Writerly Questions with Devin Hodgins

Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time to start thinking about what to read as you lounge around the pool, while your kids play in the park, or during your hour-long commute on the transpo. To help you prepare your summer-time TBR list, every Monday for the next few months I will be talking with some really fabulous authors about their latest or upcoming books.

It always gives me great pleasure to interview authors from the Urania Imprint  for not other reason than that is the department I work for! I may not have had the opportunity to edit this particular book, but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to interview Devin Hodgins about Day Dreamer. No need to wait for this book as it was released October 2011, and be sure to stop by Devin’s blog here

Devin Hodgins lives in Casper, Wyoming, surrounded by mountains, prairies, and wind. He writes mainly fantasy, some science fiction, and even a wee smattering of horror, along with a few verses of poetry. His principal influences include Kafka, Borges, and Archambault. He is presently working on a novel-length poem involving “the awakening wonder of dream.”

How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
It is the tale of a dreamer who dreams every night about the next day, but instead of being liberated by his sleeping visions of the future he is haunted by every passing moment he is awake.

You’ve certainly piqued my interest, it sounds like an intriguing story! How long did it take you to write this book?
It’s a novella, so, originally, only a couple months. I finished it, and then shopped it around for a few years. I would polish it up again and again after each rejection, trying to use whatever snippets of criticism or editorial advice I was given to improve the story and endeavor to grow as a writer.

How many drafts do you go through?
Three–to start with. But, again, I kept tinkering at it. When Musa finally contracted the story for publication, I went through a few drastic yet dramatically helpful edits. Even though no major plot points were really altered, those final drafts’ edits significantly improved the story.

Editing can be a painful process, but it usually makes the manuscript stronger. With all the editing and rewriting, you must have figured out when you write best. Do you prefer to work in the morning, afternoon, or at night?
Morning. Although, lately, it’s whenever I get the chance–usually in the evening. Writing in the morning allows me to start each day’s work with renewed energy and ideas. Evenings, though, have the advantage of working with ideas that have been mulled over and refined.

Where is your favorite place to write?
I keep a room in the house in which I grew up. I have a dusty desk in a dark corner. I lock the rest of the world away and hunch over my pages. I write elsewhere, of course, wherever I need to, and although I am constantly turning pieces over in my mind, I have scrawled the vast preponderance of the words I have ever written right there in that very room.

At that hidden away desk, do you write using a typewriter, computer/laptop, or pen & paper?
Pen and Paper! Typewriter for personal drafts; Computer for submissions. But pen and paper: the beginning and the end.

What do you drink or eat while you write?
I don’t eat, and I drink only water. I used to smoke while I wrote, but I gave that up a few years ago.

Congratulations on quitting smoking! I’m all for anyone who can as too many people do. Did you replace that bad habit with a more healthy one, such as listening  to music while you write? If so, what kind?
Indeed. Metal mostly. Progressive preferably. Fates Warning, Rush, that sort of vein. If a new album is out, I listen to it quite a bit, with old favorites mixed in.

I can’t say I’m a fan of the genre myself, but don’t let that stop you if it helps your writing process! So here you are tucked away in a darkened corner scribbling away with music playing in the background… What are you wearing?
I’m not a pajama kind of guy, if that’s what you mean. But neither am I a scarf and tweed jacket type of person. Whatever I am wearing, which is usually a nice comfortable ensemble consisting of jeans and t-shirt.

Other than the music and your preference for long-hand, do you have any other writing rituals?
None–that I would wish to divulge, anyhow.

Well, I suppose authors must have their secrets *wink* How do you plot your stories, chapter by chapter or an overall synopsis?
A blend, I suppose. When I reach the point of actually beginning a story, I usually have a good idea of the tale I wish to tell. But especially for novel-length pieces or series, an outline–however detailed or however vague–is all but necessary if I want to keep characters and events straight. Breaking the narrative into chapters and completing an action or thought can help a great deal in moving the story forward successfully, too. However, I tend not to get too rigid with plotting, always sure to leave space for new and developing ideas as well as to respect any unexpected directions the story, itself, might wish to take.

