I always wanted to write.
I wrote really bad love poetry to girls in high school. I tried to write short stories in college. Then I decided advertising might be the thing and applied to the top agencies in America, all of which politely said: “No thanks, Bill”.
Plan B: I went to graduate school and talked my way into a local agency as a junior copywriter, part-time. I never looked back.
I spent most of my career in advertising and was fortunate to work with brilliant people for most of it. It’s a long list, but two people were mentors to me and shaped my view of what good work could be: Harry Jacobs and Pat Fallon.
Along the way I directed TV commercials, did voice-overs, wrote a children’s book, and wrote copy for some art books for the world’s coffee tables. Occasionally, I would get a glass of scotch and sit down to write a novel, but when the drink was finished so was the idea.
Once I posed as a real estate agent to discover where James Michener was living so I could ask for advice. He was writing another of his massive books – Chesapeake – and living somewhere near St. Michaels, Maryland. So I sailed up the bay from my home in Virginia and, to make a long story short, found his house and met him. He was wonderfully gracious as he looked over the few pitiful things I had written and, to my astonishment, suggested I get serious about writing a novel. I said I didn’t have the confidence to write anything longer than a :60 TV spot. I was afraid my novel would be lousy. He thought a moment and said lousy novels mucked up bookstores so best not to add to the muck. I wasn’t offended; I understood.
I filled my spare time contributing articles and photography to sailing magazines, and began creating collages – sort of a (very) poor man’s Peter Beard.
Years passed and Pat Fallon asked me to join his agency – the brilliant Fallon McElligott in Minneapolis; soon to be in New York, London, Singapore, São Paulo and Japan. Pat was like the Mayor of Dublin: Charming, witty, naughty and hugely respected internationally for what he and his partners built – one of the top creative agencies on the planet. I was so intimidated by the work the agency created that I said no for months. Besides, I was a summer boy with a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay and Fallon McElligott was in Minneapolis, wherever that was, and I had heard the summers lasted 2.3 minutes. Then Pat sent me a snow blower – in the mail – the card said I’d need it because I was coming to Minneapolis. That did it, I was coming.
Those were heady days, indeed. The agency grew by leaps and bounds and we attracted the brightest, most talented people to join the brightest, most talented people already there.
After the agency was sold to the French holding company, Publicis, I left for a 6-month sailing trip to the Caribbean, including a wonderful and totally illegal side trip to Cuba. When I returned, I left Fallon to become an advertising agency consultant. I also opened a boutique hotel, restaurant and winery in a small town in Virginia called Irvington. I always had an entrepreneurial itch and boy did I scratch it.
I’m now living in St. Paul, Minnesota where the summers are also 2.3 minutes long, but we’ll be moving back to Irvington in a year or so. I have a beautiful wife and two wonderful sons and a lovely step-daughter. And if I’m not the luckiest man in the world you’ll have to introduce me to him.
Now I’m writing fulltime in my favorite genre, historical fiction. McBooks Press took a chance and offered me a three-book contract for the Nicholas Fallon series. Whatever were they thinking?
All I can hope is that I don’t muck up the bookstores.