Author Interview: Jim C Hines

This month’s interview is with Jim C. Hines, author of The Stepsister Scheme.

jim-hines

Hello, Jim, and welcome to Scribe’s Writing Desk. First off, I must thank you for taking the time to let me interview you. Now, let’s get stuck into the questions. Tell us a bit about your writing background.

Well, I’ve been writing since 1995. My first real success was in 1998, when a short story of mine won first place in the Writers of the Future competition. Since then, I’ve sold about 40 pieces of short fiction and six novels to DAW Books. It’s only in the past few years that things have really started to take off. My oddest writing sale was a story published on a coffee can, and the most profitable was a four-word bumper sticker to Northern Sun.

That’s impressive! It doesn’t surprise me about the sticker either. We’ve always been told that there’s not a lot of money in writing. Tell us about your latest publication?

My latest book is The Stepsister Scheme, which is basically a mash-up of fairy tale princesses and Charlie’s Angels. It’s the book I wanted to write since my daughter was younger and our house was flooded with princess merchandise. It goes back to the early fairy tales and presents three heroines who get to kick butt, fight the bad guys, and save the prince. There will be at least three books in the series, and I’m really excited about them. Also, it has the best silverware combat ever. 😉

stepsister-cover

Hah! Children are inspiring in so many ways. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m actually working on the third princess book right now, Red Hood’s Revenge. Of course, in my universe, Red Riding Hood ended up being one of the most feared assassins in the land….

I always thought there must have been another side to her. Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, how do you manage it?

I know writers who juggle multiple projects, but I’ve never been able to handle it. If I get an anthology invitation, I have to put my current project on hold, write the short story, then go back to the original project. My brain has a hard enough time holding on to one story; it just can’t handle two. Though if I ever get to the point where I can quit my day job and write full-time, I might push myself to change this.

I can totally relate to that. How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Eight years ago, I took a government job specifically because I knew it would allow me to write during my lunch break. Since then, I write during my lunch, an hour a day for five days a week. It’s not a lot, but that’s when I get most of my fiction done. I’ve also got two young children at home, and my wife recently started grad. school, so time management is always a bit of a trick. My wife has been very supportive, which helps a lot. Mostly it’s a matter of choosing what’s most important and making time for those things. (There’s a reason I haven’t played a video game in years.)

Now that is dedicated! I’m impressed. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Be patient, and be stubborn. Regarding patience, if you wanted to be a doctor, you’d expect to spend years studying. An electrician? Years of study and practice before you’re licensed. Writing is no different. It takes practice and time, and if you expect to break onto the New York Times bestseller list right away, you’re probably going to be disappointed. The stubbornness goes hand-in-hand with the patience, because you will be rejected. Most successful writers seem to have anywhere from 500 to 1000 rejection letters. But the best response to rejection is that stubborn determination to do even better with the next story.

What are your writing goals for the future?

I’m not sure, honestly. I want to do at least four books in my current series, assuming it sells. I know I want to keep writing for as long as my brain and my fingers still work, but as to what’s next? Well, I’ll figure it out when I get there. Maybe a nice blend of Twilight and Harry Potter so I can make my billion dollars and retire to a life of luxury.

Sounds like an interesting concept. Best of luck for the future and thank you. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

If you would like to find out more about Jim and his books, please visit his website and his blog.

Or, if you want to cut to the chase, head straight over to Amazon and buy The Stepsister Scheme.

Author Interview: Simon Haynes

On the first day of each month, during 2009, I intend to post an author interview. This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Simon Haynes, author of the best-selling Hal Spacejock series.

Simon-Haynes

Thank you for giving me your time, Simon. Tell us about your latest publication?

My latest novel was published in June 2008, and it’s the fourth in the Hal Spacejock series. Hal’s a well-intentioned freighter pilot who is massively over-confident and woefully under-skilled. He’s accompanied by a creaky old robot who is understanding, precise and stubborn, and also prone to the occasional flash of hot temper. They make a great pair, and I have a lot of fun writing about them.

(My books aren’t heavy on the science fiction. They’re just set in the future where humans still haven’t outgrown all the problems we have now, even though technology has moved ahead. There’s a fair bit of satire in my books.)

Hal4

They sound like an interesting combination. What project are you working on at the moment?

Book five in the series. I’m hoping to have the first draft by the end of March, and I’m currently 100,000 words short of my target, which is 100,000 words.

I do have a neat plot outline though.

I’m a great believer in outlines. Best of luck getting that first draft completed by the deadline. Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

I have a rough idea, but it changes with each version of the plot, and again with each draft of the novel. I do a lot of drafts – maybe half a dozen before the book takes shape, and another 10-15 during the editing process.

That’s a lot of writing, but obviously it pays off. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Don’t treat your first novel as the best (or only) thing you’ll ever write. Bash it out, tidy it up and shop it around agents, but switch your focus to the next novel as soon as you can. I know this sounds glib if you’ve just spent five years working on a manuscript, but you could spend another ten years tweaking and polishing it and maybe it won’t sell. Move on, write something else.

Most published authors have three or four early, unpublished novels in the bottom drawer. Regard each one as a learning process, not a waste of effort.

That’s good advice. Who is the person behind the writer? What do you do when you are not writing?

I’m a husband, a father to two daughters (11 and 14), a keen cook, a good handyman, an archer and a golfer. I also suffer from a bad lower back, which has curtailed my archery, golf and windsurfing for some years now.

Who would you chose to play the star role if your book was made into a movie and why?