How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
That comes in thinking about a story before ever putting pen to page, in how best to tell a tale. But even then the decision can be, and should be, changed if a better way of viewing the point of the story is ever unveiled in the writing.

What about character names, how do you choose those?
Research. I usually decide on the sense of the character and then pour over dictionaries and etymologies, disguising languages and derivations and spellings. Take “Steven Wespers,” for instance: “Steven” is an archaic form for “voice.” “Wespers” I developed from “vespers” or “evening prayers.” So, his name, to me, means “singer of nightsongs,” but it still sounds natural. Other names are not so darkly veiled, like “Dawn.” The process can be pretty arduous. Deciding on names, for me, is one of the hardest parts of writing and characterizing–not to mention becoming a new parent! I agonized over my twins’ names for well over nine months.

If only all parents were so careful about naming their children *shakes head* While you may end up “testing” your manuscripts on the twins rather than the usual bedtime story, who is the first person to read them now?
My wife. She’s a school librarian and reads a lot. She can have useful insights.

What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
I caught my breath.  I read the e-mail once more just to be sure that I was reading what I thought I was reading, and then I chased upstairs out of my writing-room and told my Mom and Dad that I was finally going to have a story published. They quietly started bawling. To keep from joining them, I called my wife. She kept telling me, “I knew it. I just knew it.” Everyone said they were proud of me and that my hard work was paying off at last. It was a joyfully solemn occasion that I was honoured to share with my family.

If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
I can’t think of anyone in particular. Perhaps someone unknown who could fit the role perfectly.

Unknown actors do seem to well in book-to-movie adaptions, just look at Harry Potter! Speaking of doing something for the first time, what is the first book you remember reading?
Little Golden Books–I can’t see any specific titles in my mind, just the shimmering spines. The first book I read which seriously made me want to write was probably “On A Pale Horse” by Piers Anthony.

And what book is on your nightstand right now?
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I admit, though, I’m a couple months behind. I am still not used to their shift to bimonthly publication.

Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
I am reading too much children’s literature right now, I’m afraid. My excuse is that I am pursuing a degree in Elementary Education, but there is a lot of good stuff out there for children which can be addictive for adults.

There are some really cute children’s books out there, and I don’t think the age of the intended audience should stop people from reading them… but at least I can say I write book reviews when I get funny looks from other library patrons *L0L* Speaking of libraries, how do you organize your personal book collection?
Organize? It used to be by subject; now, it’s wherever I can find the space.

If you could be any character from any book, who would you be?
“Silverlock” (by John Myers Myers). How awesome it would be to so explore “The Commonwealth.”

It sounds like you still remember that book, so there’s nothing to stop you now from trying to write it now. It may have helped if you had an author-mentor to encourage your creativity when you were younger, but if you could now talk to any writer living or dead who would it be and what would you ask/talk about?
Whoever wrote the Voynich Manuscript. I would be very interested to find out what its pages truly say.

What book  do you wish you had written, been the author of?
Not some famous book and not even a book I personally admire. I wish I had written the book I had in mind way back when I was in high school, the one I never fully realized, thinking that I did not have what it took to write it.

So you had a passion for writing when you were younger. Did you always want to be an author then?
I always had intimations, I suppose, but it was when I discovered what I liked in my teen years that I began seriously considering the possibility.

What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
A few moments of peace and quiet in which to write.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
To keep writing.

Just one more question…What is one random thing most people don’t know about you?
That I like to draw. If I had not pursued writing, I just might have pursued illustrating.

 Previous Interviews: Janis Flores InterviewMarySPalmer InterviewLauren Hunter InterviewSharon Ledwith InterviewEmma Lane Interview

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Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading.

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