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News Release October 14, 2019
Beloit Author Honorary Guest at Carl Sandburg Literary Awards
Bill Mathis, author of two recent novels,was invited to serve as one of the honorary guest authors by the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards in Chicago, October 10, 2019. The awards dinner honored George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) and noted Chicago sociologist and author, Dr. Eve L. Ewing. Nine hundred persons attended the event sponsored by the Chicago Public Library Foundation.
“It was an incredible experience,” Mathis said. “Eighty-nine authors were invited as honorary guests. Many still lived in Chicago, some had left, but we all had Chicago connections. Each of us was introduced individually as we walked across a stage while a short blurb was read and our work/books flashed on the jumbotron. After the introductions, each guest author sat at a separate table with the paying guests. My publisher, Rogue Phoenix Press, donated twelve copies of my books which were the table centerpiece, along with Martin’s and Ewing’s books. Each person at my table took one of my books home as a gift.”
Mathis said it was wonderful meeting many other authors in addition to George R.R. Martin and Dr. Ewing. “It was also exiting to meet Bill Kurtis. I used to watch his newscasts when he was in Chicago and I have followed his career. He’s a wonderful person. His wife, Donna LaPietra produced the evening, it was a huge production.”
Mathis lived in various parts of the Chicago Metro area for forty years with careers in YMCA camping and foster care. After retiring, he moved to Beloit. He began writing after attending a writing class for senior citizens five years ago. The Rooming House Diaries – Life, Love & Secrets, his second novel, is set in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago and is historical fiction. Kirkus Reviews states it’s ‘A story of secrecy, suffering, fortitude, and compassion that demonstrates an exceptional understanding of the human psyche.’ His first novel, Face Your Fears, was set mostly in the suburbs of Chicago. Mathis’ third novel, The Rooming House Gallery – Connecting the Dots, will publish in June 2020 and continues the saga of the old rooming house. His fourth novel, in progress, is a psychological thriller set in farm country and is totally different from his first three books.
“My novels come from my imagination. However, my experiences growing up as a preacher’s kid in a large family, my careers in YMCA camps and foster care and most importantly, the diverse people I’ve had the privilege to live and work with provide lots of ideas,” Mathis said. “I try to present scenes and situations that show diversity and inclusion in everyday life with everyday people. It was heartwarming to spend an evening with other authors from all backgrounds of life writing everything from biography, romance, nonfiction, sports, novels, and fantasy to sci fy.”
Mathis resides in Beloit with his partner, Rick Dexter. His books are available from him personally, at The Villager on Grand avenue in Beloit, and through major online book retailers. For more information email him at firstname.lastname@example.org check out his website at http://billmathiswriteretc.comor his Facebook page, Bill Mathis Writer Etc,https://www.facebook.com/BillMathisWritersEtc/?ref=bookmarks.
Important News Updates, August 17, 2019
Bill’s Third Novel is Under Contract
The Rooming House Gallery – Connecting the Dotswill be published by Rogue Phoenix Press June 8, 2020. It is a stand-alone companion book to TheRooming House Diaries and explores the lives of Josh and Andres, the couple who inherited the house. Their efforts to turn it into a nonprofit community art center, how the diaries affected them, their struggles to deal with their unaccepting fathers, adapting to the many changes their choices bring, all lead to their most important decision—the one to begin their own family. It’s a gentle, touching love story that again speaks to the humanity in family, warts and all.
