Today, Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest D.J. Williams author of the soon to be released novel The Disillusioned. D.J. describes his life for the past fifteen years as a storyteller. With the DNA of a world traveler, he was born in Hong Kong, has ventured into the jungles of the Amazon, the bush of Africa, and the slums of the Far East, to share stories of those who are overcoming incredible odds. He has also produced and directed over 140 television episodes syndicated on NBC, ABC, FOX and various cable networks worldwide.
Good day D.J. and thanks for participating in our interview
Please tell us about your professional background and how did you get started in writing? What do you think over the years has driven you as a writer?
For years I’ve been
involved in the entertainment industry as a producer, executive, and
a television producer/director. I’ve also worked with non profit
organizations to help produce content that raised awareness for the
many needs around the world. But ever since I was young I always knew
I wanted to write.
Time passed and I put that dream on the shelf
because there were other projects that consumed my life. Then a few
years ago I started the slow process of finding an agent and an even
slower process of pitching projects to publishers while I traveled
the long road of writing The Disillusioned.
Along the way I contributed to other book projects including co-writing Restoration Road with author Mitch Kruse, as well as ghostwriting. I’ve enjoyed the process in each of these unique situations. Having the opportunity to meet a wide range of people from around the world has fueled my imagination for stories and characters I want to write about. Discovering how a story unfolds, the surprises it brings, and finding out what happens to the characters is what has driven me to keep writing.
What do you think makes a good story?
I’ve always been intrigued with stories where I can relate to realistic characters who are in extreme situations. I like the adventure, the mystery, and the suspense. I want to see how they make it through, how they uncover the truth, and how that truth changes them. Of course, the story needs to be entertaining, but an added bonus for me is if the story makes me think about something important, like a social cause that is facing our world. For example, in The Disillusioned, each character finds themselves connected to the reality of human trafficking. The question is, what will they do when they know the truth.
As a journalist, what was your most harrowing experience?
One experience that comes to mind was along the Zambezi River where we were filming in the back of a Land Rover. With camera in hand I was focused on capturing the incredible wildlife that surrounded us, which included an elephant with huge white tusks. Everything was going fine, until we realized we were too close. In a matter of seconds the elephant charged as the driver put the Land Rover in reverse. Knowing that we were not going to outmaneuver the elephant, the driver stopped and stood up in his seat. He yelled and waved his arms as the elephant charged. With only a few feet separating us the elephant suddenly stopped. Dust blew around us and when it cleared we stared into the face of this great animal. No one moved. Not a sound was heard. A few minutes passed before the elephant backed away and disappeared into the bush. Everyone in the vehicle sighed with relief, and then asked if I’d captured it on tape. I smiled. I’ve kept the footage safely in the archives as proof of our face-to-face encounter.
Could you tell our readers something about your soon to be released novel The Disillusioned?
The story is about how a mother’s suicide threatens to destroy a family legacy. Her sons, Sam and Daniel, are forced to leave their comfortable worlds behind and search for a woman they believe can unlock the secrets that have remained hidden. They are propelled into separate journeys from Los Angeles to the heart of the Zambezi where they are forced to confront a man known as Die Duiwel, the Devil. On their adventures they will find themselves in a place where death is one breath away, where thousands of children are disappearing into the darkness, and where the woman they are searching for is on the hunt for revenge. When they stand face-to-face with the forgotten slaves of Africa they will fight to redeem what has been lost.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was coming out of a
difficult year personally and professionally. There were two
unexpected deaths in my family only thirty days apart. A business
venture ended at the same time. For months I wondered why it was all
happening. I didn’t realize how that season would change the
direction of my life. I struggled to understand what I had been
raised to believe since I was a kid, and how it affected me years
That’s what started me researching the plot. I didn’t expect the twists and turns that followed. I was discovering the story along the way. The deeper I went the more I knew I wanted to involve a social cause as part of the story because I hoped it would make people judge the truth for themselves.
Would you say that the publication of your first novel, The Disillusioned is the culmination of a life long dream?
