Milwaukee novelist who wrote on a manic high is putting the focus on mental illness

poison penJim Stingl
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The stunningly honest author biography of Bill Zaferos’ new novel begins this way:

“Bill Zaferos is a first-time author and writer who managed to channel his mental illness into creativity by writing ‘Poison Pen‘ during a manic high.”

The words flowed out of him for three months as he huddled over a vintage Mac computer in his basement, often well into the night while self-medicating with wine and grooving to Bruce Springsteen and The Who.

Out poured the wild story of a rich and caustic game show host who hits the road to find himself and winds up in a miserable northern Wisconsin town populated by weird characters.

Did all that feverish late-night key pounding lead to a story that makes sense?

“What’s remarkable to me is that it holds together. There are parts of this that I don’t remember writing. I was a man on a mission,” said Zaferos, 60, a former newspaper reporter and public relations man who lives in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.

HenschelHaus Publishing in Milwaukee agreed with his assessment and took on the book. It will launch May 15 as a fundraiser for the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Milwaukee at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. It starts at 7 p.m., preceded by a VIP reception at 5:30. Tickets are $30.

Zaferos will read from “Poison Pen” and take questions from Marcus Center President Paul Mathews and the audience. Everyone present will receive a copy of the book, which also becomes available that day on Amazon.

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