Bill Petrocelli

Chatting with Chatterific

I enjoyed some thoughtful Q & A with Freelance writer, editor, TV/film critic, Gerald So, host of the website Chatterific. He was interested The Circle of Thirteen, but he also wanted to know about trends in the book business

Gerald So: The Circle of Thirteen sounds like a sweeping, cross-genre story. How did the concept come to you? If you would, describe its road from inspiration to publication.

Bill Petrocelli: I plead guilty as charged – The Circle of Thirteen is relentlessly cross-genre! It is rather sweeping in its scope, and it’s for that reason that I felt compelled to structure it as a thriller in order to maintain the pace and the tension. The broader the story got, the more determined I was to keep it under control and fit it into the thriller mode.

In terms of structure, my inspiration was Robert Wilson’s A Small Death in Lisbon. Wilson used two narrative threads – one a contemporary criminal investigation over a period of about two weeks; the other a historical back-story that bridged about forty years. In the end, the two stories merged in a thrilling resolution.

The inspiration for my theme is a little harder to pin down. If anything, I suppose it was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I wanted to explore the theme of women’s expanding role in our society and the backlash against it.

But themes and structures don’t make a compelling story all by themselves. In the end I tried to create characters that the reader will either love or hate (I have some of both).

Gerald: Which current trends in the book business most excite you (positive) or concern you (negative)?

Bill: The trend that gets the most publicity is the growth of e-books. This trend has the most money behind it and the most high-tech glitz to capture the media’s attention. Although it’s an important trend, it by no means signifies the end of the printed book (as some of the more breathless commentators have predicted). Right now, e-books are hovering around 30% of the market, and their growth in market-share has slowed considerably. Most experts now seem to think that they will become a permanent part of the publishing business but only alongside of books that are in more traditional formats.

But there’s another trend that has been growing over the last couple of decades, and it has received relatively little attention. This is the increasing role of books as a catalyst for personal interaction. Until about twenty years ago, most bookstores just put books on the shelf, opened the doors, and hoped for the best. All of that has changed. Authors now interact more frequently with readers and booksellers through in-store author events, writers’ conferences, video-links, blogging, and writing classes. Readers frequently interact with booksellers and other readers through book clubs, in-store discussions, staff recommendations, and community events. This has had a big impact on the book business, and independent bookstores are in a strong position to take advantage of this trend.