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Interview with Steve McHugh – What’s New

4 Dec

 

promise-of-wrath

 

Steve has a true passion for what’s he’s doing – and it shows. He’s come a long way from his debut release of April 28, 2012 when he self-published his first book, Crimes Against Magic, selling 28 copies opening day. Now he’s got the whole Hellequin Chronicles under his belt with book 6 Promise of Wrath released September 13, 2016. He’s working on book 7 Scorched Shadows right now, but took time from his busy schedule to answer some more questions.

 

You left your full-time job in December 2015, to have more time to write. At what point did you decide that you could give up your day job? Was leaving that security net scary?

Through most of 2015 it became apparent that there was no chance I was going to be able to write books quickly enough for the amount of stories in my head. At least not if I worked full-time too. I was doing maybe 1 ½ a year while working. So far this year, since leaving my job, I’m finished 2 and started a 3rd.

On top of that I started to earn enough that it just didn’t make sense to keep working full-time and write. My writing had become my major earner, and it made financial sense to run with that.

It was nerve-wracking to leave and move away from a job I’d done for over a decade, but I’d pretty much done everything I could do while I was there and was essentially coasting because it was easy. I needed the shake up of doing something new.

You tried the traditional route first, looking for an agent, then decided to self-publish. How did you feel when a publisher approached you later? And then you were contacted by an agent. Why did you decide to sign?

Self-publishing was never really my first thought when I was trying to get an agent. I did it because I had friends who had been very successful doing it, and I wanted to give it a try and see how things went. As it turned out, it went well, but when 47N asked if I’d like to work with them, the idea of having a publisher do marketing and the like, allowing me to concentrate on the actual writing side, was something I thought would help me in the long run.

After book 3 came out, I started looking for an agent. I contacted maybe 7 or 8 and explained my situation, but got rejections. Paul, my current agent, and I got on really well from the start and having someone go to bat for me in negotiations meant was great.

You’ve hinted at a new project in the works, a departure from Nate’s adventures. What will that story be about?

I’ve just finished a book that will be out next year. It’s called Divided and it takes place in the Hellequin universe, but isn’t a Nate book. It’s about a young woman by the name of Layla, who through circumstances of someone else’s making, ends up with these incredible powers, throwing her into a world she didn’t know existed.

It was a lot of fun to write, and Layla is a big departure from Nate who was already well established by the time the first book came around. Layla gets sort of dropped in the deep end and told to survive.

What advice would your old self give to a new writer? (Throw yourself back in time about six years to answer that question.) How about now?

I don’t know. I’d probably tell him to just keep writing and not worry about reviews or rankings. I’d probably tell him that he gets to do his dream job and that all of those days when I had to go to a job I didn’t care about were worth it in the long run.

On a non-writer related topic, how’s the puppy?

Unfortunately, our youngest daughter and the puppy didn’t really get along. Harley was far too skittish around the dog, and the dog was constantly trying to show her dominance over our daughter. So, we returned the puppy to the breeder. We’ll try again with an older dog in a few years when Harley is a bit older. It was sad, but it was a learning experience.

https://www.amazon.com/Steve-McHugh/e/B007YYWVHA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1480881232&sr=8-1

https://www.amazon.com/Steve-McHugh/e/B007YYWVHA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1480881232&sr=8-1

Interview 2 with Steve McHugh

20 Jun

Steve McHugh recently launched his new novel, Crimes Against Magic, available on Amazon. Between publishing a paper version, writing the sequel – and well , everything else on his plate – he managed to squeeze in some precious time to stop by for an interview.

D:  It has to be a unique feeling to get your novel published. What was going through your mind as you were preparing to launch your story? How did crossing the finish line feel?

S:  Honestly, I was terrified that people would hate it, that it would never sell and that my entire idea of being a capable writer was some sort of crazed fantasy.  It was a pretty scary thing to do, to allow myself to be put out there. Turns out, I was wrong to feel that way, but at the time I was stepping into the unknown.

It felt great to finally be at the point where publishing was happening, but that first day was so nerve wracking I probably didn’t allow myself to feel any sort of euphoria at having completed it.

