There’s a new word of the day–Twauther–which is twitter + author. You love it, right? I wouldn’t have come up with this gem of a word had I not had the chance to interview one half of the Undead Duo, Julie Hutchings (You better know the other half is author, Kristen Strassel).
My first encounter with Julie was on twitter. I found her on the release day of her debut paranormal/horror novel, Running Home. I bought it right away and luckily had my kindle with me while I waited hours at the DMV. I loved Julie’s book and when I tweeted her to let her know, I was blown away by just how humble and appreciative was to all of her new fans. Since then Julie has become one of my favorite writer friends. She is hysterical, witty, and has let me into her world of writing.
Julie was kind enough to answer some questions for me about her writing process, her experience as a published author and her views on chocolate equality–trust me, it’s a real thing. 🙂
You used Japanese folklore in your novel. How did that come about?
I love obscure mythology, and have a black belt in a Korean and Japanese martial art mix. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan to study martial arts there. I have a bit of an obsession with the almost harshness of the Japanese language, the directness of their fighting techniques, the sparse beauty and yet incredible richness of all things Japanese. So when the Japanese death god mythology fell in my lap, I had to make it part of me and mine.
What draws you to vampires?
Immortality. I want to live forever and want everyone I love to do the same. Not to mention I just like the grim eroticism of blood.
You seem to have a very successful blog going at deadlyeverafter.com. How valuable has blogging been for you? Do you think it helps market you as an author?
Blogging has been incredibly valuable to me. Something I never expected to come of it was the friendships I’ve made there! It started last year when we did The Nightmares Before Christmas blog series where we featured writers to do a horror Christmas themed flash fiction piece, and some of my closest friends now came from that. Aside from that, it definitely helps market me as an author, but not because of all the blog views or anything, but more because people know my voice from there and either love or hate it. As you know, I have a mouth on me, and I’m my most passionate and outspoken about writing. You want a lot of swearing and abrasive opinions? Feel free to visit my blog.
How did you find your publisher and what has the traditional publishing experience been like for you?
I wrote a flash fiction story called THE THREAT (http://www.booksofthedeadpress.com/2013/04/flash-fiction-by-julie-hutchings.html?spref=tw) for the Books of the Dead blog, and James Roy Daley piped up and said, “Hey, don’t you have a full length novel?” I was querying agents and hating my life at the time, and though I knew Books of the Dead had an open submission at the time, I never thought Roy would want RUNNING HOME. I didn’t think it was something he would be into, but he grabbed it up!
Traditional publishing is what I always wanted to do, it was my Plan A. So, to get to do it at all, with my first book, is still such an Easter basket of happiness for me, that the roadbumps along the way don’t put me down for more than a minute. Every time some little thing goes awry, I say “yay, look at my bookie!” and I’m happy as hell again. Also, I really want to focus on the creative end of writing, and have no idea how to do the other stuff. So I’m endlessly thankful to have someone to handle that for me. Roy’s cool to deal with for me because we can say just about anything to each other, and we’re fine. It’s like when two men get in an argument and then punch each other in a parking lot. All’s well in the world.
Many of us twauthers (See what I did there, twitter + authors) follow, Eric Ruben, who has recently become your agent. Congratulations, by the way. How did that partnership come about?
Eric and I were just friendly from the start, and tweeted for a long time. I guess I have a pattern, because I didn’t think he would want my work either, for some reason. But one day I tweeted that I’d just written the grossest thing I ever wrote, a chapter in THE HARPY. His client and my wonderful friend, Jessie Devine, piped up asking to read it, and then another friend, so I sent it to them to read, and they started chatting about it on Twitter. Eric wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so he read it, too, and not long after that we were talking contracts and I was having a heart attack. I also had met him at a Mystery Writers meeting that I crashed with Kristen Strassel, specifically to meet him because we loved him so much. It helps to make personal connections, as long as they’re genuine. Friends first, business partners next.
I’ve seen you refer to Eric as a chocolate racist because he dislikes white chocolate. Are you a proponent of chocolate equality?
I am a total proponent of chocolate equality. I’ve been known to give up my seat on the bus for white chocolate, and even to have white chocolate friends. Don’t get me wrong—if white chocolate didn’t taste as frigging fantastic as it does, I would turn up my nose at it in a second.
What is the writing process like for you? Are you a planner or a pantser?
Total pantser. I probably couldn’t stick to an outline if I was glued to it. For my last two books, I just knew I needed to write something, and literally sat down and started writing, just to see what fell out. Then THE ANIMAL, which has yet to be even shown to Eric was born, and THE HARPY not long after. RUNNING HOME was my first, and the sequel I’m working on, RUNNING AWAY, was actually the end of that book originally, so the process is a little different with them. I devote myself to writing every day, with the rare break of a few days when I need it. I treat it like a job, there’s no waiting for some muse to show up. Those books work for me, and I write like the world will end if I don’t.
Many new writers get caught up in trying to perfect their first draft. But seasoned authors know that the first draft is almost always a complete mess. What does your first draft look like and how many drafts do you usually write before you consider your novel finished?
