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Life Unfolded: An Interview with William Borak, author of Stranger on the Shore

Borak 1

I am currently retired, but I worked about forty-three years, approximately half of which was for companies where I worked my way up into middle management positions and the other half spent consulting for primarily Fortune 100 companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, Bloomberg Financial, AT&T, and NBC at 30 Rock. I was fortunate to work for these companies at an executive level providing management consulting services as well as technology solutions as I had a strong background in Information Technology. I traveled all over the country meeting some of the most prominent business leaders of that time. My career ended when I was on a consulting assignment with the State of NJ in Trenton and at the age of sixty-two, when I was wrapping up my consulting assignment, they asked me to work for them permanently and I said to them “Do you know how old I am?” and they said “Yes, but we have no one that does what you do.” I worked in Senior Management for them for four years. Unfortunately, I would have worked longer but I had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and the symptoms were becoming more apparent, so I retired at sixty-six years old.

You can buy Stranger on the Shore here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

This is a fun story in that I must confess that I stole the title of my book from the song Stranger on the Shore. Back in the mid-60s, Acker Bilk’s hit instrumental entitled Stranger on the Shore had a hauntingly beautiful melody. Typically, it brings to mind the thought of a young, beautiful woman strolling on a gorgeous shoreline. However, I wanted to twist that concept and have that attractive young woman almost lifeless lying on the banks of a garbage-strewn rocky shore on the East River in NYC. Hence, the mystery begins as to how she arrived at that location and in that woeful condition.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

I was blown away not only on my first-choice cover depiction but even on the alternative selections that the Atmosphere Press design team created. They are truly very talented. As for holding that first book in my hands, it was a dream come true having my first novel actually published. That feeling of creating something that was a nugget of an idea into a published book was overwhelming.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

There was no real epiphany, or one specific person or incident that led me to writing. I always had the bug and enjoyed even in college working on term papers. In business, especially in the Management Consulting arena, you have to write these executive-level “White Papers” with your recommendations as well as an Executive Summary for presentation. Often they would comment to me that they were not only happy with the summary findings but they went out of their way to say to me or my client that the quality of the writing was superior to anything they had read previously. Additionally, I would often be called into a client’s executive office to help them craft certain emails or office policy issue documents.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I have some interesting experiences I would just like to share. One of the first job interviews I had the luck to get right out of college graduation (Rutgers University) was with the Time/Life organization in NYC. After a great meeting with the director of HR, he told me that had a hot spot with their magazine at that time, Architectural Digest. My heart sank because I had no knowledge of that field. I went up the elevator and met the editor of the magazine and again chemistry-wise we hit it off, but I had to be honest and tell him I had no background or courses related to home architecture. He remained positive and said “Let’s do this—take these three Architecture Digest magazines home and go through them and see what you would come up with.” I tried and tried and there is no way you could even fake something along those storylines, plus I had no interest. So, I decided to be honest and return to HR and tell them this just wasn’t a match. However, as luck would have it, he wasn’t there and it was just a staff person so that was the end of that potential career move.

The other story that it pretty interesting is when I had an early consulting assignment with the State of New Jersey’s Criminal Division to implement this new system called PROMIS which was the first automated statewide system for all the county’s prosecutor and judge offices. It would track a person’s status from arraignment to sentencing—up to that point most of it was still paper-based. Long story short, that experience was phenomenal; meeting all these county prosecutors, judges, detectives, etc., however as that assignment was winding down, we had to return to the business world. One of my colleagues had just taken a job with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark, NJ, and he said they were looking for a business administrator and he thought I would be perfect for the job. I got an interview with the assistant U.S. Attorney, Mary Trump Barry, and the interview went great—she told me I was the lead candidate right then. I would be taking a federal position at a great starting level and salary. Then I got a call from her a few days later and unfortunately a federal employee applied who was qualified and they were obligated to hire them. She did call me back in for a follow-up discussion and told me she wanted to pass my résumé along to her brother, Donald Trump, in NYC and would I be interested as he was this big real estate mogul at that time. I told her I would think about it because I had no experience in commercial real estate. She said her recommendation alone would guarantee an interview with him. Ultimately, I called her back and decided to pass given my lack of experience in the field. How crazy is fate? In hindsight, I should have at least taken the interview—who knows what might have happened.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

Having Parkinson’s and being able to complete all the facets of the publication and working with Atmosphere Press’s wonderful team during development, editing, cover design, and now promotion has been an invaluable experience from which I’ve learned so much. Also, to be able to show my sons and grandchildren that I have a published book almost brought me to tears. One of the finest achievements in my life.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Certainly it would open with the theme song from Acker Bilk, Stranger on the Shore. During the love affair between Marisa and Chris, maybe something from Simon and Garfunkel, Johnny Mathis’s A Certain Smile or Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You. For the climax in the last chapter, a rousing theme from a genius conductor who possesses the talents of the great John Williams.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

In life I think there is this ethereal struggle between good and evil occurring in different locations throughout the world. That is one of the book’s central themes. The other deeper philosophical theme that takes place in the conversation and challenge between Chris (the male lead) and Arielle (a mystical messenger) is that although this planet has been in existence for thousands of years, we are on this planet for a scintilla of time, and do you want to sit on the sidelines or be someone who makes a difference by taking on life’s challenges and leave a mark on this life for the good of all and the planet? My perfect reader in an adult (as there are a fair number of profanities, no sex). It presents a great love story in addition to all the mysteries and eventual action-packed ending.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I started working on another mystery based on two detectives and their challenge to find not one, but two concurrent serial killers in the Village, NYC, in the 1960s—an era of peace, love, war, and great social turbulence.

How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?

It was a fabulous learning experience, and Atmosphere Press has some of most knowledgeable, caring and fun people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I owe them a great deal of credit for the final publication and success of this fine publication. Proof is already evident is some of the five-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite, the Literary Titan, and a Gold Medal Award from them as well as making it one of their May Books of the month. I am a very lucky man.

You can buy Stranger on the Shore here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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