Most writers, I would guess from my own experience, struggle for words. Mark Williams has the opposite problem. When he started writing he filled thirty spiral bound notebooks, longhand before he knew that he was, indeed, writing, and that it might even be a book that he was writing. He had recently retired from fishing to manage his parents' guest house and he had a long New England winter to fill. "I just sat down one day and started to write," he says. "I'd sit in the cab of my old Toyota pick-up at various sites along the back shore and write."
"The hardest thing I had to do when I learned that I had the capacity to write was how to explain how a hydroslave hauls a trap. When I first tried, I had 5000 words. Eventually I got it down to 400." When he finally decided to get a computer he learned to type as he transferred the longhand notebooks into the machine.
His inspiration for his dive into writing was the experience of almost drowning while he was lobstering alone. His leg was caught in a trawl line as it was paying out of his lobster boat and he went over and down. "I never saw my life in such detail-especially the smell of Empire Fish" (the fish packing plant where his dad was foreman and Mark worked his first job, shoveling gurry).
"Two years ago I had a house full of guests and I passed out some of the stories to the guests and also to some friends with the question-would you recommend this book to your best friend?" His friends said, "holy s---!, Mark, I had no idea you had this kind of talent. (The guests were also very positive.) Then he sent galleys to about 40 people with the same question. The response was 100 per cent "yes." When he self-published he gave the books away around town asking people to answer the same question-a resounding "yes."
He gave a few copies to Toad Hall, a local independent book store where a Gloucester resident bought the book, read it, and sent it to her son living in California who works as a script writer for TV shows. He read it and called Williams with a plan-to produce the book as an HBO series.
"The guy told me that if you're going to 'do Hollywood' luck is more important than either talent or drive. That call was my 'luck', my break," says Williams. "What am I doing about it is just nothing. I'm just waiting. The whole thing is backwards. I only have about 1000 books in print. It could be on television before it's published by a big publisher. None of those guys have called me but I'm set. I own 100 per cent of it, being self-published."
Williams was not just writing one book that he didn't know he was writing, but two. As he read over his stories he realized that if separated out all the stories about his commercial diving career from his boyhood and lobstering experience, he had another book. That book will be available shortly and he has three more in the works, "I'm going to write about the air war in Europe-there are a million stories that haven't been told about the Second World War." He's already thinking visually. "Spielberg patterned all those dog fights in space on WW-two footage. People love that stuff."