Name: Bill South
Published Work: 2009 novel, Flash Drive
Ironically, Bill grew up in the South – the Florida Panhandle to be specific- and he’s lived here all his life. After graduating from the University of North Florida with a Masters degree in public administration, South lived in Citrus and Pinellas Counties before moving to Safety Harbor in 1992.
An IT contractor by trade, South always loved to write. Around the time of his 50th birthday four years ago, he told his wife, Jacqui, that he wanted to try to write a novel, fearing if he didn’t do it at that time, he never would.
Luckily for him, Jacqui was incredibly supportive. Unfortunately, the economy tanked soon afterwards, and he was out of work for 18 months; it was during that time he penned his debut novel, Flash Drive.
“I was planning on getting the book done in about three months, but it ended up taking me about six,” South, who speaks with an easygoing Southern drawl, admitted.
“I had no plans on being unemployed for 18 months. It was a stressful time.”
The time off allowed South to fully flesh out his characters, though, a hallmark of his novel that, along with the local references, makes it an easy, engaging read.
“I spend a lot of time on character development, because the characters write the book,” he says. “No matter how outrageous the story is, if you believe in the characters, it will hold together.”
Did you know?
South incorporates much of what he knows – and sees - into his writing.
The primary setting for Flash Drive is a quaint Florida town called Calm Harbor. While the pulpy tale involves crime, comedy and plenty of sex, the protagonist, William Sharp, passes through a number of familiar locales, and references to neighboring cities, landmarks and icons are liberally sprinkled throughout the story.
“Much of the book was written right downtown at (the old) Taste Café when I was out of work, because it was a way for me to get out of the house," he confesses.
South also chose to use a bit of his insider IT knowledge when conjuring up his first novel, although the story never gets bogged down with tech jargon; he says he will never write books with boring, plodding plots.
“People want me to write a book that they can teach in schools. That’s not me,” he says candidly. “I don’t want my stories to be a burden. I want them to be fun.”
“I enjoy writing that trashy novel you can read by the pool in one weekend."
A member of the library advisory board who frequents the Safety Harbor Writers and Poets Group, South is currently working on his second novel, which is based on Florida mythology and will be the first in a series with recurring characters and themes.
He is also working on changing his style, from third-person voice to first-person, where he can let his well-drawn characters tell the story, a process he admits is a difficult one.
And he also admits he would love nothing more than to become a best-selling author who calls Safety Harbor home.
“Calm Harbor is based on Safety Harbor. I can’t imagine writing a novel that’s not based in Florida,” he says. “I live in Safety Harbor by choice…because I love this town.”
"My goal is to become a number one best seller, I'm not going to lie to you. If I can say a million people had a good time reading my book…I’d be thrilled.”