Today I am happy to welcome author David Hudnut to Readful Things. I recently read a horror novel by this man, and he certainly knows what he is doing! His most recent work and first full length novel, Night Walk is available now. You can find a link for it at the bottom of this page. David has a very unique writing style that will leave you at the edge of your seat!
You can see my review of Night Walk here
Please tell us a bit about yourself
Well, I like traveling, candle-lit dinners and walks on the beach, and um, oh wait…that’s my Match.com profile. Sorry. I’ll try to stick to the pertinent information. Let’s see…I used to obsessively build recreations of the vehicles from the movie Road Warrior out of LEGOs, I prefer first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons over all the new crap, and I think the hedge-maze scene at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is one of the greatest and creepiest moments in cinematic history.
You have a lot of varied interests. You are an author, an artist/illustrator and a musician, how do you find the time to do all of these things?
Besides using my time machine every night to travel backwards by four hours, I do it the usual way: I have no life. Well, not in the traditional sense. I work, work, work. Some people aim for day-to-day balance in their lives. I shoot for long-term balance. I’m making up for the vast laziness of my youth by spending all my spare time as an adult engaged in creative activities.
I love the horror genre, but feel in some ways it has lost the terror factor it used to have. What do you think about this?
In my opinion, a lot of the new horror books (and movies) should be called Gorror. In literature, people call it “Splatterpunk” but that always makes me think of Cyberpunk characters falling off of tall buildings and smashing to their deaths on the pavement below. Splatterpunk equals frequent eviscerations and enough blood to fill a swimming pool. I’m not a fan of the Splatterpunk genre, but I can’t deny the enjoyment that a very vocal readership takes from such books and movies. For me, there’s too much calculated sadism. Too much of that serial-killer thing of “I’m going to kidnap you and torture you and keep you as my sex-slave until I murder you.” For that reason, I’ve been telling people my novel Night Walk is a paranormal thriller. Horror no longer means Stephen King-style books. It means the “Saw” movie franchise.
When I think about your term “terror factor” and terror in general, I think of the ANTICIPATION of violence. Coincidentally, I just watched the film “Return To Oz” last night, and it has plenty of terror in it. Before Dorothy goes back to Oz, her Aunt & Uncle send her to a modern (as in 1899) brain doctor because Dorothy has been unable to sleep through the night since returning from Oz. The brain doctor shows off his electro-shock machine to Dorothy as if it were nothing more than a wonderful marvel of modern medicine that will “fix” her sleeping troubles and make her all better. Dorothy’s Aunt is 100% on board with the idea. The doctor shows Dorothy how the machine, with its dials and knobs, resembles a smiling face. I was seriously CREEPED out by this scene. And it’s in a G-rated Disney movie! THAT is what I call terror. And no serial killers or blood.
What first inspired you to start writing?
A creepy Halloween mask I saw at Gemco as a grade-schooler. (Anyone out there remember Gemco? For the youngins who don’t, imagine old-school Target or Walmart, but with a snazzy membership card (like Costco, but free.))
The Halloween mask was this scary evil clown with flaming orange hair, beady green eyes, and ghastly purple lips. A few days later, my grade-school teacher asked everyone in class to write a short story for Halloween. Perfect timing! I was all fired up about that mask, and wanted to capture in words the feelings it had evoked in me. I wrote a story, but it didn’t recreate the spirit I’d hoped for. My writing firefly died off for awhile, but flared up again some years later when I read “On A Pale Horse” by Piers Anthony. That book drove me to bang out a number of story fragments on my dad’s neglected electric typewriter, but I was too young and impatient to finish anything. Then Stephen King barged into my life. Reading “Salem’s Lot” enhanced my nightmare night-life significantly. That novel has a magic that made me want to be a writer, no matter what it took. I had read mainly fantasy up to that point, but Stephen King combined the real world I lived in with the otherworldly quality I loved about fantasy, a powerful combination. I instantly became Stephen King’s number one fan, and would have gladly chopped off his feet in exchange for his story-telling talents.
