Saturday, December 1, 2012

Interveiw with Author James Hutchings

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I think I've wanted to do something creative since I was a teenager. But I've tried several different things, such as music and filmmaking, before I finally settled on writing. To be honest, if it turned out that I was actually better at, say, painting than writing, I think I'd be happy to change. So in a sense I still haven't decided I want to be an author.


Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

I get discouraged a lot. Usually it's when people don't like something I've written as much as I do, or when I run out of ideas halfway through a story. One thing I do is 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.

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.


Can you tell us a little about your book, 'The Case of the Syphilitic Sister'.

It's a detective / superhero story set in a two-fisted version of the 1930s.


What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Some ideas just pop into my head, without me knowing where the idea comes from. An example of that is a recent poem I wrote, called 'Angel Square', about a square where angels take the place of pigeons. Other ideas come from experiences in my life. For example 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'.

I've written a lot about cats, based on having been a cat owner. But I'm a lot more cynical about them than some cat-lovers. One reviewer said he couldn't work out whether I loved cats or hated them.


Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

My other main hobby is coding online games. I spent several years writing an online game called Age of Fable (www.ageoffable.net). I don't have any plans to do more on it, but it's still online, and you can play it for free. I've also done a few smaller projects. For example I did an online version of the computer game Oregon Trail.


What are you working on now?

The main thing I'm working on right now is a poem set in the old West, called 'Confession of a Bounty Hunter'.

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 few days (http://www.apolitical.info/teleleli) and a lot of it is details of the setting.


What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Nowadays 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 (www.critiquecircle.com) and/or Scribophile (www.scribophile.com), 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.

If you don't know how to use Photoshop or a similar program, I'd recomment hiring someone else to make a cover for you. This can be relatively cheap - less than $100 depending on what you want. Smashwords has some information on people who do this.

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.

There are two schools of thought on promoting your work after you publish. Some people say that you should spend a lot of time contacting blogs, posting on forums, running your own blog and so on. Other people say that you're better off putting the energy into writing more so you can have more books out. I honestly don't know which one is right.

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 (www.pred-ed.com) is a good website to look at, and you can get good advice at the forums of Critique Circle. The best-known reputable and free self-publishing venues are Amazon Kindle Direct, Smashwords.com, and for physical books Lulu.com.

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.


Where can readers go to find your books and order them?

You can find Chapter One of 'The Case of the Syphilitic Sister' for free reading at http://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/13. I intend to put up new chapters every month.

'The New Death and others' is available for 99c as an ebook in a few places:

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005Q8Q8DY

Smashwords:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/92126

Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-new-death-and-others-james-hutchings/1106579897

DriveThruFiction:

http://www.drivethrufiction.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=4616

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