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Blair Williams Interviewed By Rudy Otter (May 2017)

Blair Williams international Anglo-Indian philanthropist and publisher is a well-known figure in the Anglo-Indian community. Mention his name and people will say "he's the guy who does a great of charity work for disadvantaged Anglo-Indians, young and old, in India." So concerned was he about non-Anglo writers stereotyping the community with negative images that he resolved to do something about it by setting up his own publishing company, CTR Books, in the United States where he lives. His aim was not only to set the record straight by portraying Anglo-Indians fairly and accurately but to send proceeds from the books to his India-based charity helping Anglo-Indians in India. Here he talks about his life and books to Anglo-Indian journalist, columnist and fiction writer RUDY OTTER

RO: Blair Williams, you moved into book publishing for a special reason. What were you doing previously? Please explain.

BW: I was Director Materials Management for AT&T. When I retired in 2000 I looked around for something to do for the rest of my life! I asked myself a question “How will the  Anglo-Indian community be remembered by posterity?” The answer was not reassuring as the only information on the Anglo-Indian community was written by English or Indian authors who resorted to negative stereotypes to describe the community. There was a dire need for a more balanced view of the community and I decided to publish a series of books on Anglo-Indians to meet this need.

RO: How easy or difficult was it to set up in publishing in the USA?

BW: Not too difficult. I bought ten ISBNs, established a printer and then decided on themes that would be the basis of the proposed books.

RO: How did you organize the business?

BW: After I selected a theme for a book, I set up some basic conditions such as length of article, subject matter and submission date. Using the internet I invited articles from anyone who wanted to write on the theme. I also established an international panel of five judges for each book and an editor (one of the judges). Typically I allowed a year for submission of articles.  All submissions were emailed to me. I removed their identity, gave them a number and sent them to the judges. Only after the judges had agreed to a final selection did I reveal the authors’ identifications. This took about two months.

The finalized list was sent to the editor for editing. The manuscript was then put in a form acceptable to the printer, checked for errors and formatting and uploaded to the printer’s website. Proofs were checked, approved and the books printed the editing and printing took about four months. So the whole process ran for 18 months. I paid for all costs associated with the publishing and then donated the books to a charity I had formed to help Anglo-Indians in India called CTR http://www.blairrw.org/ctr  this resulted in the gross proceeds of all books going directly to the charity funds.

RO: Was publishing your full-time occupation?

BW:  No. I had started to teach in a University while engaged in publishing.

RO:  How did you make your presence known as a publisher looking for Anglo-Indian authors?

BW: Apart from the internet I also had an extensive list of authors as I had attended several International Anglo-Indian reunions. I also had a website where anyone who was interested could submit an article.

RO:  What terms did you offer to authors whose work you accepted for publication?

BW: For the initial books I offered an honorarium of $35 USD to authors whose work was selected.

RO: How much editing was necessary and did you do this work yourself?

BW: No I had an editor for each book. The editing was at times difficult, but I made it clear that the editor had final say in the matter and if the author disagreed strongly they could withdraw their article. Thankfully this happened only twice.

RO: What percentage of books did you reject, and why?

BW:  Typically we received around 100 submissions and selected around 40. The judges, all of whom had literary credentials, did the selection.

RO: You published eight books in total about the Anglo-Indian community, written by new and established Anglo-Indian writers. How well did the books sell?

BW: Two of the first four are sold out and the other two are steadily following suit. The last four are still selling.

RO: Why did you stop at eight books?

BW: I felt I had established a third and more balanced point of view on the Anglo-Indian Community. The eight books were published from 2000 to 2015.

RO: How will your departure from publishing affect your charity work for needy Anglo-Indians in India?

BW: Whilst the sale of the books helps the charity CTR it is not the principal means of fundraising. The charity has branches in Australia, the UK, Canada and East and West USA, all of whom raise funds for CTR. The charity is still continuing strongly in 2017.

RO: What advice would you give to people wishing to move into book publishing?

BW:  Have a vision, pursue it with passion and do not get frustrated. It helps to have connections and financial resources. In my case financial return was not an issue, but I can see the need for profit in commercial publishing

RO: Do you think there might be a time when you decide to resume publishing books?

