Interview with Documentary Producer/Director and Author William Petrick

William Petrick is an Emmy Award-winning documentary producer/director who has created programs for National Geographic, Discovery, MTV, Court TV and many other cable and broadcast networks. Currently, he is a senior producer with Bill Moyers Jornal on PBS and the author of the contemporary fiction novel, The Five Lost Days. You can visit his website at to find out more about this talented author.

We interviewed William to find out more about his book and his publishing journey.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Bill. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I’ve been writing for at least 20 years. I say, “at least” because I’ve written as far back as grade school but it was only in college and after that I got serious about writing every day.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

It’s a book about why so many of us can look at the same thing and see something completely different. Believing, I think, is seeing—not the other way around. This book follows a film crew in the Mayan jungle in search of rare footage of a curandero, the last surviving healer in Belize. I wrote because I had to—the story and characters kept pulling me along, whether I wanted to do so or not.

What kind of research was involved in writing “The Five Lost Days”?

More than I ever wanted to dreamed of doing. The further I got into the book the more I realized how little I really knew about the details of things like plant medicines, the Maya, curanderos (bush doctors) and even child soldiers. It was a long but exciting process—but it didn’t really happen until after the story was created.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

Very little. I gave my opinion. I don’t think they listened at all but I loved the cover and art work that was created!

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

What’s the famous actor’s line? “It only took me 13 years to become an overnight success”. The truth of that is known to every writer and artist, I think.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

About a year.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I had an agent and, honestly, she was not helpful. She was committed but always worried about her own struggles to make a living. If you can do without an agent, I think you’re better off.

Do you plan subsequent books?

I’m working on a new one now set in Haiti during “Operation Democracy” when Clinton sent in troops and briefly took over the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Morning without a doubt. My head’s clearer and I have more energy (assuming the espresso has kicked in.)

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

I’d buy front window placement and shelves from all the major booksellers.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I’m not a great self-promoter but I am learning to put myself out there by talking about the book with perfect strangers. Feels odd but it seems to motivate people to go to the bookstore or Amazon to find out what this nut was talking about.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Don’t stop. No matter what.

Thank you for coming, Bill. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book? has lots of info and a great video trailer!
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