Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Dannie C. Hill
6/20/2011 9:14:24 PM
Author and publisher, Dannie C. Hill discusses his works and the writing life!
LTS: For todayís guest blog, Iíd like to introduce you to Dannie Hill, author and owner of Small Mountain Publishing Company based in Houston, Texas. Iíd like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Dannie. What do you like to do when youíre not writing?
DCH: Iíve live in Thailand most of the time with my wife for the past seven years. We have a small farm in the central part of the country and although farming is hard work, it exercises my body while relaxing my mind. Iíve learned to speak Thai and even read at about third grade level. I have two motorcycles and I love to ride out in the country and meet the farmers and rural people of Thailand. Itís sometimes like the circus has come to town when I show up in a tiny village. Many have never met a white man and one who can speak to them a bit. I find joy in meeting these down to earth people and their children.
I was born and raised in North Carolina, but at a young age I longed to venture out into the world. My first big adventure was fighting in the Army in Viet Nam. Even in war I learned to love foreign lands and the people who werenít trying to kill me, ha!
I have lived in the Marshall Islands for two years where my love of the sea was refined.
I also lived in Budapest for a short while and found the wonderful Hungarian people a delight. I have even helped build a church in Brazil. I brought back much more from that project than I gave!
Iím also an avid sailor, but have been grounded for several years due to lack of a boat.
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream?
DCH: If someone told me I had to write even a letter in my youth I would have run for the woods laughing. I did read and wondered at how an author could make a book, but never thought I could. The one thing I did then and still do is daydream. It didnít serve me too well in school but now I can see, hear or read almost anything and begin to make a story out of it. Even an errant thought will send me down an exciting road. Writing for meóand I think many writers-- is something I must do to save my sanity and put me at peace with myself.
LTS: Your novel, ĎIn Search of a Soulí has been receiving great reviews. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Douglas Durian?
DCH: I was fed up with agents. I had written a very good fantasy that used an easy to read style and the few agents who spoke to me told me it was just not what they were looking for. The vocabulary wasnít strong enough.
In my frustration I decided to show them that I could write a story with prose and higher language. I chose three things to start ĎIn Search of a Soulí: A girl with startling green eyes from a very old copy of National Geographic: A Navy SEALómy son was working with the SEALs at the time: and the sea, which has been in my blood for a very long time.
Poor Douglas Durian took on many of my faults and fears along with mental suffering from something he did as a SEAL. He is a man anguishing and could think of no way out except to wait for the end by sailing all alone on the ocean. He is a great main character, but needs help in seeing his life renewed. Douglas is a dangerous man, but doesnít remember that part of his life.
To be honest the book intentionally starts out slowólike that of a man suffering from his past. Then he rescues a small girl far out at sea and she becomes his strength andÖ well read and see.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal whatís in store for the readers when they crack open ĎIn Search of a Soulí?
DCH: Anyone who feels the touch of the sea while walking along the shore or enjoys a story of possible redemption will enjoy this tale. It is also a good adventure in which a man pits himself against the sea, other men and his own feelings all for the sake of a wonderful child who has escaped servitude. I think readers will enjoy Douglasís sailboat, Tirak, and the symbiotic relationship that Douglas has with her.
I try not to get too technical with the sailing but do use enough terms that another sailor can appreciate the journey. For those who have never sailed long distances my book will give you a feeling of being there that I believe will touch you in ways you never imagined. When at sea there are only three truths: the sea, the sky and the boat.
I have yet to find a reader who didnít enjoy the lyrical quality of my writing and the sense of being out on the beautiful sea.
In Search of a Soul is also an adventure story that I enjoyed writing. I usually write with strong female characters and this book is no exception.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. Do you have any advice youíd like to share with the author struggling to find representation through a literary agent?
DCH: I tried-- early onóto please and intrigue an agent into representing me and quickly found that I wasnít able to write very short pieces in which I could express myself. I have since become more proficient at shorts but have given up the need for an agent- for now. I decided then to be an independent author and even through it is a great amount of work, I am able to keep the rewards of my labor.
For writers seeking representation, I would advise them to practice, practice, practice those one page queries and one or two page pitches in order to gain the attention of an agent or publisher. Even if you do find one you will still have to do most of the marketing, internet, meet and greet projects all on your own. One big piece of advice is to find other writers. Through them you will find peers willing to help, encourage and become great friends.
