The Originals – Author Interview – William Hay

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Paperback Writer is please to announce today’s author William Hay, author of The Originals, a military historical fiction novels. This is his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion.  


The Originals is the story of the Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry through the eyes of William Dawson, a Canadian-born, Boer War veteran, at the outset of the First World War. He enlists with the newly formed Princess Pats’ recruiting only veterans and ex-regular soldiers. For Canadians, the Patricias epitomize the strong imperialist feelings still prevalent in some corners of the young nation, but for the British Army, they are experienced, battle hardened soldiers; rare jewels among the sea of untrained civilians flooding the recruiting offices.

When the Patricias arrive on the frontline in the winter of 1915, the Great War is in its infancy; trench warfare still at its most primitive stage. It is during this period that the regiment develops a reputation second to none. In May 1915, this reputation is put to the test in the Ypres Salient. There, the Patricias set a standard for all Colonial and Canadian troops to follow. A standard set by The Originals.

Hi William, 

Welcome to Paperback Writer.  

Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book? 

  One of my fist loves is history, in particular military history. I am a huge fan of the Shaara novels, both Jeff and Michael (God’s and Generals; The Killer Angels and The Last Full Measure from Ballantine Books) historical fictions about real people during the American Civil War. I’m also a fan of Nigel Tranter’s novels about Scottish history.  It was such novels which inspired me to write historical fiction about Canadians.  Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it? 

I suspect, if I was able to take the time and create a thorough outline, writing my stories might be easier, but my outlines are very general. As ridiculous as it might sound, I like to see if I can actually write a story before I spend too much time researching and outlining it.  I have a story planned out in my mind, the main plot and direction formulated, but the details tend to come out and grow while I’m writing and in particular, revising.   

Do you know the end of the story at the beginning? 

In the case of writing historical fiction about real events, such as those about the First World War, the story’s end can’t be changed; it’s a fact of history. In other cases, as in a crime novel I’ve completed, which waits to be revised, I’ve decided on several endings. It’s so hard to end a story sometimes!  Revision is the point in the process of completing a novel that I get intimate with the story I’ve put together. I equate my first draft as an empty shell of a building; giving me the basic framing I need to follow. At the revision stage I decorate and add the interior finishing. It is at this point the most appropriate ending tends to appear.   

Do you have a process for developing your characters?  

While writing ‘The Originals’, I researched the people and had a list of characters who I felt played a significant role or had an interesting story on their own. Because this is a story of war and battle, it was important to find characters who survived as far along in the story as possible. For the most part, the events and the characters I chose for ‘The Originals’ were real.  I find from the outset of any story I create, there will be a core of characters which drives the story forward. Should I no longer require a ‘supporting-character’ to my main, I kill them off; it’s as simply as that, (not an uneasy task when writing a novel during military conflict!). Often I will go through multiple ‘supporting-characters’; changing them occasionally to fit the needs of the story.  My process in developing characters is not systematic; unfortunately I’m not that linear. Instead it tends to occur naturally, during the course of the story.  Characters appear as I’m writing, out of need, when the story stagnates or loses direction. They will either drop off the face of the story as quickly as they had appeared, having done their job or continues to grow alongside my main character for a period of time, even perhaps, until the end. 

 It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be? 

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to travel through time and be a fly on the wall and watch momentous events as they actually happen? Bill Dawson, the main character in ‘The Originals’ represents that ‘fly-on-the-wall’. He is fictional, while all those around him, (with few exceptions) are real people. In creating Bill Dawson, it was impossible not to write some of myself into his character. In a small way, from my previous career as a Police Officer, specializing in crime scene investigation, I was able to sympathize with the dehumanization which must occur for a soldier, in order for them to do their job. It was from this experience I was able to tap into. I’m able to sympathize with the smells and the images of death a soldier in battle is constantly surrounded by.  I find my moralities and biases come into play constantly while I write my characters. I have a difficult time making my main characters callous or mean, even though it calls for it, (what can I say? I’m a nice guy!). When writing ‘The Originals’, I had to conscientiously put myself into Dawson’s shoes and fill my mind with imagery and smells I recalled having dealt with as a CSI and put it into words; not an easy task. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for someone to write of such things without having actually experienced them.   

What is your most favorite part about this book? 

Bill Dawson and what’s left of his platoon, arrive in billets, out of the front line. They are placed in a barn belonging to a Belgian family for a week long rest period. There, Dawson finds he is struggling with his own humanity; starving for some vision of beauty or caring. He finds it by watching a mother and her two daughters, husbandless and fatherless, during his stay at the farm. It was not meant to be a romantic piece and is quite short, but I’ve since heard from numerous readers wishing I’d developed this section more. It was meant as a form of character development of Bill Dawson as well as providing a break from the war for the reader.  

When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher? 

I spent most of my ‘off’ time researching publishers, agents and all angles of marketing a novel. Although I had completed other novels, I’d never been in the process or writing one with the singular goal of having it published.  Consistent among all the companies and agents I researched was the lack of desire for entire manuscripts at the submission stage. It appears universal that agents and publishers desire only a ‘snippet’ of your work, usually the first three to five chapters. I’d given considerable thought to sending off what I had completed, but since my stories seem to be in a constant state of revision, even while I’m writing, I thought better and kept driving forward, with the goal of finishing and revising my product first. The end result was I was well versed in the system by the time my novel was complete and I had a good idea where my first submission was headed.   

