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

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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!

Debut Author Interview: Dan Stout

Obviously, I’m not the only new SFF writer of the year.

Today I’m bringing you the first in a series of interviews with Science Fiction and Fantasy authors also debuting in 2019.  Today we have Dan Stout, author of Titanshade, out March 12th from DAW books.

Dan, what’s the book about?
Titanshade is a fantasy noir thriller set in a world where magic is real and technology is at 1970s level.

Can you give us a teaser? 
Titanshade interviewOur little car hugged the corners as I slalomed us through the early morning traffic. The nice thing about cop cars in Titanshade is that the boys in the shop keep them tuned nice and tight. I glided up to a stoplight and paused, waiting for the light to turn green.

Our destination lay straight ahead. But while I stared at the red light the thought of Talena’s photo and that small sticker remnant on the Do Not Disturb sign whirled in my mind.

When I took a sudden right turn, Ajax looked up from fiddling with the radio. “We taking the scenic route?”

“Just a quick stop before we talk to the candies.”

“Yeah? Where’s that?”

A heavily filtered bass line bounced from the Hasam’s speakers, followed by a trumpet’s trill. I slapped Ajax’s hand off the dial.

“No disco,” I said. “They can make us work together, but I am not listening to disco.”

What’s the story behind the title?
Titanshade is an oil boomtown, where a mix of greed and hard labor has allowed the residents to claw out a living in the midst of an arctic perma-freeze. So much of the story ties into the character of the streets and the citizens that there was never any doubt the book needed to be named after the city.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
Drafting.  I love brainstorming, and I love fixing the story once it’s built. But writing down the initial draft is like chewing glass.

What’s your writing routine? 
I work in chunks of time, usually two blocks of 2 – 3 hours. I start early, so I’m usually done with writing by noon, and move to admin and marketing after that.

Do you have any writing quirks? 
Oh man, so many! Maybe the strangest is that my first-draft characters almost always have names that start with the same letter (Steve and Sara and Sammie, etc.). I created the Mollenkampi naming convention in Titanshade as a private joke at my own expense.

What are you working on right now?
The sequel! It’s been tough but rewarding, as building a follow-up that can also stand on its own has meant learning a whole new set of skills. But it’s paying off, and I’m very excited to share the next chapter in the story.

What’s your favourite writing advice?
The struggle belongs to you, the finished product belongs to the reader.


Stout Head Shot for interviewDan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about fever dreams and half-glimpsed shapes in the shadows. His prize-winning fiction draws on travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller. Dan’s stories have appeared in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Nature, and Mad Scientist Journal. His debut novel Titanshade is a noir fantasy thriller, available from DAW Books. To say hello, visit him at www.DanStout.com.

Find Dan on:  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

The Importance of Local Bookstores for Authors–and the Reading Public

Long ago, in the dark days of my early-to-mid-twenties, I was a bookseller at Books, Inc. in Sacramento.  It was an odd job; very “Empire Records”-like in the way the staff interacted.  I kind of miss it sometimes, even though I rarely worked more than 20 hours in a week and I had to eventually leave it for a better-paying job.

But what I loved was helping people find books they would love.  I eventually ended up in charge of the Science Fiction/Fantasy section, because people knew that I was the guy who knew the genre well.  So anyone looking for SFF was quickly pointed my way.

Even in these days of Amazon and other websites that let you buy books, physical bookstores are important.  For one thing, Amazon is good for getting the book you already know you want, but it’s utter crap for browsing.  It’s much easier to walk the shelves in a real store, perusing the titles and author names, looking for something to catch your eye.

In addition, bookstores pay attention to what sells, and they log requests.  If people make the time to come in and special order a book, there is a better-than-zero chance the store will order a second copy for the shelves.

If enough people request or order the book, the bookseller is more likely to read and then handsell the book to people who want something new, but don’t know exactly what. This is what I did all the time, and if the bookseller liked the book, they’re going to push it.  This is why my store sold completely out of Ian MacDonald’s Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone.  We had ten copies, and not one sold until I got intrigued by the cover, read it, and then hand sold it to nine other people who came in looking for good SF.