Who are some of your favourite authors, musicians and influences?
Of course Stephen King, who I’m pretty certain made a deal with the devil to gain his writing talents. Metallica (who obviously sold their souls for rock ‘n’ roll). And the movies of Clive Barker (and to a lesser degree his books). Hellraiser did a very important thing for the horror movie genre: it added an element of fantasy. In Hellraiser, Frank and Kirsty literally open a gateway to another dimension with the puzzle box, allowing Pinhead and the Cenobites show up. That blew my teenaged mind. I hate to spoil the terror here, but don’t you think “Pinhead and the Cenobites” sounds like the name of a bar band in the bar scene in Star Wars?
“Now Playing at Mos Eisley Space Port:
PINHEAD & HIS CENOBITES!!
Fridays and Saturdays.
What do you hope to accomplish with your writing and do you feel you are getting there?
Pay for my retirement.
Check back with me in five years on that one.
But seriously, entertain people with my stories by stirring up their emotions. I want my readers to laugh, cry, shout, bite their nails, stay up all night reading, then sleep only during the daytime because my books are so scary. Hopefully, some small number of people will find my novel Night Walk entertaining enough to tell a friend. And they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell…you get the idea.
What advice about marketing can you offer to other authors?
I can best articulate my thoughts on my experiences thus far with the following cartoon strip:
In a word: persistence.
A good friend of mine works in high-tech marketing. He reads a lot of how-to marketing books by people who are success stories in a range of business categories. His observation is that most people who have freaky overnight success don’t really know how they got there (even though they think they do and want to sell you their method), or have had a unique and unrepeatable journey to instant riches. Often, the groundwork to such riches takes years of work that no one ever hears about. Think Amanda Hocking, and Hugh Howey. Both wrote a lot of books over a number of years before BLAM! They suddenly started raking in cash. There are of course exceptions like Colleen Hoover.
There’s three aspects to marketing I think about constantly:
1. Hard Work
For most of us, it all boils down to hard work, constant experimentation, and a critical analysis of your methods. You can’t just throw money and time at marketing. You have to asses what works and what doesn’t. This is the scientific aspect of marketing. A simple example: I spend $100 on an internet banner ad that will run for one month. At the end of the month, have I made at least $101 in profit? If the answer is no, you need to adjust. This serves up the canned worms of a bigger discussion of course, one I’m dealing with right now. Is there a minimum amount of money that must be spent on ads for them to have any effect? For example, must one spend at least $2,000 (or $5,000 or whatever) on banner ads to see a 1% profit (e.g. $2,020 or $5,050) in sales? I don’t yet have the answers to that, but I’m sure entire departments at the Big 6 talk about this all day long.
From the first day I told my good friend in high-tech marketing that I was working on my first novel, he said “Start developing your marketing plan NOW. Better yet, before you write your book, you need to figure out WHO YOUR TARGET MARKET IS.” I, of course, ignored him. I knew who my target market was: Me, and all Stephen King fans. Ha. Ha. Ha. I laugh at myself now. Such a target market is far too broad. At the time, my logic seemed impenetrable, and focusing on writing an entire book was more than enough of a challenge. But you can bet as I write my second novel, I’m thinking about my target market in very specific terms the entire time. Who reads books like mine? How and where do they discover new books? Where do they actually buy them? Where and when can I place ads that I can actually afford, and my potential readers will see them?
I don’t know to what degree Amanda Hocking was thinking “I’m going to go after Stephanie Meyer’s market with my own series of Vampire books two years after Breaking Dawn’s release, while her fans are clamoring for more, AND ebooks take off.” But that’s what happened. I know Hocking has mentioned how much time she puts into marketing. I also know that quite a few Amazon reviewers describe her books as being highly derivative of Twilight. With Hugh Howey, I wonder: did he want to write more light sci-fi/space opera like his Molly Fyde books? Or did the blow-up success of “The Hunger Games” shift his writing focus to post-apocalyptic dystopia?
