Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Author Interview: A.C. Hall

Today, I'm interviewing the highly talented author A.C. Hall, who contributed the short story I'll Come Back for You to "The Temporal Element."  Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, A.C.

MTI:  Let's begin with some basic introductory material.  Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

AC: I live in my hometown of Fort Worth, TX where I’m the News Director of a local newspaper.  When not writing the news, I’m writing fiction, and on the rare occasion I’m not doing that I can usually be found hanging out with my three nephews. 

MTI:  Now, let's get down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

AC: I don’t have that “aha! moment” when I realized I wanted to write, it’s just something that I’ve always done.  I was writing stories as early as the first grade, so just about as soon as I figured out how to write I was creating fiction.  I dabbled with it all through high school, and after drifting a bit after graduation I made the decision to get serious about my fiction and I’ve never looked back. 

As for my favorite story to write, I’m not really sure.  I’m a big believer in the “write to entertain yourself” philosophy.  I may find more success writing courtroom thrillers, but that’s not what entertains me.  I suppose what entertains me, and thus what I usually end up writing, is epic, action packed, character driven adventures, usually with at least a little bit of romance sprinkled in.  I’ve done sci-fi, I’ve done some hard boiled police type stuff, but I think I probably fall mostly into the speculative fiction genre on what I like to write. 

MTI:  Well put.  If you had to pick the one author who has most influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

AC:  I have to say Robert A. Heinlein.  I discovered him when I was in the 6th grade when I picked up Starship Troopers at the library.  His work really blew me away, just from the grand ideas and also by showing me that even something spectacular and out there can have a message.  It’s not something I necessarily adopted, my work rarely has the sort of social weight that Heinlein so masterfully included, but just knowing it was possible and seeing him be such a wizard at doing it showed me that fiction, even science fiction, wasn’t just nerdy indulgence, but could have a deeper meaning.  That’s something that always stuck with me.  Plus, he’s also a masterful short story writer, which is something I’ve always wanted to be great at, so he inspired me a lot to focus not just on novels, but on short stories as well. 

MTI:  You can't go wrong with Heinlein!  Now, as you know, The Temporal Element is an anthology devoted entirely to time travel adventures.  These fictional accounts are fascinating, of course, but do you ever believe that humanity will discover a viable way to travel backwards and forwards through time?

AC:  I actually do think that we’ll eventually find a way to monkey with time.  I’m not convinced it’ll be anything like the time travel we see in our entertainment, but I’m fascinated by the idea of alternate timelines and branching timelines and things like that.  I think it’s entirely plausible that mankind will eventually find a way, either intentionally or unintentionally, to gain some sort of ability to manipulate time.  What form or fashion it’ll take on, or how it can/will be used isn’t something I have any clue about, but yeah, I think if you give science another hundred or so years they’ll get there, barring any cataclysms or armageddons.  Of course, maybe their messing with time will be what causes the cataclysms or armageddons…

MTI:  Regardless of the odds, if you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?

AC:  I’m a big believer in the time travel theory of being hands off on the past.  As much as you might want to go assassinate a young Hitler, the unknowns of how that will impact the present are too great.  So I’d probably do something much more low key.  I’d like to go back to biblical times and hang out somewhere and watch Jesus speak, that would be pretty rad.  I’d go to the parable of the sower speech he gave from Matthew 13:1, when the crowd was so large he went out on a boat and spoke from the water.  That particular parable has always inspired me to try to do good in the world, and it would be amazing to be there to see it originally spoken. 

MTI:  That sure would be something to see firsthand.  Thinking ahead, what one piece of futuristic technology would you like to own, or have for everyday use?

AC:  Everyone says teleporter, but I’m a big fan of driving.  I’m gonna go with a universal translator, something that automatically translates any language.  I think it would be pretty cool to have the ability to freely communicate with anyone at any time no matter what language they spoke. 

MTI:  Returning to the subject of your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

AC:  I am on the final few chapters of a standalone sci-fi novel about terraforming.  It’s been a lot of fun, and since most of my novel work so far has been book series that are ongoing, it’s been liberating to know it’s a one-off book.  It frees you up to just dump a bunch of crazy and over the top ideas into it without having to worry about how it impacts any future books or storylines.  Plus, it’s been a blast to create the industry of terraforming, and imagining how that might operate and what kind of people would choose it as a career. 

MTI:  Other than I'll Come Back for You appearing in The Temporal Element, do you have any other stories planned for publication in the near future?

AC:  My focus has been primarily on finishing up the novel and then on a few other novels that I need to write immediately after, so I haven’t done much else in recent months.  I tend to work in cycles, where I’ll go non-stop for three months and write a book and several short stories, and then I’ll follow that up with a month or so of only a small amount of writing while I recharge.  I’m just now ramping up into another busy cycle, so I’m excited to see what comes out of it. 

MTI:  As a journalist and news director, you have a lot on your plate.  Tell us a little about your job.  What's it like?

AC:  My job is awesome.  The media doesn’t have the best reputation, and when it comes to the mainstream media I’d agree that it’s pretty well deserved.  But being at a community newspaper in my hometown, I feel like we’re doing noble work informing the citizens and entertaining them.  I’m a pretty big introvert, so why I got myself into a job that forces me to be out in the community on a daily basis is beyond me, but I love it.  Just getting to know more about my city, who the people are that live here, how the local government really works, it’s been amazing. 

