It can be difficult to seek the proper career path; this is a lesson that many young people have learned as they approach college age and struggle to decide which major they wish to pursue. Homeschooled students are just as likely to experience this issue as their school-educated peers–especially if they tend to be individuals with artistic interests. Too often, young adults are deterred away from pursing careers in the arts since it can prove difficult to find a steady income as a writer or designer. However, if one is sure that their strengths lie in a creative field then they should be encouraged to take a risk and invest in their interests. To that end, it is important that young people have a chance to read about adults who have achieved success in creative fields–people such as authors.
Publishing is a difficult field to break into but, despite the odds, some writers have managed to achieve incredible success. Brian Hodge is one such author. Thus far, Brian has penned ten novels and over one-hundred short stories in the genres of crime-noir and horror. He has won awards for his efforts and is currently working on two new books. His first short story collection, “The Convulsion Factory,” was ranked by critic Stanley Wiater among the 113 best books of modern horror. Brian currently lives and writes in Colorado where he also dabbles in music, photography and organic gardening. Recently, Brian spoke with this Examiner about his experiences working as an author and was kind enough to offer advice to aspiring storytellers:
Meagan Meehan (M.M): When did you first decide to become a writer?
Brian Hodge (B.H.): I don’t think you could say it was ever a conscious decision. It was more like following a drive that had always been there. As a preschooler, before I’d learned the alphabet, I would scribble marks on pieces of wood and affix them to trees. Even that early, there was this deep impulse to communicate something or other. I wrote my first story in second grade, and was trying novel-length by sixth. I was winning contests in high school and college. A year after I’d graduated college, I went to a weeklong conference intensive in Boston, and that’s when things kicked into high gear. My workshop leader was a Harvard professor and editor. At the end of the week we met one-on-one over breakfast, and she said, in essence, “Look, you’re ready to turn pro.” She gave me a list of literary agents to query once I had something to show them. I came home and wrote my first real novel, and the agent that sold it to Tor Books was on that list.
M.M: Growing up, what were your favorite books?
B.H.: In primary school, that probably would’ve been a series called “The Three Investigators.” I found it a lot more imaginative, and the characters more compelling, than the “Hardy Boys.” When I got into junior high, some friends and I passed around a battered copy of Glendon Swarthout’s coming-of-age classic “Bless the Beasts and Children.” I ended up with it permanently, and read it once or twice a year for the next few years.
M.M: What is it about the horror genre that draws you to it?
B.H.: It might have been Ray Bradbury who made the observation that writers of various types of speculative fiction have remained in touch with their childhoods to a greater degree than the average person. So I’m sure that’s part of it … being able to look at things from this blended perspective of curiosity and awe and terror. And I like the extremes of it; extremes in terms of events and emotions and reactions and visions of our vulnerable yet tenacious place in the cosmos. It isn’t the only thing I’ve written, or even the only thing I’m working on now, but it’s definitely the most wide open in terms of imagination. One of my favorite things to do within horror is explore this feeling that a lot of people seem to have from time to time, of there being currents of another reality running beneath, or alongside, what we see and interact with every day.
M.M: Out of all your stories, do you have a favorite? If so, which one and why?
B.H.: I couldn’t narrow it to just one, but I have a particular fondness for different works for different reasons. My first crime novel, “Wild Horses,” sold at auction, and that changed my life at an ideal time, plus I was so in love with the characters. And this long, standalone novella from about 18 months ago, “Whom the Gods Would Destroy”… I’m especially happy with how that came out, and the reader and critical reception it got. Amazon has twice picked it as a Kindle Daily Deal. I also composed and recorded a full-length soundtrack for it, that I put up on my web site and elsewhere for free download, so the whole project resonated with me in multiple dimensions. Then there’s this brand new one I have on the way, “In the Negative Spaces.” I feel the same way about that one.
M.M: Thus far, what has been the most rewarding part of being an author?
B.H.: Probably the never-ending sense of creation and discovery; I’m the type of person who always has to be making something, so it obviously fits right along with that. Plus it’s so immersive that I get a chance to live all these different lives and experience all these different events, and to remake the world, or parts of it, however I see fit, or am in the mood to explore. I also like having a daily commute that’s measured in hallways.
M.M: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to be an author?
B.H.: I just finished a chapter for a writer’s guide I was asked to contribute to, on the topic of building what I call your “personal infrastructure.” The sorts of mindsets, habits, work ethics, codes of conduct, and so on, that can keep you going for the long haul, and prevent you from self-sabotaging. I did around 4,500 words on that alone. The super short form, though? Read voraciously and write a lot, because it’s the only way to get better. Writing for publication is an art, a craft, and a business, so you need to develop skill sets in multiple areas. You need to learn how to be a marketer just as much as you need to get past your influences and develop your unique prose voice. And you can’t do it alone. You need a strong emotional support system to help cope with the frustrations and setbacks. The most vital sales job you ever tackle may be to convince your family and friends how important this is to you.
M.M: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
B.H.: Just the other day, a new limited hardcover edition came out, of an early post-apocalyptic novel I did, called “Dark Advent.” The print edition was almost sold out before publication, but the e-book edition shouldn’t be that far behind. Additionally, in early August, there’s a book coming out called “Dark City,” that I co-wrote with an author named Gerard Houarner. Each of us was given roughly half the book to play with. I did what amounts to a short, tight novel called “In the Negative Spaces.” It probably has the oddest, most eclectic mix of themes and research topics I’ve ever pulled together: domestic violence survival, Manhattan real estate greed, alternative evolution, snarky dream journaling, the Cambrian period, Russian mob tattoos, life as a doorman, DMT trips—and sweet-and-salty brownies. Come for the brownies, stay for the interdimensional chaos!
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To learn more about Brian Hodge visit his official website and Facebook.