I think it’s safe to say that, yes, you can chase trends and perhaps be successful. But there’s no guarantee. You have to ask yourself: do you WANT to chase trends over the long term? I recently watched Howard Stern’s 2011 interview with Lars Ulrich, the drummer from Metallica. Stern emphasized the fact that Metallica has always done things their way. Having followed the band’s career from the early days, I can attest to that. They were not mega-stars for a LONG time. While I’d like to be rolling in self-published riches like Hugh Howey, there’s no guarantee that trend-chasing will get me there. So I’m sticking to my guns. Bang, bang.
Tell us about some of your other projects besides writing.
Well, for the metal-head inside all of us, I’m working on recording my first solo album, titled “HateBall.” I’ve got two tracks finished and posted on Youtube. A bunch of other tracks are in various stages of recording and mastering. With any luck, the album will be finished by the end of 2013.
I’m also in the process of finally putting together some art books. I’ve got mountains of art that have never seen the light of day, plus some dusty old work I did for Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and some now-defunct Wizards of the Coast game lines. Anybody remember Hecatomb or Dreamblade?
How do you deal with negative reviews of your work?
I tend toward the classic Kübler-Ross model of “The Five Stages of Grief.” First, denial. I tell myself that reviewers don’t know what they’re talking about. Second, anger. I call all of my friends and rant about how reviewers miss the point and that reviewers don’t GET me. My friends respond by telling me I’m awesome. Third, bargaining. I convince myself I must change my work to address ALL reviewer complaints, so that the reviewers will also tell me how awesome I am. Fourth, depression. I cry a lot in private. When the tears are gone, I realize that maybe there’s something to the criticisms. Fifth, acceptance. I look at the reviews as objectively as possible to see what I can take from them to improve my work. Every criticism, no matter how seemingly negative, usually contains something valid and relevant. I’m grateful for those.
In some cases, bad reviews are truly not relevant. As I’ve said in the past, never hand a Tom Clancy novel to a Danielle Steel fan and expect a positive–or even constructive–review. Scathing reviews of this nature can safely be ignored. On the flip side, I’ve learned that if you give a reader a story within their preferred genre (e.g. your early draft of a techno-thriller to a Tom Clancy fan), readers will forgive all manner of problems: typos, poorly constructed sentences, even lackluster plots AS LONG AS IT’S THE RIGHT STORY. You know the type: die-hard romance fans, fantasy fans, zombie fans, etc. They want their genre. Period. Give zombie fans a story with guns, knives and human-on-zombie violence, and those fans will be happier than pigs in zombie sh–! Ah, I mean refuse. Pigs in zombie REFUSE. That poses an interesting question: since zombies eat, do zombies sh–! I mean, do zombies, you know, digest? And does that mean they take zombie dumps? Do zombies use toilet paper? Or not wipe at all?
If a zombie sh!ts in the woods, does anybody hear it? Or clean it up? Do the bears clean it up? Does it turn the bears into zombie bears? Do zombie bears eat human zombies? Or only regular bears? Is there cross species zombie violence?
. What are your plans for the near future? Any more books yet to come?
Aside from World Domination? Marketing, marketing, marketing. And yes, working on my next novel, which I’m well into. I will say only that it’s not a post-apocalyptic dystopian YA thriller and has no zombies in it. Crap, there went half my fan base. But it does have demons. Lots of them. Grab your holy water and crucifix!
Anything else you would like to say to your fans, about life in general etc.
First and foremost, thank you to everyone who has supported my art, books, and music over the years. As many of the writers who visit your blog know, we often work in a vacuum while sweating over our creative works of love. Until we release our art out into the world for others to experience, it can be a lonely business. Knowing that there are people out there who actually look forward to our efforts makes it much easier to tolerate the lonely journey. Thank you to all of you guys.
And thank you, Ionia, for hosting my book and interview. You are a Woman amongst Women.
NIGHT WALK, the novel, by David Hudnut
The art of David Hudnut
Songs from the album HateBall by David Hudnut
The bloggy shenanigans of David Hudnut
Thank you David for the interview! Enjoyed having you on the blog:)