William Freedman isn't new to writing, or being published.
Best known for his fictional works such as "Forever and Ever, Amen" and his latest offering, "Land That I Love," Mr. Freedman makes use of his journalism and international business degrees by penning articles for business and financial news outlets. He is topical with a keen eye for cutting through camouflage and trappings to uncover and discuss the heart of any subject matter. Most importantly, he does so with sincerity, honesty, and a sense of wry humor worthy of Jon Stewart.
Though Mr. Freedman is frequently categorized as a science fiction, horror, or dark fantasy writer, what the reader quickly discovers is Mr. Freedman merely transposes his observations of today's world to a future time where our current tribulations have become follies and foibles. While providing us with hours of reading enjoyment, Mr. Freedman also leaves the reader to ponder, to remind us, that what we do today will without a doubt impact what will have to be done tomorrow.
Q) "Land That I Love" is a futuristic parody of U.S. political culture. What prompted you to write this far from the ordinary tale?
A) I wrote it in early 2005 and, if you recall, the United States was essentially a one-party country then. George Bush had just won the 2004 election (I hesitate to say he was re-elected because I don't believe he was actually elected in 2000), had solid Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, and hadn't yet wasted all his political capital by screwing up Social Security reform and the Katrina response.
I was in a weird position. On the one hand, I'm a poster child for conservatism: white guy working for a Fortune 500 company, living with his wife and three kids in the suburbs, so I'm a lifestyle conservative. At the time I could claim -- though I don't anymore -- that I was a religious man. I'm still pro-life, although I'd put a whole lot of codicils in that claim. I hold an MBA degree, so I'm by definition a fiscal conservative. As someone who was under fire during the 1991 Gulf War, I didn't need a new reason to support military intervention in Iraq -- knowing full well it had nothing to do with 9/11.
But I also believe in civil rights. I believe in such concepts as habeus corpus and Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure. I don't believe in warrantless wiretaps or torture for torture's sake. And I was concerned -- and these concerns turned out to be well-founded -- that we were fighting two wars without having any idea how we were going to pay for them. One key reason for the economic stagnation of the 1970s was Lyndon Johnson's refusal to raise taxes or cut other spending to pay for military escalation in Vietnam.
But I couldn't voice any of this. If you said anything against the Bush White House, you were "with the terrorists" or "hated our freedoms". I couldn't find anything I was allowed to disagree with the President about and still be considered a good American by my neighbors or co-workers.
Q) You live in New York but chose to have "Land That I Love" published by a South African publisher. How did that decision come about?
A) As you can imagine, nobody wanted to go anywhere near Land That I Love when I wrote it. Some agents and publishers didn't care for it, and that's fair. Others didn't want to get into the risky business of repping a first-time author, especially if he straddled two very difficult genres to market: sci-fi and humor. And I can certainly understand that too. But let me share my favorite rejection with you: “You’re a terrific writer, there’s no doubt about that. And you’ve got a wicked sense of humor … Here’s my problem: editors are shying away from broad satire and parody of the war …. They’re praying mightily that this will all be over soon (well, hell, me too). I don’t think I can sell this simply [be]cause of the topic.” So basically she's saying: The war will be over any day now, so why write about it? That was in 2006.
So it languished in my trunk until about two years ago. I had Facebook-friended a lady named Joan de la Haye. Like me, she's a genre writer (horror, in Joan's case). And she lives in South Africa, a country I've visited on day job business. A few months after we met up on Facebook, she posted a status update saying that she and her friend Caroline Addenbrooke, another genre writer, were establishing their own small press and were looking for manuscripts. It took me about two seconds to reply. They liked Land That I Love and agreed to publish it.
Q) As a writer, you devote much time to encouraging new writers through your creating a science fiction critiquing group and serving as a panelist at writers' conventions. Why do you spend so much time helping others break into writing?
A) Who's helping whom?
Without the monthly crit group meetings, I wouldn't have the deadline pressure that focuses me like nothing else. More importantly, my crit group partners -- and they're not, on average, any more or less "new" than me -- provide insights into what in my first drafts work and what doesn't, and what I can do to improve a scene or a character or a plot thread. And by reading others' works critically, I learn from their mistakes before they become my mistakes.
And as anyone who attends conventions can tell you, we authors go there to market our own wares. There's really nothing altruistic about it.
Q) Your writing bring a freshness to the scene through your humor. Where do you believe your love of laughter comes from?
A) I'm a Jew from New York who tells jokes. Wow. What were the odds? I'm just doing my part to break down barriers and destroy stereotypes.
Q) What's next for William Freedman?
A) I'm about two thousand words shy of finishing my second novel, "Mighty Mighty". It's a superhero spoof, at least superficially. I think it's a much deeper book than "Land That I Love," although I hope it's at least as funny. "Land That I Love" is a political satire; it's about the limits of power and the limitlessness of the arrogance it engenders. "Mighty Mighty" is a social satire about how we all have amazing skills and abilities and yet choose to settle for comfortable mediocrity rather than use them. It's got elements of adventure, romance, family drama and horror in it, but it remains at heart a comedy. If the characters pull down their pants and shpritz each other with seltzer bottles on every page, it stops being funny. So to keep the humor fresh, I'll do anything I can to get you to care about the characters.