My wife and I were watching the Oscars last night.  (We had recorded it Sunday night.)  And I got to thinking about the similarities and differences between making movies and writing books.  First of all, there are plenty of prizes awarded for each art form.  www.bookprizeinfo.com lists thirty-three prizes for books, and I’m sure this is not a complete list, as there are prizes awarded at regional and local book fairs – not to mention academic prizes.  While a brief Internet search failed to find a comprehensive list of prizes for films, it is clear that the Academy Awards – while perhaps the most prestigious – are far from the only awards for cinema.

There are various categories of awards for both films and books.  What do these awards seek to recognise?  It seems to me that the intention is to recognise excellence in the category.  And what would excellence be?  Well, excellence is certainly a bit subjective, but it would probably include such factors as advancing the state of the art, or the impact (intellectual and/or emotional) on the viewer/reader, popularity, contribution to culture, etc.

One major difference between the art of writing and the art of creating cinema is that the latter is, of necessity a team effort.  One has only to watch the long list of people whose names appear as the credits scroll down the screen at the end of a film to appreciate this.  This is not to say that a successful writer does not also work as part of a team.  He or she will have an editor, a publisher, and a publicist (perhaps all in one person).  While the writer cannot work alone, s/he is the one essential player in the literary arts.  After all, a writer can write a book and publish it on the Internet with the help of no one else.  As a consequence, there are awards for many of the specialist roles in the creation of a film: beyond actors, actresses, supporting and leading, there are directors, producers, writers, music composers, sound technicians, cinematographers, etc.  While in writing, only the book – rarely the  writer, editor, or publisher – wins the award.

The creative arts (cinema, literature, art, music, dance) all seek to please their audience, but they do this through different senses.  Art and literature through the eyes, although some sculpture begs to be touched, and these two art forms are usually the product of a single person (artist or writer). Cinema and dance are taken in through the eyes and ears; music through the ears, and, in the case of a performance, through the eyes, as well.  And these three arts are generally a team effort.  Moreover, the production of music, dance and particularly films are expensive undertakings, while the major expense in the production of art or literature is (only) the artist’s time.

How do I feel about all of this?  Well, I have no problem with the solitary nature of writing, or that its cost is largely my time.  What I wish for – from time to time – is a professional editor who is a friend and honest critic and who understands me, my strengths and weaknesses.

Reviews: Sin and Contrition

The following reviews have been posted on Amazon.com of Sin & Contrition:

by Kittty “Book Lover” (5 stars)

What is sin and what is contrition? In exploring these issues, Bill Peace has written a page turner in his new novel Sin and Contrition, as he follows the lives of three males and three females from early adolescence through middle age. As with all of us, these characters confront life’s issues – schooling, relationships, families, faith, careers all requiring choices. An additional character in the form of the pastor of a local church injects questions humans deal with throughout their lives – is there a God, does He act in our lives, and for Christians, what is the meaning of Jesus? A most intriguing and unique device is the “epilogue” where Mr. Peace interviews each one of the characters and asks them to examine their consciences, so to speak. As they look back on their lives, do they have any regrets? What would they do differently? What would they say about some of the moral choices they made? The reader reacts to the justifications presented by the characters, but also considers the responses in terms of his/her own life choices. The book is compelling and thought provoking at the same time. I look forward to Mr. Peace’s next book.

by Book Review (5 stars):

In his novel Sin & Contrition, William Peace follows the lives of six Americans, three male and three female, from a small town near Pittsburgh. We meet them at age 14, when their concerns are still those of very early adolescence: popularity, pecking order, awakening sexuality and, perhaps surprisingly to most of us, right and wrong. As they develop through their teen years, young adulthood and middle age, we grow more and more involved with the sometimes predictable, sometimes very surprising but always plausible ways in which their lives progress.

There is a lot of sex in this book — and a lot of religion. It is up to the reader to decide how comfortable he is with either. Peace seems to be totally comfortable everywhere, whether he is writing about the Marine Corps., lingerie manufacturing in Taiwan, tax fraud, drug abuse or political maneuvering. And, of course, he has the luxury of six different lives — and many very valid and fascinating minor characters — to play with.

He has also mastered the secret of the docu-drama. We know we are reading fiction, but we totally believe in these characters to the degree that when he chooses to close his account as an author interviewing them, we shake our heads but buy it. Or, perhaps it’s the soap opera that Peace has mastered. In either case, we want to tune in again tomorrow.

(For more information about my novels, see www.williampeace.net.


As a child, I was brought up to suppress my emotions.  My father was remote, and had great difficulty expressing his emotions.  My mother, while gregarious and charismatic, believed that emotion was an expression of human weakness.

I remember that when my father died (at age 62) of Alzheimer’s disease quite a while ago, my mother called to tell me of his death (which had been expected).  She started to cry on the phone, and I remember saying something to her like, “Mom, you’ve been brave for so long, don’t break down now.”  I remember it so well, because now, I think what a terrible thing to say!  I should have expressed empathy and sympathy!  But that gives you an idea of how strong the ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality was in my family.