A book on the shelf has a greater chance of being picked up on an impulse buy than a picture online, thus widening the audience.

Finally, if you shop at a local, independent store, you’re adding money to the local economy and helping a local business stay open.

Support your local independent bookstore. 

On Reviews of My Work, and How I’ll Handle Them.

Sometime in the very near future, reviews of my book will be appearing in the wild.  I’ve gotten a lot of well-meaning advice from friends to the effect of “don’t read them.”  But let’s be honest, here.  I wrote this book.  I sent it out for three rounds of Beta.  I rewrote parts of it extensively.  I sent it into the world and signed the contract to get it out to readers. How could I not read reviews?

I am totally going to read them.

Some of them will be positive.  Those I’m going to love.  Some of them I’m going to quote, either on Facebook, or on this site.

Some of them won’t be nice.  Those, I’ll do my best to shake off and move on.  I think I can.  One thing about being raised by a woman who beat me down nearly every day–I’m very good about hiding my hurt.

And yeah, they will hurt.  How could they not?  When one has poured oneself into a project for as long as it takes to write a book, and then a reader says it stinks, how could that not hurt?  But that doesn’t mean they meant to hurt me.

The bottom line is, no story works for everyone.  I happen to really like William Trevor’s Fools of Fortune, but others find it dreary and depressing.  I love space opera, others find it silly.  No big deal.  The world is big enough for all sorts of things to coexist, even things that are oppositional.

Accordingly, I will never respond to any negative reviews.  And I ask you, readers who like my stuff, to follow my lead.  Don’t engage.  Don’t comment and tell them they’re wrong, don’t say anything, and for the love of all you hold dear, please do not send me links.

Send me links to positive reviews, by all means.  But leave the negative ones alone.  Either I’ve already seen them or I will eventually.

I try to live by a philosophy I call “Let people like things.”  Even things I don’t like.  The opposite side of that is “Let people dislike things.”  I love the Ant-Man movies.  My wife doesn’t.  That’s okay.  More than okay, it’s how the world works.

The Widening Gyre Now Available For Pre-Order!

Exciting news!  The Widening Gyre, my debut novel coming in March from Flame Tree Press, is now available for pre-order (in some formats)!

NB: Only the hardcover, paperback, and non-Kindle ebook are currently available to order.  If you want it as a Kindle book or an audiobook, you’ll have to wait a bit longer to pre-order.

Hardcover, Paperback, and Ebook can be ordered directly from the publisher.

Paperback can also be ordered from Amazon in the US.  All other formats WILL be on Amazon US eventually, but of course you can also order them direct from the publisher.

Amazon UK has both the hardcover and paperback available.

You should be able to preorder from book stores, as well, but I’m not sure if it’s percolated that far yet.  The ISBN for the paperback is 978-1787581432. That might help. If anyone does successfully preorder from a brick & mortar, please let me know!

So far the book isn’t on B&N.com, Kobo, or iBooks, but as soon as it is I’ll post that information.

Pre-Production Report: The next WIP

I’m currently in “pre-production” on a new-ish project, by which I mean I am engaged in working the kinks out of an idea I’ve been kicking around for some time.

In movies, pre-production is when art, financing, casting, etc. are done.  The script is finished, then broken down into scenes, and storyboards.  Location scouting, costuming, props, all are being worked on.

In writing a novel, pre-production is very similar to film work.  I’ve finalized the cast of characters (with, of course, room for new supporting roles as needed), and I’m working out the plot–or, rather, the plots, because this book has a few of them.

In The Widening Gyre, there are some subplots, but there’s really just the one throughline–as a first-person work, I could only show what Tajen himself was there to see.

In this new story, I’ve got four POV characters, and each one has their own plotline, beginning in vastly different parts of the Boundless Empire, each on their own path.  Now, before the end of the book, some of them will come together, and by the end, they’ll all be pretty interconnected, even if the characters never meet.  But that’s still four major plots, and every POV has at least one minor plotline.  All in all, this story has ten distinct story arcs.

