Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Interview With The Author

Since I started blogging (almost a year ago now), I have been known to write some pretty self-indulgent stuff. If I'm not telling you random stories about my childhood, or detailing my ever-changing ambitions, I'm coming up with a list of things I find fascinating, or telling you how far I've read in War And Peace.

What do you care about all that stuff? Well, maybe you don't.

Or, if you're reading this right now, maybe you do.

Maybe it's that I can take the dumbest, most uninteresting topics imaginable and put my own creative spin on them in ways that cause you to want to read them.

Maybe I'm writing this to myself right now. Who knows?

Anyway, today marks Day 40 of my quest to write a blog post every day for a year. Since I'm roughly one-ninth of the way toward completing my goal, I thought I'd do something a little different today. Something completely self-indulgent. (Okay, maybe it's not that different.) I'm conducting an interview with myself.

Whether blogging is "real writing" or just play-acting may be up for debate. But for the sake of argument, let's call this an interview with the "Author" (represented by the "A" abbreviation and written in plain text). The "Interviewer" (represented by the "I" designation and written in italics) will be the question asker. I've culled a list of typical "author interview" questions from and to help myself along in this process.

If you find it interesting, great! If not, oh well, there's always tomorrow. So without further ado, here we go:

I:  Well, let's begin by asking you who you are, and what do you do? 

A:  I'm Jason Hill, and I write the blog The Plural Of Hyena. When I'm not writing for pleasure, I write professionally for Gander Direct Marketing, a subsidiary of Gander Mountain, a major outdoors and sporting goods retail company.

I:  And how long have you been blogging?

A:  This month makes a year. Although I only posted sporadically last year.

I:  What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

A:  No, not really. I usually get my ideas for blog posts at random times. Sometimes I wake up with an idea, and have to write down the "bare bones" of it so I won't forget when I actually get the chance to put it down on – I was going to say put it down on paper, but that's archaic now, isn't it? I guess I should say, when I actually get the chance to type it up. Often, I think of a great idea at an inconvenient time, like when I'm supposed to be working. At times like that, I'll just type up a brief outline, save it as a draft, and finish putting it together after work. Though I have been known to spend my lunch break at my desk, writing my blog. Quite often, actually, unless I have errands to run or something.

I:  What are the most important elements of good writing, in your opinion? What tools are must-haves for would-be writers?

A:  Well, I don't know if I'm the right person to be asking about the elements of "good" writing, but I'll give it a shot. To me, it's clearly communicating your point. Is what you're trying to say in your head coming out in your writing? If not, it's just going to be frustrating to read, and unlikely to make the impact you had hoped to make. As far as must-have tools for writers, I'd say good grammar and punctuation. I know even professional writers have editors go behind them and clean up their work, but a good writer should have a lot of those skills ingrained in them already. Misspellings and malapropisms do not make for pleasurable reading!

I:  What motivates you to write?

A:  Well, this year at least, I'm motivated by my public vow to write a new blog post every day for a year. Other than that, I think my motivation is my insatiable curiosity about everything. My wife calls it nosiness, but I prefer the word curiosity. Almost everything fascinates me. So I basically have boundless inspiration, because my curiosity is never fully satisfied.

I:  Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

A:  I do, especially with this everyday blogging endeavor. Usually, if I'm blocked, I'll go back to my old posts and see if I can find anything to inspire me. Maybe it's a story I started a week or two ago that I need to continue, or finish. Maybe it's a "Things I Find Fascinating" piece that I did awhile back that leads me to think of another set of related things I find fascinating. Sometimes, I "cheat" and pull a poem or story out of my "vault" to fill the daily requirement. It's not technically cheating, because it's still stuff that I wrote, it's just not "original" to this year, or this particular day.

I:  What is the overall theme or message you're trying to convey in your blog? What are your readers' reactions to it?

A:  Wow, I don't think there's any one overall theme. Maybe ten or twenty of them! But I guess if I had to narrow it down to just one, it would be that of fascination, or maybe curiosity. I like to explore the things that I'm curious about and that fascinate me. And hopefully they fascinate other people, too. Reactions have been pretty positive in general. I often write what I hope to be funny posts, and they are usually received as such with positive comments, either on the blog itself or on my Facebook wall. Every now and then I'll write something that's not so ridiculous, and someone will say I was "insightful" or "thought-provoking", or something like that. Truthfully, I crave feedback, probably more than is reasonable. And when I write something that I really feel passionate about, or that I think is really good, and I get no responses, I feel like I've failed in some way. That's probably me being paranoid, or seeking approval too much, but it is what it is.

