William Joseph Hill, Sci-fi/action author of CYBER FIGHTER, adapted from his original feature film screenplay
From Planning to Published
When did you start writing and why?
Author: I actually began writing stories in second grade, writing my own sci-fi stories inspired by my favorite TV show Space: 1999. Most of my elementary school stories dealt with Commander Koenig from the show piloting the Eagle 1 to other planets. Then Star Wars came out, and that got me dreaming about becoming a filmmaker. When my family moved to Hawaii, I started writing and creating my own movies once I got into high school. At the same time, I began training in martial arts. My high school adventures that I wrote were very much “ninja epics”. In fact, I actually made a ninja movie between junior and senior years. I knew I wanted to have a career in Hollywood, so when I went to college, I took a lot of writing courses which helped me develop my craft. Once I made the move to Hollywood, I started acting in film and TV professionally, while also writing on the side. I was hired to write a few screenplays and started writing my own specs, including CYBER FIGHTER which began as a feature script before I turned that into the novel.
How long did it take you to finish your first book?
Author: I started adapting my screenplay to novel form in 2018. I finished it and first published on Amazon in November 2019.
If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?
Author: The process from writing first draft to publishing took about a year and a half. Most of the work was done in rewrites and editing. Of course, since I was adapting the novel from my feature screenplay, getting that first draft out wasn’t too hard, as the story structure and characters were all there.
Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?
Author: You always learn from past experience. Right now (along with pre-production on a short film version of CYBER FIGHTER) I’m working on mapping out Book 2 in the CYBER FIGHTER series. I expect that once that’s written and editing completed, going live with publication will be much quicker than my first book.
Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?
Author: I’d say more of a hybrid. Though I began by self-publishing, I’m always open to having a traditional publisher come on board. My main goal with publishing CYBER FIGHTER is to reach a fan base that will want to see the feature film.
How did you determine your target audience?
Author: I begin with what motivates me; what I like. I love sci-fi and action movies, everything from Star Wars to Star Trek, to classic written sci-fi from H.G. Wells, Issac Azimov, Ray Bradbury, among others. I grew up loving martial arts and action movies too. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are major influences in my action sequences. I also like humor in the Monty Python vein, and works like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Folks who enjoy those kinds of works are who I’m targeting with CYBER FIGHTER.
What is your publishing process?
Author: After writing my draft in a Word Document (or Google Docs), I will import it into Kindle Create, where I can format the book for both Kindle and paperback/hardcover.
What platforms do you use to publish your works?
Author: I’ve been exclusively using Amazon as I found it to be the easiest platform to self-publish.
How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?
Author: I have many writer friends here in Hollywood and often get feedback from them. I also hired an editor, Christina Gray on CYBER FIGHTER who did a great job with corrections, edits and feedback as well. It really pays off to hire an editor if you can. You need a second set of eyes looking at your manuscript in order to find things that you will definitely miss, no matter how many times you comb over it.
Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?
Author: I mainly use this program called StoryOrigin, which helps authors build mailing lists, get reviews and help with direct marketing by swapping newsletter mentions and promos with other authors. I send out a monthly newsletter on the 30th of each month to share my recent news, or blog post articles that I write. I also include other authors’ books in these, and they share my content as well. It’s really helped me build my mailing list.
What is your launch plan for your works?
Author: For my next book, I plan on having beta readers do advance reviews for me, and I will also be doing pre-launch promotion via social media and such. Now that I’ve built up a bit of a following, I can reach out to them first with my new works.
How do you get reviews for your books?
Author: I’ve gotten reviews through StoryOrigin, and also by hiring a publicist. I’ve been working with Charles Barrett of The Barrett Company, and it’s really helped get CYBER FIGHTER out there.
How do you promote your content?
Author: Along with StoryOrigin and my publicist, I do periodic social media postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These generally help promote my film projects as well as my book.
What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?
Author: Persistence is probably the best thing you can do. Be willing to try different things and never give up. Keep going till you find something that works, but don’t spend lots of money in the process. Start with marketing you can do yourself and gradually bring on publicists when you can afford it.
How do you define success as an author?
Author: Being able to make your living 100 percent from writing. If you can sell enough books to pay your bills, and also land other writing gigs, I think that is the dream for most authors.
About Your Work
What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?
Author: I am mainly an actor and screenwriter, but have delved into writing fiction novels and short stories.
What genres and subgenres do you write in?
Author: I love writing sci-fi and action/military. I grew up as a Navy Brat in Hawaii, so the military is a big part of my heritage and I like to incorporate it into many of my stories.
What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?
Author: I’m the action-comedy guy. It began from my actor branding and is the most popular thing I do. I get lots of positive feedback from it and it just comes naturally to me, most likely from what I cultivated growing up in Hawaii and making my own kung-fu/ninja/sci-fi movies.
