Today's guest is S.A. Hunt, author of The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree, the first book in the Outlaw King saga.
How did The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree come about?
It actually started as a very different book in a very different frame of mind. I wanted to write DIME, a horror novel about a man that gets stuck in a town teetering on the brink between Earth and hell, and have a part at the end of it where he wakes up in a military hospital. He realizes the whole thing was a dream, but through abilities gained along the course of the book he reaches into that other-place and essentially pulls his fellow survivors, fictional people, into the real world. Life difficulties and a decreasing enthusiasm for the story as a whole ended with DIME on the backburner, but I still wanted to write something incorporating the same sort of metaphysical detangling.
After a while, I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel and it quickly transformed into a gunslinger epic. After a few rewrites and an epiphany, I changed the protagonist back to a male and re-introduced the concept of existing in a fictional space. In the end, WHIRLWIND is inspired by both Stephen King's DARK TOWER as well as my own fledgling feints at writing DIME--which is where a lot of the horror comes into play. And the follow-up to WHIRLWIND, the more Noreen-centric LAW OF THE WOLF, is actually going to incorporate a character and certain aspects from DIME. The Sileni, the antagonists from WHIRLWIND, are striving to induce wickedness in humanity and in LAW, we're going to see that firsthand when several characters end up back on Earth and find themselves obligated to prevent a public massacre.
Did you shop it around to agents or jump directly into the self-publishing ocean?
Both. I self-published it first, and once I got a few good reviews under my belt, I started querying in the hope that the good press would make me look better to a prospective agent. Some of you may think that's a backwards idea, but it seems to make sense to me. More and more, however, as I go along, I'm beginning to taper off in my quest to find an agent. It's looking like I'm not going to have any biters. That's okay; as I like to tell myself, go ahead and pass on me. You just won't get any share in the movie rights some day.
How much of you is there in Ross Brigham?
Quite a lot. I needed a doofus with a wounded heart to justify the way Ross just blunders into a parallel world without compunction, and I had just the right kick in the stomach the book needed: my own recent return and subsequent divorce. Chapter Two of WHIRLWIND is very similar to my own first night home from overseas. Luckily, my real father is still alive and I haven't been sucked into a tornado, regardless of what my ex-wife would like.
How many books are planned in the Outlaw King series?
I would estimate it at three, but it honestly depend s on two factors: how popular the first two books end up being, and whether or not the story is totally finished by the end of book three.
Have you thought about using Kickstarter to fund the writing of the next book(or books)?
I have thought about it, but I had several reservations. First of which was that I didn't think Kickstarter allowed crowdfunding of novels, at least self-published ones. The second was that it didn't seem ethical to me as there are already so many self-published writers out there churning out work without the benefit of outside financial assistance, regardless of my own difficulties. The third was that I honestly didn't figure I would be able to attract much funding, especially with how WHIRLWIND was doing so poorly in KDP numbers (note: when my KDP is up in May, I am not renewing my Select status, and WHIRLWIND will be available on UncoveredBooks, Smashwords and Kobo.) The fourth was that I couldn't think of anything substantial I could offer as a bonus to the highest bidders. Signed paperback copies? Paper maps of Destin? My notebook? Discounts on future books? If anyone thinks I'd have a chance at Kickstarter success or has good ideas for bidder bonuses, feel free to let me know. I could definitely use the financial lifeline.
What is your favorite 1980's sf/fantasy movie?
Hands down, I'd have to say KRULL. I still can't believe there was no sequel and it wasn't inspired by a novel. The world in the movie is so exotic and realized, and the story and the Glaive itself were very original for their time. It's a sad thing that Hollywood isn't as adventurous as it was in the 80's... there was some quality innovation back then. Suits just don't take many chances anymore, which is sad because those projects have a peculiar habit of producing truly legendary cult content when you give them a chance. (I have to give classic He-Man flick MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE a nod, though. It was a crazy movie but it definitely gave the He-Man world a swarthier Boris Vallejo / Yoshitaka Amano vibe it desperately deserved. SUPER MARIO BROS has earned a place in my heart as well.)
Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
It has to be a toss-up between Stephen King's DARK TOWER series, Joe Hill's HORNS, Dan Simmons's HYPERION series, and the swashbuckling non-fiction travelogue HEART OF THE WORLD, by rebel National Geographic explorer Ian Baker. I've been writing since I was a little kid, but up until now I've been trying to build my life according to everyone else's rules. Joe Hill's book is what slapped me in the face and reminded me of who I really was and what I was capable of.
Who would you say your influences are?
I think I get my wordiness, banter, and paragraph structure from Dean Koontz, my pantsy style of writing from King, my descriptiveness from Dan Simmons (as well as my years playing MU* games and buil ding world grids in same games) and my propensity for delving into the psychotic and mythical from Neil Gaiman. But as LeVar says, don't take my word for it. My readers will see what they will see.
What's your favorite book?
Who's your favorite author?
King, without a doubt. His kid Joe is really gaining on him, though. It's like a slow-motion horse race. They both do extraordinary horror, but King's still got the goods in character development and getting into heads.
What's the best book you've read in the last six months?
Brad Poynter's THE MEEK: a mysterious phenomenon shrinks every human on the planet to the size of an action figure, turning the world into a warzone of ravenous pets and giant obstacles. It's an amazing odyssey combining the survivalism of a wilderness thriller with the mind-blowing and sometimes hilarious aspects of life four inches tall.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
(1) WRITE. WRITE WRITE WRITE. Stop telling yourself that you're not any good, and stop telling yourself you don't have the time. Stop overplanning, past a certain point planning is just procrastination. Just do it, and don't rely on writer self-help books to tell you how to do it. Stop overthinking it. Just open a word processor file and start typing. (2) They say "write what you know," but that doesn't mean a plumber should write a story about being a plumber. Stephen King said, "A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar," and that's what WWYK means: use your memories, throw in your scars and shiners and bruises. A compelling story is a witch's brew of what life's thrown at you. (3) Scrivener is very much worth the $30. If you're serious about writing, get it.
What's next for S.A. Hunt?
Living and writing, writing and living. I wish I could tell yo u I'm going to be executive producer on the movie adaptation of WHIRLWIND, but I'd be fibbing!