This is even harder than TWG was, because in TWG, if I adjusted something, it might cascade to other things in the novel I had to adjust, but in this book, if I change one plot, it might have ripples that affect every other arc.  For example, I removed a meeting from one character’s plot–I decided having her go off on her own against orders, and have to deal with the ramifications of being something of an “outlaw,” was more interesting that just having her fight a mindless bureaucracy to get things done.   But removing that meeting meant a subplot that affected other plots had to change.  And that subplot’s change led to even more changes, even for storylines that at that point in the story are only tangentially related to the first arc.

It’s teaching me a lot about how to juggle plotlines, and each change forces me to think through elements of the story.  As a result, things that had been part of the story from the beginning are now falling away, discarded because they don’t make as much sense as they once did, but they’re being replaced by better elements that will make the story stronger and much more interesting.

I’ve also been adjusting certain character attributes, figuring out what makes each character tick–what their goals are, their individual psychologies, and even their appearances.  It’s a story far removed from Earth, again, and not part of present-day Earth cultures, but also informed by them.  So it’s very much a multi-ethnic cast, even if they don’t exactly correspond to modern-day ethnicities, and many of the characters are multi-racial.  I’m still working on names, because some of them are a little too modern for my tastes, but so far the cast includes Shin Kincaid, Alua Tan, Jen Tan, Ian Khan, Lavraj “Raj” Patel, Emily Kennedy, and Marian Neves.

Right now I’m mostly focussed on figuring out who the characters are under their skin.  Once that’s done, I’ll focus on their individual plotlines in earnest, and then once those are all nailed down, I’ll break them into scenes, then interweave the scenes so they work as a coherent, cohesive whole.  I figure I’ll be adjusting the whole thing as I go, until it’s time to start work on the composition–and even then I’ll be adjusting until the story is finished.

Writing, man.  It’s hard.

 

Debut Diary, Part 3: The Cover

Yesterday, I received an email from my editor.

Yes, I still love to say “my editor.”

Anyway, I thought it was going to be my edits, but no–it was cover design ideas. He presented me with two, told me his preference, and asked for mine.

I’ve thought about this moment a lot, even before I made the sale, and I’ve always known it would be a stressful thing.  For one thing, I’d been thinking about possible designs for a while.  Most of my ideas were, I knew, unobtainable. Further, while some publishers will ask the author what they think, the final decision is the publisher’s.  More than one author has hated their book cover.  I was prepared to join them, but hoping for better.

So it was with some trepidation that I clicked on the files. And then I smiled, because both designs were fantastic.

I really loved the artwork on one of them, but it doesn’t quite fit this book’s feel or themes as well as it might.  But the other design is thematically perfect, and dynamic.  It’s eye-catching and has a great tagline.

I’m happy. The design may change, in small or even large ways, between now and finalization.  But for now?  I’m totally pleased.

 

My First Worldcon

So I attended Worldcon 76, in San Jose, CA. It was my first Worldcon; the last one in my neck of the woods was Reno in 2011, and I was not in a good enough financial space to go to that one.

All in all, I enjoyed the experience, but as a baby writer whose book is not even out yet, it was … interesting.

I quickly learned that most of the writing craft-focused panels were not for me.  They were saying things I already knew. The sort of “theory”-based panels were much better, though I didn’t make it into a few of them due to overcrowded rooms.  C’est la vie.

I learned late on Saturday that the head of my publisher was in attendance, and I tried to arrange a meet, just to shake his hand and say hi, but we weren’t able to sync our schedules and get a minute.  Ah well, there will be other chances.

I attended a panel titled “The Revival of Space Opera,” which included among the panelists my Viable Paradise instructor, Teresa Nielsen Hayden.  I wanted to go talk to her at the end, but I didn’t feel like fighting my way through the press, and assumed I’d be able to find her somewhere else.  Sadly, I didn’t, so I didn’t get to talk to her, which I regret.  Teresa’s one of my favorite VP people.