LTS: Becoming a published author is truly a difficult road to travel, so what made you decide to start the Small Mountain Publishing Company?
DCH: To be honest, I didnít have a clue about what it took to be a published author when I started. I wrote four manuscripts without stopping and only learned enough to make them look like manuscripts. I then began to read books on what it took to find an agent; what would an agent do for me, and how to format my manuscripts. Thatís when I discover just how many writers there are attempting the same thing. I didnít give up and when I decided to self-publish I learned all I could about the correct direction to go in. Small Mountain Publishing came about as something I could use as a name instead of my ownómaybe not to announce that I was self-published. Iím proud of that fact now, but still keep the publishing name. Small Mountain= Hillóget it?
LTS: Is there a reason why you decided to go with CreateSpace over a company like Lightning Source that uses one of North Americaís largest distribution company, Ingrams?
DCH: I looked at many of the different printing services and I considered Lightening Source and CreateSpace two of the best. I think it all came down to me understanding what I needed to do and CreateSpace fit me the best. It is associated with Amazon and it is very easy to get your book information along with some other features to Amazon. CreasteSpace also offers distribution to other networks. I may in the future switch to another printing service but for now Iím happy with what CreateSpace has to offer and the ease of getting things done.
LTS: I know your books are available for Kindle, is there a chance they will be available in other formats to accommodate other mobile ereaders through a company like Smashwords.com in the future?
DCH: I have put both of my published books on Smashwords and they are available in all the different formats. Iím still learning how to get the word out. Iím also getting ready to start my own BlogóPlease, wish me luck, Ha!
LTS: What is the most important lesson youíve learned on the road to publication?
DCH: For me, the most important lesson is to make the time to writeóno matter what else I am doing. During my learning about the publication process I would have fits because I wasnít able to put any effort into writing. So now my number one rule is to set aside a part of my day to work on my books!
Another thing Iíve learned is take my time and do it right! I couldnít believe the time it took to go from finishing the first draft to ready to print. Iíve read some self-published books that had a decent story but the formatting and grammar were embarrassing to read. I knew I didnít want that for my books. I would recommend getting an editor you can trust and listen to her/him. Some people have an ability to self-edited, but personally I think they are one-in-a-million. It seems to me a near impossible effort to final-edit your own work. Itís akin to beating your children so they will look good to others. Itís nearly impossible to do. If you are going to make the effort to put a book out for others to read then take the time to do it right. Remember: We do what we do for the readers. Give them quality and they will return. Think of the readers in all you do.
In all this itís all about time. Take the time and even let your work rest for several months before you get down to the nuts-and-bolts of making it better.
LTS: Iím curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
DCH: I do my best writing- of my novels- early in the morning with few distractions. I usually start around 5:00am and sometime go until the afternoon. Other times I only write for a few hours or until I finish a thought or chapter. It sets the entire day for me if I do something positive with my manuscripts.
Itís becoming more difficult with trying to market and getting my name out there, but at the same time I have enjoyed meeting so many new and great writers! They have opened my eyes to a world I only dreamed of a few short years ago. Without my friends and peers I know I wouldnít be the writer I am today.
I do believe that in order to improve you must try to write every day.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
DCH: Thatís easy. Iím a pantser. I start with one or two characters, an idea, and a possible ending. After that I just get out of the way and let the story come. Iíve been asked, when I let someone read a bit of a new work, ďWhat happens next?Ē I really donít knowóOh, I may have an idea but I truly let the characters come and go and decide what to do. Itís so much fun to be surprised by what happens next.
I admire writers who can plot and outline an entire story. It seems like such hard work. Iíve even tried it but inevitably the story runs off my chart and I just let it go.
I will say this: When I am writing a novel, I think about the plot all day long as I go about my life. I even dream about it, so in a way I guess I do plan things out but itís all in my head. I have a lot of empty space up there so thereís plenty of room for the story to move around, Ha!
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
DCH: My daydreams are my fuel. Iíll drink one cup of coffee in the morning but thatís it. Sometimes Iíll have a few drinks in the evening and thatís when poetry comes out of me. I do love poems and poets. I once read that writers make pictures with their words but poets give words power. In writing I try to combine the two. Itís a meager attempt but sometimes I amaze myself.
