William L. Hoffman JD '92 Creates a World
Until January 2008, William L. Hoffman had a secret. By day the in-house counsel of CityScape Capital Group, an investment banking firm he co-founded, Bill Hoffman spent his nights traveling through a realm of metaphysics and magic. There, he discovered a young law school graduate translated into an alternate dimension, a godlike race that had lost its power, an enslaved human remnant, and a new race of magical beings. Further exploration uncovered a species of subterranean creatures subsisting on human flesh and an impending war that promised to annihilate body and soul.
This vision cost Bill Hoffman four years of moonlit labor. He wrote from ten o'clock at night until three in the morning, caught up lost sleep as he could and, through the willpower characteristic of most attorneys, managed to excel at his day job, too. When he had completed the first book of his projected trilogy, The Soulstealer War, Bill Hoffman knew he was involved in something special-and committed to a journey that had just begun.
For two more years his secret remained intact. He found and jettisoned an agent, engaged the talents of legendary fantasy artists Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, and eventually found a publisher willing to introduce a first-time novelist to a keenly competitive market. It helped that Vallejo and Bell were on board for the cover art and the typescript itself needed only routine copy-editing. The characters were fully-realized, the narrative arc complete. Publication date came; The Soulstealer War, Book One: The First Mother's Fire, appeared; Mr. Hoffman's secret was out; soon thereafter, the reviews came in.
Writing for Front Street Reviews, Aramintha Matthews likened Mr. Hoffman's accomplishment in The Soulstealer War to that of J. R. R. Tolkien's in The Lord of the Rings (http://www.frontstreetreviews.com/Soulstealer.html). More than one reviewer, including Jerry Unangst writing for Roundtable Reviews, noted, "What really sets off The Soulstealer War from other fantasy books is that it … has ideas." Even more persuasively, genre aficionados reviewing for major online booksellers have received The Soulstealer War with generosity and enthusiasm-and have been unanimous in awarding it five stars:
… a stellar example of sci-fi/fantasy writing. The writing is clear with great imagery and natural flow. The setting & its characters are extremely well developed, the action is fast paced and engaging, and the plot is truly compelling.
The novel is essentially a philosophy book that uses the genre of fantasy/sci-fi to present its queries, questions, thoughts and ideas.
… What is truly amazing about "The First Mother's Fire" is that Hoffman is able to present such weighty subject matter via an epic fantasy storyline with plenty of action and pacing.
I have been reading fantasy avidly for over 30 years and this book ranks among the best for its creativity and vivid imagery.
To impress savvy readers, Bill Hoffman had to know his material and his métier. He succeeded because he is a fan and student of the genre, having read fantasy/sci-fi during law school for stress-release and enjoyment. Of his writer's discipline, he says, "Will three or four hours' sleep on most nights for four years catch up with me when I'm older? Yes. Is it a fair trade-off for something I wanted to do? Yes. Think of it this way: lawyers working in big corporate firms commonly log 100 hours a week. It isn't considered a big deal. Writing The First Mother's Fire was like that, only it was more fun and, to me, much more important."
Not surprisingly, Bill Hoffman is still writing at night. The project now is Book Two, provisionally titled, The Splintering Realm. Planned to be completed next year, Book Two should be published in early 2010. And Book Three? "I expect it to appear in December 2012." How can he anticipate the process years in advance? "Lawyers are trained to meet deadlines," he says. "A court date is a fixed obligation. A brief is due when it's due."
Although he spends much less time in court now than formerly, Mr. Hoffman is still a working attorney engaged in the critical thinking required by legal practice. "Being a lawyer has never stopped," he says. "It was a great advantage to me in bringing The Soulstealer War to this point." Besides enabling him to negotiate his contracts with the publisher and illustrators, Mr. Hoffman's legal training nurtured certain habits of mind well-adapted to constructing alternate worlds. "I learned a fantastic skill-set in law school," he says. "As lawyers, we're trained to look at a situation from all angles, to put ourselves on the other side of an issue. A law school education trains your mind to be open to other possibilities. It is a gateway to all opportunities, not just a law firm. It teaches a person how to look outside the box for new pathways."
Bill Hoffman's biggest opportunity as a fantasy/sci-fi author will come next spring at BookExpo America 2009. The event will take place at the Javits Center in New York and will feature book signings, author interviews, and discussions. "It will be the first time I really put myself in front of the whole industry," he says. "My hope is that one of the big fantasy publishers will pick up the series." Whether or not that happens, he is confident in his work and its story. "In The Soulstealer War, the magic is based on science," he notes. "There is no devil, no witchcraft, no explosions on every page. The story is about the capacity of human beings to evolve mentally and spiritually to transcend the mode we're in, of thinking our mundane reality is all there is. I believe there is much more to the universe than what we can perceive with our senses. That belief drives my writing, and The Soulstealer War explores its implications."
Of the steady effort that has delivered great reviews and a place for his novel on the Barnes & Noble shelves, Bill Hoffman says, "I've learned that writing is an exercise of persistence and a personal belief in yourself. You can't measure yourself against others." Readers interested in more of the book's backstory and ongoing success should visit www.SoulstealerWar.com.
~contributed by John A. Lauricella Special to Cornell Law School