people I was writing because I was unsure I could pull it off. But I loved doing it and now hooked.
What was the first story you remember writing?
My first story was called The Darwin System. It was about using a monkey to randomly select people who had applied for tickets to attend the Pan Am Games. The story is posted on my blog.
What genre do you most enjoy writing?
My interests have alway gravitated to humor. I love Groucho Marx, Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. I don't see myself writing any other genre. Although, you can combine humor with any other genre,.
What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
How difficult it is to market your work. Your book is out there with millions of others. It's incredibly tough and time consuming.
What is your writing muse?
Skippy the Monkey. I wrote about Skippy on my blog.
What is your writing process?
Writing process? Am I supposed to have one?
I am a totally undisciplined writer. I can be writing away furiously one day followed by a day of organizing my paper clips by size and color. I don’t do story plans or outlines. I’m strictly an organic writer. I only really know what will be in the chapter I’m currently working on. The rest of the plot is either fuzzy or undecided. It wasn't until I wrote the final three chapters that I decided how my current novel was going to end.
I love waking up in the morning with a brilliant idea for the book. I’ll grab some coffee and will begin to bang away at my laptop. Sometimes the idea applies to a previous chapter, which means I need to work a thread through portions of the story already written. Other times it may apply to a future chapter. People will ask why my writing process is so slow. It’s because I’m always jumping around changing or adding things. But it works for me.
Do you write to music or silence?
Silence. I once tried playing Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. After a while I realized it was music and turned it off.
What do you find most challenging about being a writer?
It's all challenging and a little scary when you don't know where your story is going. But the biggest challenge is maintaining the discipline to see a writing project through. It takes me about a year to finish a first draft. You go through a lot of ups and down over a twelve-month period. But what a great feeling when you finish.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I'm not that type of writer where my characters are driving the story. I'm always in the driver's seat. But the voices of my characters are in my head. They provide me with suggestions around dialogue but not the plot.
If you were running the 100 yard dash with a new writer. What writing, publishing wisdom would you bestow upon him/her before you reached the 100 yards?
Read all you can about writing. Talk to other writers. Then forget about what everyone tells you and just do what feels right. There are many writing conventions but this is art form so you can ignore them all.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
I love Rick Tompkins from THE ROAD AHEAD. He is annoying and embarrassing, yet something about him draws you in. The character far exceeded my expectations. I'm not big on sequel but I might use him in another novel one day. With Donald Trump in the White House, you appreciate the character that much more.
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
Talent? I don't think so. I try a lot of things but don't excel at anything. I'm your typical Everyman but with a sense of humor.
Where did you get the idea for The Road Ahead?
THE ROAD AHEAD is based on my many years working in government. The characters are fictional but reflects people and events I encountered every day over a twenty-year period. Writing the novel was a little cathartic. I don't care how many copies I sell, I loved working on the book.
Tell us more about Loved Mars, Hated the Food. Can you share an excerpt with us?
It’s an interesting how I fell into this story. Two years ago, I was taking a creative writing course on humor. In the first class, we went around the room doing introductions. When it came to me, I said in a deadpan that I must have made some mistake because I was supposed to be in science fiction writing course. The next week when I returned, the instructor was surprised to see me back. I told him that I decided to stay and would make my science fiction book funny. Each week we had a writing assignment. One week I decided to write a story about the first Starbucks on Mars. After I read it in class, people began asking me if the story was from my novel. I said I was joking about the science fiction class and was actually writing a political satire. The instructor told me that the story was pretty good and I should consider working more on it. As I thought about it, I began to realize that I would enjoy writing a funny scifi story.
I played around with a couple of ideas. There was a short lived 1960s TV series called My Favorite Martian. It was about a Martian who crashes his spaceship on Earth and secretly lives with this young bachelor who tells people the Martian is his uncle. I decided to reverse the situation and have an Earthling, Dix Jenner, stuck on Mars. My character is a chef, which is intended to indirectly poke fun at the film, The Martian, in which the Matt Damon character is a botanist. The title of the book reflects Dix obsession with food. Dix makes no effort to integrate into Martian culture. Instead, it continually attempts to introduce Earth culture to Mars with humorous results.
Chapter one is posted on my blog.
What are your future plans with writing?
I'm a Pantser. I have no plans! I will write another novel but until I sit down to write it, I'm not sure what that book will be about. I just know it will be funny.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Yes, two things.
First, I just made a fresh pot of espresso. I know many writers are coffee addicts.The first 100 addicts that knock on my door get a shot of coffee that will make their toes curl.
Second, this is where you can pick up THE ROAD AHEAD (yeah, I have to plug it). Amazon Link
The Road Ahead Book Summary:
Rick Tompkins, a suburban Toronto insurance broker, never considered a career in politics until a good friend, who happens to be the leader of the Conservative party, asks him to run for office. He accepts the offer, with the understanding that he would probably not win, but can use the opportunity to gain some visibility for himself and his business. Jerry Switzer, a veteran party worker, is sent in to guide Rick through a campaign in a riding that hasn't elected a Conservative in years.
Rick fumbles his way through the election campaign and manages a surprise win but at the expense of saddling his party with an impossible commitment. What makes matters worse, Rick is anything but politically correct. He offends everyone in his path and stumbles from one political scandal to another. Still, Rick has one saving asset: a political party machine that is able to spin scandals to its advantage.
More About Willie Handler:
Willie Handler grew up in Toronto and did his undergraduate work at the University of Toronto. He also has graduate degrees from the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto and the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He spent over thirty years in various positions in the Ontario public service. before leaving in 2011. He has a number of humorous short stories published online on CommuterLit and Show Me the Funny, as well as many articles published in professional trade journals. THE ROAD AHEAD is his first novel. Willie is currently working on funny story about a chef stranded on Mars who is rescued by two Martians
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