Author Gary Hayes came to me on Sunday and told me he was finally ready for an interview. I was ready, he was ready and my proofreader was ready. We started chatting and soon I could see that this was going to be one great interview. This week, I decided to make Novel Ideas better. I needed an interview for the “Hot Picks” page and who better than a talented author like Gary Hayes? Let Gary tell his story to you!
Q) Great to meet you Gary– so how did you get mixed up in this crazy world of writing?
A) I’ve been writing for about 30 years, all my life really, but I took several years off to pursue a Music degree and a Martial Arts career. Yeah, I know, doesn’t seem compatible, but you’d be surprised at the similarities.
Q) Could you tell me about the similarities? I’m sure readers would love to know how it feels to connect all of those arts. This may be a pioneering thought– martial arts and writing together!
A) I’m a pianist/keyboard player, and much of what you do in practice is getting your fingers to obey your mind. Lots of repetition, techniques, strengthening the muscles, etc. Then in performance, it’s all about flowing with the music, reading the other performers, adjusting to what they are doing.
In Martial Arts, it’s exactly the same. A good fighter is like a good musician. Preparation by learning techniques and strengthening the necessary muscles. Then learning to read your opponent, anticipating his moves, going with the flow of the fight.
Many things learned in one discipline translates easily to the other, if you look at it right.
Q) Do you believe good writing skills take time to learn– like the skills used in martial arts or those used by musicians?
A) Absolutely. Although some people are born storytellers, the mechanics of writing is a learned thing. And the better one understands how to express certain ideas and feelings, the better the story flows.
I’m still learning about commas. Nasty little buggers.
Q) Talking about commas, do you use a proofreader? Do you use an editor? Do you agree that writers should use professional help?
A) Personally, I need all the help I can get. I’m in a professional writers group called Dark River Writers. Each person in the group has published professionally. Some, like Brad Strickland, have sold many, many books and stories. Brad is also an English professor at North Georgia College. Everyone in the group has read my stuff and made numerous corrections. I’m still fighting typos though. Even after repeated readings by professionals they just keep sneaking in.
Q) I have the same problem. I always use an editor for these interviews. Nothing worse than a badly written interview, eh? Can you tell me about your latest book? What is it called?
A) My most recent novel, out just this week, is Beneath Castle Walls, Book 4 in my serialized novel Sleag’s Quest. It’s an epic fantasy with what I hope are some interesting differences from typical fantasy stories.
Q) Interesting title! What is “Sleag’s Quest” about?
A) Sleag, the greatest warrior in the world, is forced to rescue his wife and son from an evil wizard who has taken over her kingdom. He assembles a band of colorful characters, a stable boy, an innkeeper, a powerful witch and her equally powerful teenage daughter, and a master swordsman who all agree to help him on his rescue quest. Things get complicated very quickly.
Q) Do you believe that “Sleags Quest” is your best work so far?
A) Yeah, and getting better with every typo. Ha. I started it about ten years ago and the more I live with it, the more I see interesting things to bring out. It’s like the Star Trek movie Wrath of Kahn at the end when Spock says, “Remember.” That was not in the original script and just sort of a throw away Nemoy came up with. Then it becomes a whole ‘nother movie.
I keep finding things like that in Sleag all the time that make the book oh so much richer. I love it when things from early on all come together at the end.
Q) Tell me about your writing process. How do you write? Do you like music in the background? What helps you get into the writer’s groove?
A) I’m a seat-of-my-pants writer. I don’t like doing an outline, although I’ve found that my first draft is actually a very long outline. Music, yeah, got to have music. But nothing with lyrics, too distracting. I like to hear the words in my head and often speak them aloud. Rhythm and flow is so important to my writing. I don’t like clunky sentences. But after 30 years of writing, all it takes to get me in the groove is sitting down and hitting those keys.
Q) Tell me about your personal publishing experience. What turned you onto the Kindle Direct Program?
A) Well, this is my first published book. It runs about 225,000 words. Agents and editors I contacted all said it was too big to take a chance on. One agent actually said books that big intimidated him. This surprised me because most fantasy books are real door-stoppers. So, after years of shopping it around I decided to serialize it and go with Amazon’s Kindle Direct program.
So far, I am very pleased. It’s selling better than I expected, and I still have two more books to go in the series. So, yeah, I’m very proud of Sleag’s Quest. I think I’ve got some really great covers, too. It’s the kind of book I would love to read.
Q) So what tempted you to come over and get interviewed by me? Did you see my previous work?
A) Yes. I’ve read several interviews. And of course I get your Facebook posts. I’ve always believed that books are the best, most fun, most interesting, most rewarding things anyone can buy. Everyone should be excited about books. Everyone should do all they can to help other writers. I used to work for Waldenbooks (15 years) and I loved turning people on to new writers and having them come back and buy more of the same. So, I really appreciate what you do. It’s a joy, pure joy to read about new writers.
Q) Talking of loving books! Who are your own favourite authors?
A) Long, long list all over the map. Starting with Dickens, Shakespeare, Jack London, Vern and Wells, and moving on to Asimov, Clark, Heinlein, Niven, Norse, Norton, Tolkien, of course, C.S. Lewis, and on and on. More recent: Scott Card, Rothfuss, and especially Scott Lynch. Lies of Locke Lamora is the best thing I’ve read in a long, long time. Oh, and let’s not forget Bradbury!
Q) So how do you feel about writing? Is it a creative need for you? Is it a way to make extra money? What drives you as a writer?
A) Definitely a need. Money is always nice. I’ve made more this past year than any other, mostly on short stories. By the way, I’ve got a Steampunk story coming out in Clockwork Fairytales from Tor in June. It’s a novella, and I’ve very proud of it. I’ve always loved reading, and to be able to write my own stories is wonderful.
Q) What do you personally think about paying for interviews on blogs? Recently, even I have come under fire for being paid to do this. Do you believe interviews should be free?
A) Everybody needs to make a living. When I was in college, I took a piano pedagogy class. It was all about teaching piano. The big thing, the first thing they emphasized was, “Your friends will want you to teach them how to play for free. Do not do it. They will not appreciate what you teach them and they will not practice.” If you worked for a big magazine and got paid for doing interviews it would be different. Somebody has to pay for your time and experience. That’s life. Nothing is free. Live your life and help others as much as you can. Nobody writes for free, at least nobody successful.
Q) What does it feel like to be a published author? Has it changed you in anyway?
A) It’s pretty great to go to a bookstore and see your book, or an anthology with your story, sitting on the shelf. And right now, having a thousand people reading my books is frankly unbelievable. I think it would have been better if it had all happened when I was much younger and could have enjoyed it like in a movie. But, hey, I’ll take it any way I can get it.
Still, it’s always about the next book or story, isn’t it? No matter how great the feeling is now at this moment, I still have so much more to write. Let me tell you a story. . . .
Check out the Sleag’s Quest series below!