I did learn that going to a con with my pre-teen daughter is difficult.  Tegan is 10, which presents a problem: the child-focused stuff was too young for her, and she’s not old enough to go hang out with teens yet.  So she spent much of her time being bored, though she did attend her first panel on her own at one point, and enjoyed that.  She felt better once her mom arrived on Friday evening, though daughter spent Friday night visiting her Bay Area-based cousins.  Tegan really wants to be my “assistant” if and when I ever do signings and the like, but I think we’ve both decided she’s not ready for that yet.  We’ll see what happens as she gets older.

What I really enjoyed the most about the Con was visiting my tribe members who came to Worldcon.  Through Beth Morris Tanner, who seemingly knows basically everyone in the SFF field, I also met Karen Osborne and Mary Anne Mohanraj, both of whom were delightful and I hope to see more of in the future.  I didn’t get to talk to all the people I wanted to, but that’s the reality of Big Social Events.  Dinner with my VP crew on Saturday was a high point, for sure.  Let me tell you, if you’re ever in need of some great SFF anecdotes, K.G. Anderson is the person to sit with.

I’m delighted that most of my Hugo votes were for the winners, and I gladly give my congratulations to all the winners, even the ones I didn’t vote for.

Now it’s time to get ready for the school year to begin, and keep plugging away on the writing projects I have going right now.

The Importance of Silence and Downtime

I’m not silly enough to assume this is true of all writers, but it’s certainly true of me: I need silence.

Not true silence, the absence of noise, though that is also beneficial.  What I really need is a sort of mental silence–time in which I don’t have to be thinking too hard about other things, like work, or whether my child is screaming for good or bad reasons, or if I remembered to feed her.

The reason I need that time is so my brain can work through story issues.  I can sit, in a hammock, let’s say, staring at the trees above me, blinking but doing nothing else–and in my brain, ideas are being sifted through, sometimes consciously, but sometimes in the “background” of my mind while I’m just processing sensory input consciously.  It’s a weird and hard to describe process.  So here’s an example:

Saturday night, my daughter and I stayed in a motel in Placerville, about a half-hour drive from my home, because we were going out to watch the Perseid meteor shower and I didn’t want to have to drive all the way home from our star-watching spot at the Ice House Observation Plateau to Sacramento at oh-dark-thirty in the morning.  When we woke up Sunday, we got dressed, packed up, and went home, where an hour later, I realized I’d left my pillow–a non-standard, kinda expensive pillow that is literally the best pillow I’ve ever had–in the motel room.

Figuring the gas to get there and back again was less than the cost of buying a new pillow, I went back for it.  I went alone, which was useful.  As I drove, I started asking myself some tough questions I’ve been having a hard time with about The Remembrance War around some of the events in book 2 and some stuff I’m building toward in book 3.

Namely, I had two major questions:  First, instead of getting into a protracted street fight in book 2, why don’t the Zhen simply blast the rebels into the dirt from orbit?   Second, why don’t they shoot Tajen dead when he begins [REDACTED]*?  And, bonus question, why ARE [REDACTED] getting involved with the whole mess in book 3?

As I drove, with nothing to do but let the music on my crappy car radio be white noise while I thought (and steered), I found all three answers.  So I committed them to memory, and then spent some time refining the concepts and pre-composing a few scenes that will help make it all clear–scenes that will fit into the already-planned story arc and scene structure.

That kind of downtime, you see, is precious.  And I don’t get a lot of it in my daily life.  Between work, ten year old child, and spouse, there’s a lot of talking, and a lot of doing, in my day.  And I need the quiet to be able to figure out what’s going on with the story.

Fortunately, once I know what’s supposed to happen in a given scene, writing does not require silence.  I wrote one of the best scenes in The Widening Gyre while sitting in a room with 300 chattering parents and their kids at my daughter’s school, waiting for an event to begin.  I wrote several other scenes in the middle of restaurants or coffee shops full of noise.

So while it isn’t necessary to actually write down words, it is super necessary to figure out what the general shape of those words should be.

And now, it’s time to get back to the writing.  Tajen’s about to make an idiot of himself before the Kelvaki High Council at the worst possible moment.