Interview with Writer, Jay Hartlove (part 2)


TS. While an entertaining interview, this one is also instructional, without being ‘preachy’.  Jay is a writer’s writer.  This is such a worthwhile read for other writers! 

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

JH. When I started writing in the 1980s before laptop computers, I hand wrote everything in spiral bound notebooks on commuter trains and lunch hours. Then I would edit as I typed the text into my computer at home. I wrote two novels that way. The first was an embarrassing lesson in how not to write a book. The second one eventually became my highly successful Goddess Chosen thriller. I still carry a small notebook whenever I think I might have downtime to jot ideas. I do most of my productive work at home late at night, so I just type directly.

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?
If yes, tell us about it.

JH. I wrote, produced, and directed my original musical sequel to Snow White in 2018. The Mirror’s Revenge ran for three weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area and got rave reviews. I loved the collaboration with the composers, the musicians, and mostly the actors. When they occupied the characters, they started seeing things I had missed, even though I had worked on the script for ten years. I try to write from inside the characters’ heads, but myactors brought a whole new level of insight. They really brought the story to life. I loved that so much, I am working on another show. I learned my lesson of not trying to do everything myself, but I will definitely be putting on another show.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

JH. Remember what got you excited about writing your story in the first place. Try to write a sentence that captures that spark, that thing that makes this story different and special. Such a phrase often makes an excellent cover blurb. Blurbs should not tell the plot, but rather tell why this story is exceptional. Your original inspiration was strong enough to make you drop everything else and write this story. Keep that inspiration at hand throughout the writing.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters? What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

JH. I write largely in science fiction and fantasy, so I almost always start with the “What if?” proposition. That means I know what will happen in the story first. As soon as I see that much, I move to ask who would be the best person to tell this story, or for this story to happen to. I do a lot of reverse engineering to design characters who have the right background, the right opinions, the right fears and motivations to tell this story. No matter what you do with a character, their actions and reactions must seem completely in character to the reader. Otherwise the reader sees the heavy hand of the author moving things into place. The only way to ensure that believability is to engineer the characters to have all the qualities they will need as the story unfolds.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

JH. I was lucky enough to have grade school teachers who fed my imagination. I grew up on books like “A Wrinkle in Time” and the Danny Dunn mysteries. Star Trek was just coming on the air when I was nine years old. Middle school was Frank Herbert and C.S. Lewis. High school was Heinlein and Clarke. I became a huge science fiction movie fan. I skipped my older brother’s high school graduation to see “The Andromeda Strain.” I scored off the charts for language aptitude. My parents pushed me into a science education, but as soon as I was out of college I started writing science fiction. In 1980 I self-produced Supergame, one of the first table-top role playing games to use comic book superheroes. By 1985 I had finished the first draft of a sword-and-sandal fantasy novel. And the rest is history.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

JH. I joke that my muse is called “Eleven.” After I finish the evening’s affairs, and my family have all retreated to their own corners to wind down, I sit down to write, usually around eleven o’clock. If she doesn’t show up, and I can’t get into the flow, then I go to bed and get some sleep. If Eleven does show up, and I get into the zone, I will write obliviously until I pass out on the keyboard around 2 or 3 am. So if I have a good night writing, I have a bad day at work the next day.
Join us next week for part 3 of this wonderful Interview.

Did you miss the beginning? Click here


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