Monday, 26 March 2012

Author Interview - David Hulegaard

Let's get to know you – give us a brief summary of who you are.

My name is David K. Hulegaard and I am an American author living in historic Oregon City, Oregon. I primarily write science fiction and paranormal books, but I tend to dabble in just about every genre. My brain goes off into too many different directions to stay put in one genre for too long.

When did you begin writing?

As a child, really, but I didn’t try to do it professionally until a couple of years ago. I’m a “talker,” and my friends would always tell me that I should write books. Maybe that was just a polite way of telling me to shut up. I don’t know. After putting it off for a long time, I finally sat down in front of a keyboard in March of 2010 and started work on my first novel. I’ve been writing ever since.

Is it difficult to find time to write with all the other responsibilities of life?

You can always find time. It’s a lack of motivation that hampers most writers. Some days are more challenging than others to sit down and commit to the writing, and it’s on those days that you need to ask yourself if you really want to do this, or if it’s just a hobby. For me, writing is more like the reward I get at the end of a long day. If the day was particularly frustrating, I use that in my writing.

I see you've written a few books – tell us all about them!

I’m currently in the middle of a trilogy called Noble. It’s about a 1940s private detective that is searching for a missing girl. The catch? He discovers that her disappearance is tied to a government conspiracy and an agent gone rogue. Saying any more than that would be spoiling the big surprise twist. The first book is out now, and the sequel, Noble: Bloodlines, is due out by the end of March. I’d like to get the finale out by the end of this year, but I’m not going to force it. My brain tells me which book I need to be working on at any given time.

I’ve also got a novella out called The Jumper. It’s an old fashioned ghost story built around the twenty-five year old death of a teenage boy at a youth community center. The angry spirit of the boy haunts the building and reveals himself to the night custodian. Over time, the custodian stops being afraid and starts trying to help the boy, uncovering a mystery in the process.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that I’ve got an anthology called Strangers coming out in April. It’s a short story collection centered around the theme of train travel. Each tale explores the dark and twisted back stories of seemingly average people that meet one another on a train. A beta reader told me that he thought it was very Hitchcock-like. I can’t think of a better compliment than that!

What would you say is the key to writing effective thrillers?

Every writer would probably answer that differently, but for me, I think the key is a good twist. You need to tell a gripping story that hooks the reader, but also leave them enough room to formulate their own theories and opinions about where the story is going. Some writers are really good at throwing red herrings, and others are really good at simply protecting their secrets until the last minute. I think either device is great as long as the reader enjoys the ride.

What's your experience of self-publishing? Is it something you'd recommend to others?

Self-publishing is hard. Everything is a challenge. That said, it’s also been the best experience for me. I have complete control over both my success and failure, but above all else, I have an opportunity to share my stories. If I had submitted my books through the big publishers, I have no doubt they all would have been rejected. Why? Because they don’t contain any zombies or vampires. I’m not talking down about those types of books, I’m merely saying that they make money, and publishers are only looking for books that make money. I don’t blame them for that. I mean, making money is why they’re in business.

And what if one of books was to be accepted by a publisher? It would sit in stasis for 2-3 years before dusted off and finally greenlit for publication. No thanks. When I finish a book, I can publish it in less than 48 hours, and I get 70% of the revenue from sales. There are no money-grubbing agents and no bosses telling me to make creative changes to “spice up” my book.

Self-publishing is not a free pass, however. It’s expensive, and very hard to get noticed. You must have your writing professionally edited and you must have an attractive cover. Marketing can be done for little money, but you absolutely CAN NOT skimp out on editing and cover art. Readers need to trust that independently published books are just as good as the famous authors they read. If we abuse that trust and fail them, then we all lose.

Does social media (facebook, Twitter, blogging) play an important role in promoting your books?

Twitter has become the most effective social media tool for authors. Facebook works well for some, but I haven’t had much interest from readers there. I do maintain a blog that generates a modest amount of unique visits. There are also sites like Goodreads and Wattpad that are great for independent authors. Anywhere that a potential reader can interact with you and find samples of your work is a huge plus. For me, I like to offer different content at each site, like a literary carousel.

Which authors and books have inspired your work?

My biggest influences would be classics like Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Charles Dickens. I also love folklore and legends. In regards to modern writers, Bernard Schaffer is my biggest influence. His novels are my textbooks.

And what other sources do you take inspiration from? Films/video-games/music etc.?

I’m sure other writers will cringe by me saying this, but I do love TV, film, and video games. Try as they might, they never seem to rot my brain. Seriously though, I love a good story wherever I can find it. Sometimes it’s in a book, sometimes TV/film, and sometimes in a video game. My Noble trilogy was inspired by a combination of the TV show Lost, the video game BioShock, and the urban legend about the Mothman Prophecies. Intrigued?

Being a writer sounds like a lot of hard work – is it worth it?

I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It is hard, but I could never find the joy that it puts into my heart anywhere else. I think anyone who creates, be it writers, artists, poets, or musicians, probably knows what I’m talking about. The power to create and shape something with your mind is nothing short of fascinating. People ask me all the time, “Where do you come up with this stuff?” I wish I knew. If I did, I could tap into it at any time and become wealthy.

