My most recent book is titled: Knights of the Saltier: Book 1 of the Order of the Saltier Trilogy.
The Order of the Saltier Trilogy is a work of fiction set in modern times about a secret society that was formed to help preserve justice and freedoms. This “Order,” which is based on the knighthood orders of the crusaders, sees it as its duty to identify where justice and freedom are in peril or under attack; and to take action where possible to help restore justice and freedom to those who have lost it. Rather than acting as vigilantes, extracting justice according to their own code, The Order acts as an extension of the justice system, secretly helping law enforcement bring criminals to justice without revealing the existence of the Order.
In Book 1, we are introduced to Tom Anderson, a young man wanting to be part of something bigger than himself. He follows his own path, joins the military, and has a distinguished career. Once out of the military, he is recruited into The Order. The Order is working to bring down a large crime syndicate that has become aware of The Order’s existence and is committed to the Order’s destruction. Book 1 is also the story about a father and a son, coming together has adults and healing old wounds. The climax of the book comes when one of the leaders of the crime syndicate attempts revenge for the Order’s efforts against his business.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1962, and graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1984. I have been a management consultant and leader for almost 25 years, specializing in the human impact to change. Whether this change is as simple as the introduction of new technology into an organization or as complex as a major restructuring of a company’s operations, the way people work and interact with each other is impacted. For a change to succeed, people have to be prepared for that change. This has been my focus for most of his professional career. I have worked for companies and with clients across the United States, Canada, Bermuda, and the United Kingdom. I have lived in Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Connecticut, and Florida.
I have helped start a number of non-profit corporations, and hold officer and director positions in several cultural and historic organizations. I am a Civil War Reenactor and am heavily involved with battlefield and historic site preservation.
I currently reside in Orlando, Florida with my wife, Lee Anne. I has two children: Sonya, who is about to finish college and go into the US Marines as an officer, and Brad, who recently graduated high school and went into the US Marines as an infantryman. I also have a cat named “Major” (a gray Maine Coon named for Major John Pelham, J. E. B. Stuart’s chief of artillery).
I am a published author of several articles and papers on leadership and the human impact to change. In addition, I have published eight textbooks on the types, nomenclature, capabilities and deployment of field artillery in the 19th century. I teach artillery safety to Civil War Reenactors as part of the Instructor Cadre of the Loyal Train of Artillery Chapter of the United States Field Artillery Association Artillery Schools.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always been fascinated by the myths and legends associated with secret societies, as well as the early orders of crusading knights (such as the Knights Templar, the Knights of the Round Table, etc.). I had just finished watching a number of television specials about the various secret societies that supposedly helped shape the United States, as well as several shows about the Knights Templar and what happened to them, when the question came to me: “what would a secret society based loosely on the early crusading knighthood orders look like today and what activities would it perform to be relevant in modern times?” I sat down and began creating a group I called the “Order of the Saltier.” I developed everything about the Order – the symbols, the rules and governing structures, the ceremonies, the regalia of the officers and ranks, the Order’s aims and purposes, and the activities the Order would perform. Once I had the Order fully defined, the ideas for the first book began coming to me. Obviously, some of the events in the book are based on my own life, but set in the context of this secret society. Originally, I was only planning on writing the one book, but some of the people I let read the early manuscript drafts pointed out that I could easily write a series of books about the Order and the characters I had developed. The ideas for Books 2 and 3 came to me almost immediately after that, and I completed the Trilogy a few months later.
How did you choose the title?
The word “Saltier” refers to the Cross of Saint Andrew, which is the cross in the shape of an “X,” rather than the Roman Cross, which is in the shape of a “T.” It’s the name for the Flag of Scotland, as well as the Battle Flag of the Confederate States of America. Since my background is both Scottish and Southern, it’s a symbol that has been part of my life for years. I wanted to bring that aspect of my past into the book, so I decided to refer to the organization as the “Order of the Saltier.” Since the members of this Order consider themselves to be crusading knights, it seemed a good choice to call the first book: Knights of the Saltier.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
The hardest part was getting a publisher to take the chance on an unknown author. Publishers have limited resources and need to put those resources to work where there’s going to be the greatest possibility of return. I didn’t want to self-publish this book – I had already done that with my artillery textbooks. I think self-publishing is fine for a limited or target audience, such as Civil War Reenactors, but I wanted this book to be available to a much larger audience.
