Thursday, March 28, 2013

Author Interview with @BrentHartinger

We are so pleased to have Brent Hartinger stop by our Blog today in a lead up to his next release 'The Elephant of Surprise' which comes out March 30th.  Brent is the author of The Russel Middlebrook Series: 'Geography Club', 'The Order of the Poison Oak', 'Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies' and 'The Elephant of Surprise'.  His first book of the series has been turned into a movie.  Check out the trailer for 'Geography Club' here.

So Brent, where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Spokane, and I live in Seattle now, on Green Lake. I've
spent most of my life in Washington State, but did live in Los Angeles
for a year and half, to help establish myself as a screenwriter (it
helped: I have two movie projects in the works).

What books have influenced your writing?
Well, the books I loved as a kid were The Chronicles of Narnia, The
Lord of the Rings, The Outsiders. Now I love Jacqueline Carey, George
R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Ken Oppel, Jonathan Stoud, and many

But I'm of the opinion that writers learn just as much, if not more,
from bad books. Which I absolutely refuse to name! But like everyone,
I read a whole lot of them. Sadly, I still do.

Where do you prefer to buy your books?

Basically, everywhere. I try to buy from independent bookstores
mostly, but I've been given a couple of Kindles as gifts, so I
sometimes buy ebooks too. I honestly can't think the last time I
bought a book in a chain.

I also get a lot of books from the library, and I get many, many books
and manuscripts sent to me (a perk of being a published author!). I
seem to read about three books a week, so if I paid for every book I
read, I'd be broke.

What book are you currently reading and in what format

I'm reading The Bridge of Years by Robert Charles Wilson (loving it,
but then I love all his books). It's a library paperback. Before that,
I read The Martian by Andy Weir (on my Kindle). Before that, I read
Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple in hardcover (another
library book). I liked the voice and the insider-y Northwest humor,
but was a little disappointed by the story.

Are there any Authors that have grasped your interest recently and why?

A couple of self-published authors who wrote terrific books: one
everyone knows about, Wool by Hugh Howey (it deserves all the
attention it's getting), and one that's a little less well-known: The
Martian by Andy Weir, the book I mentioned before, about an astronaut
who's left behind on the surface of Mars and has to figure out how to
survive. They're both top-notch books, among the best I've read in a

The fact that they're so very, very good, and that neither was
traditionally published, tells me things are changing rapidly in the
world of publishing. Hurricane ahead!

Do you buy a book by the cover?

Never. I learned that lesson when I was about twelve. But truthfully?
I think sometimes I DON'T buy a book that I might have otherwise
bought if the cover is truly awful, even though I know how totally
unfair that is. I have a lot of author friends, and I know for a fact
that there are a lot of great books with horrible covers. Even today,
after all the talk about horrible covers!

But a weird "group-think" sets in at publishing houses around book
covers: sometimes no one wants to admit it stinks. And, of course,
they never listen to the author!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Well, all the usual advice applies: read everything; learn the craft
(and the business!) of writing; network like hell; don't respond to
bad reviews; never be a jerk or a diva; get an agent to make sure
you're not being screwed, and never sign the first contract; be open
to criticism even as you hold fast to your vision.

But there's one piece of advice that I don't read that often.

When I was younger, I was under the impression that most everyone
shared my taste in books. I'd read some critical darling or a
bestseller, and I'd hate it, see all these flaws, and I'd think,
"Well, if people like this book, they're going to love mine!"

Now that I've been published, I understand that's not how it works:
everyone sees every book differently – REALLY differently. Those books
that I hate – that seem so obviously flawed to me? Other people really
do love them! It's not just that they haven't read the right books:
they'd probably read the books I love and hate them just as much as I
hate the books they love.

I won't say that awards and reviews sometimes seem completely random
to me – I still believe that cream usually rises to the top (not
necessarily with every good book, but definitely with every good
writer). And that the audience is usually right (although some
successes still do completely baffle me).

But the point is, you just can't control how people respond to your
book. I mean, I always knew it was out of the writer's control, but
it's REALLY out of your control.

But in a way, once you really internalize that, it's kind of
liberating. Because then you can stop worrying about how others will
react to your book and just write the damn book you'd love to read.

My favorite question are you a Night Owl or an Early Riser

I'm such a Night Owl that it's not even funny. My natural rhythm is
probably to be up until about 2 AM and get up at 10.

What do you normally eat for breakfast, or do you skip it and get
straight to work?

Uhhh, sometimes I get up so late that I do go directly to lunch
(yikes!). But if I have breakfast, it's a smoothie (yogurt, soy milk,
and frozen fruit) and toast or a bowl of oatmeal.

What are 4 things you never leave home without (apart from keys, money
and phone)?

Four things I WISH I always had with me: my sense of humor; a thick
skin; sun block; and my partner or a good friend to share whatever it
is I experience.

Stop by and visit Brent at his webpage, facebook, goodreads, tumblr, and twitter

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