Saturday, January 14, 2012

Interview with James Hutchings

The New Death and Others by James Hutchings

Death gets a roommate...

An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question...

A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain...

44 stories. 19 poems. No whiny vampires. There's a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it - but from which direction?
My Review: 4 Stars
Wowza is what I think after finishing the book! It is unique and I have never read anything like it before. Normally I do not care much for poems and short stories aren't really my thing. But this was different, James wrote it in such a way that I barely even noticed. Now that is some FABULOUS writing. A lot of hard work and creativity on his part for coming up with fun and quite ironic characters. Some stories were kind of short, and I did not want them ending, they were way too fun.Such as a robot being elected as Pope, I love that idea!! While it was fun, it was also a bit dark. Dark humor is always fun to read and watch. Not that watching has anything to do with this review... Anyway, back to the book.Very funny, and deserves big praise. I suggest to anyone who loves poetry, ironic stories and/or characters, well I suggest you read this.

>  · Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I fight crime in the guise of Poetic Justice, but my main income is from acting. You might know me by my stage name 'Brad Pitt'.

>  · What do you do when you are not writing?

My other main hobby is coding online games. I spent several years writing an online game called Age of Fable ( I don't have any plans to do more on it, but it's still online, and you can play it for free. I'm currently working on an online 'card' game, like Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon. I've also done a few smaller projects. For example I did an online version of the computer game Oregon Trail.

>  · Do you have a day job as well?

No, I'm currently unemployed. I've applied to go back to university, which if I'm successful will start in February.

>  · When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

'The New Death and others' is the first full-length book I've put up for sale. I started in September 2010 and finished in September 2011.

>  · How did you choose the genre you write in?

I don't think about genre very much. I have ideas for stories and poems, and if they have magic in them then I guess that story will be fantasy, if not it might be general fiction. I'm actually working on a Western poem at the moment.

>  · Where do you get your ideas?

I've written a lot about cats, based on having been a cat owner. But I'm a lot more cynical about them than some cat-lovers. One reviewer said he couldn't work out whether I loved cats or hated them.

Of course other fiction is a big inspiration. In some cases it's obvious. I've done poems directly based on stories by HP Lovecraft and other writers for example. In other cases it's more subtle: for example the city of Teleleli or Telelee is partly based on Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar, partly on Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork, and partly on Port Blacksand in the Fighting Fantasy series. the dialogue in Lord of the Rings had a big influence on how my characters talk.

>  · Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Yes, reasonably often. One thing I do is make a point of writing every day, even when I don't feel like it. This helps get through temporary slumps. I think if you wait for inspiration to strike it never will. Often I start with the attitude that "I'm really tired and I can't think of anything. I'll just write a token amount so I can say I did something today," and actually end up having a good idea and getting a lot done.

I usually have several things that I'm working on at the same time. This helps with running out of ideas, because I can leave what I'm working on and do something else instead. The danger with this is that starting something can be more fun than finishing it, and so you run the risk of having lots of half-written pieces that you never finish.

>  · Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I usually just write. Most of my work is very short, so there isn't the same need to plot everything out that you'd have for a novel.

>  · Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

JRR Tolkien and Jack Vance for the elaborate dialogue. Robert E Howard for the general atmosphere. Terry Pratchett for the humour. and Lord Dunsany for the use of Fame, Time and so on as characters.

>  · Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book
>  published?

Since I self-published it (on Smashwords and Amazon), this was just a matter of getting the document ready and uploading it. The hard part of self-publishing isn't getting published, it's writing it in the first place and then getting anyone to read it. There are thousands of self-published authors out there, and of course they're all trying to get their book noticed.

>  · If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your
>  novel or getting it published that you would change?

I wouldn't necessarily do anything terribly differently, but I wish I'd started writing earlier.

>  · How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best
>  for your genre?

I market my work through contacting bloggers and asking them to review it in return for a free copy. Whether this is the best way or not, I don't really know.

>  · Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get
>  published?

