Richard Hacker is a longtime resident of Austin, Texas who now writes and lives in Seattle.
His writing has been recognized by the Writer’s League of Texas and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. In addition to his writing, he provides editing services to other writers and is the editor of an online science fiction and fantasy journal, Del Sol Review. His three published humorous crime novels ride the sometimes thin line between fact and fiction in Texas. DIE BACK, his first fantasy thriller novel, has been published by Del Sol Press.
When not writing he’s singing in a vocal jazz ensemble, cooking with a sous vide and a blow torch, or exploring the Pacific Northwest with his wife and his springer spaniel, Jazz.
Website Link: http://www.richardhacker.com
Twitter Link: @Richard_Hacker
Facebook Link: http://www.facebook.com/RWHacker
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Richard: I love to tell stories. I love to write. I love the craft of it. The complexity of it. When I came up with the story idea for Dieback, I felt compelled to tell it.
Is this your first book?
Richard: No. This is the fourth published novel. I’ve been writing most of my life—short stories, business and technical writing, and I dabbled in long fiction. About fifteen years ago I decided to focus more on the novel form. I wrote a science fiction novel which is still in the drawer, but it did win best science fiction novel in 2010 at the Texas Writers League Conference. When I moved to Seattle from Austin in 2009 I wrote a humorous crime novel, an homage to Austin and Central Texas. I pitched it at a writer’s conference and found a publisher. Two more crime novels later, I had the story idea for Dieback.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Richard: I first found an agent to pitch the book to publishers, but it didn’t get the traction it needed to be picked up. The book business is a finnicky thing. One day its dragons and swords, the next spaceships and lasers. But a novelist can’t really anticipate what the market is going to do, so you just have to do your thing. Sometimes the stars align and you’re at the front edge of a trend. And sometimes not. In my case, the book doesn’t fit neatly in fantasy. It has elements of historical fiction, speculative fiction, thriller, and I’d argue science fiction if you consider alchemy to be an early form of chemistry.
I could have self-published, but I wanted to have a creative partner in the packaging and marketing of the book. My publisher is Del Sol Press. I attended a workshop lead by the publisher, Michael Neff, a few years ago. In fact, he heard an early pitch for the book. He liked the story idea, but wasn’t enamored with the title at the time. The Geneologist. He was right, by the way. Dieback is a much better title. Del Sol Press is committed to putting out top notch fantasy novels, so I’m very pleased to be working with them.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
Richard: The path to publication is a long and very winding road. Along the way you think you’ve finally done it, finally crossed the line, but the line tends to move! I had a novel in hand and sent it to a conference, and as I mentioned above, it won best novel. Hurray! I’ve done it! Part of the prize was to have a one-on-one with the agent who judged the manuscripts. It turned out she loved the first twenty pages I had given her. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. Back to the laptop I went to hone the manuscript, my publishing dreams on hold. I had worked the novel so much that I was pretty tired of it and decided to write something completely different. A palette cleanser if you will. Out of that came what was then title Toxic Relationship (now it’s Kill’t Dead or Worse…) which I pitched to a publisher at a conference. They picked me up and published three novels. Hurray! I’ve done it! Well, sort of. There’s the whole marketing thing, which these days is more down to the author than the publisher. And with a publisher you’re one removed from all the marketing data that can help you sell more books. I began to wonder why I had a publisher at all. So, when the contract ended, I got the rights back, revised the novels and republished them myself. The upside of self-publishing was that I had complete control over everything. The downside was that I had complete control over everything. Rather than writing, I found myself spending time doing things I didn’t really enjoy around marketing and sales. I needed more of a balance. And that’s where Del Sol Press came in. I feel like I’ve got a partnership with Del Sol Press. I get a creative partner who provides honest feedback (which is hard to come by) and a business partner for the sales and marketing.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Richard: You have to be persistent. If you take no for an answer, you’re dead in the water. Those no’s can be about the writing, but as you grow and hone your craft and surround yourself with honest critical partners, the no’s are typically more about the marketplace and an agent’s or publisher’s particular business needs. Not artistic needs. Business needs. They are in business to make money. If I’m already famous with a million followers on Twitter, I’m going to get published even if my book doesn’t come up to the standard of someone who is a gifted writer but completely unknown. So be persistent, be open to criticism, continually hone your craft, and write because you love it—because you have to write. Writing for the market or for the money or for the fame is a path to heartbreak.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Richard: A small press is a great way to go, but you have to be discerning. As writers we’re so pleased if someone acknowledges us and tells us they want to publish our work. But it’s important to understand the relationship and what the publisher brings to the table. What are you agreeing to in the contract? How much control do you have over your work—the title, the cover, the format? What kind of editorial resources do they have—are they professional editors or writers in their stable who edit on the side? What kind of marketing support are you going to get?