I sent out a number of inquiries to literary agents and publishers, and received very polite rejection notices for a variety of reasons. The hardest thing I had to overcome was discouragement. But I kept remembering that, originally, I wrote the book for myself and a few select friends. I had already accomplished my original goal, and now getting the book published was just icing on the cake. I did not plan on becoming a professional writer when the process began.
After a while, persistence and patience paid off, and I found an agent who though the trilogy looked interesting (I had already written the first three manuscripts before looking for a publisher) and recommended a publisher to me. One thing led to another, and the first book was released in print this past July.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
In the beginning, I did not want to become a writer. Writing was something I did for myself. I always found writing to be a relaxing activity – a way to take ideas and stories from my head and put them on paper so they could be better developed, refined, completed, and them possibly shared with others.
As a consultant, business writing is a large part of what I do. But most reports that consultants produce just sit unread on a bookshelf and gather dust. They’re boring and rarely relevant within a month after they’re written. I wanted to write reports that people wanted to read and keep referring back to, so I approached business writing as story-telling, but rather than a work of fiction, the story was about the client’s business. My clients seemed to appreciate this style, and I got better as a writer every day.
My artillery textbooks were my first serious works, and they took years to complete, edit, and publish. But they were more like my business writing – factual, scientific, structured. Let’s face it, there’s not much story-telling in a book about how to fire a cannon safely and properly!
I attempted writing fiction before, but felt I lacked the life experiences to carry an entire novel. It was ten years from my last attempt at writing fiction before I began work on the Order of the Saltier Trilogy, and I had sworn never to attempt writing fiction again. But when I started working on these three books, it was the most fun I had ever had, and that made me want to become a writer full-time.
Do you have any writing rituals?
A few. First, when I’m working on a new story, I take a lot of notes about plot and action possibilities until I can work out the initial list of what a complete story will be about. Then, I create the title because that helps me focus the plot and actions around a specific theme. Next, I create artwork for the contents and the cover – again, this is to help me focus.
Once that is completed, I write out the high level story as a narrative. Then, I break that down into between five and eight major climax points and those become the major chapters or parts of the book. Each part is broken into multiple sub-climaxes and those become the individual chapters. I now have my outline. I format the document into chapters and sub-chapters with a paragraph at the beginning of each from the outline to describe what’s supposed to happen. Then, I start writing. Frequently, as I write I’ll find that the story needs to change, so I am constantly revising the outline as I go. I also go back and read the last two chapters before working on the next one so I keep the continuity between what I wrote before and what I write next.
To edit the manuscript, I read it out loud because I hear more mistakes than I can see when I re-read the manuscript. I keep doing this until I think it’s ready to let someone else read it. My wife, my sister, and my daughter are my sounding-boards, and they help me refine the book until it’s ready to submit.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Most of the names are taken from people I know from my past who have influenced me or have been good friends. I mix and match first and last names so no character relates back to any one real person. They are all a blending of personalities of people I know or people I wish I had known. You will notice that most of my main characters names are Scottish, but there are a few that are either named after family members of very close friends.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
Yes. The easiest part getting a book published is actually writing the initial manuscript. From then on, you have to be very thick skinned as people give their blunt and honest opinions about your work – especially if they don’t like the work or aspects of the work. You have to be patient as the work is edited and mistakes are corrected. You have to be honest with yourself about why you want the work published and what you are willing to do to get it published. And finally, you have to remember that publishing is a business and you are a partner in that business.
