Monday, April 2, 2012

An Interview with James Hutchings

Please Join me in welcoming James Hutchings as he shares some insight into his publishing journey, as well as some good advise for prospective authors.

Be sure to check out his excerpts from his book The New Death and others.

1) Links to website and list of books with purchase links. 

New Death and Others
2) How long have you been writing? What got you in to writing?

I did a Bachelor of Arts majoring in creative writing and media, but I didn't do anything with it after graduating. Years later I created a fantasy city called Teleleli or Telelee as a background for role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Once I finished I realised there wasn't any demand for it. My ex suggested I write stories instead, and that's how I got started.

3) What was your first published book? Looking back, is there anything you’d change about it?

The New Death and others is the first full-length book that I'm charging money for.

4) What or Who has influenced your writing? 

JRR Tolkien and Jack Vance for the elaborate dialogue. Robert E Howard for the general atmosphere. Terry Pratchett for the humour. and Lord Dunsany for the use of Fame, Time and so on as characters.

5) Where do you get your ideas?

Some ideas just pop into my head, without me knowing where the idea comes from. 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. Of course other fiction is a big inspiration. In some cases it's obvious. I've done poems directly based on stories by HP Lovecraft and other writers for example. In other cases it's more subtle: for example the city of Teleleli or Telelee is partly based on Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar, partly on Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork, and partly on Port Blacksand in the Fighting Fantasy series. the dialogue in Lord of the Rings had a big influence on how my characters talk.

6) What hinders your writing? (distractions? noise?)

Not much, other than having other work to do.

7) What genre are you most comfortable with? What would you like to explore?

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

8) Are you a by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of writer, or do you have to use an outline to put your collective thoughts into some semblance of common sense?

Most of my stories and poems are fairly short, so I don't need to write a plot outline. However 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'. When I start on that I'll do a plot outline first.

9) Which of your books is your favorite? Why?

There's only one book, so I guess that's my favourite. I think my favourite story is probably 'The New Death and others'.

10) Do you incorporate some of yourself into your characters? Personality traits? Likes? Dislikes?

Probably, but I don't do it deliberately.

11) What do you think is the perfect hero/heroine? Why?

I tend to think of plot ideas and work the characters around that, rather than the other way round. 

12) What is your latest release? Please share the blurb and purchase info with us.

The New Death and others
Death gets a roommate...

An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question...

A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain...

44 stories. 19 poems. No sparkly vampires. There's a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it - but from which direction?

Available from:
13) What do you have in the works?

Apart from 'Confessions of a Bounty Hunter' and the Telelelee novel which I mentioned above, 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 shorter poem.

14) Do you have any suggestions/comments for prospective authors?

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 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.

Author Name: James Hutchings

Book Title: The New Death and others

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: self-published

Format: ebook

Excerpt: G rated

In the beginning of the world the gods considered all those things which did not have their own gods, to decide who would have responsibility and rulership.

"I will rule all flowers that are sky-blue in colour," said the Sky-Father."I will listen to the prayers of migratory birds, and you all other birds," the goddess Travel said to him. And so it went.

At last all had been divided, save for one thing."Who," asked the Sky-Father, "shall have dominion over the poor?"

There was an awkward silence, until the Sky-Father said,"Come - someone must. Those with no gods will grow restless and cunning, and in time will cast us down, and we shall be gods no more."

"Not I," said blind Justice, and her stony face flashed a momentary smirk at the thought.

"Why not Fame or Fortune?""Darling I don't think so," said the sister goddesses together.

There was a long pause. The gods shuffled their feet and avoided one another's gaze. At last a voice broke the silence.

"I will," said Death. 

If my life was filmed, it would
go straight to DVD
and someone who was famous once
would have the role of me
and if five stars meant 'excellent'
you'd give it two or three
and most of those who rented it
would watch ironically.

Years later they would track me down
and do an interview.
They'd say "I heard you died," and I'd
say "Yeah, I heard that too."
"Is any of it fictional?"
"Perhaps a scene or two.
There weren't as many ninjas, but
the rest is mostly true." 

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