As for my day to day, it varies wildly.  I don’t have any kind of schedule, I’m just on when the news is happening and off when it’s not.  It can be maddening at times, never knowing if you’re going to have an easy week or if you’re going to be spending 13 hours a day covering a case in District Court, but it’s also exhilarating.  Plus, if I’m being honest, the sort of behind the scenes access you get as a media member is awesome.  I’m naturally curious, and as a part of my job I get to see behind the curtain of governments, businesses, sports, and many other things.  It gives you a unique view and understanding of the world around you.

MTI:  As busy as you are, you probably don't have a lot of time for entertainment, but when you get the chance, what sort of tv do you like to watch?

AC:  I’m a television fanatic.  Well done TV shows almost always capture my attention, as I’m just such a fan of character progression and ongoing story arcs.  I’ll watch anything from lawyer shows like The Practice to cop shows like The Shield to sci-fi stuff like Battlestar Galactica or even more romance/coming of age stuff like Felicity or Everwood.  My current favorites are Person of Interest, Suits, Elementary, The Americans, Justified, Dexter, Banshee, Being Human (USA version, never seen the BBC one), and probably a few others I’m not remembering.  I’m also a closet pro wrestling fan, and watch just about every wrestling show that comes on each week.  It’s an obsession from my childhood that I never shook.

MTI:  Is there any particular form of music you're listening to right now?

AC:  It’s become a cliché answer over the years, but I really listen to everything.  Rock, metal, country, jazz, classical, rap, I’m up for just about anything.  When writing, I tend to go towards music that can get an emotional response out of me, as it helps me to write dialog.  I actually have several playlists of just sad or dramatic music that I’ll put on repeat that helps me stay in a vulnerable state while I write.  I’m not sure when I developed that approach, but it helps me and so I stick with it.  Some of my favorite bands are Dream Theater, Joe Satriani, Led Zeppelin, Manchester Orchestra, Louis Armstrong, Little Hurricane, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Silversun Pickups, and Editors, just to name a few. 

MTI:  This has certainly been a thrilling interview.  Before we go, do you have anything you'd like to say to potential readers?

AC:  Contact writers.  It’s simple advice that so few people follow, but I think that if readers knew how impactful it can be when a writer hears from a reader, more of them would do it.  Writing is such a solitary experience.  You sit alone for months, sometimes years depending on the writer, pouring your heart and soul into a book.  The amount of people you get genuine feedback from is very limited, maybe a few test readers and an editor, and in the end, these are people who you’ve drafted to help you, so they’re required to tell you their thoughts.

You’d be shocked how deafening the silence can be when you release a book, even if you have the sales data that shows fifty, sixty, seventy people have bought it, you hear so little feedback.  Did they love it, did they hate it, do they want more of those characters, it’s so difficult to gauge that.  So without fail, every time I read a book, the first thing I do upon completion is get online, find the author’s website, and send them an email.  I usually keep it brief, and just say thanks for writing the book, I’ll tell them what I enjoyed about it, and that’s that.  You wouldn’t believe the responses I get, even from bestselling authors, who have emailed me back (every single author I’ve ever contacted emails me back, by the way, which is very cool) and just thanked me so profusely for the feedback.

Writers live in a desert, in a manner of speaking, and feedback from readers is the water they so desperately need and crave.  So I would just encourage everyone to take three minutes of your life when you finish a book, and shoot off an email to the author.  That small amount of encouragement carries a humungous amount of weight. 

MTI:  On that note, I think you'll agree that readers posting online reviews are big help too.  If even a tenth of the readers who read a book posted a review of it somewhere, life would be so much easier for up-and-coming writers.

As we close out this little chat, do you happen to have a few paragraphs of fiction you'd like to share? Perhaps something recently written that nobody's seen before?

AC:  Sure!  This is from chapter twentyish (chapter numbers will shift in the final edit) of my as yet unnamed terraforming sci-fi novel, which should be out in late Summer of this year. 

      A man in heavy golden armor started to emerge from the wormhole.  In his hands was a long black scythe.  Before he fully emerged, Brushfire slammed into him, driving the barrel of the mini-gun into the Legionnaire’s chest.  The Legionnaire fell backwards, disappearing into the wormhole. 

      Brushfire shoved his mini-gun into the wormhole and pulled the trigger.  The air around them was filled with screams as he cut down the Legionnaires who were gathered on the far side of the wormhole.  They couldn’t see what was happening, but as Brushfire slowly swept his gun back and forth, it was clear it was a massacre.  

      Soon bodies started falling out of the wormhole.  Golden armor was covered red with blood as Legionnaires tried to find safety by rushing out of the wormhole.  Those who made it were already badly wounded or dead, and a pile of golden bodies started to build up at Brushfire’s feet.  He had most of his gun shoved into the portal and wore a grim expression upon his face as he dispensed death at five hundred rounds a second.   

      The wormhole abruptly closed, leaving a fresh pile of corpses and very little of Brushfire’s gun behind.  The entire barrel had been cut away when the wormhole closed, and Brushfire held up what was left of his ruined gun and inspected it.  He threw it on the pile of bodies, then turned towards Nelson. 

      “I’m going to need a few of your pistols.” 

      Nelson pulled two of them free and handed them over without a word of protest. 

MTI:  Intriguing stuff.  Thank you, A.C., for a great interview.  Those who want to see his latest story publication can pick up a copy of The Temporal Element.

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