Monday, November 28, 2011

Get to Know Author James Hutchings

Good morning Readers! Happy Cyber Monday!
Here is a treat for you guys to consider in your Cyber Monday book shopping. James Hutchings is joining us today for an interview and discussing his book, The New Death and Others. If you click his name, you will end up on his website where you can learn more about him and his book. Check it out and let me know what you think.

'The New Death and Others' is a collection of short pieces (44 stories and 19 poems). Most of them are dark fantasy, but there's some humor, general fiction and science fiction in there too.

Kindle Edition: 264 KB
Publisher: James Hutchings (September 27, 2011)
ASIN: B005Q8Q8DY
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at Smashwords


Who or what inspires your writing?
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. I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go, and write down ideas as they occur to me. I don't think I have more or better ideas than anyone else, but people who don't write don't bother putting their idle thoughts down. 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.
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.

When did you know you would be a writer?
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 film making, before I finally settled on writing. Even then I've changed from short stories to poetry, and now I'm considering writing a novel. If it turned out that I was actually better at, say, painting than writing, I think I'd be happy to change. So for me it's much more wanting to do something creative, rather than wanting to write specifically.

How long did it take you to write your first novel?
Writing the stories in 'The New Death and others' took about a year.
However before that I spent about a year creating a fantasy city called Teleleli or Telelee as a background for role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Once I finished I realized there wasn't any demand for it. My ex suggested I write stories instead, so I did.
However even that was largely based on an online game I did called Age of Fable (www.ageoffable.net). I created that game over about four years.
So one year if you only count the actual stories, six years if you look at when the original idea started.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
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.

Do you have any writing rituals?
Only making myself write every day, even if it's only a little bit. I think if I tried to write, say, three times a week, that would actually be harder. If it's three times a week it's too easy to put it off and say that you'll do it later. If it's every day you 'have' to write now.

Have you written any thing else?
Years ago I wrote a novel called 'Escape', which is...best not spoken of again. I don't think I was a bad writer, but I wrote it without getting any feedback from anyone else, and I think feedback is absolutely essential.

Any advice to aspiring writers?
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.
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 (www.pred-ed.com) 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.

Who are your favorite Authors?
JRR Tolkien and Jack Vance for the elaborate dialogue. Robert E Howard for the general atmosphere. Terry Pratchett for the humor. Lord Dunsany for the use of Fame, Time and so on as characters.

What are your favorite books, or which book has impacted you the most?
I think every English-language fantasy writer is probably most influenced by Lord the Rings. Even if they write in a different way, it's probably a deliberate decision to not write like Lord of the Rings, rather than a result of indifference to it.


What are you currently reading?
I actually read short stories far more than novels, so I'm seldom in the middle of anything. The last story I read was 'A Centurion of the Thirtieth' by Rudyard Kipling (spoilers: it was a good idea, but not a very good story).

How do readers find out more about you?
I have a blog (www.apolitical.info/teleleli), and I post something every day.

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