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Monday, November 28, 2011

Interview with James Hutchings and a Giveaway!

Since I'm currently writing away like a madwoman (see my flagging word count??? ARRGGGG!!!), I've been talking to different authors and experiences writers, picking their brains about the writing process. My latest victim subject is James Hutchings, author of The New Death and others.

Me: What does your favorite writing spot look like? Completely bare desk or one cluttered with inspiration objects? Comfy couch with your laptop? On a beach with only a bottle of sunscreen and your notepad?

J.H.: I'm pretty indifferent to my surroundings when I write. I carry a notebook around with me when I leave the house, but I do most of my writing on the computer using Notepad.

Me: Are you one of the lucky few who focuses on writing as your full-time job or do you have a mild-mannered alter-ego and a day job?
J.H.: I make some extra money from acting, using the stage name 'Brad Pitt'.

Me: I once pulled an interesting storyline from an encounter in a fast food 
drive-thru. Where's the oddest place or moment where inspiration hit you?

J.H.: A while ago I found three injured birds in the space of a few weeks. I took all of them to the local vet. As I was carrying one of them, I thought that the woman at reception might wonder where I was finding all these injured birds, and that was the inspiration for my story 'Lost, Feral or Stray'.

Me: With a serious case of writer's block, I've been baking cookies all 
evening and I think I finally have an idea that will work out. What do you do to overcome a blank page?

J.H.: I usually have several things that I'm working on at the same time. This helps with running out of ideas, because I can leave what I'm working on and do something else instead. The danger with this is that starting something can be more fun than finishing it, and so you run the risk of having lots of half-written pieces that you never finish.

I also make a point of writing every day, even when I don't feel like it. This helps get through temporary slumps. I think if you wait for inspiration to strike it never will. Often I start with the attitude that "I'm really tired and I can't think of anything. I'll just write a token amount so I can say I did something today," and actually end up having a good idea and getting a lot done.

Me: After reading The New Death and others with all the different stories and poems, I certainly have my favorites. Which one(s) are your favorite?

J.H.: I like 'The God of the Poor'. I also like one particular part from 'Under the Pyramids':

Down in the dark, down in the dark
down through the rock and slime
away from light and human sight
and sanity and time.

Me: Have you begun your next project? Can you give us any hints?

J.H.: I'm working on a verse version of 'A Princess of Mars'. This is a science fiction adventure story, now in the public domain, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who's more famous for Tarzan. Disney is also doing a movie of it, called 'John Carter', but that's not why I chose it. I generally work on several things at the same time, so I'm also in the middle of a few short stories and poems. I've been encouraged to write a novel set in the fantasy city of Telelee, which is the setting of a few of the stories in 'The New Death and others'. I have a lot of background for this world, because I blog every day and most of it is setting detail. I also have a half-finished novel called 'All-American Detectives', which is a combination of a detective story and a story about superheroes, which I'll probably come back to in the future.

Me: Finally, what advice do you have for new writers? Did anyone ever give you completely awesome (or spectacularly awful) advice? 

J.H.: Nowdays anyone can self-publish. If you can make a Word document, you can have an ebook on Smashwords or Amazon. However that means that if your work is no good, no one's going to stop you. I'd recommend that people get onto Critique Circle and/or Scribophile, put their work up, and listen to what people tell you. Don't 'defend' your work against people's 'attacks'. They aren't attacks, they're helping you. I've found that the people who defend their work have a strong tendency to have the worst writing, I suppose because they're not making the changes they need to make.

My next point doesn't matter if you're going to self-publish, but it is important if you want to be published by a regular publisher, or if you want to submit stories to magazines. Most places won't publish work that's already been published. And most places count putting a story on the internet as publishing it. In my opinion that's silly, but that's what they do. Scribophile and Critique Circle are exceptions, because google doesn't index them and you can't see any stories without logging on. However there are writing group websites out there where, if you put a story on the site, that counts as the story being published. That seems like a really terrible way to set things up, but they're out there.

I'd also say that getting a book out isn't the final step. It's just the start of the work of self-promotion. This is true even if you're not  self-publishing: I'm told that authors are expected to pretty much arrange their own book signings and so on (if you just want to have a book out to show family and friends then this doesn't matter, of course).

There are a lot of sharks out there, who make their money from authors and not from readers. They will make all sorts of promises about how they're going to promote you and help you, but these are lies. Authors do not pay publishers, ever, and if they're asking you to pay then it's a scam. Of course if you're self-publishing you might end up paying someone to design a cover for you, or you might pay for internet advertising, but those are different things. You might also pay a printer to print your books if you want to get physical books rather than ebooks - but in this age of the kindle and print-on-demand I don't know why you'd want to. Preditors and Editors is a good website to look at, and you can get good advice at the forums of Critique Circle.

Finally, I'd suggest learning to touch-type if you can't already. You're going to be doing a lot of typing, and every hour you spend getting faster at typing will save you ten in the long run.

Me: Also, if you have a preferred playlist, I'd love to include a few of the songs and artists. 

J.H.: My favourite bands are probably The Smiths and The Cure. Of bands that are roughly around now I like The Dresden Dolls and The Killers.

Thanks to James Hutchings for the excellent advice and tips! Now for the fun part: enter to win a free copy of The New Death and others!

This book is available through Smashwords, so you won't be receiving a printed book, but access to an ebook. These can be read on your Kindle, Nook, or on your computer. 

To enter, leave a comment about your preferred writing space (or if you don't write, then your favorite reading spot).

For additional entries:

  • Follow DuckDuckCow.
  • Post about this contest on Facebook.
  • Post about this interview and contest on your blog, including a link back here.

Please leave me one comment per entry. Contest closes at Sunday, Dec. 4th at midnight MDT.

Good luck!


i'm erin. said...

I am a follower and James Hutchings is frigging awesome! Please let me win!

Alice Audrey said...

My favorite writing spot? At my desk. It's all set up for it.

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