I remember also that when I separated from my first wife, I was cleaning my small apartment on a Saturday morning.  The phone rang.  It was my mother.  She wanted to know how I was, and at the end of the conversation, she said, “I love you.”  I couldn’t believe it!  I couldn’t recall her ever saying that to me before. (I was 46 at the time.)  I didn’t doubt that, in her heart of hearts, she loved me, but she did not express her feelings.

When I separated from my first wife, the minister at our church recommended that we both go to counselling.  I did.  I went to a psychotherapist for about two years, and during that time, I only learned one thing: get in touch with your emotions, don’t suppress them – emotions are an essential part of what makes us human.

Now, when my wife an I go to the movies, I often find that I’m shedding tears in response to something that’s happened.  Not just sad events, but also very happy events.  I’ll start wiping my eyes if I get caught up in the emotions of the actors.  My wife thinks it’s kind of amusing.  She seldom sheds a tear in the movies.

One interesting thing is that all five of the important women in my life are (or were) Capricorns: my mother, my sister, my ex-wife, my wife and a girl friend.  Why would that be?  Well, some is chance and some is by choice.  I’ve had a look at the characteristics of Capricorns.  One astrology website says: “These independent, rock like characters have many sterling qualities.  They are normally confident, strong-willed and calm.  These hardworking, unemotional, shrewd, practical, responsible, persevering . . . persons . . .”  I think that’s a fairly good description of all my women.  So, did I, as an unemotional child with two Capricorns living with me, choose three others?  Maybe so.

As a writer, one has to feel and express emotion.  I would have been a very poor writer of fiction before I went through psychotherapy.  Now, I find myself shedding tears when I’m re-reading a particularly well-written description of an emotional event.  For example, here’s a passage from Fishing in Foreign Seas.  Caterina and Jamie are visiting Erice, an ancient, mountain-top town in western Sicily:


“I show you something I do not like,” Caterina said, and she led the way down narrow path which seemed to skirt the edge of the mountain.  She paused near an iron railing, but clearly was going no closer to it.

Indicating the railing she said: “there is a very big drop there.”

Jamie walked over to the railing and peered over the edge.

“Not go so close, Jamie!” she said in alarm.

He looked into a narrow gorge which was covered on the near side with vines and seemed to stretch down into infinity.

“Yes, I see what you mean.  I can’t even make out what’s at the bottom.”

“Jamie, come away!” she pleaded.

She took a step backward and held out her hands to him.  He crossed over to her.

“The railing is quite strong.  You wouldn’t fall over,” he assured her.

She looked at him, her lips compressed: “I am afraid of heights.  When I get near a place like this, I am afraid I throw myself over.”

“But you’re not going to do that!”

“I know, but I still get the feeling. . . .  As if some demon inside of me will take control . . . and throw me over.”
“But you don’t have any demons inside,” he protested.

“I know of one,” she confessed.  Her eyes were misty: “. . . it is called ‘self-doubt’.”

He stared at her in utter amazement, then he felt her vulnerability, and he drew her close to him.  “Let’s get a bite to eat,” he suggested.

They sat at a table in an almost-deserted patisserie.  She would look at him for a moment and then she would look around her.  The corners of her mouth were turned down and her head was inclined to one side.

“Caterina . . .”  She looked at him, her face full of disappointment in herself.

He took her hands: “I love you!”

She took a deep breath, not believing what she heard.  Then the dam burst inside her.

“Oh, Jamie, I love you so much!  I never believed I could love anyone like this!”  Her face was streaming with tears.

“You beautiful, wild, wonderful girl!”  He got up and hugged her.  “. . . Do you suppose they have any champagne here?”

She wiped her eyes with a napkin.  “I doubt it, but they probably have some prosecco – which might be good.”


Now, when I write, I consciously step into the character I’m writing about – much as I suppose an actor does.  And, knowing the character, I let myself feel the way that character would feel in that situation.  And when I feel those feelings, I try to express them in writing – by what the character says, or thinks, or by his/her body language.

(For more information about my novels, see www.williampeace.net.)

Are Writers Introverts?

In the February 6, 2012 issue of Time magazine, there is an article on “The Upside of Being an Introvert (and why extroverts are overrated)”.  This caught my eye because I used to think I am an extrovert, while my wife says I’m an introvert.  More on this later. 

