Author Interview: Reese Hogan

Today I’m presenting an interview with my fellow Debut 19 author Reese Hogan. Her novel, Shrouded Loyalties, comes out August 13th from Angry Robot books.

Naval officer Mila Blackwood is determined to keep her country’s most powerful secret – shrouding, the ability to traverse their planet in seconds through an alternate realm – out of enemy hands. But spies are everywhere: her submarine has been infiltrated by a Dhavnak agent, and her teenage brother has been seduced by an enemy soldier. When Blackwood’s submarine is attacked by a monster, she and fellow sailor, Holland, are marked with special abilities, whose manifestations could end the war – but in whose favor? Forced to submit to military scientists in her paranoid and war-torn home, Blackwood soon learns that the only people she can trust might also be the enemy.

I really like the sound of this! Can you give us a teaser of what to expect?

“As she got closer to the leak, where Blackwood was hauling herself up the sides of the torpedo tubes, it was harder to hear anything else. Someone shouted, but she couldn’t make out the words. She did hear the creak of the wheel as one of her deckmates locked the hatch, and knew the five of them were cut off from the rest of the submarine now. She couldn’t see the hole specifically, but it felt like the whole Trievanic Sea was pouring in from above.”

Readers are often surprised at how difficult writing a book can be. What part of writing do you find most challenging?

When I first start writing a new draft, I have all these ideas but I haven’t yet put together a framework for how they’ll work together. There’s a lot of self-doubt about whether I’m starting in the right place, or have too many plot threads or not enough, or whether I should write first or third person…the list goes on. There’s lots of deleting—whole chapters worth—before I start to figure out what the story will look like.

In the plotter/pantser wars, do you have a side?

I write EXTENSIVE outlines, but—like that old militaryexpression about the best plans only lasting until the first bullet is fired—myoutlines go off the rails almost right away. That being said, the outliningdoes help me figure out the key points that I’m most excited about, and I usethose as guidelines to keep the book on track.

How do you maintain a writing routine? What do you do to “get in the groove” of your writing?

I write a minimum of two hours a day, and I have to plan when this block will be ahead of time to make sure it actually happens, since my kids’ schedules can vary. I try to get another two hours in the evening, but it depends on how crazy my kids are at bedtime (they are 7 and 5). My husband is very good about making sure I get my needed blocks on the weekends, which is the most challenging time to fit it in.

Who is Reese Hogan when she’s at home?

I live in New Mexico with my husband and two kids (ages 7 and 5). I have been writing for twenty-one years. Shrouded Loyalties is my third published novel, although it is the first from a traditional publishing house.

What’s your favorite bit of writing advice?

It’s from V.E. Schwab, and I absolutely love it: “At the end of the day, there’s one thing to do: Show up. Put in the work. Let go of the outcome.”

Reese Hogan loves nothing more than creating broken relationships in broken worlds. With a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in journalism, Hogan has spent the last twenty years honing her craft by taking classes, listening to podcasts, and attending writing workshops and critique groups. She is passionate about music, especially alternative and punk rock, and adamantly believes that art can reach out in a way no other form of communication can. She lives with her family in New Mexico.

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“Hogan writes with tangible energy, capturing the trials of divided loyalties in the midst of global war… Fans of military SF will enjoy Hogan’s fresh take on the genre.”
– Publishers Weekly

“Loyalty, honor, and a dangerous new technology all come together in this unique world filled with intrigue and action.”
– Maria V. Snyder, New York Times bestselling author of Poison Study

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My First Drop-in Bookstore Signing!

Today’s my birthday, and I decided that if I couldn’t get the local bookstores in my area to stock my book, I was going to go to a place that did and see it on the shelves for myself!

So the family jumped into the car and drove the 65 miles to Dublin, CA, where the Barnes & Noble had a couple of copies left. They enthusiastically welcomed my embarrassed inquiry as to whether they’d like me to sign them, and one copy was immediately snatched up, allowing me to personalize it for the customer.

Now we’re in San Francisco, staying in a nicer room than we normally could afford (thank you, Hotwire). Tomorrow morning we plan to drive to Napa for breakfast, then return to Sacramento for a family event, where I’ll meet an aunt we’ve only known existed for a year or so (the 40s and 50s were weird, folks).

Overall, a good birthday. Even if I do have to admit I’m getting closer to 50.

Some Thoughts on Game of Thrones S8E5: ‘Ware Spoilers!

When I first heard people bitching about GoT episode 5, “The Bells,” I wasn’t terribly bothered. I hadn’t seen the episode yet, and a lot of the complaints really seemed like they were saying “This didn’t go how I expected it to.”

The biggest complaints seemed to be that Daenarys went “evil” or “mad” and how it didn’t fit with what had gone before. And I was not agreeing with that, because Daenarys in the show has always been a little too close to madness for me–her refusal to take any advice that didn’t tell her what she wanted to hear, her draconian–if you’ll excuse the pun–punishments and her tendency to regard any disagreement with a retainer as them failing her–all of this together made her seem a little too Targaryen.

But then I watched the episode.