What struggles have you had on the road to being published? 

This in not the traditional story we generally hear from authors, but I had few struggles in being published. In fact I can say it has been a pleasant experience. For ‘The Originals’, I sent out only one submission before my manuscript was accepted.  As I earlier mentioned, during my research stage, I also read many blogs and websites by authors as well as agents providing excellent advice on being published. As many of you are aware, there is a plethora of such material available on the internet. One author I found both depressing and outrageous. His plan of attack was to send out at least fifty submissions, because he had some magical plateau of fifty rejection slips before he’d receive an acceptance.  On another website I found an approach which had much more appeal. Instead of anticipating twenty, thirty or even fifty rejection slips, do your homework and research the publishing company or agent themselves; find out what they have published and if there is some expertise in a particular genre.  I did just that and literally Googled: Publishers of Canadian Historical Fiction. A narrow field, I’ll grant you that, but it brought up ‘Chronicler Publishing’, a company started and run by an author of historical fiction. My novel was quickly accepted. Research into the company itself paid off and I saved a lot of postage!  

What has been the best part about being published? 

Mainly the thought that: ‘I can do it’.  We all know that there are a lot of manuscripts out there; finished and unfinished. Getting over that monumental hurdle of being published is a difficult one. Having been published and seeing my novel in print has been a huge motivating factor in keeping me writing creatively. A copy of my novel is never far from my workstation. Now, as I hit those moments when my mind is devoid of ideas and thought, panic briefly rising from the pit of my stomach as I wallow about, directionless, I glance up at my novel, and know I can get through it and finish what I’ve started.  

 What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel? 

 ‘The Originals’ is a graphic depiction of the First World War. When I’ve done public readings I’ve noticed the faces of some of my listeners wince during some passages; a moment I revel in, knowing I’ve painted an image in their minds of the horrors of war.  My goal in writing ‘The Originals’ is to have the readers feel both pride and despair over what these men suffered through. It wasn’t pleasant in the trenches. To this day few of us can truly comprehend the beastly conditions the soldiers of the First World War endured.  It’s my strong conviction that we can do these men no better honour then learn about their struggles and learn how horrible it was. Because the topic and the events aren’t pleasing for us to remember isn’t a valid reason for not learning or getting a true understanding of what these men went through. I hope readers of ‘The Originals’ get a sense of the trials these men survived and to ‘wince’ occasionally during the graphic depictions.    

 Do you have plans to write another book? 

At present I have submitted another novel for consideration to a publisher. The story is a much larger and long term project about the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War. It is also an historical fiction about real men and women who had an important part to play in the CEF’s development through the war. It will be part one of a trilogy.  I am also completing a novel about two Canadian brothers who participate in the Spanish Civil War. All my projects can be viewed at my website.    

Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump up Your Book Promotion has been for you?  

Pump up Your Book Promotion is an excellent venue for all writers to get news of their novels out. I’ve been working with Dorothy Thompson and Jean Lauzier; ladies who are well experienced in this field. I love to write but I’m wanting in the area of marketing my ‘product’. Using a virtual tour, especially when facilitated by such knowledgeable people as Dorothy and Jean, has been an excellent journey. I plan on using their company in my future endeavors.   

Where can readers find a copy of your book? 

‘The Originals’ is available at Amazon (.com and .ca); Barnes and Noble; Borders. Type ‘William Hay The Originals’ and you’ll be taken directly to the correct page.  The bookstore of Chronicler Publishing (.com) has my novel for sale as well as an assortment of others.  Anyone interested can also visit my website and find a direct link to the web’s location for a purchase.  

Do you have a website for readers to go to? 

Please visit and leave a message if anyone has any further questions. Bill

THE ORIGINALS VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ’08 will officially begin on March 1, 2008 and continue all month. If you would like to follow William’s tour, visit in March. Leave a comment on his blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of his tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this blog on March 31!

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3 thoughts on “The Originals – Author Interview – William Hay”

  1. Hi again, Bill:

    I see you mentioned the crime novel in this interview — the one you said you couldn’t write. I can guess why it’s waiting for revision. I would suggest you look at the plot from a fictional logic standpoint to see where the story elements lead. It’s a very linear process (too linear for someone trying to live in systems reality) but it does point up the strongest ending from the fiction point of view.

    And keep up the Canadian history novels, as I keep on my alternate reality series — we have to have a payback for all this work.


  2. It’s great advise you offer Chris.

    I’m in the midst of finishing my projects on the First World War and completing a fiction on Canadians in the Spanish Civil War; perhaps if I keep rolling, I might change gears and try your approach and either rework my crime novel or start a fresh one. Maybe after completing those novels I’ll be in ‘the mode’ and concern myself less with reality and more with the fiction.

    Thanks again for your support Chris. I’ll keep a look out for your other works.


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