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Saturday, 9 October 2010

J B Hendricks, Author Interview

J.B. Hendricks lives in Columbus and is a graduate of The Ohio State University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree studying folklore, witchcraft, poetry, and British classics. Currently, he writes fiction with one published novel and many more projects in the works.

Tell us about your first novel in a few sentences

I've been calling “The Seven Sisters” an epic fantasy, but I'm becoming more and more disenchanted with the term. There's a lot of humor in the book that I think people won't expect if I tell them, “this is an epic fantasy” or “this is sort of like 'The Lord of The Rings.'” In a nutshell, this book is about seven young women with seven special abilities related to the five senses everyone has and two fantastic senses that only exist in the magic world, Gleeb, that they call home. They have this really tremendous adventure that involves them struggling to be reunited, to make sense of all the intrigue around them, and to vanquish the forces of evil. It's not as simple as good versus evil, though. It might seem like it at first, but trust me when I say it's bigger than that.  

What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?

Tenacity is important. And a good sense of humor doesn't hurt.

What is your working method?

I like to outline in notebooks and then create the actual story on the computer using the notebooks as references. It's a lot easier than having to juggle a lot of word files at the same time.

What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?

I know for me, as a long time poet but having never written anything like a novel length story before, it was not realizing just how hard it is to edit your own work on the computer. As if it wasn't trying enough to disect something you yourself wrote and love, staring at a screen for hours and hours lulls you. You get to the point where everything looks good enough. I don't know how it is for other writers, but I need a print copy to mark up if I'm going to get it done right. 

How did you come to write this particular book?

I love fantasy novels. I always have. One day, while visiting my brother in New Hampshire, I sat down and started writing one. I never stopped.

If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?

Tough question. I develop a pretty strong bond with all my characters. I don't think I can pick just one. Binky the blue nether ape was really fun to write. His ape mannerisms. But he's one of many.

How can people buy your book?

I'm only advertising the Kindle book these days as it's the second edition and much more perfected than the first. 

To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?

The difference between lightning and lightning bug is three letters. I think Mark Twain said that.

How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?

Lots. Lots and lots and lots.

Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?

My novel is set in a magic world called Gleeb. I've always been fascinated by world building. Terry Pratchett's Discworld, Urth, Prydain, Middle Earth, and the like... Great stuff. You can really let your imagination run and, when it gets tired of running, you can give it wings and let it fly. World building, in my opinnion, is the most fun a writer can have creatively. It's totally open. I love that.

To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?

It's a good means of finding a likely audience, I guess. I like fantasy as a genre because it's broad and inclusive. There's science fantasy, speculative fiction, urban fantasy, magic realism, steampunk, and so on. This suits me because I like to experiment with my writing. I don't like restrictions. 

What are your writing habits?

I don't have a strict regime, but I do write every day. Time and place doesn't matter so much to me, but if I don't write for at least a couple of hours every day, never mind the where and when, I feel anxious about it. I'll start muttering things like, “I can't believe I wasted the entire day” even if I've actually accomplished a lot of stuff  other than writing. 

How do you know where to begin any given story?

I guess it just comes naturally. I actually don't give it too much thought.

What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?

I don't think anything could keep me from writing, but I know what you mean. Mundane stuff does get in the way sometimes, but not often. For better or worse, I'm pretty good at ignoring it.

Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?

I have a great girlfriend whose almost always willing to indulge me when I start ranting about changlings and trolls and her sister's husband, Jimmy Wade, is not only one of my best friends in the world, but also my format editor. My dad and mom are also very supportive. One of the best experiences writing has brought me was when my dad read the book and liked it. It's not that I didn't think he would. I guess I just wasn't prepared for how much he liked it. It was kind of awesome. 

Is presentation of the MS as important as most agents and publishers suggest?

As an indie writer, I don't have a lot of experience with what agents and publishers think. I know things are changing in the industry all the time and it's difficult for anyone to set standards anymore. I do believe a good looking thumbnail cover sells better than a bad one. Books are evolving. It's a very exciting time for literature right now.

How long does it normally take you to write a novel?

Well, I've only written one and it was definitely a learning experience. It took me about a year to write “The Seven Sisters” but I'd be willing to bet I'll be able to do another two in the same amount of time now that I really know what I'm doing.

What are your inspirations? 

Books. I love to read. Reading, in my opinion, is the most important mental exercise a writer can do.

If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?

It's probable that everyone says this, but proof reading really sucks. It's tedious. Creative writing is all work, but none of it feels quite so much like work as proof reading.

Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?

I know I wasn't born with it.  As a kid, I had to overcome dyslexia and so learning to read and write was no easy thing. I think creativity might be a gift. The rest is just practice and toil.  

What are you writing now?

I'm in the process of editing up a book of short stories. By the time this interview gets published, it might even be out already. It's going to be a little different than “The Seven Sisters.” It includes a fantasy story and a sci-fi story and a poem, but the rest of the book is comprised of horror stories. I'm also working on a short story book set in Gleeb that I'm going to follow up with a sequel to “The Seven Sisters” at the beginning of next year. But between now and then, who knows? I like to keep a lot of irons in the fire. In his autobiography, “Bio of an Ogre,” Piers Anthony talks about working on a lot of things at once to ward of writer's block. That's always worked for me as well.  

Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?

I like when I get to be humerous.

Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?

Yup. I have a lot of fun here and it's the best place to get the heads up on what I'm currently working on:

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

Wow. Unlimited, huh? I'd write at Charles Dickens's desk in a biodome on Mars with the stars glittering in their multitudes over head and an austere landscape of red sand and dry riverbeds, seemingly endless, stretching out in every direction to the horizon.  

Where do you actually write?

I've got a comfortable chair. I sit with my computer in my lap and my cat lying across my legs. My girlfriend bakes and so sometimes I get to smell warm cupcakes or cookies all day. Sure, it isn't Mars, but I like to think I do all right. It could be worse. Like Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, a lot of great books have been written in jail.  

Thanks so much for letting me ramble through this thing, Stuart. I think what you do on this blog is really great. Long live fantasy. Long live literature. 

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