Holy crap, you guys. At first it seemed fine; she was executing Varys for a difference of opinion, really, but okay, I can sort of see that. Why she had to use dragonfire again I don’t know; that girl is obsessed with fire.

But then King’s Landing surrenders, and she decides to torch it all anyway, killing thousands of innocents. And that made no sense at all. It was totally not in keeping with her character in previous seasons, it wasn’t a logical progression from what she’d been before.

I can sort of see how she might have snapped after the death of Jorah, but the show didn’t really telegraph that at all.

HBO does these “explications” of the episode right after the show. I’m not sure why these things are becoming so common; they’re kind of awful and unnecessary. I tend not to bother with them unless I really liked the episode, but I watched this one. And the showrunners “explain” Dany’s mindstate and the reasons for her snapping, but none of the explanations really work, because none of it is actually “on the page.” I mean, it all sort of made sense, but it was a sharp 90° turn from what had gone on up to the beginning of Season 8.

Now, I did like Arya’s story, and Sandor Clegane’s end seemed fitting for the character. But it didn’t make up for the terrible.

Now some bullet points:

  • I’m not one of those people who gets upset when the dog dies. But little children? Not Okay, show. It’s one thing to know children die in an apocalyptic setting, but breaking my heart by making me watch a child cowering in fear, knowing she’s going to die? Fuck you, show.
  • Jaime’s end was pathetic. After all that, he fucking actually went back to Cersei to save her ass? Fuck you, TV-Jamie. I hope Book-Jamie turns out better than you did.
  • Cersei dies stupidly. I wanted her to die, but that particular end? No, that wasn’t enough. I mean, I wanted Jamie to off her, which is kind of awful, but jaysus.
  • I get that dragonfire isn’t exactly fire, but since when does fire destroy stone walls? That was a bit much.

At this point I’m not even sure I want to see the ending. I mean, I’ll probably watch it, but more out of curiosity than anything else.

Debut Diary, Part 8: Two Months Post-Release

Here we are, two months past the release of The Widening Gyre. How does it feel?

Weird, man. It feels weird.

I’ll elaborate on that, but first, some answers to FAQs:

How are sales doing?

I don’t know. I really don’t. I get sales reports quarterly, but because the book released two weeks before the end of the quarter, I’ll have to wait until the next one in August before I get any sort of solid answer to that. Having said that, I’ll admit I’ve done some calculations. I figure I’ve sold at least 200 copies since release. Amazon’s NPD BookScan link tells me I’ve sold 64 copies. I know from other writers that Bookscan can be inaccurate as hell, but given that I’m not sure how many actual brick & mortar stores have TWG on the shelves, I’m not sure how far off Bookscan is–it could be pretty accurate.

That said, Bookscan doesn’t account for all sales. WorldCat, a website that searches for books in libraries around the world, tells me I’m in 97 libraries in the US, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand so far. Back when it only listed about 60 libraries, I actually spent an hour going to every library website WordCat linked to and counting the number of copies the library had. At that time, there were 104 verified copies on library shelves, with 25 of them checked out at that moment. I haven’t gone back and checked again, and probably won’t–it was a moment of weakness.

How are the reviews?

They’re not bad. In fact, they’re pretty great, and even the most critical reviews had some good things to say.

Publishers Weekly gave me a decent review, with some negatives, but they called my book a “flawed but promising” debut. Booklist gave me a starred review, and said “Johnston, with skillful plotting and impeccable world building, takes the tale of Tajen and his crew searching for home and shapes it into an unforgettable journey.” Others have said some equally good things.

The book is holding at about 3.94 on Goodreads, and 4/5 stars on Amazon.

How are you?

Well, and here is where we get to “weird.”

It’s very cool that my little book is all over the world, and people I’ve never met are reading it. I’m glad the reviews so far are mostly positive.

I’m also paralyzed with fear and exhaustion, and it’s affecting the writing of book 2. I’m working on it, and I’m still hopeful I can kick into high gear when school let’s out, but for now it’s hit-or-miss. Some days I get 1000+ words, other days I can barely get 300 out. I second-guess myself a lot more this time around.

I feel like I have four jobs: Teacher, dad, writer, and promoter. The day job and being a dad take precedence, but writing used to be ONE job, and now it’s two. It’s doable, but I’m such a beginner that I don’t know what I’m doing.

All in all, I’m very grateful that I’m here. But as many writers say, getting here isn’t an end; it’s just a beginning. In RPG terms, I’ve “leveled up,” and I have a whole new set of skills and “powers,” but I also have more and bigger issues to deal with.

The One Where Michael Worries About a Deadline…

Lately I’ve been a bit panicky, because despite having a contract and a synopsis, I’ve been really stalled on book 2. But somehow I seem to have broken through my brain’s resistance, and now we’re getting off the ground in a big way.

I’m still a little bit nervous, because I’m just now reaching 20%, and the MS is due in July. And I’d really like to get it at least polished once before turning it in. But considering a week ago I was at 13%, I guess I should take the win, right?

In any case, I seem to be making good on my wordcount goals, and I’m getting to a point where it isn’t too hard to keep moving. So hopefully, I’ll be proud to turn in my MS in July, and not secretly terrified of my editor.

Authors For Families Kicks Off April Auctions!

