William Ottoway’s Utopia and other stories

About the Book

William Ottoway’s Utopia concerns the dream of a man who seeks to escape stresses of everyday life for promised ease in this world’s tropics; to his dismay, he is unable to flee the influence of the one appliance which has arguably shaped all our experience in the last half-century, the humble television set! William is a good man, but will he be ravaged and ruined by his brother Tom who brings discord and disharmony to his island paradise?

Rick With A (Bipolar) View details the experience of a young man suffering from bipolar disorder who wants to be a professional DJ. Unsure whether or not the repetitive beats of electronic music and his obsession with trance and techno may be the cause of his illness, he nevertheless accepts offer of a Friday night gig and ‘takes the roof off’ the nightclub, coming down back at home in glow and reflection of his achievement.

If all this sounds too intense then do please head over to Break Out the Bubbly!!, a comic piece set in a supermarket whose Manager is acting in a very strange manner indeed. The initial boredom felt by our hero Emily is quickly shattered by Carol’s arrival and subsequent farce as she seems intent on closing the shop during opening hours to conduct inquisitions in the boardroom! The champagne keeps going missing, you see, and she needs to find the culprit. Is he, or she, a little closer to home than everyone thinks?

Fantasy for the next story, Saman’s Revenge, in which our titular hero is seriously miffed with the Earth-goddess Thera; she’s punished him an aeon ago for a misdemeanour which he firmly believes really wasn’t his fault at all. Anyway, when you’re immortal and old as the hills themselves it doesn’t bother you too much to wait a few millennia before exacting your revenge on modern-day teenagers Jack, Roxie, her boyfriend Mark and his brother Norman. But what is the young people’s relation to Thera, and temple ruins on top of the village hill, Shadyridge?

Which leaves Young Shakespeare, my imaginative retelling of some of Will’s ‘lost years’ when he reached London; after all, who wouldn’t want to fall in love with Anne, listen in awe to Sir Walter Raleigh’s perorations on, well who knows, meet his future friend and rival Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe, then cogitate at length upon the Reformation against whose profound change the budding writer begins to conclude he might wish to work?

About the Author

Oops, I think I’ve covered most of this in Qn 5; there’s more though, I mean a potted life history sees me having a good upbringing from loving parents and a great, older sister who’d go on to do great things, greatly! Like I said earlier, I had a successful school career as well which I think really sets you up for the after, especially when I took lowly pay and position to help others and found myself mistreated by the arrogant, the aloof and the plain stupid who can’t see beyond status. Actually, I do think this is one of the most overlooked areas in life, that it’s often the people at the very top who have far less to say, offer and advise than those at the foot of the pole. And once you learn this lesson then great vistas of life experience are opened up to you which would otherwise have remained as closed as your mind, see Chaucer has Millers & Knights at opposite ends of the strata talking together, Shakespeare has Vincentio & Lucio interacting in Measure for Measure, the great writers encompass the whole of the picture and not just one single part. When I was doing well at school I was blind as a bat because that’s what success does, it closes your eyes and puts the mockers on thank you very much whereas when you face adversity, when you suffer, that’s when you really begin to learn and understand, to feel and empathise, to love not hate, to praise instead of mocking others. I couldn’t write until I was 21 because I hadn’t had enough bad times, it was only when I endured them that I was able to start putting pen to paper to exorcise demons which had overtaken me through rough experience. That’s why we get ill, because we learn through it, when we’re well and coasting it may be comfortable but we don’t actually acquire any wider thought or wisdom, so if you’re poorly then try to think of it in positive light, especially if you want to become a writer. It’s about time for me to leave you now but I thank BookBoost for the opportunity to let me have so much of a say on so much; I hope I haven’t gone on and bored you, especially in talking about myself, and I also hope you like my short story collection if indeed you decide to purchase it. The five tales in there come from five full-length novels I’ve also posted on Amazon so I’d be glad to hear if you think my cutting them down has worked or not for you. Enjoy the free poetry too on the blog, and the free DJ mix, mixing like writing a skill that took me many years to gain some sort of proficiency over!

Qn 1: Can you tell us more about your book What is it about?

