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Author sells self-printed novel

Rejections push Lysa Williams to do it herself

They say everybody has one good story. Lysa Williams' story wouldn't let her alone. It percolated in her mind for years.

Finally, about five years ago, she made a New Year's resolution: write the book.

It took a year and a half. The result is Soundless (Mason/Doyle Press), a serious novel about a concert violinist whose career transcends the black-tie border and enters the world of the Nike billboard.

It's something I worked on for quite a long time, then finally just sat down and did it, says Williams, 40, of Ashland. The character is somebody I've always sort of had with me.

In her day jobs, Williams is a full-time bookkeeper and the mother of an 8-year-old daughter.

Now that the book is written, she's her own publisher and her own promoter. She plans a book signing and reading Saturday at Barnes and Noble in Medford.

Soundless is the story of Nick, a classical musician who is so successful he crosses over into pop culture celebrity without the usual PR blitz. He doesn't do talk shows, he speaks for no good cause, and yet you hear his name over cocktails at chi-chi clubs and over sodas at the junior high. As Nick's relationships unfold, there's an unsettling look at men's friendships.

Williams didn't put herself into one of the characters; she put herself into all of them.

They're all parts of me.

Williams wrote poetry as a kid, but when she went to a church-supported evangelical college, she had no plans of becoming a writer. She worked in the business office of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago for several years, an experience readers can see reflected in the inner workings of the theater company in her book.

Williams put her book out to an indifferent universe. If she were a character in her own story, critics would have had their socks knocked off, and Oprah Winfrey would have called to coax her onto her show. In the real world that isn't what happens to first novels.

Total rejection, Williams says. I shopped it around and got rejected everywhere.

She had an agent for a while. He tried to sell Soundless to the movies. It seemed like he had something going, but she'd have to make these changes ...

They were extreme, she says. Changes that had nothing to do with the characters.

Williams had two choices: be crushed, or move on. She formed a company and had Soundless printed under her own imprint at Commercial Printing in Medford.

It was way more work getting it produced than writing it, she says.

And all that rejection?

I just kind of blew it off, she says, laughing.

Promoting a book without deep pockets is tough. Williams has some word of mouth going locally, some signings coming up in Portland, and she's sold the book to Barnes and Noble (it's in stock in a few stores and can be ordered in others).

Meanwhile, since three publishers told her that the only new authors they're taking on are doing science fiction-romance, she's happily cranking away at her next book, a science fiction-romance.

Maleables is an idea-rich tale of a world in which the women get conquered and shipped off to a futuristic bawdy house where they're supposed to be holograms. But one man, a soldier, comes to the dangerous conclusion the Maleables are actually people.

When he gets involved with one, the complications begin ...

It's fun, Williams says. Now if Oprah would just get on the bandwagon.

Lysa Williams has written a novel about a violinist who becomes a pop-culture celebrity. She formed a company, had the book printed and is now promoting it herself. - Photo by Bob Pennell