Interview with Rebecca Hodgkins

Hodgkins Me in the PNWRebecca Hodgkins has a background in magazine journalism and graphic design.  Her first novella, This Dance, These Bones is the third book in the Night Marshal series featuring Jack Talon and Nancy Dancehall.  She is currently at work on a novel about Nancy Dancehall and the Mission of St. Magdalene, and having a heck of a time deciding if This Dance, These Bones is cannon. She’s also at work on a Denver-based ghost story romance.
Just Another Love Letter, a novel about angels behaving badly, is currently in production and will be released in Fall, 2013.
She lives in Colorado with her husband and twin sons, a dumb-but-loveable Jack Russell Terrier named Sam, and a big, fluffy Norwegian Forest Cat named Grace but referred to as Kitteh.

1.       What kind of experience do you have in magazine journalism?

My first college degree was in magazine journalism.  I’d wanted to be a war correspondent, but that didn’t work out.  Instead, I worked in Chicago at a magazine for process control engineers.  It was a far-cry from the battlefield, but it satisfied my geek brain.  I’d probably still be there, but my fiancé at the time was a native Coloradoan, and Coloradoans don’t transplant well.  My first job in Colorado was at a company where I worked overnight writing news stories for radio and uploading them to satellite.  It was awful – the office was in the worst part of Denver, I was there alone, I was sleep-deprived and half the time the satellite uplink didn’t work.  It was more fun to write for an underground art magazine and do opinion articles for 5280, a Colorado lifestyle magazine.  I transitioned into graphic design and worked full-time freelance for ten years.  These days, any non-fiction writing I do involves the medical industry – I’m a nurse now too, and my geek brain is tuned in to disease processes and how to combat them.

 

2.       Do you still use your graphic design skills?

Yes.  I do book layout for print and ebooks and the occasional cover.

3.       What kind of editorial work do you do?

I do everything from copy to content editing, depending on what an author needs from me.  I love working with other authors.  I love stoking that enthusiasm.  Books are babies, and I get to say, “Hey, your baby is going to be beautiful, once you work out this little snag here.” When you’re writing, you don’t always see where your own book goes off the rails or doesn’t go deep enough.  When I edit, I don’t tell the author how to fix a problem, but I find ways to get them to see how they can fix it themselves.  Often, the answer is already there in the book, it just needs to be pulled through.

4.       Most authors either love or hate short stories. What’s your feeling?

I love them!  I think it takes far more skill to write a really great short story than a novel.  If you want to improve your craft, write some short stories.  They demand more from you, both as a writer and a reader.  As a writer, you can’t waste a single word in a short story.  You have to develop characters, build a world, and design a fast-moving and/or deep plot, all in the space of a page to twenty-five pages.  But, while they demand all your skill, short stories don’t demand a great amount of your time.  The most successful short story I’ve written, “The Rocketeer”, only took about two hours to write.  I wrote it in honor of Ray Bradbury not long after he died.  Bradbury is the king of short stories.  “Homecoming” is the reason I became a writer.  It is far richer that many novels I’ve read.  So, I love them both as a writer and a reader.

5.       How many different branches of Speculative Fiction do you dabble in?

All of them.  I’ve written sci-fi, urban fantasy, steampunk, horror, magic realism, you name it.  Blame Bradbury!

6.       What was your path to publication?

I’ve taken both traditional and non-traditional paths.  I’ve had articles published in traditional print magazines, short stories in print and online ‘zines, and indie-pubbed books.

Hodgkins FINAL EBOOK COVER FLIGHT RISK7.       Does living in Colorado influence your writing?

Absolutely.  My first novel, “Flight Risk” is set initially in Colorado, before the characters go flying off to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.  I love the Old West in general – gunslingers, Indians, the free spirit of the pioneers, the soiled doves.  Fun fact – I’m an expert on prostitution west of the Mississippi prior to 1950.  You should see my library on the subject.  My second book, “This Dance, These Bones”, focuses on a group of ex-prostitutes in the Old West trying to make their way to a safe haven, when they encounter a demonic preacher who wants to destroy them and a vampire who tries to save them.  I’m working on a series that continues where “This Dance, These Bones” leaves off. Part of the series will take place in Colorado.

Hodgkins Cover this dance these bones FINAL 28.       The three Night Marshal Books are written by three different authors. How did this collaboration come to be?

I’d wanted to meet Gary Jonas (creator of the Night Marshal Series) for some time.  I read his “Modern Sorcery” (It’s the first book in a great urban fantasy series, so check it out) and fell in love with one of the characters – the ghost of a Roaring Twenties flapper named Esther.  When I learned he was planning a series about a vampire marshal in the Old West and wanted to open it up to other writers, I got very excited. I was already working on a book about the aforementioned ex-prostitutes, and immediately thought of a scenario where they could encounter Jack Talon, the Night Marshal.  I pitched “This Dance, These Bones” to Gary and he loved it.  The rest is history.