William Ottoway’s Utopia and other stories is the product really of all my writing for the past 20 or so years; it’s five full-length novels distilled into five short stories simply because I can’t choose which one is the best and I want you to read all of them! Seriously, all through my apprenticeship I was taught to target a particular market, that one type of person would like this book and another type that one, and I simply couldn’t square that with the experience I have on this planet as a human being. I hate pigeonholing people and I don’t believe there is a person alive who will only remain interested in one subject for the whole of their lifetime. My first story is literary fiction, but I hope it appeals to someone who likes young adult fiction also because that’s my second story, and they own similarity, I mean I wrote both of them! Then there’s comedy for my third tale, fantasy for the fourth and historical the fifth – who wouldn’t like the choice of those genres, plus to see the writer trying his/her hand at each of them to see if there are major differences or if in fact very alike matter underpins them all? You see, this is what I learnt on my MA in Creative Writing way back now in 2005, that actually there are very similar stories being told right across the world and the trick is bringing something unique to the table when you embrace these topics. My stories are all different but they all encompass that one unifying factor present in us all – people! And although people can vary widely, they are fundamental to the stories we tell. My heroes are very beloved to me, William, Rick, Emily, Saman, Will Shakespeare, I created them (well maybe not the last!) and imbued them with life and in their tales they tackle different problems although the centrality remains the same – what is it to be human? Well, ask Saman that, he’s immortal and lives wretchedly through eternity the poor fellow, although he does take some satisfaction in his position, I mean who wouldn’t want to see fear in the eyes of a deity, especially one that’s mistreated you? Anyway, the short stories (the book) are about life, what it is to be alive, what drives people, what terrifies them, how we enjoy ourselves, how we suffer, what makes up the gamut of experience but opposite experiences, some good, some bad, some delightful, some awful. I do hope my readers take the chance to join me in this exploration, the writer needs his/her audience as company/mirror in life’s examination

Qn 2: Who do you think would be interested in this book, is it directed at any particular market?

Markets suck! I genuinely believe this, well certainly in terms of writing, I mean what self-respecting author finds a genre that suits them and then continues composing in that genre for the rest of their days? Well, maybe someone taken on by a big publisher or agent but that’s certainly not the life for me, no siree, people are incredibly various, complex and broad-ranging in their taste, and I want to provide the same for my audience. The five short stories in this volume are all very individual and yet they do share similarity also because they’re written by the same person, moi! You see, I’m incredibly grave and absolute about the writer-reader bond – when you read a book, you are investing not only in the story but in the figure behind that story, the author. Ever been disappointed in a book? Chances are, you’ll be let down by the writer of that tale too. The two are inseparable. I can only produce what’s in my head, my life experience or whatever I’ve read distilled back into storytelling, but like most people in existence I’ve done quite a lot, had a while of experiences both good and bad, and I’ve also read quite broadly, leaving the classical English Literature of my university degree behind to spread myself thin across loads of different genres, fiction and non-fiction. How can I then write for just one market? It would be remiss of me, and so I’ve broadened out my oeuvre to encompass those different areas of writing you see in this collection. Secretly of course I wanted to be one of those authors taken on by a big publisher with a steady release of novels and a big fat paycheck at the end of it all but karma had other ideas and I’ve been blessed to be able to write what I want when I want without the red pen of an editor scribbling out my fancy! And do you know what, that freedom has made me a better writer, more rounded, mindful of the market but for sure in conviction that my audience will go with me as I progress in my writing career, or at least I hope so! What I’m really getting at here is that I think markets stifle, and they hamstring apprentices in particular – all I heard in my own apprenticeship from the suits and the phoneys was ‘which market is this for?’, ‘what audience are you targeting?’ etc. This kind of thinking is simply anathema for the creative mind which only wishes to have all bindings loose so that it can sweep about the sky where inspiration rains thought upon its receptive mind. Leave the market for the marketers, just compose

Qn 3: Out of all the books in the world, and all the authors, which are your favourite and why?

I have three favourite novels – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte & Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Have you noticed the common theme? They’re all written by women, and that’s because women are the bomb when it comes to storytelling with all the emotion, insight and understanding of human nature involved. I could include Jane Austen & George Eliot also but I won’t because in truth I can’t deal with how penetrating their intellect and irony are and I’m always left feeling slightly lesser of a writer when I try to tackle their books. But Frankenstein, well the whole premise just rocks because it speaks straight to the state of mankind through the centuries, created by a creator who some conclude simply doesn’t care for us once we are made. I’m not of that camp, I think there’s purpose and benignity behind it all but I was of that camp once (more in Qn 5) and you’d have to admit sometimes when life isn’t going our way we do look to the heavens and wonder why. I also love the style of this novel, I mean Shelley was 18 when she wrote it, 18, I was only just starting on Shakespeare’s Tragedies then let alone all the other literature she must have consumed in her youth in order to be able to write like that with that fluency, effortless grace and mastery of vocabulary. Wuthering Heights is just awesome too because of the trick at the start of the narrator within narrator within, well it’s just mind blowing as is the love between Heathcliff and, although is it so, I mean Catherine may say she IS him but she certainly doesn’t behave in that manner when she doesn’t follow through with marriage although I know there’s all that status and prestige stuff going on too. And what about the dialect too, such exquisite attention to, recollection of and ability to imitate, Emily Bronte is simply a force of nature with which to be reckoned, plus I love that word ‘wuthering’. Which leaves Rebecca, and perhaps the most revelatory piece of news from a character in the whole history of literature. I speak of course of something I shouldn’t spoil for readers yet to attend to this text, just to say that things are certainly not what they seem here and that really is the defining nature of great fiction, that the characters are pretending, the plot is pretending, the story itself is pretending, everything is pretending to be something it isn’t, just like we do when we walk about a world in which only the brave or the foolhardy reveal who they actually are