Self-publishing means that no one can stop you from publishing if you want to, which of course can be a good or a bad thing.

>  · Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I've been encouraged to write a novel set in the fantasy city of Telelee, which is the setting of a few of the stories in 'The New Death and others'. I have a lot of background for this world, because I blog every day ( and most of it is setting detail. I also have a half-finished novel called 'All-American Detectives', which is a combination of a detective story and a story about superheroes, which I'll probably come back to in the future.

>  · Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all
>  imagination?

Some ideas just pop into my head, without me knowing where the idea comes from. Other ideas come from experiences in my life. For example a while ago I found three injured birds in the space of a few weeks. I took all of them to the local vet. As I was carrying one of them, I thought that the woman at reception might wonder where I was finding all these injured birds, and that was the inspiration for my story 'Lost, Feral or Stray'.

>  · What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

Probably 'The God of the Poor'. I generally enjoy writing short pieces best, because you get the satisfaction of finishing sooner.

>  · How did you come up with the title?

I actually looked for artwork for the cover first. The picture I found happened to fit the story 'The New Death'.

>  · What project are you working on now?

The main thing I'm working on right now is a poem set in the old West, called 'Confession of a Bounty Hunter'.
>  · Will you have a new book coming out soon?

I expect some time in 2012.

>  · Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a
>  theme or idea you’d love to work with?

I'd like to write more about the fantasy city of Telelee.

>  · What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has
>  been the best compliment?

I've had criticism, but not any really horrible criticism.

The best compliment was probably when someone said that the opening lines to one of my poems had been going through their head all day.

>  · Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Nowadays anyone can self-publish. If you can make a Word document, you can have an ebook on Smashwords or Amazon. However that means that if your work is no good, no one's going to stop you. I'd recommend that people get onto Critique Circle ( and/or Scribophile (, put their work up, and listen to what people tell you. Don't 'defend' your work against people's 'attacks'. They aren't attacks, they're helping you. I've found that the people who defend their work have a strong tendency to have the worst writing, I suppose because they're not making the changes they need to make.

My next point doesn't matter if you're going to self-publish, but it is important if you want to be published by a regular publisher, or if you want to submit stories to magazines. Most places won't publish work that's already been published. And most places count putting a story on the internet as publishing it. In my opinion that's silly, but that's what they do. Scribophile and Critique Circle are exceptions, because google doesn't index them and you can't see any stories without logging on. However there are writing group websites out there where, if you put a story on the site, that counts as the story being published. That seems like a really terrible way to set things up, but they're out there.

I'd also say that getting a book out isn't the final step. It's just the start of the work of self-promotion. This is true even if you're not self-publishing: I'm told that authors are expected to pretty much arrange their own book signings and so on (if you just want to have a book out to show family and friends then this doesn't matter, of course).

There are a lot of sharks out there, who make their money from authors and not from readers. They will make all sorts of promises about how they're going to promote you and help you, but these are lies. Authors do not pay publishers, ever, and if they're asking you to pay then it's a scam. Of course if you're self-publishing you might end up paying someone to design a cover for you, or you might pay for internet advertising, but those are different things. You might also pay a printer to print your books if you want to get physical books rather than ebooks - but in this age of the kindle and print-on-demand I don't know why you'd want to. Preditors and Editors ( is a good website to look at, and you can get good advice at the forums of Critique Circle.

Finally, I'd suggest learning to touch-type if you can't already. You're going to be doing a lot of typing, and every hour you spend getting faster at typing will save you ten in the long run.

>  · Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Go forth my children, and slay...actually I'll probably save that one for the fan club's newsletter.


  1. This is a great review and interview. I have a copy of Mr. Hutchings work as well, and I'm planning on doing a review, but I'm waiting for a time when I'm not busy moving so I can give the work my full attention. This review makes me wish I could put time on hold so I can read it!

  2. Thanks for reviewing my ebook and interviewing me. I've put a permanent link to this post on the 'New Death' page of my blog.


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