Interview with author, playwright Jay Hartlove (part 3)

San Francisco Literary Speakeasy events at Martuni’s bar

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it. 

JH. I am working on a couple of things. I collect ideas over time and fit them into projects as appropriate. I always have a couple of projects simmering on back burners. My big love right now is a High Fantasy called The Dove and the Crow. My first novel, the learning exercise that shall never see the light of day, was a High Fantasy. I love those when they are done right, with genuinely original world building and dramatic situations. I have been collecting bits for this one for a couple of years and I am now up to a 25 page outline. I am also breathing new life back into a musical show I wrote but then abandoned. The rewrite is going slow but I love the piece too much to let it die.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JH. For years I wrote because I had ideas I wanted to explore and share. In my mid-thirties I realized that if I as going to spend years of my free time writing a book, then it really ought to be about something. Big themes became important to me. Goddess Chosen is about Revenge and Redemption. Goddess Daughter is about Loss and Forgiveness. Goddess Rising is about Justice. Mermaid Steel is about Cultural Erasure. The Insane God is about Accepting Change. I spent a while exploring the nature of evil. Lately I am exploring why people fall in love.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

JH. No. Maybe down the road, when technology is wet-wired into us and we can experience books in a virtual space. But eReaders are not going to replace paper books. eReaders are really convenient, and can store many books at a time. But anyone who grew up holding a book in their hands will always get a more fulfilling experience with a paper volume. The cover holding the pages just makes such a satisfying package. At least that’s my admittedly old person view.

Q. What makes a writer great?

JH. You have to love writing to get good at it. You have to see tens of thousands of your own words before you can hear your voice on paper. You have to be willing to admit your mistakes and shortcomings and to go back and learn and try again. A great writer is like any great artist. If you can say what you wanted to say, and have no second thoughts, no regrets, no further edits, in other words, convey completely what you were trying to say, then you have created what you set out to create. If you have developed the skills to convey your message, then you are an artist. The audience may love it or hate it, but if you gave them what you meant to give them, then you have done your job.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?


Best in Show at the 1985 San Diego ComicCon

JH. I write in iterative drafts. I will get an idea and jot it down in a three-page synopsis. If it resonates with me, I will add to it and start to fill in details. This will grow to a ten-page synopsis. If that catches fire, I will structure it into a sequence of events and really start engineering my characters. By the time it is a 20-page outline, I am usually excited enough to start writing prose. That’s where I am now with The Dove and the Crow. It is also around this time I figure out what the book is really about and why I am excited to write it. This becomes the book blurb and the touchstone I will use to get through writer’s block and procrastination. Although I follow my outline so as to tell a cohesive story, I allow my characters to take me on alternate paths if that’s what’s right for them. So I am not a strict outliner and I am not a seat-of-the-pants writer, I am somewhere on a spectrum. I will often stop just before the final conflict

Jay as Dr. Anton Phibes from the “Abominable Dr. Phibes” winning Best Recreation at CostumeCon 8 in 1990

resolution and look back at what has transpired so far. I want to make sure I’ve wrapped up all my loose ends and that I am headed toward a resolution that will satisfy what the reader expects based on the trajectory of the story. Once I finish the draft, I will put it down for a week or more before tackling Round Two. Neil Gaiman put it brilliantly. “The second draft is where you make it look like you knew what you were trying to say all along.” Round Three is where I put in all the new details I’ve thought of since I started the project. At that point I ask myself if I have said everything I ever wanted to say in this story. If the answer is Yes, then I am done.

Did you miss Part 1 and 2 of this excellent interview? Click here


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