I:  What, if anything, have you learned from writing your blog?

A:  A lot, actually. I've learned that writing solid material on a regular basis is really hard work. I think I've also improved as a writer. Putting words together in some semblance of order is something I do on a daily basis with my job anyway. But coming up with my own material, and trying to make it make sense, and make it interesting, is challenging. On a more superficial level, I've learned a lot of useless information about random topics while researching my "Things I Find Fascinating" posts. I could probably do better on Jeopardy now than I could a few months ago. For what that's worth.

I:  What are your current or future projects?

A:  Well, aside from writing the blog, I'm trying to gather some of my older stories, poems, and essays in order to give some of them a thorough rewriting. And then my plan – well, it's what I'm thinking about doing at least – is to take the best of the old stuff, put that together with some of the new stuff I've written for the blog, and maybe try to self-publish two or three different books. One would be creative non-fiction essays (like most of my blog entries are), another would be short stories, and the third one – if I did that one – would be all poetry. I'm trying to see if I have enough good material, or could add to it with newer writings, to actually assemble a couple of decent-sized books. I'd probably start by trying to go the e-book route, as that seems to be a little bit easier for the do-it-yourselfers. But again, this is all in the early stages right now. I haven't actually looked into all my options just yet. Of course, I'd love to be published through traditional means, but I figure if I can get a couple of projects out there on my own first, if they're good enough, then maybe someone will take notice. We'll see how that goes.

 I:  As a reader, what books or authors have influenced your life and your writing?

A:  Hmm, there are so many of them, it's hard to narrow it down. I'd have to say first and foremost that the Bible has most influenced my life, and I try – not always successfully – to live my life according to God's Word. As far as what's influenced my writing, I guess I would probably say pretty much anything I've read by Stephen King, all of Dean Koontz's older stuff, and anything by Ted Dekker. I tend to like edgier thriller/horror fiction, and would love to be able to write like those guys. I really like Robert Fulghum when it comes to creative non-fiction. I'm inspired by the gentle humor of Charles Schulz's Peanuts comics, and the sarcasm of Jim Davis' Garfield strip. And I really loved the bizarre humor of the Series Of Unfortunate Events kids' book series.

I:  Do you prefer reading e-books, paperbacks, or hardcovers?

A:  All of the above. I don't really have a strong preference for any one particular format. I have a Kindle, and I'm usually reading anywhere between two and four books on it simultaneously. I usually have at least one paperback and a hardcover going at the same time, too. And then at work, I listen to audiobooks while I'm writing (which most people don't see how that's possible, but somehow it works for me).

I:  What books are you currently reading, and in what format?

A:  On the Kindle, I'm reading War And Peace by Leo Tolstoy, The Abigail Affair by Timothy Frost, and Princess Callie And The Totally Amazing Talking Tiara by Daisy Piper. In paperback, I'm reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  In hardcover, Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule. And on audio, The Innocent Man by John Grisham. And yes, I probably do suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder.

I:  How many books do you read in a month – roughly?

A:  Last year, I probably averaged about 12 a month. But I didn't get the Kindle till November, and I've been reading more since then. So, I'd say probably about 15 or so books a month.

I:  What's your favorite color?

A:  Well, I doubt if anyone cares, but it's a toss-up between green and black.

I:  What are 5 items you never leave home without?

A:  Again with the irrelevant questions! Let's wallet, cell phone, keys, at least one pen, and probably my Kindle. 

I:  Cats or dogs?

A:  Cats. We have three of them: Fred, Mikey, and Winnie. I think dogs are cute, but they make me a little nervous.

I:  Coffee or tea?

A:  Both. Coffee in the morning. Sweet tea at night. Water and diet soda throughout the day. Why do you need to know these things? 

I:  I'm just going down the list of questions I was provided with. Don't worry, there's only four more of them. What is your favorite food?

A:  Fried chicken.

I:  Vanilla or chocolate ice cream?

A:  Mint chocolate chip. It's the best!

I:  What scares you?

A:  Lots of things. But if I had to list three, I would say: a home invasion while I'm at home, falling out of a moving vehicle, and being fired.

I:  Last question. Where can we stalk you online?

A:  On my blog at  (The Plural Of Hyena).  On my Facebook page at  Or on Twitter at – but I'm almost never on there.

I:  Thank you for your time.

A:  Don't mention it.

No comments:

Post a Comment