D:  Are you allowing yourself to feel some euphoria now?  Or have you jumped right into wrapping up your next project? Is there going to be a book three in the future?

S:  I guess euphoria could be a good way of describing it. I’d set a goal what I wanted to sell on my opening day. Something I thought was realistic. 12 books sold, that was it. I managed about 35, so that was incredible. It settled down pretty quickly after that, but the fact that people are buying and (according to the reviews) liking my book is just far more than I could have hoped.

Book 2, Born of Hatred should be out in September. That’s the plan anyway. It takes place a few months after Crimes Against Magic and hopefully people will enjoy it. Book 3, With Silent Screams, should be out by next June and then there’s Book 4, Prison of Hope. No idea when that one will be out.

I have notes for about 20 books with Nate as the main character, and detailed notes for about 12 of those. So, I’ve got a while to go yet. I also have a Steampunk novel I’m working on. But it’s not going to get too much attention until Born of Hatred is finished.

D:  This novel-writing business is, in essence, a marathon. How long did each step take – the concept, writing the first draft, bringing it up to an edited version you were happy with, and then preparing for publishing?

S:  The concept took years. I wrote a book about 5 years ago called, For Past Sins. That got binned after it became apparent that it wasn’t good enough to publish and from its ashes, rose Crimes Against Magic.

The first draft took about 3 months, as the story was pretty well formed in my head and I just needed to write it down. After that, I spent a long time waiting for people to send back their crit versions and then I spent even longer editing over and over again. Probably from first word to finished, it took just over a year.

Then I spent a year looking for an agent, taking part in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel (which I got to the quarter finals) and generally feeling crap over the number of “it’s great…but” I managed to accrue.

I spent a while changing a few things on the story that I’d become unhappy with over the years as I prepared for publishing myself. That took about six months as I was pretty heavily into wanting to get book 2 nearly finished before I launched.

So, from beginning to end, it probably took me about three years, give or take a few months.

D:  I think we writers all have a first project that nobody will ever see… (shoves storage box deeper into closet…) but what did For Past Sins teach you about writing a novel? What to do, what not to do.

S:  For Past Sins taught me to not over complicate everything. There were far too many characters in it and it could have done with a cull of some of them. I learnt a lot about pacing from it too. I think CAM is much better paced and breaks up the action and exposition better than FPS did. I think mostly, it made me a better writer. It made me aware of where my strengths are and how to improve my weaknesses.

D:  Looking for an agent has to be the most frustrating part of the process. How do you think e-publishing will change the future of publishing? Do you think we’ll get to the stage where the querying process becomes redundant?

S:  Querying is always going to be important, but it seems like some agents/publishers use self published authors as a gauge to see how successful they are and then offer contracts based on that success. To be able to prove that your book is well received, both commercially and critically is something that I think agents and publishers are looking at more and more.

Trying to get an agent is very frustrating. And demoralising. And basically it sucks. But, and this is the key, it’s also very important. Every writer, whether you’re going to go it alone or otherwise, should write a query and synopsis for their book. It’s useful to have and, more importantly, you’ll learn a lot about your book from doing it. And I think having that rejection from agents and publishers prepares you for your writing career. It certainly thickened my skin.

D:  What three pieces of advice would you give to someone just starting out?

S:  Join a crit group. It’s the best advice any writer can be given. Not only will your writing improve in leaps and bounds if you find a good one, but you’ll meet like-minded writers who are willing to help you when you need it. Seriously, everyone who writes with a mind for publishing needs a crit group.

Also, I’d say that even if you’re set on publishing as an indie writer, you need to go through the process as if you were being traditionally published. Make sure the story makes sense, that you don’t have too many stupid mistakes (everyone, even published authors make mistakes. Most books have a few somewhere.) Write a synopsis and query letter. They are both excellent tools in your arsenal as a writer, and will come in handy on more than one occasion.

Enjoy yourself. If you’re not enjoying it, write something else. If you don’t like what you’re writing, it’s likely that everyone who reads it will notice it.

Thanks for the interview, Steve. Always a pleasure chatting with you.