For a first-time author, the publisher is not going to give you an advance and they are not going to put a lot of resources into marketing your book from the beginning. They are going to start small and see how the book does. If it does well in the beginning, then they will assign resources to help it do even better. If it doesn’t do well, they wont. As the author, you have to really work to get the book known. You have to approach book sellers to get them to carry the book and set up author and book events. You have to do interviews, blog, and find effective ways to get word out about your book. You need to tap into your friends and social networks to spread the word and generate interest. You need to approach reviewers to get them to read and write a review about your book. It’s hard work, but if you want to be successful and if you want your book to do well, you have to work hard to get your foot in the door. Publishing is easy. Marketing is hard. If you can’t handle that, don’t start – just write for fun and fine something else to do for a living.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
No. I set out to see if I could do it and to learn the process, and that’s just what I did. I want the book to be successful – I have a lot invested in it now, but I think I went about it in exactly the right way for me.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I prefer to read historical fiction, action-adventure, and science-fiction/fantasy, as well as the classics. The authors I read are ones who can tell a compelling story and pull me in so that I feel like I’m standing right next to the main characters. It’s a fine line between giving enough information to make a story real and information-overload, and these authors have always impressed me with their ability to provide just the right amount of information. The first novel I ever read was Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, and I still reread it every few years. The other authors I read regularly include: Frank Herbert (Dune), Tom Clancy (Patriot Games), Mary Stewart (The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills), J. R. R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings), J. K. Rowling (The Harry Potter Series), David Eddings (The Belgariad Series and The Malloreon Series), Ken Follett (On Wings of Eagles), Thomas Harris (Black Sunday), Eric Van Lustbader (The Ninja and The Miko), James Clavell (Shogun and Noble House), as well as the classical authors like H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Alexander Dumas.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Books 2 and 3 of the Trilogy are finished and waiting to be published.
Book 2 picks up three years after the end of Book 1. In it, we are introduced to Emily McCafferty, a member of the Order who becomes Tom’s girlfriend. Their love story is set against the backdrop of a crisis gripping the nation. The President has been assassinated and there have been several terrorist attacks around the country. The country goes into “lock down,” using techniques perfected by Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. The Order becomes aware of illegal acts being committed against US citizens and steps in to help. The climax of the book occurs during a battle in the nation’s Capitol building between members of The Order, who are protecting the witnesses of these illegal acts, and forces attempting push aside the civil government.
Book 3 picks up one year after the end of Book 2. Tom and Emily are married and enjoying successful careers. Members of the forces who attempted to push aside the civil government are still at large and planning a return to power. There is internal conflict within The Order as to how to handle these fugitives, and this conflict threatens to split The Order apart. The fugitives make their move, and at a military industry expo and conference where Tom and Emily are presenting, The Order must come together to stop the fugitives once and for all.
I have also started writing a sequel trilogy called The Quest of the Saltier Trilogy. The book titles for this trilogy will be: The Lost Knights, The Knight’s Crucible, and The Knights Victorious. The first book of the trilogy will be set in Europe, but that’s all I can say about that for the moment.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
In my opinion, a novel needs several key elements. First, it needs a good story that is told well – one that will hold a reader’s attention. The definition of “good” in this case is not what the author thinks is good, but what the intended audience thinks is good. Second, the work needs to have characters that are interesting and believable. Third, the writer needs to have their own “voice,” or perspective and way of telling the story, to keep the work from sounding like a cheap imitation of someone else’s work. Fourth, the writer needs life experience. By life experience, I mean having the scars (emotional and sometimes physical) that come from the life lessons that transform us from children with ideals and opinions to adults with understanding and convictions. It is these life lessons that give a writer a wealth of plots, sub-plots, imagery, and characters to draw from when building a story worth telling.
As far as publishing goes, be patient and check your ego at the door. Whatever you write will be edited, reedited, reviewed, criticized, rejected, and, hopefully, loved. If you can’t handle other people telling you what you did wrong, don’t put yourself out there in the first place.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Someone who likes a good action-adventure story about people who work in secret with characters who have strong convictions and act on them. The book appeals to both men and women, as well as to young adults, middle-aged adults and seniors.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
Official Book Web Site: http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/KnightsOfTheSaltier-Book1.html
Publisher’s Author Site: http://strategicbookmarketing.posterous.com/all-you-need-to-know-about-william-speir-auth
Amazon Book Site
On Facebook as “William Speir” and as “Knights of the Saltier”