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Richard: It mirrors what I said I’ve learned in my publishing journey. Be persistent. When you’re writing a novel, edit, edit, edit. Be open to critique. Don’t take critique personally. Take a step back from it and see what truth there is for you. Continually hone your craft by going to conferences and workshops, working with other writers, and most importantly write, write, write. And finally, write what you love to write. Life is short. If you don’t like fairies or dystopian worlds or romance or thrillers or…well, you get the picture. Write what jazzes you. I think it leads to better writing and it’s a lot more fun.
Thanks so much for allowing me to spend some time with you and your readers. For fun, go check out the trailer for the book. https://youtu.be/qesyHscyzNM And I’d love to hear from you. Visit my website, www.richardhacker.com and drop me a line.
About the Book:
In 272 AD Egypt, an enemy thwarts an attempt by League Inkers, Thomas Shaw and Nikki Babineaux, to obtain the Alchįmeia, a document holding alchemical secrets. Sensing his impending death, Thomas secures Nikki’s promise to keep his son, Addison, from the League, an organization
Fixated on the pen, Addison inks into a B-17 bombardier in 1943. The pilot, whose consciousness has been taken over by someone calling himself Kairos, gloats over killing Addison’s father and boasts of plans to destroy the League. As Kairos attempts to wrest Addison’s consciousness, Nikki shocks Addison out of the Inking. She confesses her knowledge of the League. When Kairos threatens to steal aviation technology, she she sends Addison and his partner, Jules, to an Army test of the Wright Flyer in 1908. Believing they have succeeded, they return to find the continuum shifted and Nikki knowing nothing about the League.
Inking back to his father’s mission in Alexandria, Addison and Jules hope to get his help in returning the time continuum to its original state. Instead, Addison’s father gives him the Alchįmeia to hide in a crypt at the Great Lighthouse on Phalos. On their return to the present a Kairos agent murders Jules, her consciousness Inked into the past. Addison follows the clues, Inking into Pizarro in 16th century Peru. He finds Jules in the child bride of the Inca emperor. His plan to find the technology and save Jules without destroying the Inca civilization is thwarted by a fleet of Inca airships. Captured, he is taken to Machu Picchu. With Jules help, they find the stolen schematics, but are confronted by Kairos. He stabs Addison, forcing Addison’s consciousness back to the present and traps Jules in the 16th Century. Addison returns to another altered world. Nikki no longer exists, the world is at war with the Inca, and Manhattan lay in ruins.
Addison Inks his father, learning the origins of the League. Thomas urges Addison to uncover their enemy with the help of his colleague, Maya. Putting suspicion on another inker, Cameron, she insists he must be killing Inkers and acquiring Pens. In a final attempt to stop him, they entrap Cameron, only for Addison to discover Maya is Kairos, his enemy. She kills Cameron, also wounding Addison. He chases Maya, who intimates that she holds his mother’s, Rebecca’s, consciousness. Confused he delays, giving her time to scrawl a name with her pen before shooting her dead.
Inked away when Maya died, Kairos finds himself, not in his intended host, Hitler, but in a German infantry soldier POW in the Ardenne during the Battle of the Bulge, WWII. Hoping to repair the shift in the time continuum, Addison brings the League Pens together with the fate of the world and everyone he loves at stake. He awakens to a dissimilar world, but Jules and Nikki exist. And with life there is always hope.