Las Vegas native and comic book fan William Dickstein is biding his time, patiently waiting for his Green Lantern ring to show up and tell him that it’s his turn to protect this corner of the universe. Until that day arrives, however, he’s content being an author of superhero-inspired stories.
Interested readers can learn more at his website, www.wrdickstein.com.
My pull list is pretty extensive. I read anywhere from fifteen to thirty-five unique titles a week, depending on where I’m at with back issues or if there is a new run I am starting. My favorites right now are Ten Grand, Nightwing, Animal Man which I will miss, Sex Criminals, and Astro City. I was really into the new Blue Beetle run and I love all the Justice League comics, but they aren’t my favorites. I mainly read DC and Image, but also like some stuff by IDW and Marvel and Darkhorse.
My all-time favorite hero is Green Lantern. Probably Kyle Rayner, so I guess now I have to say the White Lantern, because when I was growing up was when he had his start and we relate on a lot of levels. People usually have a favorite hero because of whatever power they have, and I know if I had a Green Lantern ring, I could help defend the universe with my willpower and imagination. I connect on a lot of levels with the philosophies of Superman, in that I believe strongly in my fellow man, and am pretty sure that if me, Tim Drake (Red Robin), and Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle) all got together, it’d be a hell of a good time.
My favorite villain is without a doubt Lex Luthor. Unlike other primary villains, he has a nearly identical mentality to Superman. He thinks humans are just the best. Unfortunately, we have this nasty alien holding us back. Destroy the alien, achieve greatness as a species. Don’t let any kind of weakness stop you. And I love the banter that he can dish out. Nobody is smarter than Lex Luthor, and he knows it. He’s one of the only guys who can shut down Batman intellectually.
I am such a fanboy for R. A. Salvatore. I love Dungeons and Dragons. If I’m just looking for a new book, something that hasn’t been recommended to me, I go right for Forgotten Realms novels. I read his latest book last week when it came out and am so excited still. I didn’t find fantasy novels until I was like seventeen, and it was like, “Oh. This. This is what I’ve been missing.” I also enjoy Neil Gaiman immensely and Christopher Golden.
My favorite story arcs are the ones where character development takes precedence over almost everything else. I watch a lot of cartoons and LOVE Avatar: The Last Airbender because you watched a boy, hundreds of years old, deal emotionally with the life he knew vanishing overnight, his budding sexuality and the literal responsibility to save the world. He becomes a man over the course of those seasons and earns his place in history.
What led you to make the transition from reading comic book stories to writing your own?
Well, I’ve always liked doing stuff with words. I did it here and there growing up. I have written way too much poetry. A couple of years ago, I decided, “Alright, let’s write a book.” And I did. I stuck with it. I reached that 60k mark, sat back, and thought, “Heh…this terrible.” But it’s all about the milestones.
That first book took over a year to get the first draft done. I wrote another book during NaNoWriMo to prove to myself that I could pull the words out as fast as I wanted to. That, too, is a terrible novel. But I did it.
Last year, in August sometime, I joined a writing group I found on Reddit revolving around Brian Sanderson. I knew I wanted to work on shorter fiction because managing a full novel was still outside of what I thought I could do, so I just kept giving them about a thousand words a week revolving around this idea I was playing with for a few months. The idea turned into Episode 1.
With regards to your previous attempts to write books, what was it about those efforts that didn’t work for you?
There were a few things that didn’t work for me when it came to my previously penned novels. The first was that I had so much trouble deciding how much detail I wanted to describe things with. I would rush past one scene, realize I had rushed past, and write the next with the most insignificant details I could think of. Even in the editing process for the first novel, I would add details to one and take them away from another and still have totally contradictory voice across the book. Those errors led to a loose structure across both novels, with no real, discernible climax in either story. They just kind of went, and then a big thing happened, and it was over. At no real point in either book can you find a clear-cut thing where you can say to yourself, “Yeah, that’s the main problem in this book. That’s what they’re fighting against or trying to find,” etc. And I honestly just had trouble managing that much content and that many characters.
My preferred style of writing back then was pure, seat-of-my-pants. I would sit down and have no idea where I was going and end up with four thousand words when I was done. It’s a great skill to have around a campfire, but it translates in a manner which I did not think was good enough to share where my novels are concerned.
I don’t see either effort as a failure, though. I see both awful pieces of literature as a huge win, where I was able to prove to myself above all others that I can do this, that I have the raw skills needed, and that I just need to polish them. So I scaled back, found as many workshops and groups as I could, and practiced. And here we are, holding hands and lookin’ fine.
What aspects of writing do you enjoy most?
I like looking at the words. I have an honest love for syntax and transferring the voice from my head onto my computer screen. There’s this artist, I don’t remember who, that said, “The ideas in my head are like rabbits. You can steal as many as you like, because they’re going to keep branching out and multiplying. And they’ll do it faster than you can keep up.” I relate to that, I think. I always have tons of stuff swimming around and it feels good to get things like that out, especially when I’ve been thinking about an idea for a long time.
How have you evolved as a writer over the course of your life (and over the course of the Ch05En series)?
My evolution has been most evident where Ch05En is concerned. Episode 1 I think is one of the funniest, most likeable characters I have ever thought of. People keep telling me they wish it were longer, or they tell me how funny Frank is. I’m so proud of that. Episode 2 was the first time I had ever honestly tried to tackle a character who was, at the end of the day, unhappy with his life. And Gary’s story is one of finding yourself, even if you do it at an older age. It was also my tribute to Salvatore, who is known for his technical writing when it comes to fight scenes. Episode 3, with Jury, was the most fun for me. I actually watched American Psycho like three days in a row, even though I’ve seen it a bunch of times before, just so I could hear that voice in my head while I wrote as him. And I think if each of them were chairs, Episode 1 would be the most comfortable, Episode 2 would be sturdy and have great detail, and Episode 3 would honestly be a chair that someone could look at and be like, “Man, that chair is a freaking chair. That chair would definitely hold my weight. And it doesn’t look too bad, either.” Episode 3 was the most structured thing I had ever written and I count it as a great achievement.