Interview with Steve McHugh

30 Apr

Steve McHugh launches his first novel, Crimes Against Magic, on April 30, 2012 from Amazon. (Go to https://stevejmchugh.wordpress.com/books-2/crimes-against-magic/where-to-purchase/ for the links). I met Steve through the Kelley Armstrong on-line writers’ group, where I quickly came to appreciate his sharp critiquing comments and smooth, fast-paced writing style. He’s definitely someone new to check out, and I wish him great success with his writing career.

Tell me about how you found Kelley Armstrong’s Writers Group, and your first posting experiences there.

I was a member of Kelley’s forum for a few months before deciding that joining the writing group was a good idea. I’d originally joined the forum on a whim—I was a fan of her books and wanted to know when the next one was out. From there I joined up and haven’t really looked back.

As for my first post. I remember being terrified. I’d never even let anyone read my work before, let alone carry out a critique of my work. I remember getting a lot of responses for that first piece, and I carried on from there. It’s helped my writing an immeasurable amount.

You’re mentioned in D B Reynold’s credits in Rajmund. How did that unfold? How did beta-reading help you with your own work?

I’m in the credits for all of Donna’s books apart from the first one (Raphael), which I consider an honour as she’s an incredible writer and always willing to help when I have some probably blindingly obvious question. She also put up with my terrible grammar, making her a bit of a saint in my eyes.

It came about through e-mail. Michelle Muto (another superb writer and someone else who puts up with my questions) asked if I’d be interested in joining her and Donna as crit partners. I said yes, I mean how could I not? And after that I ended up beta-reading both Donna’s and Michelle’s work.

Beta-reading in general is something that all writers should do if they get the chance. You discover so much about your abilities as a writer, and you also learn how to improve. That’s especially true when you’re reading people of the calibre of Donna and Michelle.

Some writers say that a single image inspired them to create a story. I’ve heard that James Cameron imagined The Terminator movie from an image of a metal android walking out of flames. Was there an image that inspired CAM?

I remember seeing a photo of a guy who set whips on fire and flung them around himself with insane abandon. That’s certainly where the scene with Nate walking out of the house with a whip of flame trailing down from each hand, came from.

What made you decide to write a follow-up story to Nate’s adventure? What’s your favourite quality of his personality?

Nate’s a character I’ve had in my head for years, so once I’d finished I already had notes for a dozen more books. So continuing his adventures was an easy decision to make.

My favourite part of his personality is probably how quickly he can go from calm and collect to dangerous and vicious. It makes for some interesting scenes.

Why did you decide to go the e-publishing route?

It was a combination of things really. I’d originally tried the traditional route and sent Crimes Against Magic to agents and publishers. A got a lot of form rejections, and a few ‘we really like it but it’s not for us at this time’ responses. At some point in the process, I just got very tired of hearing the same thing, no matter how complimentary it was to be told they liked it.

I also started to hear a lot of stories from people who kept being told different things by different agents about what the industry wanted. For example: some wouldn’t take male POV, some would only take male POV, some wouldn’t read a query if the word werewolf or vampire was in it, all sorts of things (some of which I’m sure were exaggerations). The economic problems in the world had forced the market to take fewer chances. And it felt (rightly or wrongly) like they didn’t know where the e-book fit into their world.

So, I did some research into e-books and decided that having the control suited me. Also, I write faster that 1 book a year, so being able to put them out when I’d finished was a big deal to me. Maybe one day that will change, but at the moment it suits me.

What’s next on your list of things to write?

The sequel to CAM: Born of Hatred. And then the third book: With Silent Screams.

Is the third book part of the CAM series, or did you branch off into something else? Is there another genre you would like to tackle some day?

It’s part of the same series. They’re all going to be under the series: Hellequin Chronicles.

I have a story in my head for something that takes place in ancient Greece, and one for a YA. But they’re still in the same universe as Nate. One day I’d like to do a Sci-fi or full on Fantasy book, but that won’t be for a while, I think.

Has being a parent influenced what you choose to write about?

It made me get serious about my writing, but it doesn’t influence what I write to any great degree. I certainly won’t be letting my daughters read the book until they’re A LOT older.

