Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The New Death and Others by James Hutchings

James Hutchings is an author of fantasy. His newest work, The New Death and others is available from Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. 

What is the name of your latest book?  And how did you come up with the title?

I actually found the image that I wanted to use on the cover first (it's by Jose Posada). It fit best with my story 'The New Death', so I made that the title story.

What is this book about?  And what genre is this book in?

It's a collection of stories and poems, 63 pieces in all. It's only a bit over 41,000 words in total, so most of them are quite short. Most of the stories are fantasy, but there's some 'general fiction' in there as well. The style ranges from funny to very grim. I'm much more influenced by older writers like Tolkien and Robert E Howard. In fact I've never read any of the Harry Potter, Twilight or Game of Thrones series, or most other popular modern fantasy authors.

Who is/are the main characters?  And why did you choose them?

There aren't many characters that recur from one piece to the next, except for the gods Death, Commerce and Fame. They're inspired by the short stories of Lord Dunsany, particularly his collection Fifty-One Tales.

Although they don't have any characters in common, several stories are set in my fantasy city of Telelee. It's partly based on Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar, partly on Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork, and partly on Port Blacksand in the Fighting Fantasy series.

What is the coolest or best part about your book?  (Any Favorite scenes, the world-building etc..

Overall, people's favourites seem to be the story 'The God of the Poor', and the poem 'If My Life Was Filmed'.

Do you have a favorite character in the book?  If so, why?

Apart from the gods mentioned above, my favourite is probably LP Hatecraft from 'The Adventure of the Murdered Philanthropist'. The story is a parody of Sherlock Holmes, and LP Hatecraft is a parody of the writer HP Lovecraft. He's pretty much a one-note comedy character, so I wouldn't put him in other stories, but I think he works well in his brief appearance.

Is this book part of a series?  If so? What can we expect in future books?

The book as a whole isn't, but I'd like to do more with some of the stories. In particular, I'm looking at a novel set in Telelee.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I don't think I'd change anything (apart from a few minor typos, which I've corrected as I found them), but there are things I intend to do differently in the future.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I've learned a lot about what people want. In particular, I thought that having a collection of lots of stories with a wide variety of tones and themes would be a positive thing. Some people said that, but more people said that they'd have preferred more consistency. So in the future, if I put out a collection, it will probably be based around some kind of theme rather than just being 'my best writing from the last year'.

I've also learned a lot about what works in terms of self-promotion (or, at least, what's worked for me).

Do you have a publisher?  And if so, why did you choose them?  

I've never tried to be traditionally published. 

Firstly I didn't want to waste paper by being traditionally printed. There are publishers who only publish electronically, but I was skeptical about what they'd do for me that I couldn't do for myself.

Secondly it seems like traditional publishers expect most of their authors to do their own promotion anyway, so what are they giving in return? Also, of course, it's very difficult to get a contract, and bloggers like JA Konrath argue that it's going to get more and more difficult, because publishers will respond to loss of income by cuting their 'mid-list', or paying them less, to concentrate on a few authors who can make them a lot of money.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

What books are you reading now?

The last story I read was The Cats of Ulthar by HP Lovecraft. I'm currently doing a poem based on the story.

What are the current writing projects that you are working on?

The main project I'm working on right now is a poem set in the old West, called Confession of a Bounty Hunter.

I'm in the first stages of writing a novel set in the city of Telelee.

I'm considering doing a collection of poems and stories about cats, and I've been writing some shorter poems towards that.

I'm also writing a serial for the new website JukePop Serials. It's similar to the comic and movie Watchmen, in that it's a detective story but the detectives are superheroes.

Do you write full time?  If not, do you hope to do so one day?

I'm currently at university, doing a Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing. But I hope to write full time in the future.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Not really. I've been writing stories at least since I started school.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I mostly write fantasy, and I tend to write short stories with one-off characters. Unfortunately fantasy fans tend to want long novels, in long series. So what I write tends to be the opposite of what's commercial. I don't know whether I'll be able to adjust my writing to fit the market, or whether I'll have to move away from fantasy, or if I can get a fanbase despite this disadvantage.

Do you have any advice for other writers seeking to get published for the first time?

Nowadays anyone can self-publish. If you can make a Word document, you can have an ebook on Smashwords or Amazon. However that means that if your work is no good, no one's going to stop you. I'd recommend that people get onto Critique Circle (www.critiquecircle.com) and/or Scribophile (www.scribophile.com), put their work up, and listen to what people tell you. Don't 'defend' your work against people's 'attacks'. They aren't attacks, they're helping you. I've found that the people who defend their work have a strong tendency to have the worst writing, I suppose because they're not making the changes they need to make.

My next point doesn't matter if you're going to self-publish, but it is important if you want to be published by a regular publisher, or if you want to submit stories to magazines. Most places won't publish work that's already been published. And most places count putting a story on the internet as publishing it. In my opinion that's silly, but that's what they do. Scribophile and Critique Circle are exceptions, because google doesn't index them and you can't see any stories without logging on. However there are writing group websites out there where, if you put a story on the site, that counts as the story being published. That seems like a really terrible way to set things up, but they're out there.

I'd also say that getting a book out isn't the final step. It's just the start of the work of self-promotion. This is true even if you're not self-publishing: I'm told that authors are expected to pretty much arrange their own book signings and so on (if you just want to have a book out to show family and friends then this doesn't matter, of course).

There are a lot of sharks out there, who make their money from authors and not from readers. They will make all sorts of promises about how they're going to promote you and help you, but these are lies. Authors do not pay publishers, ever, and if they're asking you to pay then it's a scam. Of course if you're self-publishing you might end up paying someone to design a cover for you, or you might pay for internet advertising, but those are different things. You might also pay a printer to print your books if you want to get physical books rather than ebooks - but in this age of the kindle and print-on-demand I don't know why you'd want to. Preditors and Editors (www.pred-ed.com) is a good website to look at, and you can get good advice at the forums of Critique Circle. The best-known reputable and free self-publishing venues are Amazon Kindle Direct, Smashwords.com, and for physical books Lulu.com.

Finally, I'd suggest learning to touch-type if you can't already. You're going to be doing a lot of typing, and every hour you spend getting faster at typing will save you ten in the long run.

Thanks James so much for stopping by.

Btw here's a quick blurb of his really cool book "The New Death and Others"

Death gets a roommate.. 

An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question...

A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain...

44 stories. 19 poems. No sparkly vampires. There's a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it - but from which direction?

Here's the buy link: http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Death-others-ebook/dp/B005Q8Q8DY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343078577&sr=8-1&keywords=the+new+death+and+others+by+James+Hutchings