What has been the happiest moment of your life?
My older brother and I are really close. Even now that we are adults, and I have seen that he is indeed an average human full of faults, I still look up to him. He is literally the most important person in my life. There were a few years where we didn’t live together while he was in college and I was still in high school and there was a day where I realized that, literally at any time, even now, my brother has always jumped into a pretend lightsaber battle with me. He’ll let me throw him with the Force, shock him with lightning, all of it. If I make the sound and pull out my pretend saber, he will too, and we’ll fight. And it’s easy to see the love in that. But there was one day, when I was like seventeen, where it hit me: My brother has never even watched Star Wars. He has no idea who the Skywalkers are or what a Jedi is. THAT is love.
If you could have any super power, which would you choose?
I count the Green Lantern ring as technology, and not a super power. I would gladly take one of three things: I either want an Omnitrix, to be an Earth Bender or to have Ice Powers. Understand all alien life? Turn into awesome aliens? Sick. Go through Hung Gar forms and move the earth beneath me? Yes please. BE ICEMAN?!?! BEST DAY EVER.
What’s the last memorable dream (or nightmare) you had?
Leonardo Dicaprio has brought his team to steal my secrets. They want to know the code to the safe in my room, where I keep the lever that opens the fake wall which leads down to my basement laboratory where I house my genetic experiments who speak in Klingon about the secrets of the universe, and he just HAS to know if another one of his favorite characters is going to die in Game of Thrones next season. Instead of just reading the books, he’s decided to do things the easy way and come here.
He tries to tell me he’s my friend. Calls himself Mr. Charles. But I see through his ruse. Charlie is my brother’s name. My subconscious lashes out, my security team storms his warehouse. He and his guys are ready for anything. They are armed to the teeth. Guns, rocket launchers, the works. Two Drow elves release themselves from the shadows, firing bolts full of sleeping poison from their hand-crossbows. Dragons, older than the ground they soar above, unleash torrents of fire and acid upon the building’s roof, opening a hole above Leo. He is overtaken by a flood of facehuggers, waking up just in time for the Xenomorph to burst from within. You picked the wrong dream, big guy.
If you could sit down and talk to your ten-year-old self, what would you tell him?
Oh boy, a conversation with ten year old Will?! I would be so excited. Ten year old me was so cool.
Let’s see, I’d have to bring along my television and a few choice video games. Definitely Super Smash Bros. Brawl and a couple RPG’s; the little guy deserves to know how great the future is without having to take my word for it. While we rocked out and I dominated him and his friends in Brawl, I’d wait until the rest of them fell asleep so I could have a little me-on-me time. He would have so many questions about what we’ve learned since he became an adult.
Knowing myself, there would be maybe two questions about our actual life, and then he would start asking me if we had flying cars or if we’d been to Saturn. Poor guy had no concept of how far away a light year actually is, but we forgive him his ignorance. I imagine I would keep trying to steer the conversation back towards things I wish I had been told, but only know that I wish I’d been told them because I’ve had over ten years to realize I even care about that stuff. I’d try to tell him that if he wants, he can be good at a sport. Or not be chubby. His dad would probably love going to his baseball games. Or I’d tell him that most of the girls he thinks are cute would love to hang out with him. But I imagine he’d just keep asking me about what awesome cartoons I’m watching. In the end, before my time was up, I’d let him know that I was serious. I had something important I had to tell him, that he had to remember for the rest of his life. Ten year old me was a righteous little guy. I feel like he’d accept the responsibility.
I’d squat down, look myself in the eyes, and I’d say, “You’re awesome. For the rest of your life. You can be anybody’s friend you want to be. Treat everyone with respect and try to learn how to empathize before I did. Protect yourself, stick up for your friends and don’t let your fear stop you from doing the right thing. When you don’t know what the right thing is, try to think about what Batman would do. And don’t worry. You become me, eventually. And I’m pretty cool. Good luck!”
I imagine if I’d had the opportunity to go back like that, I’d have taken my brother with me. I’m sure there are a few things he’d like to say to his fifteen year old self. I imagine we’d be floating down the time stream, and he’d ask me what I said to myself. “Oh, you know. That he and I are awesome and he’s gonna be alright. Told him to do the right thing. Might have accidentally told him to constantly find ways to deal out sweet, sweet JUSTICE, but we’ll see I guess.”
And Charlie would probably respond, “Dude, seriously? I told myself the Powerball numbers and which companies to buy stock in. If you’re like this with the genie, I’m taking the third wish.”
What are you working on next?
In the immediate future, Episode 4 will be out really soon, Followed by 5. At 5, we have reached the conclusion of this story arc. I will group them together in an anthology, which will also have commentary and other extras.
I’m working on issue #0 of Ch05En: Adventures of Brass Man, the tie-in run of comics I’m trying to make happen with my graphic artist Daio Lamers. It’s coming along, but is behind schedule. I’m trying to have that ready in May. I’ve also got a trailer in the works right now, production begins on April 6th, about the Ch05En series in general. It will also announce that you can expect the first full length Ch05En novel sometime next year. I may do the novel and another run of novellas. I may do two novels, then the second run of novellas. I may get hit by a bus. The first five novellas are additional content about the first book, they give background details and offer more to learn about that world and people you hear about. But they read completely separately. There is an overarching storyline happening there, with a pretty sweet finish, but you could read them in any order, before or after you read the book.