My first drafts are different than a lot of other writers’ I think. Rather than write to get a bunch of words on the page, I write sparingly, and go back and embellish what I think needs more. My first drafts tend to be short rather than long, so I don’t have too much to cut. I end up planning out my drafts, so that I do one edit for character voice—does this sound like my characters, or do they sound all alike? Do they have distinctive voices? I’ll do separate drafts for details—additional research, doing my first draft with basic research. I’ll do a half dozen different drafts just to make sure I can concentrate on one aspect of the book at a time. Then, I feel good about it. I don’t love having a complete mess of a book, it just doesn’t feel right to me. I want as much order as I can have to it. The book works for me, I don’t let it overrun me.
Do you use critique partners or writing groups?
I don’t really have a writing group, unless you count #writeclub on Twitter, but I do have actually just a couple of critique partners that I rely on with every novel. They get me and my intention entirely, and so I trust their feedback implicitly. But I sort of listen to myself first. Big fan of trusting my instincts.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I think writing the stuff I write is a strange enough habit, but probably the weirdest thing about me is that when I start a book I need to have a new big, weird binder, and folders in it, and notebooks I can take out and carry with me everywhere I go, and new post-its, and special pen pockets, and ripped out magazine pages for inspiration, and color swatches, and stickers…..I mean, it is readable only by me. It’s nuts, and I love it. I’ll send you a pic of RUNNING AWAY’s notebook. It’s madness.
How do you find the time to write with little ones running around?
I get up with 5am Writer’s Club on Twitter an awful lot to have those few hours before they awake to myself. And I write all day. I carry a notebook and jot notes waiting in lines. I’m lucky that my three year old is really independent, and wants to discover things on his own, and he loves to hang out with me on the couch and watch movies, so it gives me a lot of time while my oldest is at school.
What has been the most exciting moment in your writing career thus far?
Oh, jeez. There’s so many. That first review I received from Opening Line Literary Zine, with the cover of RUNNING HOME’s reveal….that was surreal. The kind of thing you dream about. Signing a contract is insane. A ridiculous feeling. And I cried when my paperbacks showed up in the mail. Every bit of it is exciting. I love writing so much, it excites me that people are interested in what makes me so happy.
What has been the most challenging?
Without a doubt, the financial burden of me not working a full time job. Emotionally I feel better than I ever have. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, home with my children and husband, letting my creativity lead the way. I love helping other writers, inspiring people to plug away. And yes, there can be an emotional toll sometimes from writing, but I feel more myself now than I ever have in my life. Now, if only I could buy some clothes, that would be great.
I’d like to ask you a question I ask many authors. What are your thoughts on “The Rules of Writing” – those handy and sometimes frustrating little bits of wisdom that seem to bemoan the writing techniques that we see famous authors use all the time.
What are your thoughts on:
Adverbs: I was a huge adverb offender when I started writing, and didn’t know it was a no-no. Now I write pretty sparingly, and have to say, I’m not a huge adverb fan myself. Less is more.
Using anything other than “said” to carry dialogue: Only occasional. It’s not about how clever you can make your damn word, it’s how intriguing the words are that you’re having your characters use. Don’t make it all flowery and stupid.
Avoiding detailed descriptions of people, places or things: Again, I was a big offender. Not of overdescribing people and things, but places. I wanted so much to convey how places felt to me. The book store, Birch Tree Books, in particular, in RUNNING HOME. God, I fought tooth and nail about describing that place in my opening chapter for four pages, and didn’t want to listen to anyone when I was told over and over not to do it. It’s one thing I eventually caved on, and now I know why it’s so distracting.
Character thought exposition “He knew”, “She thought” etc…: I’m cool with it. Though I try not to do it too much, it happens, and I try to be aware of doing it when it’s needed, not just because I’m too lazy to find another way.
Who or what do you look to for inspiration when writing?
Movies. I draw a lot from movies. And I’m a firm believer in finding inspiration in new things and places all the time, or else you can’t create something new and better. You have to push it.
I know you’re working on Running Away, the sequel to Running Home. How many more books do you have planned for the series?
Three of these bad boys. CRAWLING BACK is the end of the trilogy.
What wisdom have you gained as a published author that you would like to impart to those just starting out?
It may sound cheesy, but be thankful for every single sale, review, retweet of links, pictures of the book people send when it shows up in the mail. I have high hopes for my work, but it starts with those individuals who get so excited when they reach that one spot in chapter 45, and the ones who squeal when it shows up on their doorstep. It isn’t about amazon rankings, or making a bunch of money, or even how perfect the book looks, it’s about having done it at all. I choke up every time I hold the damn book in my hand. Be grateful for it, and never forget that no matter what little publishing bumps you run in to, and you will, that you did it. It happened.
What else can we expect from Julie Hutchings in 2014?
Ooooh, lots! There’s another novel of mine kicking around the publishing world called THE HARPY, and mother of Christ, I love that book. I can’t wait for it to meet the world. I’ll soon be working on submitting a novel I’ve been sitting on, THE ANIMAL, too, and that’s unlike anything I’ve ever written. I’ll let you in on my secret, too…. I have a YA dying to make it onto paper, too. It already has its own crazy notebook. Haha. Aside from that, lots of blogs on www.deadlyeverafter.com and my new side project blog with a handful of other writers, The Midnight Type. I’ll get myself into a wild chasm of mayhem that puts my sanity at jeopardy and probably write some new monstrosity I haven’t dreamed up yet, too. Just the way I like it.
Running Home is available in ebook and paperback http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EEG42IM/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_8nmNsb0BH8SBN
And you can find Julie on twitter @HutchingsJulie
Or you can follow her blog at http://www.deadlyeverafter.com