That’s a tricky one. How can any movie actor match the ideal in the author’s head? In Hal’s case I reckon someone like Simon Pegg might be good (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) – someone capable of playing it completely straight while everything collapses around him. (Another example is Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies.)

What you don’t want is a comic actor, because Hal isn’t a wisecracking loon or a comedian. Nobody in the books is. They’re not that sort of humour.

That’s interesting as it gives us a much deeper understanding of the characters. Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

No, I believe in distractions and I believe in writers wanting to do something more fun than writing. But at the end of the day, if I plug in the laptop, lock myself in a room and turn off the wifi, I know I can force out 2000 words.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s been a pleasure “talking” to you and I wish you all the best for your past and future publications.

If you would like to find out more about Simon or his books, please visit his blog – The Hal Spacejock Series.

Author Interview: Alan Baxter

This is the first author interview for 2009. I plan on doing one a month throughout the year and I hope you will return to the website each month to read them.

The first interview is with Alan Baxter, author of Realmshift and Magesign.

alan-baxter

Alan, welcome to Scribe’s Writing Desk and thank you for allowing me to interview you. Was there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

I’ve always had the desire to write. As far back as I can remember I was making up stories and writing them down. I once got into trouble in primary school because my teacher was convinced that my parents must have written the English assignment that I handed in. Once my parents had convinced her that it was my own work she became concerned about the dark nature of it as there was murder and blood involved. So I guess I’ve always had the urge to write dark fiction!

Tell us about your latest publication?

My latest book is MageSign, which is the sequel to my debut novel, RealmShift. In RealmShift the protagonist is a very powerful immortal called Isiah with the unenviable task of trying to keep some kind of balance between all the world’s religions. In the sequel, MageSign, the protagonist is back again, but on a rather more personal quest this time. Both books are rollicking good thrillers on the one hand and dark speculative fiction on the other. They’ve been called dark fantasy and horror and urban fantasy and a number of other things, so they’re obviously a little hard to pin to any genre. They’ve both received great reviews and I’m very proud of them. Both available on Amazon, of course, and you can learn all about them and read the first three chapters of both for free at my website!

RealmShift-MageSign

They sound, and look, intriguing! What project are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on promoting MageSign primarily. I’m also usually working on a few short stories, as I love the short story medium and I’ve got a handful out here and there, trying to get them published. I’ve sold a few, which is always gratifying. I’m also starting to put together the bones of my next novel as a project for next year. It’s a new book, with new characters and a new idea, so I’m quite excited about it. I like to let the idea stew in my brain for a while and then I’ll slowly start to make notes and put together a rough story plan, then the serious writing begins. I’m at about the notes stage now with the next book. I’ve also set up an independent publisher called Blade Red Press, so I’m working on that as well.

It’s good to hear that you have numerous things to keep you busy. Where do you get inspiration for your stories and characters?

Anywhere and everywhere. For example, I recently wrote a short story about a guy that dies and leaves his daughter seven garages all over Sydney that she had no idea existed. It’s a bizarre idea, but it came about because I heard of someone that really did that. His family were mystified to discover, on his death, that he owned seven garages. I have no idea what he did with them – in my story it all becomes dark and ominous, of course! Real life provides fantastic fodder for speculative fiction. I just extrapolate people and events that I notice and paint them with my own particular brush. Other times a scene or a character will just pop into my head and I’ll build a story around that. That’s how RealmShift came about. I came up with the idea of the Isiah character and just let it percolate in my mind for a while and slowly built a story around the character. Inspiration can be found everywhere.

Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

Not always! When I wrote RealmShift I had no idea until about halfway through how it was going to wrap up. With MageSign I knew exactly from start to finish all the major story details and just had to build it and flesh it out. With this next book, I know the beginning and middle, but again have no idea how to wrap it up at this stage. But I trust in my abililty as a storyteller and I also believe in the story itself – if you start to tell the story, it’ll lead you on to the end.

I look forward to reading more about that story in the future. Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, how do you manage it?

I usually work on one novel at a time, but always have several short story ideas rolling around. If I’m finding the novel a bit tricky, I’ll put it aside and write a short. That helps to relubricate the story-telling machine and I’m usually able to get on with the novel with renewed inspiration and motivation. In between novels I tend to write shorts and blog posts and all sorts of things like that and I’m always trying to promote my current and previous work, so there’s always several writing related things happening. And with Blade Red Press up and running now as well there’s another thing to think about!

Best of luck with Blade Red Press. I hope all goes to plan. Who would you chose to play the star role if your book was made into a movie and why?

Well, given that my “day job” is as a martial arts instructor, there’s a lot that Isiah does in the books that I could probably do a lot better than a regular actor. But could I act as well? Who knows. I do love the idea of playing my own hero as I’ve always been a huge fan of movies, but I don’t think I really resemble Isiah all that much. A lot of people have commented about how both RealmShift and MageSign would make great films, so I’d love to see my books optioned one day. Being such a movie fan, seeing one of my novels on the big screen would be awesome. I think I’d probably get involved and insist on being the fight choreographer (as most movie fights are awful) and then have a cameo role as a minor character somewhere. Perhaps I’d body double for the star in the fight scenes!

Now that would be interesting. I hope the situation arises so that we can enjoy that cameo role! 🙂 My sincere thanks, Alan, for participating and please accept my best wishes for the future.

If you would like to find out more about Alan or his books, please visit his website – The Word – or stop by Blade Red Press.