Prior to embarking on this project, I worked as a day laborer, a handyman, and in a guitar factory. I ran an environmental consulting firm, a restaurant, huge call centers, and hired, trained, and mentored hundreds of employees. I also made and lost a fortune in real estate, casting me into the downward spiral that sparked this Wonder Valley odyssey.
An avid traveler, I have visited more than forty countries on five continents. I’ve crossed the equator by plane, boat, bus, and on foot. I’ve battled forty-foot seas in a thirty-five-foot sailboat, been chased by a wild orangutan in a Sumatran jungle, stared into the black pupil of a rebel Kalashnikov in the rainforest of Guatemala.
I received an M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction and Screenwriting from UC Riverside where I was mentored by L.A. Times Book Critic and notable author David Ulin. My work has appeared in magazines and anthologies including the Denver Voice and Best American Nonrequired Reading. I currently live between Wonder Valley and Orange County, California
“William Hillyard is an insightful writer who wields all the best writer’s weapons—close observation, a natural fearlessness, and endless curiosity—to evoke with brilliance and beauty this strange yet telling spot on the Western map.”
—Amy Wilentz, Professor of Literary Journalism, University of California, Irvine, and author of Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti, among other books.
“[California writing] is at its best, for me, when the authors treat California as a character rather than set dressing. William Hillyard does just that in “Wonder Valley” when he recounts the tale of Ned Bray and the end of Ricka McGuire in this nowhere corner of the Mojave.’ Part anecdote, part history lesson, Hillyard transports you so thoroughly in his descriptions that you’ll need to drink a glass of water when you finish.”
—Justice Fisher, Hippocampus Magazine.
“Reading Hillyard’s story, it’s not hard to see why the work of literary nonfiction got the [Best American Nonrequired Reading] nod. “Wonder Valley” depicts a forlorn corner of the Mojave Desert in California populated by outcasts and drifters and opens with a bang—a cinematic panorama of this desolate wasteland that ends on the nude, dead body of a woman lying in the dilapidated school bus that was her home.”
—Joel Warner, Westword Magazine.