Writers on Writing

Wannabe Writer Wednesday: An interview with James Hedrick

Writer James Hedrick
James Hedrick is a PhD Candidate in Political Science living in Washington, DC. He spends his days writing about politics and his evenings writing about anything but. He will soon self-publish the first book in his urban fantasy series Hell Against Texas entitled Cauldron Bubble.

Welcome to Wannabe Writer Wednesday! This week’s interview is with urban fantasy writer, James Hedrick.

1. Tell us a little about your current work in process.

I’m currently working on an urban fantasy series titled Hell Against Texas. I submitted three short stories in the universe to Sword & Laser’s Anthology (fingers crossed) and I’m almost done with the final draft of the first book in the series, Cauldron Bubble. The first draft of Book Two, Shepherd’s Crossing, is about halfway done and I’ve got a couple chapters of Book Three, Fire Burn, drafted. I’ve outlined a couple of books passed that.

2. What’s your day job?

I’m a PhD Candidate in Political Science and will soon be starting a consulting job in the Washington, DC area.

3. When do you find time to write?

Mornings, late nights, train rides, lunch. I write a lot ‘in my head’ and take notes on my iPhone or iPad and then type up the thoughts later. I always go to sleep by visualizing my scenes and then try and outline what I think of in the morning. Better than counting sheep.

4. When you were 5 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? How does that figure into what you are doing now?

When I was about five years old, maybe a little older, my grandmother told me something that has always stuck with me: “James, you were born either too early or too late.” I’ve always, always loved science fiction and fantasy stories. I have been a citizen of Krynn and Rohan and the United Federation of Planets since I could crawl. At that age, I wanted to be a wizard or a knight or a spaceship pilot or a member of the Galactic Senate, more than I wanted to be anything else. I think that figures into what I’m doing now in that it drives my desire to write. I’m trying to write the stories I want to read, about places I know and things that interest me.

5. Tell us about the moment when you decided you wanted (needed?) to be a writer.

It was in graduate school. Getting an advanced degree is kinda stressful and I needed something to decompress. Started role-playing again, as DM, and found myself really getting into creating worlds and stories. Started writing up an ‘Adventure Log’ on the Obsidian Portal website and my players really seemed to enjoy it. It was relaxing for me, since if I wanted someone to be able to fling a fireball at the Astrodome I didn’t have to cite three sources defending my decision. That evolved into an idea for a set of characters and a setting and Hell Against Texas took off from there.

6. What is your biggest challenge as a writer?

Finding the time and getting past my own self-doubt. Art is tough that way. I’ve been a musician for almost twenty years and I have no problem feeling positive about my music if someone criticizes it. Art is subjective, and I like what I’m playing so if someone doesn’t like it, I can shrug and move on. Oddly, I haven’t managed to cultivate the same thick skin about my writing yet. Every time I ask someone read my fiction I feel like I did when I was sixteen and asking some pretty girl to the Homecoming Dance.

7. How do you talk yourself into writing when you’re feeling discouraged?

Play music. I’m a musician and my inspiration/encouragement comes from blasting really aggressive punk rock at loud volumes until my mood improves. If my favorite bands (Black Flag, Mission of Burma, the Minutemen, the Big Boys, etc.) can live out of a van, tour constantly, subsist on pennies a day, and still record some righteous music, then I can certainly sit in my comfortable apartment and make up lies to entertain strangers.

8. Do you ever give yourself writing ultimatums? (i.e. “If I don’t get my novel published by the time I’m 35, then it’s time to quit writing.”)

Not really. Writing started as a soothing hobby for me and I find myself still improving day-to-day. I’ll keep going as long as it’s fun and making up fantasy stories about wizards and centaurs and fireball slinging shortstops is pretty fun for me.

9. Have you considered self-publishing, or are you hell-bent on traditional publishing (or a little of both?) What are your thoughts on this?

Self-publishing for the win. I don’t need the validation of a traditional publisher; I need money and readers. It may come from my interest in independent music, particularly the underground punk of the eighties. Those bands formed their own labels, pressed their own records, booked their own tours. Self-publishing seems at least somewhat analogous to that. Plus, I bought a Kindle about the first day they came out and never looked back. I want to eliminate all paper from my life. I don’t even carry cash. I have 213 books in my backpack right now on a device that weighs less than a bridal magazine. I’ll be happy to self-publish e-books and contribute, however modestly, to the death of the dead-tree book industry.

10. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Living on a houseboat in the Caribbean downloading the sixth Song of Ice and Fire novel by George R.R. Martin on my Kindle and living off the income from my writing. Or taking my kid to kindergarten in DC and working out of a cubicle. It’s a toss-up.

11. What is one question you wish I would have asked you? (I may use your question in future interviews.)

I might have asked “What are you reading?” Can’t write without reading. Or maybe, “Have you read any books on writing? Where they useful?” I would have answered ‘Yes’ to that and recommended two books. The First Five Pages is more technical/mechanical but it was a valuable resource for me to improve all my writing, fiction and academic. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy is an older book but has some really interesting essays by folks like Heinlein and Asimov.

12. Where can we find you? Do you have a blog or other writer’s platform?

You can find me at http://foilandphaser.wordpress.com/ with some other sci-fi and fantasy writers who got together at the Sword & Laser group on Goodreads. I’ve also started a small blog at Weebly called PoliSciFi. I’m trying to get that updated more regularly, about once a week is what I have time for. PoliSciFi is also my Twitter handle and I’m trying to be more consistent with updating that as well.


Would you like to be featured on Wannabe Writer Wednesdays? Please contact me via the Contact Page on my Website.

~Mandy Webster

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