I read Treasure Island cover to cover when I was eight. My imagination ran wild as I was captivated by the story. From then I was hooked. I’m a sucker for a good story. From Grisham to Connelly to Meltzer, I’ve always been drawn in by realistic plots and characters that keep me reading late at night. I wanted to give it a shot, to see if I had it in me to do it. I wanted to write stories that left you flipping the page to find out what happened next. I’d say the lifelong dream was to see if I could pull it off. I feel like publishing the book is a bonus. It’s a privilege to think that someone else is going to read it.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Growing up in Hong Kong I was always surrounded by friends from different cultures. It gave me a unique perspective that has stuck with me. I’ve also been given the opportunity to travel the world and meet many different people, to hear their stories, and to reflect on how their story has affected my own story. That shapes how I develop my characters. For example, many of the characters in The Disillusioned were inspired by people I’ve met over the years. I have another book that’s making the rounds with publishers where the characters are friends from childhood who I’ve placed into my story line. I’d also say that many of the locations in my stories are places I’ve been. I think it helps make the scenes even more real because I’ve experienced these places firsthand.
What was the most difficult part of writing your first novel? As a follow up, did you have a set plan when you wrote the book and did you know the ending at the beginning?
I allowed the story to evolve, which resulted in the writing process taking more time. I knew how it was going to begin and how it would end. I knew the major plot points and decided that I was going to write towards each one, no matter how many chapters that ended up being. I knew I wanted to keep the chapters short...like scenes in a movie. I told myself I didn’t want to spend the time outlining the entire book, which made writing the novel difficult. I had to go back and rewrite constantly because I was figuring out new pieces along the way. What I learned through the process was that no matter how painful outlining can be, having a basic outline will save me time writing the next book.
It’s a discipline I’m still learning. I’ve also learned that sticking to a writing schedule is important to make progress. I block out time regularly to write, even if I don’t feel inspired. I sit in front of my laptop or iPad and explore. To keep it from feeling repetitive I try to mix up the locations. Sometimes I write in my office, at a coffee shop, or late at night before bed.
How did you go about creating the characters in your novel? Were they based on people you know?
Many of the characters in The Disillusioned I’ve either met or known for years. I spent time developing each character and writing about them in greater detail than what would end up in the novel. This process helped me have a clear picture of each one and how they related to one another. I had to make sure the characters were unique including their vices, strengths, physical appearance, ethnicity, and personal views.
Do you have any suggestions to help some of our readers become a better writers? If so, what are they?
Write out your goals before you start. If it’s to write a chapter a week, or to write a page a day. Having achievable goals will keep you going. Block out a certain amount of time each day to write. It doesn’t matter if it’s thirty minutes or three hours. Find a place that helps you lose yourself in the story. Allow it to take you in directions you never anticipated. Especially in the first draft, allow the story to guide you. Get it all down and then go back and edit. One bad habit I have is going back and editing while I’m in the middle of a chapter. I’ve had to force myself to write, write, write and get the story down before I go back and edit it down.
Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers, if not, why not, if so, why and what would that be?
If they’re taking the time to invest in the story, then as a writer I need to be sure that the journey pays off, whether it be in victory or defeat. In The Disillusioned, I think the payoff of the story will challenge readers who might disagree because of their beliefs but are left asking themselves tough questions in the end. My hope is that the story will stay with them long after they’ve finished reading the last page.
Where can our readers find out more about you and The Disillusioned?
It can also be purchased at any of the online retail outlets
like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you hit the more traditional
bookstores in person just ask for it and they’ll find it for you.
It’s also available as an eBook from iBooks, Kindle, Nook, etc. I’d
love for readers to stop by my site and let me know what they think
after they’ve read it to keep the conversation going.
As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Why D.J. Williams?
I always told myself that the first novel I released would be written under D.J. Williams as a tribute to my mom who passed away. Whenever I was in trouble she would call me “D.J.” and I thought it was fitting to honor her and those close to me who have kept me out of trouble.