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.
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.)
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Most published authors have three or four early, unpublished novels in the bottom drawer.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.