The Young Adult market has seen a huge explosion in the industry. Would you ever consider writing something that your kids would read?

The YA in my head is probably a bit advanced for my kids. I’ve written little things for them, a letter from the tooth fairy and a few bits and pieces like that. I think my problem is that I need to find a way of writing the story without loosing the dark tone of the story I have in my head. That’s gonna be tricky. But when I figure it out, I’ll write that YA.

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, Steve. It was a pleasure interviewing you. You’ve got a great story on your hands, and I’m glad I was able to be part of the journey seeing it through to its début.

Interview with Marianne Su

13 Oct

Marianne Su belongs to the Kelley Armstrong Writer’s Forum – that’s where we connected.  She’s not in my critique group, but friendships bloom across boundaries.  She’s someone I’d call The Perfect Storm – that special combination of craft and creativity, writing in a hot genre, with a personality that makes working with her a pleasure: an ideal candidate for an agent to take a chance on a new writer.  And Marianne has a new voice, strong and clear.  Check out her blog: http://www.mariannesu.com

Now despite the fact that it “feels weird” for her to talk about herself, she’s agreed to answer a few questions.

JDW:  What made you decide to join the Kelley Armstrong Writers’ Forum?

MAS:  As a fan of Kelley’s writing, I knew of her forum and the writing group but was nervous about other people reading my work.  It wasn’t until I got some very honest feedback on my writing from a writer I barely knew that I decided to join.  She made some helpful suggestions including one that I join a critique group.  Immediately I thought of OWG.  She was so right!

JDW: What’s the greatest benefit to posting your work there for critiquing?

MAS: Every month when I get crits back, I’m so grateful for what others find that I missed.  At first, the learning curve was huge because I’d never been ‘taught’ how to write so I learned a lot from everyone.  Sometimes it’s just having one or more people confirm what works or doesn’t work that’s most valuable.  Also, I was surprised at how the process of critiquing others’ work can be so rewarding.  It gives me a different perspective on other writing styles and helps my own writing.  

JDW: What was the most significant lesson learned from her Toronto Writers’ Workshop?

MAS: I want to say hanging with Kelley over coffee and hearing her speak about her characters but I’m guessing you want something more literary.  In that case, I’ve always thought of myself as a character-oriented writer.  The characters come first for me, both as a writer and a reader.  Kelley helped me see that I didn’t know my characters as well as I thought I did.  It was a shocker.  I think it was day four before I would admit this to myself! 

JDW: How has the workshop changed or influenced your work?

MAS: The week left me with an overall positive feeling about my writing.  I felt encouraged and recharged.  Before this, I was beginning to feel confused and unsure in some ways but the week reassured me that I was on the right track.  Also, there’s something about spending all day every day for a week with writers, talking about writing and reading each other’s work that is inspiring.  I got to immerse myself in that frame of mind and came out of it feeling more than ever that writing is what I love.

JDW: How do you manage your time?

MAS: I’m a night writer.  During the day, at home with three young kids, I only get to write in snippets and some days more than others.  But when they’re in bed, the night is mine.  I write about 4-5 hours when the house is quiet and dark, uninterrupted.  It’s funny that I had visions of myself spending the morning with a laptop in a coffee shop when the kids went back to school but that just hasn’t happened.  I’m gonna stick to my night routine – it works for me.

JDW: What made you choose Young Adult as a genre?

MAS: I like reading and writing YA because the angst and insecurity that usually accompanies that phase of life.  It makes for interesting character growth.  If I’m also being honest, I wonder if I had enough fun as a teen and that maybe I’m living vicariously through the characters.  I’d love to be that age again.     

JDW: At what point in your life did you realize you were a writer?

MAS: I’ve written off and on when I was in school but it wasn’t until recently that I considered myself a writer.  A couple of years ago I told a writer friend of mine that I’ve always wanted to write a book and her response was “why don’t you?”  At the time my youngest was getting a little older and I felt like I was beginning a new phase of my life where I could do more for me.  Writing was top of the list.  I wrote my first novel in six weeks and haven’t looked back.