Saturday, January 28, 2012

Interview: James Hutchings

I'm honored to have microfiction author, James Hutchings for an interview today. He published  Two-Fisted Tweets and The New Death, which you'll soon read a review of. Without further ado, let's hear what Hutchings have to say: 


1. Tell us about your new book

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.

2. Why short stories and poems? You seem to have a career in science fiction already.

Fantasy novels nowadays tend to be very long books in long series, but the writers I read, with the obvious exception of Tolkien, mostly wrote short stories. Even when they put out novels they were often 'fix-ups': several previously-published short stories with the same setting that were then turned into parts of a novel, perhaps with some rewriting and new material. So I guess I've followed that.

The poetry I write isn't as obviously influenced by my reading though. Perhaps Tolkien's poetry in Lord of the Rings is the clearest link.

I've had a few things published, but I certainly wouldn't call it a career.

3. Can you share your journey of writing and publishing with us?

I did a Bachelor of Arts majoring in creative writing and media, but I didn't do anything with it after graduating. Years later I created a fantasy city called Teleleli or Telelee as a background for role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Once I finished I realised there wasn't any demand for it. My ex suggested I write stories instead, and that's how I got started.
4. Tell us how was a day in James Hutcherson's shoe.


Probably pretty relaxed, since I usually go barefoot (or just wear socks in the house).

5. Is there any thing you need when you're writing?

Not really. I've heard some writers say they can only write in a particular room, or only on an old typewriter or something, but I've never had anything like that. I do a lot of writing on bus or train trips.

6. Was writing what you'd always wanted to do?

I think I've wanted to do something creative since I was a teenager. But I've tried several different things, such as music and filmmaking, before I finally settled on writing. To be honest, if it turned out that I was actually better at, say, painting than writing, I think I'd be happy to change. So in a sense I still haven't decided.

7. Books and writing aside - what is you favorite:
- novel (okay, just one book related question) 
I mostly read short stories rather than novels, so these are individual stories rather than books:

HP Lovecraft, The Doom That Came to Sarnath
Robert E Howard, The Tower of the Elephant
Clark Ashton Smith, The Garden of Adompha
Franz Kafka, Jackals and Arabs
Ursula Le Guin, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas 
- movie     Titanic.
- drink       tea.
- past time 
My main hobby after writing is coding online games. I spent several years writing an online game called Age of Fable ( I don't have any plans to do more on it, but it's still online, and you can play it for free. I'm currently working on an online 'card' game, like Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon. I've also done a few smaller projects. For example I did an online version of the computer game Oregon Trail.

8. What is the one thing you can't live without?

My computer. Or my internet connection, if I'm allowed to count that as a 'thing'.

9. Describe the following in one word:
- your collection                  Sparse.
- you             Freshly-shaved (this is actually true: I shaved my head just before writing this).
- your favorite past time    writing.
- your daily routine             Slovenly.
- your writing routine          Persistent.
- your journey of publishing  Quick (since I self-published).

10. Since you made it - what is your advice to inspiring authors? 

I really haven't made it. But since you asked:

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( and/or Scribophile (, 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 ( is a good website to look at, and you can get good advice at the forums of Critique Circle.

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.


That's it from James for now. Remeber to check back for review, guest post and giveaway!

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