Qn 4: What guidance would you offer to someone new, or trying to enhance their writing?

Writing isn’t for everyone; it wasn’t for me, I mean I never even thought about it until I was 21 years old. I loved studying, I wanted to be an academic but unfortunately I started too late down that route too. Basically, from the ages of 8-18 I played videogames and those incessantly. I was definitely addicted to this pursuit and it wasn’t until my last years at school that I started reading broadly. By then, it was too late; academics have been reading and studying in all that time I was playing games so most of my peers at university were light years ahead of me. I graduated OK, I got an upper second, but you need a First and to be absolutely dedicated to your subject to be really successful in academia, and so I needed another avenue which writing just happened to fill for me. Even then, it took me ages to put pen to paper and it wasn’t until I dropped out of a teaching qualification that I began to compose. Anyway, that’s all to let you know I kind of fell into this vocation and my number one piece of advice would be this – embrace rejection. I didn’t, not for ages, I hated it when publishers wrote back to me, or didn’t, saying ‘no’ to my work, I took it personally and damn near quit, until I learnt to learn from rejection, not reject it. I would also take a good hard look at yourself and decide whether or not you’re OK doing your own thing, I mean spending time alone with just your thoughts for company. If you need people to be around you all the time, you’re not going to get much writing done. Also, have a purpose, decide why you’re writing, it may be just for yourself or it may be because you want to change the world (the pen is mightier…) but try to be clear why you’re composing. Read, and read a lot, for me everything that goes in through my eyes from reading a book gets dish-washed in my brain and tumble dried out onto the page at the other end. Enjoy your chosen pursuit, don’t let it get you down, if it does then you want to change the project you’re on, I’ve been poleaxed by books I’ve written through to the bitter end without actually liking them at all by that late stage. You find you’ll be like an iceberg, your published material on top with all your unpublished stuff taking up room beneath your conscious waters. Go where your thoughts take you, don’t listen to the usual round of haters and naysayers who swine on your pearls, be confident to pursue difficult topics that so-called experts have expounded upon, your voice will emerge

Qn 5: Where can our readers find out more about you, do you have a website, or a way to be contacted?

My website is at
You can click through there to my Amazon Author Page with other material apart from the short story collection, and you can also click through to my poetry blog on which I’ve posted all the verses I’ve written over a 20 year period. You see, the defining feature of my career has been the diagnosis of bipolar disorder I received when I was 22 years old. This illness, for good or worse, has driven my output by putting the fire in my belly to write and write and carry on writing until I eventually healed myself. I think almost everybody has been touched (burnt) by the flames of mental illness in the world today, whether on a personal level or through knowing someone who suffers from such horrid condition. For me, writing was my way of fighting this debilitating evil which at times I felt was personally trying to end me, and I only succeeded almost two decades later when my wife gave birth to our premature son and the fury which I felt attacked me as a young man came round for a second attempt; it’s explained in my autobiography ‘Matthew’ about our boy, now a happy, healthy 5-year-old kid running about the place as kids do. Also on the front page of my website is a link to a 40 minute DJ mix I made on Mixcloud. This in turn links to my favourite character, Rick Adams, hero of my book Rick With A (Bipolar) View who gets to play out some banging tunes at a nightclub just as I did when I was a young man. At university, and in my second year when the illness was eating at my brain, the only thing keeping me alive was electronic music and in particular a track by the Shaker called ‘Strong to Survive’. I owe dance music everything, and I hope you enjoy the 40-minute blast which I, sorry Rick, performed at Crocs one Friday night! My day job is as support staff to a sixth form contingent of almost 400 pupils; right from the start I loved this job, coming from a background in bookselling where every day felt the same to this amazing school in which nothing stays the same for more than about five seconds. I get to see the students come up from Year 11 where they’re often still kiddy and stupid right the way through Year 12 and 13 when much more maturely they take on their final exams before university. I had a stellar school career, Head Student, top sports teams etc. but here I have a more menial role often helping those who are struggling with it all. It is a tremendous counterbalance, making me into the writer I am today

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