William Bernhardt has created a writing and teaching empire. He has more than 40 published books and holds writing workshops around the country. I met him at a conference a few years back and have attended two of his workshops, where I learned a ton. His responses to my questions are clear-sighted and to the point, full of great insight.
What makes your books and writing unique?
Well, I wrote them. I try to write a book that’s interesting, but still has something to say and information readers may not already know. Something for everyone to take away.
How did you find your writing niche?
Luck. I certainly never set out to be a thriller writer, but that’s what clicked. I’ve used that to create opportunities to write all kinds of other work.
How do you balance writing, speaking, online platform, other work, church or community service, and family? How do you organize your time?
Not as well as I should. But I make myself write every day (almost) and schedule everything else whenever possible. Honestly, I like being busy. Keeps me out of trouble.
Why do you think readers buy your books?
I like to think they find the books fun and engaging. I don’t think anyone would waste time reading a book that didn’t intrigue them, especially when there are so many options out there.
What helps your business succeed despite competition?
I like to think I’ve created a positive “brand” that helps people remember who I am and what I write.
How do you find new readers?
I don’t. They find me. But I rarely turn down an opportunity to speak or teach or otherwise promote my work.
What have been some keys to your success? What have been your biggest barriers?
I think the only key was that I wouldn’t quit, so regardless of how long it took, I was bound to get there someday.
William Bernhardt is the bestselling author of more than forty books, including the blockbuster Ben Kincaid series of novels, the historical novel Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness, currently being adapted into an NBC miniseries, a book of poetry (The White Bird), and a series of books on fiction writing. In addition, Bernhardt founded the Red Sneaker Writing Center, hosting writing workshops and small-group seminars and becoming one of the most in-demand writing instructors in the nation. His monthly eBlast, The Red Sneaker Writers Newsletter, reaches over twenty thousand people.
Bernhardt is the only writer to have received the Southern Writers Guild’s Gold Medal Award, the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award (University of Pennsylvania) and the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award (Oklahoma State), which is given “in recognition of an outstanding body of work that has profoundly influenced the way in which we understand ourselves and American society at large.” In addition to his novels, he has written plays, a musical (book and music), humor, nonfiction, children books, biography, poetry, and puzzles. In his spare time, he has enjoyed surfing, digging for dinosaurs, trekking through the Himalayas, paragliding, scuba diving, caving, zip-lining over the canopy of the Costa Rican rain forest, jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet, and in 2013, becoming a Jeopardy champion. OSU named him “Oklahoma’s Renaissance Man,” noting that in addition to writing novels, he can “write a sonnet, play a sonata, plant a garden, try a lawsuit, teach a class, cook a gourmet meal, prepare homemade ice cream, beat you at Scrabble, and work the New York Times crossword in under five minutes.”
He lives in Oklahoma with his wife Lara and their children.