This author interview with Craig A. Hart is a great way to wrap up 2016’s monthly author interviews here on the Word Bank blog. Craig represents a truly multi-faceted writer who wears his writer’s hat in a handful of genres as well as dabbling in both traditional and independent publishing. He’s cool in the best of bookish ways. Trust me. As for next year, stay tuned for author interviews with Idaho authors all year long. Yes, there are that many authors in the potato state! You’re going to be amazed at how literary my home state can be!
Official Bio: Craig A. Hart is the stay-at-home father of twin boys, a writer, editor, Amazon bestselling author, lover of the arts, and only human. He has served as editor-in-chief for The Rusty Nail literary magazine, manager for Sweatshoppe Media, and director of Northern Illinois Radio Information Service. He lives and writes in Iowa City with his wife, sons, and two cats.
1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your book.
Becoming Moon is a literary fiction novel that draws on my own experiences. It is the story of a boy struggling to be himself amid pressure from a religious family. Following his dream to be a writer, he leaves all behind. His desire for success causes him to betray his principles as an artist, but brings money and recognition. Success is brief and soon he is in a web of depression and financial hardship. During a trip north, he meets Nigel Moon, a grizzled author who gives him a chance to prove himself—but only if the writer is able to set his past aside.
2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.
Writing is something of an addiction with me. I do it because I need to. There’s a quote by William Faulkner that goes something like, “If a story is in you, it has to come out.” I think that’s part of why I have to write. The other part is that drive to not just create but also to share that creation with the world. It’s the same reason painters paint and singers sing. Art is the tangible representation of the intangible prodding of muse. I’m not sure anyone truly understands it, but art consumers know when they see it and art creators know it when they feel it. One might go so far as to say that art, in all its forms, is what makes us distinctly human, being directly related to empathy, and provides us with a soul, even if only figuratively.
3. Writing aside, what passions drive your life?
This was going to be an easy question, until I realized you’d said “writing aside.” I suppose I would say that my twin boys fit the bill. That sounds like something of a cliché, but they have done a fantastic job of opening up a new realm of human emotion for me (always valuable for a writer). As any parent can tell you, there is nothing like a child to elicit strong and varying emotions. One moment you are convinced you need nothing but those little arms around your neck in order to feel fulfilled and the next moment you have to grip the arms of your chair to keep from running out of the house and diving into traffic.
4. It’s hard to pick just one, but what do you consider your favorite novel and why?
You ask the tough questions. If I simply must choose, I would select Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Not only is it a haunting story, but it is significant in its place in the Hemingway canon. When I read a book, I am looking for well-rendered characters. And Hemingway does this better than most. And when I say well-rendered, I’m not talking about detailed descriptions of physical traits. I’m referring to that which makes the characters human: fears, ambitions, motivations, failings, and moments of beauty and ugliness. Characters make story happen. People talk about plot, but—for me—plot isn’t simply making things happen. It’s creating the people who are involved in what happens.
5. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?
I don’t operate a regular blog. I have tried several times, but I can’t keep up with it. It’s why I don’t journal on a regular basis: if I’m writing, I want to be working on a work-in-progress. My writing time is woefully limited as it is. If I were to try to maintain a blog, I fear I’d never finish another book. My hat is completely and unequivocally off to those who can keep up a blog. I don’t know how they do it. Instead, I have focused my outreach efforts on places like Facebook and Twitter, which I have found more manageable and interactive. I do however maintain an author website.
6. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?
I am not nearly as disciplined as I’d like to be or as I should be. I tend to procrastinate. Eventually I will experience a period of extreme, almost manic, productivity during which I will churn out thousands and thousands of words in a relatively short time. This is typically followed by a time of exhaustion and near-depression. I will take time to recover, and the process starts all over. I would much rather plod along at a slow, steady, predictable pace, but most of the time it doesn’t work out that way for me.
I have a couple of people who read much of my work when it is hot off my computer screen. After that, I will go over it myself, make corrections and rewrite, and then send it to my editor. A word of advice to authors, especially those who self-publish: ALWAYS have someone else edit your work. I know it can seem pricey and a writer’s hubris tells them it isn’t necessary…but it is. Don’t cheat yourself or your work.
7. Are you traditionally published or self-published?
I have done both. Becoming Moon is published by Kindle Press, which owns the electronic rights. I own the print rights. I have published both traditionally and independently in the past. There are pros and cons of both. What I love about self-publishing is having complete control over every aspect of the process. On the other hand, that can be exhausting (and expensive), so it’s sometimes nice to have a publisher shoulder some of that. When I self-publish, I generally hire professionals to create cover art. There is no excuse these days for a bad cover. And I’m not talking about subjectively bad covers. I’m talking about covers that appear as if the author grabbed a picture off Google Images, opened it in Paint, and typed the title in Comic Sans across the front. Authors! I love you all too much to let you keep doing this. People shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but they do. All the time. There are several good resources online that offer good covers for as little as $50. Go a little higher and you can get something that rivals what the bigger presses are putting out. Much like editing, it simply does not pay to cheat yourself on cover artwork. Trust me on this.
8. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?
Here’s a little tough love. Yelling “Buy my book!” on social media outlets will not get you sales. Do it enough and not only will people not buy your book, they will unfollow or block you. Marketing is about relationships. Work—both online and in your local area—to build relationships with readers, bookstore managers, librarians, and other authors. Do nice stuff for other writers. Help them promote their books. Not everyone will return the favor, but some will.
Using promotional pricing for ebooks can be a great way to get a lot of downloads quickly. Places like BookBub have enormous lists of readers who have opted in to receive information about free and deeply discounted ebooks. For a fee, you can have your book included in one of their email blasts. BookBub can be tough to get into, but there are a ton of others. My only advice would be to do your research. You can easily run up quite a bill by going with every service out there. They are not all created equal.
9. What future projects can we look forward to?
I am currently working on a novel and collection of short stories.
10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know?
I’ve received some feedback that mentioned unlikeable characters in my work. From my perspective, all characters don’t have to be likeable. Not even main characters. They just need to be compelling. It’s much the same reason all art doesn’t have to be traditionally beautiful. Rendered by a skillful hand, a picture of a dead lily can be just as lovely as a picture of one that thrives. Finding beauty in the ugly—or just the mundane—is something that fascinates me, and is a skill I’d love to hone.
You can connect with Craig Hart and his social media sites via his author website.
Is there anything else you’d like to know about Craig Hart?
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016.