In all seriousness, I don’t do this for the money. Sure, it would be great to “retire” and call writing my full-time job, but even more than the money I just enjoy the opportunity to entertain people. Getting good reviews gives me “butterflies,” but when someone takes the time out to write me and tell me about their experience with my books, it’s something else entirely. If I could pinpoint any one thing that propels me to continue writing, that would be most certainly be it.

David Hulegaad is the author of “Noble” and “The Jumper”, available on Kindle, from Amazon US and Amazon UK. Find out more about David and his books on his website, or Goodreads.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Resolutions - my next step towards self-publishing

Image from
As I mentioned in a recent post, self-publishing is a new goal I'm working towards. However, if I'm going to stick an ebook on Amazon or Smashwords, I need to have written a book first! I do have some plans for a novel, or possibly series of novels, but that's still in the early planning stage at the moment. Don't despair though; I have been doing something productive – redrafting my short story collection, Resolutions.

Resolutions is a collection of science fiction short stories which I wrote during my university degree. 10,000 words in length, the collection is love-letter to my favourite genre, with the main theme being the manner in which stories are concluded. As well as being a work of science fiction, the collection also contains elements of cyberpunk, body horror and neo-noir, along with some postmodern narrative structures.

Why have I chosen to publish this particular piece of work? Firstly, I really enjoyed writing these stories, and without being too arrogant, think they're actually quite good. Secondly, the collection is a fairly short piece, so redrafting it isn't taking me too long to do. Finally, as I'm taking my first infant steps into the world of digital self-publishing, redrafting, formatting and promoting Resolutions will be a really useful learning experience.

Think you might enjoy Resolutions? Have a taste and see what you think. I've posted some early drafts of a few of the stories in the collection – have a read and let me know your opinions!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Author Interview: John-Paul Cleary

Great to meet you, John-Paul – tell me a little bit about yourself.

I live in a small town in the North-East of Scotland with my girlfriend and our three-year old daughter who claims to be part Disney princess and part mermaid.

It’s cold and windy up here but it’s home.

How long have you been writing? Can you pick out an influence that started you off?

I wrote my first book when I was about eight and put it in the class library at school. I think it was an Enid Blyton inspired mystery and I remember there was a dog in it called Sebastian. I was a bit disappointed because none of my classmates took it out. The teacher didn’t prepare me for that kind of rejection but it’s something you have to get used to as a writer.

What are your favourite authors and genres to read?

I’ve tried most genres but I mostly read novels and sci-fi. My biggest sci-fi influence is fellow Scot Iain M Banks. My favourite novel is The Magus by John Fowles. I’ve read it at least four times. It’s a little dated now but I love the way he messes about with fantasy and reality, and form and content. It’s full of flaws and it leaves lots of things unanswered and I like that too. There’s no reason why stories should always tie up all loose ends. Unanswered questions make you think.

Your book is called Convergent Space – tell us all about it!

Convergent Space is a dramatic sci-fi space opera. The premise I think is quite original. Normally space operas either have Earth at the centre of some grand federation or are about a different galaxy where Earth doesn’t feature. In Convergent Space there is a grand federation called the Renaissance but Earth isn’t part of it. Earth is a faded power, a has-been, an outsider. It was implicated in a terrible galactic crime that destroyed thousands of worlds and has been shunned ever since.

The story revolves around Earth’s 200 year obsession with trying to prove its innocence and thereby regain its lost status. We pick up events when one of Earth’s space-faring investigators finally finds a clue that might just lead to the truth.

All this happens against a backdrop of galactic war as a dark force is rising out of the ashes of the worlds most affected by the earlier catastrophe. And both stories – the one in the past and the one in the present - eventually intertwine.

How important is it for you to receive reader reviews for your book?

Hey, good reviews can make your day; bad reviews can ruin it.

Why did you publish your book as an electronic text rather than a physical book?

Necessity. Convergent Space was turned down by the first 7 or 8 agents I sent it to. I got fed up with the rejection letters so I decided to publish it myself. Actually it was my girlfriend’s idea. It’s one of the best things I ever did.

What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

There are only pros. You control you own destiny and you don’t have to share your royalties with agents and publishers. And you get to meet nice people like you Sam.

With work, family, and other commitments, how you find any time for writing?

I tend to write secretly when no one’s looking! That means from about 5 am. So it doesn’t encroach on the rest of my life but it does mean I can get quite tired after writing for 2 hours first thing and then spending a full day at work.

Do you have any essential elements in your creative process e.g. time of day, location, silence/noise etc.?

We moved house recently – same town, different street – so I’m looking forward to trying out our new study. I’ll let you know how I get on!

What's your top tip for writers who are considering self-publishing?

I’m no expert but if you’re going to self-publish be prepared to switch from writer to marketer when you finish your book. You will need to devote a serious amount of time to market your book, and I mean serious, like it’s your new job.

Also don’t rush your book out. I got one or two poor reviews at the start for putting Convergent Space out without proofing it properly. That was unforgivable considering I worked as a magazine editor for four years. I should have known better. The version on sale now has been fully proofed I should add!

John-Paul Cleary is the author of “Convergent Space”, available on Kindle, from Amazon US and Amazon UK. Or you can read a free excerpt on John-Paul’s blog -