The article was accompanied by a quiz consisting of twenty questions which one can take to answer the question, “Are you an Innie or an Outie?”  Here are the questions:

  1. I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities (yes or no)
  2. I often prefer to express myself in writing (yes or no)
  3. I enjoy solitude (yes or no)
  4. I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status (yes or no)
  5. I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me (yes or no)
  6. People tell me that I’m a good listener (yes or no)
  7. I’m not a big risk taker (yes or no)
  8. I enjoy work that allows me to dive in with few interruptions (yes or no)
  9. I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale with only one or two close friends or family members (yes or no)
  10. People describe me as soft spoken or mellow (yes or no)
  11. I prefer not to show my work or discuss it with others until it is finished (yes or no)
  12. I dislike conflict (yes or no)
  13. I do my best work alone (yes or no)
  14. I tend to think before I speak (yes or no)
  15. I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself (yes or no)
  16. I often let calls go to voice mail (yes or no)
  17. If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled (yes or no)
  18. I don’t enjoy multitasking (yes or no)
  19. I concentrate easily (yes or no)
  20. In classrooms, I prefer lectures to seminars (yes or no)

It seems to me that seven of these questions would get a “Yes” answer from most writers (numbers 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 18 & 19).  This means that of the remaining thirteen questions, one would only have to “Yes” to four of them to be more of an introvert than an extrovert.  This suggests to me that most writers are introverts.  In my case, I answer “Yes” to seven other questions.  The footnote on the quiz says that “There are no fixed scores, since both introversion and extroversion fall along a continuum, with many people – known as ambiverts – falling somewhere in between.”  Based on my score, I would say that I’m 70% introvert and 30% extrovert.

So why did I previously think I am an extrovert?  Well, when I first took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (mentioned in a previous post), I tested as an E (for extrovert) rather than as an I (for Introvert).  The MBTI has a scale of responses, and I was an E, but not strongly an E.  The Time magazine article makes the point that it is an extrovert’s world, and people are socialised towards extroversion.  This was certainly my case.  As a child, I enjoyed my own company, and had a few good friends.  At university, in the Navy (particularly as an officer),as a sales engineer and as a manager, I learned to adopt the behaviour of an extrovert.  That’s what the MBTI found.  But during my lifetime, I’ve never  liked conflict (though I’ve learned to deal with it), and I’ve never enjoyed being the focal point in a large social situation.  So, at this point in my life, I’m happy to go back to ‘my roots’, write novels and be an introvert.  By the way, the Time magazine article points out some of the advantages of being an introvert.

The article also points out that Winston Churchill – a well-known extrovert – won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his memoirs.  (There are exceptions to every rule!)


I tend to believe that if one is going to do something important, one must have a plan.  For those of you who are familiar with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (there is a page on Wikipedia), my profile ends in a J (judging).  This means that I tend to place a lot of emphasis on rational thought.  My wife has a profile ending in P (perceiving), and she tends to be quite intuitive.  I think it’s fair to say that most of us have some of both, and certainly both are useful to a writer.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Fishing in Foreign Seas was based on a series of dreams I had.  Then, I added the story about the huge negotiation, which is, by the way, in many ways based on my actual experiences.  There was not a great deal of planning involved in creating this novel, which switches back and forth between the romance and the negotiation.  The chapters are divided by time period, with each period covering a stage in the development of the romance or the negotiation.  So, for example, I didn’t really plan the chapter about Jamie and Caterina’s years in Philadelphia, I just knew what I wanted to say.

For Sin & Contrition, I had to plan the six main characters: their personalities, their values, their strengths and weaknesses.  And I had to prepare a list of the sins they commit.  After that, the planning was ‘on the fly’.  When I wrote the chapter on bullying, I sat down and thought ‘who’s going to bully whom, why and how’.  The ideas flowed, and I put them on paper.  Not really a lot of formal planning.

My third and fourth novels are thrillers, and as such they had to be much more thoroughly planned.  (The third, Efraim’s Eye, will be out later this year, and the fourth is about two thirds complete.)  After all, one has to set the stage, build up the suspense and present the climax followed by the resolution.  Efraim’s Eye  is based, in part, on my experience with a charity in Mexico – although the novel is set in Morocco.  Because of my experience, I knew what I wanted to say about the charity.  But in presenting the terrorist side of the story, I had to lay out, step-by-step, how it would evolve.  I also had to do a lot of research, which in many cases, led to alterations to the plot.

(Efraim’s Eye was published 24 September 2012.)

My fourth novel – about the drugs trade in Afghanistan and Iran – is not based on my experience.  And here I had to start with a brief idea of what would happen.  I  then described each of the  principle characters and their roles.  This was followed by hours and hours of research.  I could then lay out the plot, chapter by chapter, in some detail.  But the process I’m using is organic.  Before starting a new chapter, I’ll look at the outline for that chapter.  Usually, it needs to be revised and more clarity added.  This, in turn, may result in the need to change something I’ve written two or three chapters previously.  And, it may result in changes to the outline of the later chapters.  But once I start writing a chapter, the formal planning ends until the next chapter begins.  Also, as the novel evolves, my perceptions of each character evolves and becomes clearer.

So, for me, planning has become a more essential function in the creative process.  But planning has to be iterative and flexible.  There has to be plenty of space for intuition.