Beloit Daily News 7/31/19
BILL MATHIS PENS BOOK, LAUNCH EVENT PLANNED AUG. 17
Bill Mathis Interview with Awesome Gang
Where Awesome Book Readers Meet Awesome Writers
Check out other Awesome Books and Awesome Authors: https://awesomegang.com
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I was raised as a preacher’s kid, the oldest of 7 kids, in a tiny town in Michigan. I earned degrees in Business, Journalism & Advertising. After college, with no strong interest in business, I fell into a career directing YMCA camps serving Chicago area children and families. I loved working with people from diverse backgrounds and also disabled children. My degrees came in handy with management, promotion & organization. After 23 years with Y camps, I helped open, direct and coordinate a unique foster care agency, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. I began writing after I retired. My partner told me to find something to do and I took a writing class and was hooked. I won local awards and a statewide one for some of my work. My first novel was published in 2018. Face Your Fears, was inspired by working over the years with disabled persons and deals with a disabled teen, Nate McGuire, coming out, coming of age, and eventually falling in love with an able bodied man. My second novel, The Rooming House Diaries – Life, Love & Secrets, published in July 2019. It uses background material I expanded and further developed based upon the back stories of Nate’s mother & grandmother living in a rooming house. My third novel, The Rooming House Gallery – Connecting the Dots, will publish in mid-2020. It tells the story of the couple who inherit the old rooming house, what they do with it, how the diaries affected their lives and how they go on to establish a community art center in a needy and diverse neighborhood, plus another non-DNA family.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
The Rooming House Diaries – Life, Love & Secrets was partly inspired by the backstory of a sub-character in my first novel, Face Your Fears, who lived in a rooming house as an unwed pregnant teen. My writers group, Beloit Public Library Stateline Night Writers, suggested I expand her story and develop others based around the rooming house. I did a good deal of research and wrote other diaries, all based upon the socioeconomic changes in Chicago starting with Polish immigrants, their children and several roomers. Chicago is such a melting pot and it was exciting weaving the stories throughout the demographic changes at a personal level in my character’s lives. From immigration, to a love child fathered during a war, to a white teen pregnant by a Mexican boyfriend, to a disturbed child who is a predator yet dies in Vietnam saving lives, to a young man who worked the streets of Tijuana, to the rooming house becoming an underground hospice for undocumented & unwanted AIDS victims, the book covers 125 years of time in an inspiring manner.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Some have said, anything I do is usually unusual. I was diagnosed and have lived with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for over 20 years. I write or edit as my energy level allows. Usually that’s every day, but with no set times or goals for a word count. I prefer it quiet, though I can concentrate in public spaces when traveling. I always take my laptop along and find places and some times to write no matter where I am at. We take an extended cruise each year & I find I can get a lot written on sea days. But (usually) no coffee, no music, a messy desk and piles of books around me in our bedroom are my environment.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Looking back, I realize Ken Follett gave me a love for historical fiction which showed up in my second book. Some current authors who inspired me are: Raymond Luczak (Flannelwood), Carol Rifka Brunt (Tell The Wolves I’m Home), Sarah Waters (The Paying Guests), Ursula Hegi (Stones from the River), Tom Spanbauer (The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon), Sanderia Faye (Mourners Bench), Joan Didion (The Year of Magic Thinking), Julie Beekman (Two Trees). There are more, many more!
What are you working on now?
I’m working on something far different, more of a psychological mystery, though the theme is still family. Tentatively titled, Revenge is Necessary, a successful, stoic, calm corn/soybean farmer tells his 17-year old son that he’s not the kids father, orders him to leave while pointing a double-barrel shotgun at him, fires at him, then turns the gun on his wife to kill her. They struggle for the gun, it discharges seriously wounding him in his lower leg. In the aftermath, long buried secrets emerge that not only involve the immediate family, but also the farming community as the double lives of the farmer and his assistant are discovered. The why is gradually answered as the childhoods of the the farmer and his assistance are revealed.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’ve mostly used Facebook. My writing coach, Kathie Giorgio https://www.allwritersworkshop.com) has been instrumental in getting me to speak at a regional book festival. I’m hoping to do more with Twitter and Instagram. I’m holding several author/book events for the release of my latest book. Word of Mouth is helpful. I spent the money and received a wonderful review from Kirkus, which maybe opening some doors.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Write. Write. Write. Read. Read. Read. Find a writing group to get involved in. Giving and receiving feedback is extremely helpful. A critique group is even better. Get other people to read your work, at least some of them shouldn’t be your proud mother or friends. You need to receive constructive criticism. I had to learn to be less defensive and have learned so much more and been helped so much.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Keep on Keeping On… Writing is not a race, it’s a slog through the swamps, the flatlands, the mountains and the valleys. Don’t give up.
What are you reading now?
I always have several books going. Right now it’s: Hearing Voices by Teresa Roberts; Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Nurses on the Inside by Ellen Matzer & Valery Hughes; Burning Bright by Nick Petrie.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Keeping on with my psychological mystery and then back to a draft I set aside. I need to decide whether to trim it or expand it into two books.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
The Sherlock Holmes collection, I just started reading him and am enthralled. I’d take my Kindle – loaded – and a solar charger. 3 or 4 books just ain’t enough!
Radio Interview with Lolita Ditzler on In Print Radio on WBOM
The Interview is in 2 parts. You may have to download and/or play on Google Drive. It’s easy!
