It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since my friend Bill Relling passed away. Yesterday was the anniversary of his passing. So much has happened to me since then. Things that without his help and influence would never have happened.
Bill was more than just a friend to me. He was my teacher, my mentor. Under his guidance I was able to finally achieve the dream of writing a novel. And not just one, but several.
But I’m far from the only one he helped. There have been dozens of other, either through the classes he taught or the writing group he established (one which several have kept going.) We all learned our craft from him. He showed us how to write a novel, how to finish, how to polish. And I’m not the first of his “students” to get published. Nathan Walpow comes to mind.
Bill, under his full name William Relling, Jr., had several books published – BRUJO, SILENT MOON, THE CRIMINALIST, DEADLY VINTAGE, SWEET POISON, to name some. But his legacy is not just his body of work. It is all of us that have carry on working hard to make it in the world of fiction because of how he prepared us. We each carry a little bit of Bill with us as we write. I can feel him frowning at times when I begin to write something that isn’t fully thought out. I can sense him when I’m editing, saying “Kill your darlings.” And I can almost see him smiling when I craft a chapter that really works. He is always with me.
Sadly, he did not live long enough to see me get my own publishing contract. In a strange way, it was because he passed away that I am finally on the path to publication. Some of you know my odd journey. It started with an introduction to small house publisher Ugly Town, who then sold my contract to Bantam Dell later. The reason I got into Ugly Town was because a friend provided an introduction. That friend was Nathan Walpow. At the time, it had been quite some time since Nathan and I had seen each other. Then when Bill died, I saw Nathan and several other former members of the writing group at the memorial service. Of course we talked about Bill, laughing a lot and remembering what he’d done for each of us. Somehow Nathan and I got onto the topic of what we were working on at the time. That’s when Nathan offered to give me the introduction to his publisher Ugly Town. Part of the reason I think he did it was that’s what he thought Bill would want. That offer led directly to where I find myself today, with THE CLEANER coming out this summer from Delacorte (Bantam Dell.)
While Bill was alive, he helped me develop my skills and become the writer I am. Then, even after he was gone, he helped again, putting me on my way to publication.
I could not be more thankful. And I could not miss him more.
I know Bill would be happy to hear that things happened the way they did. He’d think it was an interesting story. But he’d warn me not to make it too sentimental.
I guess there are still some lessons I need to learn.
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