Jourdanton resident and Vietnam veteran Bill Schuchman has recently released his third novel, “Cannibal Island.”
He described his first two books, “No Hero” and “Walk the Walk” as easy to write, as they were about personal experiences that he had. For his latest book, he wanted to jump into something different.
“I’ve always been fascinated by Robinson Crusoe, his story. So I wrote a book similar to that. It’s got the theme,” said Schuchman.
The book is based in the 1800s, about a man living in England. He gets booted out by his parents and goes to work in Central America.
“Going to the destination, he’s on this one boat with this seasoned skipper who had been there forever. The skipper had a survival box, a huge box, because he was always afraid of the typhoons. They got caught in a typhoon and he got knocked overboard. He found a hatch that was floating, crawled on that, and used that as his boat. He was surrounded by sharks and almost died of sun exposure,” said Schuchman.
Luckily, he figured out how to fish and would catch them occasionally.
“So he ends up being shipwrecked, and the currents carry him into this island,” described Schuchman. “Well, he drags himself up and he walks the beach. He finds out there’s no human beings there, but there are fire pits. So he’s heard all these cannibal stories.”
Up in the mountains, he finds a lava cave suitable for his home.
“He learns how to eat this and that and how to survive,” said Schuchman. “So he discovers that every so often, cannibals bring their victims here.”
Fortunately, he is equipped with the survival kit he had found which contains different rifles, pistols and other survival materials.
“So one day that floats in, and he was able to drag it up into the jungle. From there, he was able to outfit himself with bullets, guns, things like that. Well in his first encounter with cannibals, they brought several people and there was no way he could intervene.”
Later he becomes friends with a woman who escapes when more people are brought in.
“She was a take-charge woman. A woman not afraid of hard work and intelligent. She could speak three languages because she was in a mission. They pair up and over time it develops into a little love story,” described Schuchman.
He found it fun to touch on an area he had not written about before. He is working on his next novel, “Personal War” and hopes to release it by Christmas.
“That’s about war in the Philippines, something I know about,” said Schuchman. “But for this, I ventured into something else and it was fun working it in my mind as to situations that would develop. Some of them may almost be unbelievable, but that’s life when you’re by yourself and you’re desperate, and you’re on your own. So I had a good time writing it.”
At 74, Schuchman said he doesn’t know how many books he has left in him.
“Once I get that written up, I may just hang the spurs up or I may jump into another one. I don’t know. Chances are, I’ll try to write until I die. I’ve got my ranch life, and I travel in Missouri because I have a business up there.”
He travels to Missouri four to eight times a year. He spends between two to three hours a day at his ranch.
“When I come back in my office, I have anywhere from one to four hours worth of work for my company up in Missouri. And then the rest of it is just vacant and I’m a doer. I’m not a sitter. And I guess I’ve got a creative imagination, because these things I write and then rewrite. I’ll write something and then I’ll get 70 pages away, and then, bingo, a thought will happen.”
He then goes back to adjust it and make it fit for a better read.
Schuchman finds that most of his following is local, as one can get lost on Amazon. Also, being a politician and the Republican chair for the 18th Precinct may turn some people away from buying his books, he shared.
“But nonetheless, people still buy it. And I don’t write for retirement money. I write for pleasure and there is an extreme difference in that. I read every night, also, until I fall asleep.”
He enjoys the big challenges brought on by writing.
“You do have spots where you hit, and it can’t go any further, because it just won’t unravel. So then you go back and you start cherry picking, and changing things and adding things, deleting things. And then it’ll come to you, and then you’re refreshed to some degree Then you can turn around and kick it in gear again, and go on from there.”
He aims for writing 1,000 words each time he sits down. When he is on vacation, the books he is writing go with him.
“They always laugh about when we go to the beach or something, I never come home with a tan, because I’m always upstairs on a computer. But that’s me. I enjoy being with my family a lot. I’ve got a great family. I enjoy seeing them enjoy life, but I don’t necessarily have to be a part of the beach,” said Schuchman. “It’s interesting. I never thought, ever, I would end up writing.”
While serving in Vietnam, he wrote poetry. His wife Katie had the poems bound, but Schuchman never released them.
Now having finished his third book, he doesn’t find the writing to be easier or more difficult. He described it as being the same.
“I don’t see any hill to climb or any hill to slide down. I have the same problems I had with the first book. I had the same success as I had with the first book. So I don’t see obstacles. And other than an occasional writer’s block, which I think everybody gets, it’s still fun. And that’s the key word to this,” said Schuchman.
When he writes, he needs complete silence. He doesn’t want any music or a show playing in the background to distract him.
While he reads books of many genres, his favorites are “War and Peace” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
His advice for first-time authors is to start with chapters.
“Write your chapters down and then fill them in,” Schuchman advises. “Your chapters will change. The names will change and everything. But you’ve got to have some idea of where you’re starting, how it’s going to progress and where it’s going to end.”
As he described, “Your creativity will lead you. If you’re a creative person, you’ll be able to write a book. If you’re not, you’re going to sit there and look at a blank screen. And that’s it. If you sit there and you can’t come up with ideas, thoughts and how to connect them, your book’s never going to get past its title.”
While working on the cover of “Cannibal Island,” Schuchman chose a gray cover to convey a dismal feeling.
His books require much background research. He was also able to use his experiences in the military to describe life in the jungle.
“Even clothes that the Army bought us would rot off in a short time. Boots never lasted long. I mean, the jungle has a way of reclaiming everything. I loved the jungle. I really did. I could live in the jungle with just a pocket knife and matches. You got to have matches. So this book encompasses some of that. So I was able to pull from some experience and put it in here.”
Schuchman goes on a digital resource called AbeBooks to help with research. You type in a title to search and it will show books, who has them and for how much.
“That also would help a new author, especially one that’s semi-creative, to get some ideas. I don’t use them so much for ideas as I do for facts, that this will happen if you do this. This won’t happen if you do this. I invest a lot in these books. A lot of heart and soul. And, like I say, it’s fun. It’s fun to fill in pages.”
“Cannibal Island” is available for purchase on Amazon.