As a writer it might do wonders for your skills to learn poetry. I am no great poet but it is another type of learning for me. I want to be good at what I do and am willing to try different things in order to improve.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writerís block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
DCH: I never knew what that meant when I first started to write. I could write about a suggestion, a picture, an emailóreally anything and come up with something I liked.
I recently had to go back to the States to care for my mom, who was having health problems. I loved the idea of paying her back for all the things she did for me as I grew. After a few months I found I couldnít get anything going. I blamed it on trying to write short stories but it was more than that. It nearly drove me crazy. It was a wall I couldnít climb. Now I know what writers block is and I donít like it! I closed my laptop except to go on the internet. A friend suggested I try Twitter. Twitter? I didnít have a clue, but since I was no longer a writer I thought I would try. She got me started and I kept thinking, what a waste of time. I was learning to be concise but not much more. Then I found a place where writers met and a new world opened to me. Through them and reading their works I found a way to open up and begin to write again. I owe them all so much.
All I can say is, if you hit the wall donít give up. Relax and do something different until that feeling returns.
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
DCH: My favorite authors use to be the famous ones. I am a voracious readeróeven if a bit slow. JRR Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Wilber Smith, Steinbeck, Dickens and the list goes on. I was a reader long before I even thought about being a writer. The worlds they brought to my room were worlds I wanted to visit again and again. I believe I learned more about vocabulary, grammar, and the world from them than any other thing I have done.
Now Iím learning an entire new class of writers. I read independent writers and cannot believe the talent that is out there waiting to be read. In every genre there are talented writers coming along and I have found new worlds to explore.
For readers today there is such a wealth of talented, great writers and you really should look into the modern independent writers.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery youíve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
DCH: Like most writers I write because I must. As a fiction writer I didnít start out to become famous, rich or even published for that matter. By writing I have found a way to heal wounds from my pastÖ things I should have done, things I did and regret and missed opportunities.
In my writing I have found a way to layer messages of hope and kindness and bring it to readers without interfering with the story. I know I have touched otherís livesóthey have told me and that in itself means more to me than all the gold in the world!
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
DCH: I am so glad you asked me this question! If you hadnít I would have found a way to insinuate the answer into this interview. I am reading A Warriorís Tale (Imago Chronicles Book 1) written by Lorna T. Suzuki! Iím about 95% of the way through this beautiful tale.
Fantasy has always been my first love in reading and your book has renewed my love. This is the best Fantasy tale I have read in a long time and I am enjoying your voice and feelings as you present it! Believe me, Iím not saying this because of this interview. You have written a book that captured me from the start! I grew tired of all the impossible names, languages and the massive amounts of magic in many modern Fantasies.
Imago is a real, honest, wonderful tale of a world that could be. Itís the characters and not the landscape that make this book so good. I will be reading all of your books and I know I will enjoy them.
I met you through Twitter and right away I was captured by your strength. It has been a great pleasure for me to get to know a little about you and I am more impressed every day.
LTS: Thank you so much, Dannie, youíre so sweet and it means so much coming from a writer I respect! Now, what do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to ĎIn Search of a Soulí in the near future?
DCH: I have already published a Young Adult, Adult sea adventure and have a Fantasy coming out later this summer, so I will never be genre specific. Thatís the great thing about being independent.
I want to write Romance, Dark Tales, Thrillers and most of all I would like to write a beautiful piece of literature. It will be interesting to see if I can do all this.
Without giving anything away for In Search of a Soul: there will be a following book that takes one of the characters onward. It involves modern day slavery and the fight to bring it to an end. I have written some 50,000 words and will get back to it soon.
I really hope your readers will read ĎIn Search of a Soulí. Each time I read it I am amazed that I could write something like that. I do believe you will enjoy it as a very good tale.
LTS: That was great, Dannie! Iíve heard many great things about ĎIn Search of a Soulí so I will be adding it to my to-read list! Thank you for taking the time to share in your writing experiences and to discuss your works! For more information about Dannie and his novels, check out:
Follow Dannie on Twitter: .DannieC_Hill
Where to buy the book:
In Search of a Soul- paperback
In Search of a Soul- Kindle
Also available https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/45507
At Barnes and Noble and many other sites
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