Starting this month, I’ve joined Authors For Families, a collective of authors (and other publishing professionals) offering various items and services at auction to support organizations that seek to reunite immigrant children with their families and fight against inhumane immigration policies.

We support:

• CASA in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and Pennsylvania. They litigate, advocate, and help with representation of minors needing legal services.

• Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution.

• Kids in Need of Defense works to ensure that kids do not appear in immigration court without representation, and to lobby for policies that advocate for children’s legal interests. 

• The Florence Project is an Arizona project offering free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody.

• RAICES is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas offering free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families.

My offerings:

A signed, personalized hardcover book.

This isn’t anything super special; it’s just a book, autographed with a personal message to whomever the winning bidder chooses. I can either write exactly what the bidder wants, or just come up with my own message; your choice.

Name a character in The Blood-Dimmed Tide

The Blood-Dimmed Tide is a more violent, bloody book, as the Remembrance War kicks into gear. The winning bidder gets to name a secondary character, AND they get to choose: Will the character die in a blaze of glory, or live to the end of the book?

Follow the links to take part in the Silent Auction.

Well, here we are: Release Day!

As of today, The Widening Gyre, my little space opera novel, is (theoretically) on store shelves!

If you can’t find it in hardcover or paperback at your local bookstore, you can either order it from them or you can order it from the links here on this site. Pick your retailer; we’ve got ’em all.

For you ebook fans, the book is available on Amazon, Kobo, and Apple Books.

Audiobook lovers can find it on Itunes, Audible/Amazon, and Google Play.

Over on Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bits feature, I wrote about my favorite part of the book and why I liked writing it so much.

If you see the book in the wild, I’d love to see it! You can post pics on Twitter and @ me at @MREJohnston, or Instagram, where I’m @michaelr.johnston.

Good reading!

Debut Diary, Part 7: Launch Week Nerves

Here we are, 3 days and change from release. I’m mostly sanguine about it, at this point. The book is written and printed; the audiobook is recorded, the ebook is waiting for release–and of course, the only part of that I had anything to do with is the writing.

So I can sit back and relax now, right?

Well, no.

I’ve got an AMA scheduled on Reddit’s r/sciencefiction community on Monday the 11th, and there are several posts about the book going up for a little over a week–most of these I don’t have to write, but I do need to do more than sit back on my laurels. I need to be pushing the book, in as unobnoxious a way as I can, for at least a week, maybe more.

I’ve discovered that a lot of readers assume this kind of self-promotion is only the domain of self-published or Indie authors, the but the truth is, even writers published by Big 5 Publishers have to do a fair amount of this.

The truth is, though, that at this point, there is very little I can do. The book is edited, printed, and shipped. People will either buy it or they won’t. I obviously hope they do, but I’m also terrified about it.

My stuff. Out there. In people’s hands. The horror!

But also:

My stuff! Out there! In people’s hands! The joy!

I’ll keep updating as this whole thing continues.

FogCon Schedule

As some of you might now, I’ll be appearing at FogCon this weekend! I’m not a guest of honor, family, so calm down. But I will be on some panels!

It feels really weird to put this here, but if you’re coming to the con, here’s where I’ll be:

Reading with Ellen Kushner and Keyan Bowes

Each of us will read from our own works. Both Ms. Kushner and Ms. Bowes are excellent writers, and I’m really looking forward to this.

Saturday 10:30 – 11:45, Santa Rosa Room

Panel: “Friend” as code word

Panelists: Heather Rose Jones (Moderator), Nabil Hijazi, Michael R. Johnston, Ellen Klages, Ellen Kushner

Throughout LGBTQ history, “friend” was often a codeword for a different relationship — lover, partner, etc. This has been reflected in the literature that has come down to us from these earlier times, and has made a garden industry out of looking back and speculating where it does and not apply. The panelists will discuss “friend” as a code word in queer culture and literature, along with offshoots such as “friend of Dorothy” and the more modern usage of “family’ as queer chosen family.

Panel: Small Houses, Big Futures: Publishing SF with Small Presses

Panelists: Rebecca Gomez Farrell (Moderator), Jon Chaisson, Eileen Gunn, Michael R. Johnston, Dave Smeds

While many of us dream of a Big 5 deal, there are numerous Small Press publishers that are taking risks the larger publishers can’t, giving more writers access to the market. But that access comes with smaller (or no) advances and a larger proportion of labor on the author. What’s different about publishing with a Small Press vs. a big publishing house? How is the experience different, for the editor and for the writer?

Book 2 Cover Reveal!

Here I am, writing away, trying to turn raw ideas into entertaining fodder, and–What’s that? There’s a new book listing?

Oh! Well, then. Let’s talk about that.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce the cover for The Blood-Dimmed Tide, book 2 of The Remembrance War. Nice, isn’t it? I’m really happy with this design; there were three possibilities, and while I really liked them, there were two that stood out. The one I liked most had a couple of issues, which my editor, quite fortunately, agreed with. The art team worked with it, and now it’s basically perfect.

The Bood-Dimmed Tide is scheduled for release in February 2020. But it’s still not ready, so maybe I should get back to writing it!