Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bill Thompson needs no introduction in North Carolina

Bill Thompson and I are sitting on the front porch, rocking and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, washed down with sweet iced tea. Our conversations always contain tidbits and stories around the state we love and then turn to books and writing. It doesn't get any better than this!

 Bill Thompson is a North Carolina native who has been writing about The South and particularly North Carolina for nearly forty years.  He began writing a column for his local paper then expanded that into over thirty papers in North and South Carolina.  He wrote a regular column for Our State Magazine for over a decade.  Our State (Mann Media) published three of Bill’s books:   Sweet Tea, Fried Chicken and Lazy DogsPearls Pork Palace,(a collection of short stories) and Backyards, Bow Ties and Beauty Queens.  He is an active speaker for numerous events throughout The South. And an excellent one, I might add.

Bill, while we finish up lunch, let's talk some more about your personal writing. I know you love North Carolina as much as I do and I love to showcase the state in my writing too. How has your environment affected your writing?

The old axiom “Write about what you know.” certainly applies to me.  All of my books, columns, plays – everything I write—is taken from my experiences.  I grew up in the rural South so that’s what I write about.

And you write it in such a delightful and entertaining way.

Why, thank you, Susan.

How many books have you written?

I have written two books of essays/commentaries, one collection of short stories, and my first novel, Celia Whitfield’s Boy.

Give a short synopsis of your most recently published book.

Celia Whitfield’s Boy is historical fiction centered around a young man growing up during the lumber industry boom of the early part of the twentieth century in southeastern North Carolina.  He has to deal with personal relations with two women while confronting racism and politics connected with the governor's election of 1924. Of course, it’s much more complex than that but you said keep it short.

LOL. Yes, I've read the book and there's plenty going on. I hope historical fiction readers will pick up a copy.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book? 

The character of Jacob Whitfield is based on my Grandfather Council.  My grandfather and I were very close and, certainly, at least some of my grandfather’s characteristics were passed on to me. My personal slogan “Everything in the world is personal”  applies to my writing, including this novel.  Jacob and I share a lot of the same perspective on personal relationships and struggle with the cynical/realistic approach versus the more idealistic concepts of politics and the role we can play in that regard.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

I had to do a lot of research.  Since, contrary to some observations, I wasn’t actually around during the 1920s I interviewed a lot of people who were around  as well as looking up historical material to make sure I was being authentic in my image of the time and place.  Jacob is a lawyer in the story and that necessitated my reliance on my friend and attorney, Marvin Tedder, to make sure the interpretation of the law during that time and place was authentic.  Of course, his caveat that covers all that is, “The law back then in rural areas like ours was whatever the sheriff and the judge said it was.”

Do you travel to do research or for inspiration? Can you share some special places with us?

I didn’t really have to travel much to do the research and since my inspiration was my grandfather I didn’t have to go away to remember him.

What advice can you give new writers?

 The best advice I would give to new writers is , “Don’t be in a hurry.  Take time to let whatever muse you have speak to you, then revise and revise and revise.  Don’t try to write like somebody else.  Develop your own style”.

Great advice, Bill!

Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

Many years ago I used to carry a small tape recorder with me when I traveled, but now I just try to remember things I see and hear.  And sometimes I just make it up.

You can remember things? Wow! I have to write everything down ;-(
 We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I don’t understand internet marketing, so I leave that up to my publisher.  My most effective way of selling my books is through my speaking engagements around the country.  In my talks I talk about my life growing up in The South and those things that inspired my books.

And you sell lots of books. I've been there. I've sat beside you at signings and I've seen the lines. Your dynamic personality and that deep voice don't hurt either. You're a Southern gentleman and I'm proud to call you a friend.

Why, thank you, Susan.

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

I have a new book coming out in July 2015 that I am really excited about.  It’s called Listen to the South Wind and is the result of a collaboration with a fantastically talented photographer name Doug Sasser. He's also a superior court judge. 

When Doug Sasser and I first started discussing the possibility of putting together a book, we knew we didn’t want to do just another “coffee-table book” with pretty pictures and a text describing the photos to the reader.  We saw this as a collaboration of two people who come from very similar backgrounds and have a real appreciation for the geography and culture of our native Carolinas.  We wanted our readers to develop that same appreciation.

I like to think that I paint pictures as I write about the people, places and events that are a part of who we are and where we are.  As I looked at Doug’s pictures, I wrote down, not a description of the photos, but what I felt as I looked at the images.  It was sometimes a story, sometimes a commentary or sometimes a poem.  Occasionally, I would remember something I had written before and thought it worth restating.

Most of Doug’s photos are landscapes or still life.  I usually write about people.  By combining our perspectives, we hope the reader can see beyond our individual views, beyond what we absorbed during our lives, beyond what we write or record with the camera.  We want the reader to become a part of all that we have experienced, to absorb that unique sense of time and place that makes us Southerners and makes this land a special part of God’s creation.  And our home.

YAYY! I can hardly wait to get a copy!

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

They can buy them from their local bookstores or from Out State Magazine, Second Wind Publishing or they can contact me at
Are your books available in print and ebook formats?

Thanks for dropping by, Bill. And don't forget to let us know when the new book is released. 

I hope to see you again soon, Susan, somewhere around North Carolina.