William burton mccormick
Originally from the U.S.A., Bill (as he prefers to be known) now lives in Latvia and writes historical fiction set in the Baltic States and Russia. He was elected a Hawthornden Fellow in 2013 and a member of Mystery Writers of America, the Crime Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. Three of his short stories have been finalists in the prestigious Derringer Award and he is, quite simply, one of my favourite writers.
'Lenin's Harem', is set in the small Baltic state of Latvia, It is an epic and enthralling novel of love and war, which sweeps the reader and the characters through the first three tumultuous decades of the nineteenth century. William Burton McCormick brilliantly recreates the tensions and horrors of war-torn Latvia as it struggles to assert its identity and gain its independence, while being ripped apart by successive invaders and treacherous politics. McCormick’s prose has a lyricism which fascinates the reader and wards off revulsion as he steers us through the gas-filled trenches of World War One...
So how did you first get into this crazy world of novel writing?
What attracted you to the genres of Crime Fiction and Historical Fiction?
However, when it came time to write that first novel, I quickly knew I wanted a historical setting. I've always loved history if told correctly. There are so many wonderful stories there. I was an Ancient Studies as an undergraduate mainly because it was an excuse to do two things: listen to great stories and imagine what it was like living in civilizations of the past.
So, it was pretty natural that my novel and most my stories have both a crime element and a historical element. Probably always will.
How easy –or hard - was it for you to find ideas for your more recent works?
Easy. It's too easy in fact. Since my time at the University of Manchester I've lived in Latvia, Estonia, Manchester (again), Russia, Ukraine and now a second stint in Latvia. For this American guy, living in these locales inspires stories daily. I've such a backlog I know I'll never get to write them all. But inspiration is not the problem, getting them all down and done is the challenge.
How do you ensure that the setting, characters and details in your novels are authentic and unique?
Of course, I don't do such things for every story. If the work is essentially a fantasy or adventure I can trust my own research alone. The history isn't the main focus. But with a work that is supposed to dramatize actual events like my novel, you have to be accurate. Too many people died to get it wrong.
How hard it is to get published, and even more so, how hard it is to get paid.
What are your next writing projects?
Then in it's onto another historical novel, which features some of the characters from Lenin's Harem in World War II.
What is the most rewarding experience you have had in your writing career?
Lenin's Harem is set in Russia and Latvia (mainly the latter). Despite all my careful research, when I was writing it, I was very apprehensive of what ethnic Latvians would think of the book. I thought they'd catch culture mistakes I made and odd perspectives that I was bound to have as a foreigner, even one living in their country. To my surprise the book was embraced by the Latvian-American community, and then, when published in the native language, by European Latvians as well. I did a book signing in Riga and there were people in tears telling me stories of how their grandparents went through these events, that I depicted them so accurately, and that it meant so much that someone wanted to tell the world about what happened in their country. One Latvian man who had read the book couldn't believe it was written by a foreigner. He insisted it was ghost-written by a Latvian. It was quite an honour for me.
What is the best part of being a writer?
The inspiration. Waking up in the middle of the night with a story you know will be good, stumbling around to get a pen or turn on the laptop so you can write it down before it's gone. That's the part I love - the imagining of it. That first moment of inspiration, then assembling the puzzle in your mind. The rest is just work. Sometimes highly enjoyable work, sometimes absolutely tortuous work. But work nonetheless.
Have you any advice for newbie authors?
Understand that it’s a craft. That with practice you're writing will get better, the words will come faster, but be willing to throw away a lot of what you write, especially at the beginning. Learn to take criticism. Find a focus group to read your drafts. Find a good publisher you can trust, it will make everything easier.
And enjoy the journey.
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