Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Az Publishing Author Feature #4: The Lamplighter Collection

Author Interview with Todd VanHooser:
When did you first realize you wanted to write?
Wanting to write and learning to write came at two separate times for me.  Even as a kid I was a story-teller.  Mostly this came in the form of Star Wars or G.I Joe action figures, and the occasional ghost story told to my younger brother’s group of friends.  As I got older, those stories evolved into a written form, and by high school I realized I had some talent for writing.  It was raw, ugly talent, however, and I didn’t quite grasp this until I took higher level creative writing courses in college.  In college I began to appreciate the craft of writing, and not just the storytelling aspect of it.  Good writing has depth and invites the reader to be an active participant.  Once I got a handle on this, I really began to enjoy the prospect of sharing stories that readers would remember.

What would you say is your most interesting writing habit?
I keep a small cube-shaped book by my desk.  It’s cleverly titled “The Writer’s Block,” and flipping through it, you’ll find all kinds of odd ideas or suggestions to keep you, as the writer, fresh.  Some of these include “Write naked,” or “Write an argument between two characters that begins in bed,” or “Start at the end.”  Sometimes a little writing exercise is a great way to jumpstart the creative engine, so I’ll occasionally do a page on some random subject just to work out the kinks and get my brain in that writing mode.  For the record, I’ve not taken the “write naked” advice, but I’m sure it works for someone out there.  I read an interview with Stephen King where he mentioned that occasionally he’ll crank up some angry rock music on the stereo while he writes.  He finds it inspiring, and I completely agree that music can be a huge motivating force.   I haven’t tried King’s influences, but I can say that one of my short stories came about thanks to a line from a Pearl Jam song, and another, more recent work, was written with “All Along the Watchtower” playing in the background.  One other trick that I use is that after something is on the page, I will always go back and read it out loud.  Dialogue, in particular, needs to be spoken.  Our ear picks up certain aspects that our eye will miss on the written page.  It’s a rule for me that everything must pass the “out loud reading test” before it goes to the next level.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your book(s)?
I love getting deep into a story and feeling it begin to take on a life of its own.  I think that when an author has a hold of a good story it feels more like a labor of discovery rather than creation.  In other words, the story is already there, waiting to be found.  It’s like a literary scavenger hunt with bits of plot, scraps of character, and clue-like symbols left behind in strategic locations of the mind that eventually lead to the finish line. Don’t get me wrong—any effective writing is the fruit of structured plot and meticulous attention to detail.  But sometimes, while in the “belly of the beast,” the story seems to come alive and guides you, the author, in a certain direction.  Those are the stories that want to be told.  That’s a great feeling when you can sit back and settle in for the ride.

What do you think makes a compelling story?
There are a number of important ingredients that go into making a compelling story.  Conflict is essential—everything hinges on this.  Relatable characters forge connections to readers.  If you take a character that your audience loves and create tension, suspense, or conflict, readers will respond. Timeliness or timelessness can also be an important factor.  A timely story is tethered to what is happening or what is popular in society right now.  A timeless story is always relevant, and will always be compelling to any audience.  The author needs to know what they’re writing.
If all that fails, drop a body through the roof.  I had a creative writing teacher that actually suggested this.

Where did you get the idea for The Lamplighter Collection?
I’m from Missouri, and the stories found in this collection were inspired by local legends and ghost stories from the southwest.  I love looking at small town life and the real-life characters that are produced there.  Sometimes these actual people seem to have a story just begging to be told. I created a setting based on a small town in Missouri, then added in the ghost story element.  I thought it would be interesting to have this small town nestled in middle-America that had landed on the Travel Channel thanks to its creepy local legends.

What is the hardest part of writing?
Writing is a juggling act for me.  I have the passion, but the most difficult part is finding the time.  I juggle a teaching career which has its own demands, so carving out that time to write, or making the most of that time I do have is a struggle.

ISBN # 978-1-936037-52-0 Print $10.95
978-1-936037-53-7 Ebook $4.95
They used a crowbar to break into the inn. The door gave way with more of a sigh than a crack as the wood separated from its frame and swung inward. The smell emanating from within was thick and old: musty like a sealed tomb catching fresh air for the first time in ages. They stood in a clump on the back porch, Johnnie in the lead with thecrowbar drooping down to the ground.

“You’ve managed an impressive string of crimes for the day,” Ryan Compley said from the back of the group.

Johnnie turned around, lifting the crowbar up and resting it over his shoulder. He looked strangely barbaric in the clutch of falling dark. “Who the hell ungagged him?”

“I did,” Sean said, refusing to sound sheepish despite the crowbar and the knowledge of the .45 tucked somewhere out of sight. “You might be able to drag him into your horror story, but he should at least be given a voice.”

The rag that had been stuffed into his mouth was lying on the ground, flaps of duct tape curled on each side like the legs of a dead insect. Compley still stood with his bound wrists hanging down in front of him like a prisoner being led to the gallows. Unlike those doomed men whose eyes could not see the awaiting noose, Compley stared wide-eyed up at the structure and could not veil the utter fear living now within him

Johnnie pushed beyond Avalon and Brad, glaring at Sean. “This isn’t your story, sport.” He extended the crowbar and poked him in the chest with its end. “So don’t go making—”

It happened so fast that neither Brad nor Avalon fully grasped what had occurred until it was over. Sean’s hand shot forward, taking the crowbar and twisting it out of Johnnie’s grip in a sudden and violent motion. Reversing the thrust of the crowbar unbalanced Johnnie and sent him down onto the hard wooden porch with a thud.

If you could have one wish, what would it be? 
A clone.  No, make that a dozen clones. I’ve got a lot of stuff to write, so I could keep those guys busy.
Seriously, though, I just wish that my writing could get the attention and appreciation I feel that it deserves.  Put my books in the hands of a reader and let the writing stand its ground.

What are you working on next?
I always have more than one project going at a time.  Right now I’m focused on the next two releases of my fantasy series, The Laughing Moon Chronicles.  In addition to this, I have designed and written a tabletop role-playing game based on the series.  It’s hands down the most creative project I’ve ever worked on, and I’m extremely excited to introduce it to the public in the near future!  I'm hoping to have samples from the book available on www.toddvanhooser.com very soon so fans will have something to look forward to.

1 comment:

Az Publishing Services, LLC said...

Say "Hello" Todd. I will be checking in on you throughout the day tomorrow. You are up on Twitter and Facebook.

Have fun.