9.       What other collaborations are you working on?

I’m working with another extremely talented Colorado writer named Aaron Michael Ritchey, who has just launched a sci-fi-heavy steampunk series called “The Juniper Wars.”  Imagine a future where wars and a sterility epidemic have wiped out most of the men and left 90% of the rest sterile, and the remaining women have created a society with Victorian values and high-tech gadgets.  Smack-dab in the middle is a place called The Juniper – the American West where Yellowstone has erupted and caused a permanent electromagnetic field that doesn’t allow for electronics.  It’s a lawless place where Warlords rule and cattle runs can cost you your life.  Aaron approached several writers to contribute short stories set in The Juniper to support his series, and I was lucky enough to be one.  My story focuses on one of the main characters, Wren, delving into her past.  That will be released through WordFire Press early next year.

10.   What Colorado writers (besides me, of course!) do you think more people should know about?

Rebecca Hodgkins and AmyBeth Inverness at Ikea

Rebecca Hodgkins and AmyBeth Inverness at Ikea

This could take a while!  Colorado has such a vibrant writing scene.  And, there may be a few who are not technically Colorado writers. First, everyone should read your Luna series.  It’s nice to have some character-driven sci-fi out there.  Gary Jonas for his urban fantasy and fun UFO conspiracy series.  Aaron Michael Ritchey for some heartfelt YA (“The Never Prayer”, “Long Live the Suicide King, and “Elizabeth’s Midnight”) and a new take on steampunk.  Carrie Vaughn for her Kitty series.  Fellow Marshal writers – Glenn Sixbury and Gary PiserchioDeAnna Knippling for being great and creating a welcoming community for Colorado writers.  Mario Acevedo for being hilarious. And I can’t forget Kent Johnson!

11.   If you could design your ideal writing space, what would it be like?

It would be in constant flux.  I’ve written everywhere – in planes, trains and automobiles; coffee shops and libraries and bookstores; I’ve written in cold, damp basements and at Disneyworld; I’ve written in corporate breakrooms and public restrooms (though not on the walls). All these places were great in their own way.  There is no ideal for me.  The ideal is wherever I can get the story down.

12.   How much world-building do you do?

Too much.  Tolkien wrecked me in that regard.  I read “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” at age six and then immediately pieced together a dictionary of Elvish.  With runes.  Most of my life, I’ve been desperate to escape this world and find a better one.  So when I write, I tend to create worlds down to the microbes, and then I get lost running down every last rabbit trail of an idea. That’s one of the reasons why I like to collaborate.  There are pre-set boundaries I have to keep to, but I can also dig deeper into a character or a situation.

13.   Do the twins, the hubby, the cat and the dog involve themselves in your writing career?

Yes, usually when I’m in the middle of a brilliant thought.  Kidding.  They are very encouraging and indulgent when I go pacing past them muttering, “Dammit, I forgot to put God in the bathroom again!”  Though my husband has been known to quote Calvin and Hobbes – “Keep me out of your life’s plans, you little weirdo.”

14.   Do you write your first drafts with the door open or the door closed?

Open door, but hunched over so no one can see what I’m writing.

15.   What is your editing/revision process?

When I sit down to write, I read aloud what I wrote the day before.  That way, I get back into the story and I pick up typos and clunky sentence structure.  I get ideas for where I want to go next (I’m a hybrid pantser/plotter).  So, I edit as I go along.  My first drafts tend to be very clean.  Then, it’s off to the Beta Readers, who tell me what works and what doesn’t.  I might change a few things after that.

16.   What is your greatest distraction from writing?

Resistance, as defined by Steven Pressfield.  He wrote a wonderful book called, “The War of Art” where he describes Resistance as anything that keeps us from creating.  It can be the Internet, or other people, or the quest for perfection, or that tiny voice inside your head that says you are an idiot and might as well be working in the Black Hole of Calcutta using a crayon.  All these things have distracted me from writing.

17.   What is your favorite electronic writing tool?

It changes as much as my favorite writing place.  I have to change things up to fool myself into being creative.  Otherwise, it starts to feel like work.  Right now, I’m using the Word app on my iPad with a Cirago Bluetooth keyboard.  It’s light and portable and since Safari sucks so much, I’m not as tempted to surf.

18.   What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?

Index cards and markers.  Every character gets their own color.  Every scene, quote, idea, etc. gets their own card.  I can get non-sequential ideas down fast, and then play with plot by moving the cards around.  It’s like shooting a movie.  Right now though, I’m using a 5” x 4” notebook and writing some entire scenes, then plot points, then character quotes.  I type what I’ve written into my iPad and continue scenes there.  It’s proving to be a fun method, and keeps my left brain confused so the right brain can do its thing.

19.   What social media do you use as a writer?

Mostly Facebook.  And actual people.  I miss Blogger.  I made a lot of friends through Blogger and tightened up my writing there.

20.  Who shot first, Han or Greedo?

I don’t care what George Lucas says, it was HAN!

You can contact Rebecca for editing at for editing at hodgkins.rebecca@gmail.com

Rebecca and I met up at Ikea (a lovely place for a meetup, BTW) Here’s the video question “Do you always wrestle with your demons, or sometimes do you just snuggle?”

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About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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