I lost some data this week I’m afraid. Teach me to not backup my site. Shame on me. Here is the interview I had up. Unfortunately I lost the comments at the end of it.
Author Interview; Peter Hodges
Do you have any advice for an author doing his first author interview?
Relax and be funny?
How do you find time to write? Are you a denier; as in no tv or games until you’ve written, or do you steal a bit of time here and there?
I’m a husband, a dad, a chemist, an avid reader, a video gamer, and a writer. I don’t get any time to myself until after 8 PM. I usually wind down for an hour or so, then I contemplate writing. I usually write in spurts during the week. I’ll usually pick two or three nights and bang out between 2000-2500 words per night. I try to set a goal of 6000 words per week. If I haven’t met that either in revisions, re-writes, or new material, then I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. The nights that I’m not writing, I’m trying to read, hang out with the wife, or keep up with my PC Gaming habit.
Your Asimov and Heinlein influences are pretty obvious. Who else do you consider has a major impact on how you write?
I actually think David Drake has a large influence on the way that I write. I love the Hammer’s Slammers books; I think Northworld is one of the most underrated books in the history of science fiction. I like David’s spare style; he can say more in fewer words that anyone I know. In those few words he can convey the entire panoply of human emotion. If I don’t watch it, I find that my combat scenes read very similar to his.
I also value S. M. Stirling’s writing. He’s another author who doesn’t typically make ballots in the big-name awards, but his worlds are extremely well constructed and his plotting is usually really good. He’s not as character driven as David Drake, though, and I find myself writing very character driven stories and novels.
I know your friends with the fabulous Kate Baker. How does hearing your words coming from someone else make you feel and how much does it impact your writing? Is this something you would recommend to other writers?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without Kate. She pushes me, edits me, calls me on my bullshit, and eagerly awaits anything I write. She is more than a fan–she’s become one of my best friends.
Hearing the podcasts is helpful to me as a writer. Having someone read your work shows you how they interpret it. Did you get the rhythm of a sentence right? Does your work flow like you think it does on paper or in your head? Do descriptions and dialog work within the context of the story? A podcaster can help identify all of these.
I know you have several stories that have been made into podcasts. Have you ever considered going through some of the podcasts services that sell them? You probably know enough writers to come up with a set ala John Scalzi.
I don’t know enough writers that well to set up something like that. I’ve been to cons and made contacts, but I can’t say that anyone would want to be on board the “Pete Hodges Audible Project” just yet. Eventually, it’s something I would love to do. I believe that podcasts are a large portion of the future of genre fiction. There’s too much utility to them, whether you listen to them on the subway, on the airplane, in the car, or while on the treadmill. Having a good reader and good story is fulfilling entertainment that we haven’t seen since the death of the great radio dramas. It’s a great idea, though, to come up with a set of podcasts from lesser known authors and market it as a package.
I know you attended Viable Paradise. Do you feel it made a lot of difference in your writing and would you recommend it to others?
It made a huge difference. My class was particularly talented. There are several members that I’m surprised are not already big-name authors. Just being in their company, attending seminars and critique sessions, was worth the trip. Then, to have the one-on-one instruction that you received from people in the field was an added bonus. I learned a lot of things about my writing there. The first is that I’m too damned wordy. I overuse adjectives. I like passive verbs. I open too many paragraphs with subordinate clauses. I had point of view problems. I learned what it meant to pace a story and how to get good dialog out of the characters on the page. It wasn’t enough that I could write solid prose. It wasn’t enough that I could write and publish articles in technical journals. I had to write a story that would sell. That’s a different ball game.
Sitting in the hot seat with John Scalzi criticizing my work was rough, though. That guy will smile as he tells you the fifty million things that are wrong with your manuscript, especially with his penchant for the dramatic. It hurts, because this is public among a small group of your peers (everyone goes through it), but after you swallow your pride, you realize that he’s mostly right and he’s trying to make you better.
My novel, Alchemist (which I’m trying to market now) went through a drastic change post Viable Paradise. The language is tighter, the characterizations more deft, the point of view problems largely fixed (another beta reader thinks I still have issues in a couple of places). I would say that 30-40% went under complete re-write, while the rest of it was heavily tweaked.
I know you’re getting close to breaking through with your first sell. I’ve read your work and know that some of your short stories at least should have seen print by now. Do you think it is going to be a matter of name recognition or just finding the right editor at the right time with the right story? How close do you think you are?
A big problem is that my query letters are not grabbing attention. I’ve changed my format (you can see the one I’m working on right now on my site) in an effort to grab the attention of the editors/agents.
I do think part of my problem has been timing. Shortly after 9/11 I was trying to market a military science fiction novel–not a lot of people were buying it (and hey, to be fair, it kind of sucked). I got tons of compliments on my style or my ability as a writer, but no real interest in the story. I switched gears to a fantasy story (a genre that take second fiddle with me to military science fiction or alternate history) and wrote almost as though I were writing an alternate history. I’ve got some great elements of world building in there, and the early review I’ve had from beta readers are that the characters certainly elicit the reactions I intended them to.
I’ve made an effort to attend cons to build my name recognition. I want authors, agents, and publishers to recognize my name. “Hey! That guy was at Dragon*Con and he asked intelligent questions.” or “Hey! I know that guy. He was hanging out with the Viable Paradise group.” I generally take promotional flyers with my web address and brief descriptions of my work (available as PDFs on my site).
As to how close do I think I am? Who knows, brother? I’ve got a couple of things in the pot right now that could yield some news before Christmas (I can’t talk about them for fear of jeopardizing them), but who knows. Maybe one of these fifty query letters I’ve sent out will get a hit.
Do you have any advice on how to handle rejection?
Smile. Make jokes about it. I’m running at a little over 70 rejection letters. I haven’t counted lately. That’s 70 people that are going to *facepalm* when I win the Campbell Award. (Just kidding.)
Do you have any words of advice for the aspiring writers among us?
Write, write, write, write, write! Try, try, try! I’m going to keep trying until the world unanimously agrees that I suck or someone publishes me.
Seriously, it’s pretty similar to what other writers have said. I continually improve if I write all the time. When I stop writing, it’s closely akin to when you stop lifting weights. I personally believe that you should experiment with a wide range of styles and points of view. Find something that works for you, then try to build your story idea around it.
I guess that’s about it. Wish I had thought up some more questions now.