Listen to Bill’s interview on Canadian radio station AMI,
The Pulse Show with Steve Brown
A wonderful, thought provoking interview!
Published in the
Beloit Daily News
July 27, 2018
By Hillary Gavin
LOCAL AUTHOR’S BOOK CHALLENGES PERCEPTIONS OF DISABLED GAY MEN
BELOIT – Bill Mathis’s first novel might be hot off the presses, but what’s found between its covers draws upon a lifetime of experience.
Mathis has associated with disability, LGBTQ issues and family for most of his life. He worked with kids with disabilities and came out as gay in his retirement years. His experiences navigating his experiences have made rich fodder for his new book “Face Your Fears.”
Published by Rogue Phoenix Press, the book went on sale on July 8. It’s available on Amazon.com, can be ordered at the Turtle Creek Bookstore and is at www.barnesandnoble.com as an ebook or to be printed upon demand.
Kathie Giorgio, an award winning author and noted writing coach, will introduce Mathis at the book launch for his new novel, “Face Your Fears,” at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 4 at the Beloit Public Library, 605 Eclipse Blvd.
“Face Your Fears” challenges traditional perceptions of what is normal for a disabled man – a disabled gay man. Nate McGuire has cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic with use of one hand and his head, which includes, at times, his loud mouth.
“The book really questions normalcy and treats disability as normal and from a different perspective,” Mathis said.
The other main character is Jude Totsian, a farm kid from a large family in Iowa who has to stay deep in the closet to survive homophobia in the high school and the Air Force. Growing up, he also wonders why he’s the only short, blue-eyed, blond kid in the family.
Mathis drew upon the ever winding path of his life for the story’s inspiration.
During his career, Mathis worked for 23 years directing YMCA camps, which sometimes included camps for people with vision and hearing impairment, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and other conditions.
Mathis recalled taking 70 kids with cerebral palsy to the old White Sox baseball field back in the days of no ADA accessibility. Huffing and puffing, he helped push the wheelchairs around and always remembers some of the lively kids he worked with, particularly a young man he met in 1970 who was a spastic quadriplegic. The feisty youngster would become some of the inspiration behind character Nate.
“He was a pistol,” he said.
After Mathis left the YMCA camps he helped open a foster care complex, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. He retired five-and-a-half years ago, met a new man and moved in with him in Beloit.
Perhaps because of his conservative and religious upbringing, Mathis didn’t come out as being gay until post-retirement. Mathis had been married and divorced from women twice and raised a family.
“There was this piece of me missing and it had to do with men,” Mathis said. “It was a gradual process of me figuring out who I was and it took a little bit of time. When I divorced and realized I was gay, it really was a life changing event.”
Today, Mathis said he gets along fine with his second ex-wife and is doing well. He moved to Beloit to be with his partner Rick Dexter and has fallen in love with the city.
He began taking writing classes through Society for Learning Unlimited (SLU), where he became hooked with the creative process.
Mathis said he was also inspired by author Raymond Luczak, a gay deaf man who has written about his own experiences and put together a queer disability anthology all written by gay men with disabilities.
It took Mathis a year-and-a-half to write his first novel and worked with his writing coach Giorgio.
He said his main characters Nate and Jude don’t meet up until two-thirds of the way through the book. The earlier chapters chronicle their different upbringing. Jude is a farm kid deep in the closet, while Nate is more feisty in his affluent neighborhood.
“Nate gets kicked out of school at age 10 for fighting. He head butts a kid and gives him two black eyes and is mouthy,” Mathis said.
Nate’s coming out is pretty easy.
“He’s wild. He put rainbow flags on his wheelchair and wheeled around town,” Mathis said.
Mathis said disabled people can sometimes be ignored, and he wanted a character who would make his presence known.
Nate eventually becomes an art therapist and Jude is a physical therapist. Their paths cross and they fall in love.
One of the challenges they encounter is how much Jude “helps” Nate as they try to navigate a unique relationship.
“This book is not about pity, such as, ‘Oh, look what the disabled guy can do. How amazing, isn’t that sweet? I feel so sorry for him living in a wheelchair,'” Mathis said. “Instead, it’s an often humorous, sometimes tragic, story filled with believable and loveable characters that prove normal is only a setting on a clothes dryer.”
Bill awaits acceptance or rejection from several journal contests and submissions of fiction and personal essay. He has a trove of fiction and nonfiction short pieces to edit and submit for publication or, someday, combine into a collection.
….Bill’s publications and awards!