Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Author Interview with Dick Hannah

I am please to have Dick Hannah, author of On The Edge on the blog today. Thanks for joining us and please show him some blogger/follower love!!

Did you like school and what was your favorite subject?

I disliked school quite a bit. It wasn’t till I was almost out of college that I truly began to appreciate school and I believe most of that appreciation came from our air conditioner breaking during the middle of summer in Texas. This forced me to spend the majority of my days at the library studying and reading. So, to get back to the question, in college my favorite class was 20th Century Novel. We read My Antonia, Sophie’s Choice and others. I petitioned the professor to start a War Novel class were we could read Catch 22, Red Badge of Courage and other such fare, but was denied. I still think that would have been a good class. Throughout high school and middle school too I found refuge in the library. I was the guy who would run to the library during lunch just to find the book he had been reading the day before and get back into it. When the library was closed I would sit on the steps outside. I suppose lunch was my favorite subject in high school and only because I got to read in the library.

Where and when do you write?

I suppose it could be classified as the migrant theory of writing. I write whenever I can find the time and wherever I find myself at that time. For a long while, when my son had just been born, I woke up early and wrote at the kitchen table with a big cup of coffee. For some reason once that phase ended I moved to writing in the evenings with either a glass of red wine or single malt scotch. Then there was a period where I would write while travelling. I found airports and airlines to be terrific getaways for writing. I’ve always liked watching people go by, airports allow me to do that and then dive back into my writing and usually use some of those people I just watched walk by. There are some great characters wandering around our nation’s airports. Now, with three kids and a full-time job, I find the time to write during my lunch hours. It’s not the most apropos writing moments but one must do what one must do.

What’s the worst summer job you’ve ever had?

In high school I had a job working for the local animal clinic. My duties included washing and bathing dogs and cats, dipping for fleas, feeding and walking the dogs in the small patch of grass out back (as well as picking up after them), cleaning the cages each day, and holding the pets that came in for exams. Houston is hot in the summer. It’s made hotter due to the humidity that comes from bathing angry animals, it’s made hotter by the blow dryers we had to use to comb out the dogs, it’s made hotter by the cloying, clinging, sweaty, wet heat that comes from wearing flea ridden, hairy, “kennel help” smocks, and it’s made intolerable by the feistiness of cats in a bath. It’s a particularly ridiculous task. The worst aspect among all the others was having to come into work on holidays to clean out the kennels, walk the dogs, and clean the animals who needed some attention. Nice memory to have, but not a fun job at the time. A great first job to help set a foundation and be able to say, “Don’t want to have to do that again.”

How did you handle your first rejection? A recent rejection?

As a technical writer I was constantly sending projects back to our home office for editing. I remember the first few that were returned with red lines were really upsetting. Technical writing seems so straight forward and black and white, I found it hard to believe before turning the project in that there would be many edits at all. That first year of getting those edits back was an eye opener. Now, fifteen years later, having edited some myself, I realize that those red lines aren’t meant to hurt or abuse. Having all of that under my belt made rejections a lot easier to take. Novel writing and reading is far more subjective than technical writing. Who knows what that reader might be looking for in a book at that moment when they pick up your manuscript? Have they had a bad day? Have they been told in a meeting to look for thrillers over mysteries? It’s all arbitrary and vague. I latch onto the stories like J.K. Rowling or Hugh Howey, those authors who are uber-successful but had a hard time breaking into the market. This is one reason I’m such a huge advocate of this digital e-publishing and self-publishing revolution. No longer will potentially great books be denied by readers at a publishing house or agency before eventually reaching the market. Now they can be denied (or accepted) by the market itself.

Do you currently attend writer's conferences, workshops, or classes?

I spent a few years sallying around to the local writing workshops, classes and conferences, but after a very short while I realized I wasn’t getting much out of it. I did not find much from a local writing group that mixed genre’s, writing ability, and writing style. Additionally, the group did not prepare for each session by reading and critiquing before showing up. It was a mess, but most of the people in the group seemed to like it. Following that fiasco I found myself in an online writing group. That wasn’t as bad as it sounds. For every chapter that I submitted for review I had to review three others. I stayed in that group for a couple of years, but grew tired of the disparate nature of the reviews. A writer could never designate which three reviewers got a chance to review. It wasn’t as bad as I thought but wasn’t as good as I hoped. Lately I’ve been contacted by three other local writers and asked to join their writing group. I’m excited about this opportunity. I’ve read some of this group’s individual works and they are all quite good. I like the fact that if not exactly writing in the same genre, we are all fairly close, and for the most part none of us are true beginners, nor are we old salts. I expect great things.

What is one tip you want to share with an aspiring author?

Don’t wait around. I waited many years to start writing thinking that I was maturing and gaining experience. I should have started writing in my early twenties rather than my early thirties. I’ve found that I’ve got better each year that I write, but never did I get better by not writing. Sit down and write, write, write. Write whatever, whenever you feel like it. Find a few moments each day just to plug away at a big project or to write a small ditty. It’s more important to get the pen on the paper (or the fingers on the keys) than anything else you might do to advance your writing life. Trite but true; go write.

Do you have a first reader/s?

I do have a first or beta reader. I have a friend of our family who is a local librarian who always takes up the task of reading my novels when I feel they are close to complete. Secondly, I have two editors. My cousin loves to read and correct my writing. My mother too has never fallen out of the habit of enjoying the chance to correct my grammar, spelling and syntax. But my wife is my harshest critic. My wife is an interesting reader. When she finds a book she likes she devours it. I enjoy books and try to take as long as possible to read them and get as much out of them. My wife chews them up and spits them out. It’s not rare for her to finish a good book in one twelve hour session of furious reading. I will know that I’ve written something wonderful the day I give her my manuscript and she reads it in one go. She says I’m getting closer with each passing year.

Do you have plans for a new book?   Is this book part of a series?

I’m currently working on a novel tentatively titled Vapor Trail. I was inspired to write it thanks to a book by Jonathon Kay called Among the Truthers. Among the Truthers is a non-fiction book about how conspiracies can destroy seemingly average people and their lives. At one point the author interviews an architect who believes so strongly in the idea that the September 11 attacks were a government conspiracy that he had left his job, divorced his wife, left his family and was living in a hovel trying to find enough supporters and evidence to advance his theory. I wanted to write a novel that got into a mind like that. What would drive a seemingly normal, middle class, family man to give everything up and how do his decisions affect those around him.

So far it hasn’t been an easy project, but I keep plugging away and each successive rewrite makes it better and better. I think I have proven with On the Edge that the aspects that made my first novel, Toe the Line, read like a first novel have been left behind. Vapor Trail is to On the Edge, what On the Edge is to my first novel. Each story just gets better, deeper, and hopefully more fulfilling.

Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?

Prior to my wife having given me my first Kindle I would have said hardback book were my favorite. I love opening them and hearing the binding crack, I liked the feel of the card board from the cover in my hand. Don’t get me wrong, paperbacks are great cause you can roll the side under and hold it in one hand. Now that I have a Kindle though, I can’t get enough of ebooks. I love the ease of ordering and wireless delivery. I love having my spot automatically updated on my phone, on any of my three kindles, on my iPad. It’s completely seamless and I love that about ebooks. There are still a lot of things I’d like to improve about ebooks and ebook readers, but that ease of use just can’t be beat.

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