Friday, January 27, 2006

William Relling, Jr.

It’s hard to believe its been two years since my friend Bill Relling passed away. So much has happened since then. Things that without his help and influence would never have happened.

Bill was actually more than a friend. He was my teacher, my mentor. Under his guidance I was able to finally achieve the dream of writing a novel. And not just one, but several.

I wasn’t the only one he helped. There have been dozens of other, either through the classes he taught or the writing group he established (one which several of us still belong to) who have learned their craft from him. Many who came to him have not only written novels, but have also gone on to be published.

Bill, under his full name William Relling, Jr., had at least a half dozen books published. But his legacy is not just his body of work. It is all of us that carry on working hard to make it in the world of fiction. Each of us carries a little bit of Bill in our minds. I can feel him frowning at times when I begin to write something that isn’t fully thought out. I can sense him when I’m editing, saying “Kill your darlings.” And I can almost see him smiling when I craft a chapter that really works. He is always with me.

Sadly, he did not live long enough to see me get my own publishing contract. In a strange way, it was because he passed away that I am finally on the path to publication. If you’ve read the previous entry on the history of my publishing journey, you’ll recall I had a friend introduce me to Ugly Town Publishing. That friend was author Nathan Walpow. At the time, it had been several months since Nathan and I had seen each other…in face, it may have even been over a year. Then when Bill died, I saw Nathan and several other former members of the writing group at the memorial service. Of course we talked about Bill, laughing a lot and remembering what he’d done for each of us. Somehow Nathan and I got onto the topic of what we were working on at the time. That’s when Nathan offered to give me the introduction to his publisher Ugly Town. Part of the reason I think he did it was that’s what he thought Bill would want. That offer led directly to where I find myself today, with a book coming out next year from Bantam Dell.

While Bill was alive, he helped me develop my skills and becoming the writer I am, then even after he was gone, he helped to put me on my way.

I could not be more thankful. And I could not miss him more.

I think…no…I know Bill would be happy to hear that things happened the way they did. He’d think it was an interesting story. But he’d warn me not to make it too sentimental.

I guess there are still some lessons I need to learn.


Rob Gregory Browne said...

I mentioned Relling on my blog awhile back, when responding to a "meme."

I have a couple of his books on the shelf, about a retired ATF agent now wine maker who gets himself into trouble.

When I went to check out the author on the web, I was dismayed to find out he had passed away. Very sad.

Sounds like you guys had a great mentor/writer relationship.

Brett Battles said...

Thanks, Rob. We did have a great relationship. It's one I miss on a daily basis.

The books you are talking about are the Jack Donne Mysteries. Deadly Vintage and Sweet Poison. Those were the only two to come out. Later, though, there was talk of turning it into a TV series. But like much in Hollywood, it could never get completely off the ground.