BW:  No. I am now done as a publisher!

RO: If you are familiar with the Indian publishing scene, how well do you think it is making its mark internationally?

BW: I think it is doing well and I get several books from Indian publishers.

RO: Did you ever think of linking up with a publisher in India to give your books a higher profile?

BW:  Yes I am in touch with Harry Maclure of Anglos in the Wind (angloink.com) to reproduce those books that are going out of print.

RO: Who is your favorite Indian author, and why?

BW:  Jump Lahore. Her heroes are ordinary persons and she imbues them with extraordinary virtues, capabilities and frailties. In this manner she honors us humans as extraordinary creatures that do not need exaggerated embellishments (as in most of fiction) to appreciate and acknowledge our uniqueness.

RO: Where could people buy your books? And what are their titles, please?

 By writing to me at blairrw@att.net

 . Shipment abroad (from the USA) is as expensive as the book, so it helps to have a contact in the USA. Books may also be bought from the website http://www.blairrw.org/ctr  and they are also sold on Amazon

 Here are the details:

Books published by CTR Books, PO Box 6345, Monroe Twp,  NJ 08831, USA. Special Winter Sale – current prices in USD

Anglo-Indians Vanishing remnants of a bygone era – Blair Williams (2002) ISBN 0-9754639-1-8 Price $ 10.00

Haunting India – Margaret Deefholts (2003) - ISBN 0 9754639-2-6 Price $ 15.00 (out of print)

Voices on the Verandah - Anglo Indian Prose and Poetry - Deefholts and Staub (2004) ISBN 0-9754639-O-X (pp238) Price $ 10.00

The Way We Were – Anglo-Indian chronicles - Deefholts and Deefholts (2006) ISBN 0-9754639-3-4 (pp240) Price $ 15.00 (out of print)

The Way We Are – An Anglo-Indian Mosaic - Lumb and VELDHUIZEN (2008) ISBN 0-9754639-4-9 (pp279) Price $10.00

Women of Anglo-India – Tales and Memoirs – Deefholts and Deefholts (2010) ISBN 798-0-9754639-5-6 (pp233) Price 10.00

More Voices on the Verandah – An Anglo-Indian Anthology – Lionel Lumb (2012) ISBN 97809754639-6-3 (pp 240) Price

 10.00 Curtain Call – Anglo-Indian reflections – Kathleen Cassity and Rochelle Almeida (2016) ISBN 97809754639-7-0 (232 pages) Price 10.00

 Unwanted – Esther Mary Lyons (1996) ISBN 0-9754639-9-3 (pp 488) Price $ 10.00 Self published

 Add 3.50 for S&H for USA. For outside USA add $ 10.00 the gross proceeds of all sales goes to CTR a USA ‘Not for Profit’ establish to help the less fortunate in India.

 Publisher: Blair Williams, PO Box 6345, Monroe Twp, NJ  08831, USA - blairrw@att.net

 Purchase directly from Blair Williams at above address or

 Email- preferred (make out checks to CTR) or through the website http://www.blairrw.org/ctr  (pay by PayPal or Credit Card) or on Amazon.com

 Note Postage from the USA to other countries in very costly. Arrange delivery by friends visiting the USA

 RO: Finally, Blair Williams, is there anything you would like to add about your publishing experience?

 BW:  It was a challenging and fulfilling experience. I believe the publication of this series will make a difference in how the community is perceived by posterity.

 All books are in the USA Library of Congress, each with Library control # and also in the Derision Anglo-Indian  Research Center at the Calcutta University Library in  Kolkata. Present and future researchers will have a source  of information, and they have already begun to use these  resources.

 * Rudy Otter, aged 81, is a retired Anglo-Indian journalist,  columnist and short story writer who has contributed several  articles and short stories to IJAIS and its sister site The  Anglo-Indian Wallah. His acclaimed paperback, sub-titled  "Anglo-Indian funny stories" comprises a selection  of his personal-experience articles and short fiction.

 Entitled "The Very Best of Rudy Otter" the  hilarious paperback is produced by  Angloink.com, and  you can buy copies now from Angloink's editor, Harry  MacLure, at harrymaclure@yahoo.com