How many works have you published?
Author: So far, I’ve published CYBER FIGHTER the novel, and a comic book adaptation as well, which is based on my short film script concept for the main book. I have also performed and produced the audio book for CYBER FIGHTER too.
Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?
Author: CYBER FIGHTER is the story of a clumsy temp Brian Baldwin who takes a job at defense contractor Kirkman Enterprises, where he volunteers to test their latest software program on himself by getting black belt fighting skills downloaded directly to his brain via a Virtual Reality immersive experience, turning him into a human weapon.
When Brian discovers that the eccentric main programmer Humbert Cloogey has sold him off to the Army for induction, he makes his escape, assisted by his only ally Dr. Kate Rand, a neuroscientist who works for the company, but who has some secrets herself.
Simultaneously as Brian is undergoing the experiment, a Triad crime boss and part-time cloning engineer Lau Xiaoming, operating out of North Korea, hacks into the U.S. server hosting the software, planting a Trojan program into Brian’s brain that holds the secret to “Project Starfish”, his plan for world domination.
Brian finds himself pursued by not only the U.S. Army, and FBI, but also by Xiaoming and his minions, all looking to grab him for their own exploits.
The core of my story is Brian’s journey, going from a middle-aged man who gave up on his dreams, to suddenly finding himself empowered with skills he never thought he’d ever achieve. Almost overnight he acquires an almost superhero status. But he discovers that he apparently hasn’t achieved any more control over his life than before. In fact, his life seems pretty much out of control now.
My message to the readers is to not just keep dreaming, but also be prepared for when you do achieve those dreams. Because there will be forces out there looking to use you for their own means. This story is also a satire on the U.S.’s military industrial complex and how it’s run almost like a corporate entity – completely profit driven. I’m also sending up popular action movie tropes in a fun, comic-book way.
Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.
Author: My common elements include action sequences and humor. A lot of my humor comes from growing up in Hawaii. Martial arts are a big part of local culture, and that’s where I began my own training. I also like to incorporate some references to my upbringing by giving a character a name from Hawaii Pidgin English. For example, in a screenplay I was hired to write years ago, I named one of the villains Hanabata, which is a Hawaii term for the snot that comes out of your nose. It’s an inside joke to fellow Kama’ainas (a Hawaiian term for residents). Hawaii and its culture are such a big part of who I am today, even though I was born on the mainland. Whenever I can infuse a bit of it into my writing or film projects, it helps to personalize them.
What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?
Author: My main goal was to just build an audience for CYBER FIGHTER, an audience to anticipate the feature film. But I’ve enjoyed writing a novel so much that I plan on writing the next two books in the trilogy, even before any of them are made into a film.
Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?
Author: I have a YouTube channel, Four Scorpio Productions (http://youtube.com/fourscorpio). I put a lot of CYBER FIGHTER content there, as well as our web series That Darn Girlfriend, which I’ve created with my lovely and talented actress wife Pamela Hill.
What do you want your readers to get out of your works?
Author: I’m hoping that my readers have fun reading the story and have a few good laughs, along with being thrilled by the action sequences I have in the story. I’d also like them to think about the scientific possibilities that the story explores. As we spend more and more of our lives online, the idea that you could learn skills via Virtual Reality is becoming less science fiction and closer to actuality.
What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?
Author: Marketing! There’s just so much out there to learn how to get my book to reach a wider audience. The challenge is finding where your readers like to hang out online, and how to reach out to them organically without trying to hard-sell them.
What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?
Author: I really enjoy writing. The process of creating characters and exciting adventures has always been fun. It’s the most creative part of the process; I can focus on the artistic expression rather than the business part of publishing.
Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?
Author: I follow Dave Chesson, the Kindlepreneur, both on his YouTube channel and his website. He’s got a lot of great content to help you self-publish, especially his free AMS Ads course
Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?
Author: The closest book that I read similar to my story is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. It deals with virtual reality and 80s pop-culture references too, elements that are also in CYBER FIGHTER.
Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?
Author: I’ve always loved science fiction. One of my favorite novels is H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine; it’s where I first fell in love with the time travel theme, even before Back to the Future came out. I also loved reading Asimov’s short stories, and Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles.
What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?
Author: I tend to be more plot oriented, but I often find that I will hit writer’s block when I focus too much on the plot. That’s when I’ll switch gears and become more of a pantser, writing a passage or two as a character, giving their inner thoughts. When I write by the seat of my pants, it tends to go a lot quicker, for some reason. Probably because it’s a stream-of-consciousness method.
Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?
Author: I use StoryOrigin to network with other authors, mainly with my newsletter swaps. I also use Facebook, more so with my acting contacts, but also a few writers there as well.
Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?
Author: It really depends. Some days I crank out a lot, others I can’t do more than a paragraph. So, it would probably average out to a “sprinting turtle”.
