William S. King is an independent scholar living in Ocala, Florida. His previous book, To Raise Up a Nation – John Brown, Frederick Douglass and the Making of a Free Country, was selected by CHOICE as the outstanding academic title in its category in 2013; writing, “Well written and thoroughly researched, this book deserves a place as one of the great ‘big’ histories of the Civil War… Essential.” Till the Dark Angel Comes – Abolitionism and the Road to the Second American Revolution, was his subsequent book.
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Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
That title perhaps entered my consciousness in years 68-70—years when the battle for liberty was stirring. In those of us from those times, many, naturally, or by their own hand, have passed on, only to mention those consumed in the ‘mills’ of Moloch.
I can’t remember overtly thinking of writing this book under this title, but in retrospect it seems always in preparation. In 1970, as a theatre student, I just missed being part of a production—the Peter Weiss play now shortened to Marat/Sade. Now to see it fulfilled.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
I’d thought of using elements from the art and poetry of William Blake. Mine was to be an eagle clutching with her talons an elaborately overgrown vine whose tendrils spell out the title overhead, while the eagle holds in its beak its seized prey, a writhing and coiled snake. Beneath this were to appear the flags of the national protagonists of the age of revolution, the American, British, French, and Haitian.
Ronaldo produced a rendition of this, together with another unsolicited watercolor, suggestive of “blood running down palace walls,” apropos Blake. I chose the latter, also suggestive of the guillotine.
I still find it is an arresting image, and has garnered more comment than the themes put at play in the book, although aptly expressive of them.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
From my younger years I noticed interesting and evocative word-phrases lingering in my ear, and I wanted to elaborate upon them. But my mother, then a budding scholar and avid reader, encouraged my reading. She also had an ardent desire to see that her son become a writer—so it was in fulfillment of her wishes I’ve written my books.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I worked for forty-five years across the trades on the waterfront and in power plants. Welder, machinist, rigger, truck driver.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
Not having the book in hand—I’d already done that twice—but the process of bringing it to fruition. Atmosphere offers a competent and firm platform.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
Sound is paramount to my writing, as is color, and kinetic movement in a swirl of thought. An audio version of the book was produced by Atmosphere which featured an Englishwoman named Andrea Gioidani. Hers is an excellent rendition of the text—I could have expected nothing more.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
Given the time I’ve alleged it took in gestation—fifty years—the reader should regard it as a faint but intransigent star lingering in their mental horizon. My favored reader may come upon the pages of my book in five hundred years. The sales seem favorable to this timeline.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I have a completed book still lingering on my desk which may receive renewed attention. Another is at an independent publisher, scheduled for release this fall, titled The Time-Piece from Gouldtown.
How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?
Atmosphere was excellent in every regard. Any author using their considerable facilities must understand, however, that the result is primarily with the author, down to the copyediting—with cogent intervention and advice from Atmosphere. I’m glad for the opportunity and may find opportunity to weave “Liberty” into my ongoing corpus.