Toms River NJ school administrator writes series of dystopian novels
TOMS RIVER – How, you might ask, does a school administrator find the time to also be an author?
The answer, in the case of William Doering of Toms River Regional, is pretty clear: lack of sleep.
“Frankly, I’ve always made time to write or read, usually on weekends and at the expense of sleep or other time-consuming pastimes,” said Doering, who recently self-published the second volume. of his three-book dystopian, post-apocalyptic book series, “The Utopia Project”, under his pseudonym, “Billy Dering”. “I’ve always slept much less than eight hours a night and always functioned well. Not that I recommend it to others, but it’s been my regimen since high school and it works well for me.”
Not needing much sleep has helped Doering, 53, find time “to write a little bit each night and stick with it.”
“It’s a slow build and requires patience, but a lot of progress can be made in just a few months by dedicating yourself to writing a few pages a day,” he said.
Doering, who lives in Toms River, recently published the second book in The Utopia Project trilogy, “The Frayed Threads of Hope.” The series follows a group of young adults based in New Jersey who survive a neutron beam attack on Earth and must come together to try to save humanity from “Project Utopia”, a government elite plan to create a docile society.
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Nearly 5,000 copies of the first book were sold; it was released in May 2021. The second volume, released in April, has sold more than 600 copies, Doering said.
Kirkus Reviews called the first volume of the series “Everybody Must Die”, “catchy”, and compared the novel’s style and pacing to that of international bestselling thriller author Dean Koontz. “Like Koontz, the author is able to take slightly worn genre tropes and twist them around enough to make for an addictive read,” the review read.
The first two books in the series are filled with Jersey Shore locations, including Long Beach Island, the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay, Seaside Heights, and the Pine Barrens. The contrast between writing fiction and the calculations he makes daily at work is not lost on Doering.
“Writing, playing guitar or just being creative really activates the right side of my brain and gives me great life balance since most of my working day is spent using the left side of my brain,” did he declare. “My job as a business administrator is very fulfilling professionally, but I personally need a creative outlet, which is why I write books and play music.”
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Doering said he wrote the first scene of the first book while in college. He grew up on the Jersey Shore and found a writing mentor in Asbury Park Press writer Jack Germain, who was an English teacher at Lacey High School.
Doering said Germain “loved dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, and his energy and enthusiasm really touched me. It got me thinking and analyzing stories, not just reading them. It’s that critical thinking that led me to create my own full screenplay.”
When Doering attended Clemson University in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Project Utopia trilogy really began to take shape.
“At that time, I was looking deeply at the world around me,” Doering recalls, “and the people around me. Then, while I was in college, my parents moved from New Jersey to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so I really missed New Jersey. Jersey. That homesickness led to New Jersey becoming the main setting of the trilogy.”
Doering said he was inspired to write his series because of his “early love for dystopian and post-apocalyptic books and films”.
“I always wondered ‘what if’ and that led me to create scenes, characters and plots in my head. And I always wondered what the most controlled totalitarian society might look like and act”, did he declare. “And I wanted to compare that society, and the proposed benefits of such a perfect world order, to the society we live in today.”
He was also inspired by James Bond films, which he watched on several occasions. “So I actually set out to write a trilogy that would best be described as George Orwell meets James Bond. The book’s themes are heavy and complex, but are intertwined throughout a story with action and suspense that evolves at a good pace.”
Rosemarie Hardie, who teaches several English courses, including “Young Adult Literature,” at Kean University and Ocean County College, met Doering when she was an English supervisor in the Toms Regional District River. She taught the Young Adult Literature class seven times, and Doering spoke to her students each time she taught it.
“They love the book. There’s a lot of things in there that they love,” Hardie said. “It’s dystopian. They love the genre, they love the fantasy. There’s young love in there and action. They love it on so many levels.”
Hardie said Doering engages students by talking about the writing process, as well as the editing involved when writing a novel.
“I still have a lot of budding writers in class who want to write their own book,” she said. “It’s encouraging for them.”
Doering noted that students critically analyzed his first book as a class assignment and gave him constructive feedback on his work.
“They had great questions and feedback, and were mostly very positive about the book,” Doering said.
Jean Mikle has covered Toms River and several other towns in Ocean County, and has been writing about local government and politics on the Jersey Shore for nearly 38 years. She is also passionate about the Shore’s historic music scene. Contact her: @jeanmikle, [email protected]