What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?
Author: Self-doubt. That fear that you have that no one will be interested in your work. The inner critic that tries to sabotage you from accomplishing your aims. I have to consciously keep plugging away and not let those doubts take over. If you go step by step, you will become an author.
How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?
Author: Along with those self-doubts, it can be frustrating when you face the fact that you are trying to get your work out there amidst all of the noise competing for attention. It can be easy to get discouraged. Just keep plugging away, and you will get your first book done.
Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?
Author: While writing your book, learn as much as you can about self-publishing. In many ways, it’s the best way to get your work out there. I recommend Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur website and YouTube channel; it was a big help to me.
If you could do it all over again, what would you change?
Author: I would have definitely had my editor go over my manuscript before I had imported it and edited with Kindle Create. Since she didn’t have that software, I had to give her a PDF to work from, which was more difficult as she couldn’t add notes directly in the document file. That probably would have streamlined the publishing process.
Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?
Author: I am indeed driven and self-advocating, but I have to give a large amount of credit to my wife Pamela who is really good with PR and she will often encourage me to take new steps with promotion. She was the one who found me my publicist and gave me the encouragement to reach out to them.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Author: By creating a schedule and sticking to it best I can. But I try not to beat myself up about coming up short. Writing is a process; if you can’t enjoy the journey, then you should try and do something else.
How do you combat writer’s block?
Author: If I have writer’s block, I’ll try to focus on the world-building aspect of the story I’m working on. Maybe write up a backstory or bio on my characters; often that will help jump-start ideas for my plot.
What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?
Author: I knew nothing about ISBN numbers, how you get them from Bowker, what they are, and how Amazon has their own ASIN numbers that you can use instead. I did a lot of research about them so that I could understand them better.
How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?
Author: They actually really enjoyed my book a lot. Even those who really weren’t into the martial arts genre; it was a nice surprise. I’ve had some family and friends tell me that they’ve re-read CYBER FIGHTER multiple times. That really means a lot to me.
What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?
Author: Oh, the biggest myth about writers and authors would probably be how they’re all introverted hermits. That misconception comes from just a part of the process where you have to be a bit of a hermit when you’re writing, but the rest of your day is spent just like anyone else. We like physical activity – I continue my martial arts and fitness training five days a week. So that keeps me balanced.
What do you listen to while you write?
Author: I love listening to movie or video game soundtracks as I write. I try to listen to something that gives me the feeling of the genre I’m writing in. So it can vary from an orchestral soundtrack to a more electronica sound.
Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?
Author: In CYBER FIGHTER I had one of my characters, the bombastic Buzz Kirkman, CEO of Kirkman Enterprises use one of my dad’s (who was a Navy Captain) favorite sayings: “No doubt about that in my military mind.” I also have a reference to the old G.I. Joe cartoons from the 80s: “Know I know…and knowing is half the battle.”
Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?
Author: I can write anywhere I can bring my laptop, though usually at my kitchen table. But I’ve also written while acting in film/TV projects, from the green room or my trailer in between filming my scenes. There’s a lot of downtime for an actor, and that’s a great way to get lots of writing done.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Author: I’m reading Rising Wind by Dick Couch. He’s a former Navy SEAL and this story takes place partially on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor where I grew up in Hawaii. In fact, the author was stationed on Ford Island at the same time I was living there. So, it’s really cool to read a book with real locations that I actually know!
What is your favorite literary trope?
Author: I’m more about pop culture tropes; I’ll often put those into my writing as a fun “easter egg” reference. Like the G.I. Joe catchphrase, or the classic Kung Fu movie tropes I infused into CYBER FIGHTER.
How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?
Author: The more I infuse my upbringing into my work, the more original it becomes. I consider my growing up in Hawaii not only the most influential time in my life, but also what separates me from other creative artists out here in Hollywood.
What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?
Author: I think what director Bong-Joon Ho said when he won the Oscar for Best Director: “The most personal is the most creative”. That is so true; it’s what makes each author unique.
What is your favorite writing snack and drink?
Author: A great cup of coffee, especially when I start in the morning. Later on in the day I love to munch on pretzels and drink flavored seltzer water.
Do you have a writing companion?
Author: I’m a solo act when it comes to writing novels. But my wife Pamela and I both write the episodes for our sitcom web series That Darn Girlfriend. That show is an homage to classic 1960s/70s sitcoms.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Author: This goes back to when I was studying acting. An acting coach once told me that the parts of myself that I wanted to hide were actually the most compelling and interesting parts of me, and what would make me relatable to an audience. To embrace vulnerability and be willing to share that is what makes your work unique and interesting.
CYBER FIGHTER the novel on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081SJRMJ1
The comic book adaptation: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08ZL6X6W6
My YouTube channel for Four Scorpio Productions: http://youtube.com/fourscorpio