Interview with Jaq D Hawkins   1 comment

Today’s interview is with Jaq D Hawkins. Welcome to the blog, Jaq. Tell us something about yourself.


Jaq Hawkins Author PicI’m an English author, originally traditionally published in a niche market but I’ve gone almost totally indie now, especially for my fiction. It occurred to me recently that my first book, Understanding Chaos Magic, was published twenty years ago. I consider myself a full time writer, though much of my time has been diverted to film in recent years, and I’m also a carer for my long term partner.


At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?


I started writing my first sutobiography when I was six, on a scrap of notepaper with a pencil. Writing down stories has always been a part of my life. I decided that it should be my career when I was fourteen, during an English Composition class in high school. I was scrawling out two or three stories during a one hour class then, though they weren’t polished or even edited then.


Tell us about your writing process.


Jaq Hawkins Goblin TrilogyI like to write in the morning, when I’m still in that half-conscious state. I get ideas constantly and keep notes, or have sudden parts of a scene or dialogue go through my head that I have to write down or lose. My actual writing time is only a couple of hours in the morning, but it’s a constant awareness of story 24/7.


What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

I read across many genres, but I like to write Fantasy. Alternative worlds have been one of my reading staples through my adolescence into adulthood and creating my own world with my goblin series was one of the great joys of my life. I might read Thrillers, Horror, Classics or anything really, except military, crime or soppy Romance which don’t interest me, but I always come back to Fantasy. What would life be like without dragons?


Boring. When you are not writing, what do you do?


Filmmaking. This actually stemmed from the writing, inspired by Dance of the Goblins and how good it would look as a movie. Originally I was just going to write the script but I knew a few filmmakers and one thing led to another… then things fell into place for making a couple of no budget movies and I was far too fortunate with actors and crew, but not with editors. The result was that I learned to edit film, though it’s an ongoing learning process. I’ve been doing it for a few years now and developed a lot of skills, and just last month I finished a film, a vampire film called Old Blood. I actually shot two of them over the summers of 2006-2008 and I’m working on finsihing off the editing on the zomedy, Graveyard Shift.

Jaq Hawkins Series

What sort of research do you do for your novels?
It depends on the need. The goblin novels required plausible explanations for how creatures might see in caverns and other scientific data, while my Steampunk novel, The Wake of the Dragon, required details of Victorian life. Even when adding airships and mechanoids to an alternative history, the original historical details have to be correct to make a good story.


If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

I’m told my writing is easy to read. Nothing pretentious, just a fast, easy flow. Having said that, I lean towards exposition, because I like to read intelligent stories with more than a quick flash bang of constant action. I would say that my writing is for the mature reader, only I seem to have a lot of young fans.



Do you have a special place where you write?

Apart from taking notes when and wherever I happen to be, my main writing is done in a home office. I have a small room all my own, with my reference books and computer set up s my work space.



Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?

I seem to bring Alchemy and mysticism in somewhere along the way. I suppose because these are subjects that interested me as a pre-teen and I’ve accumulated a fair amount of research in these areas. Even my airship pirates responded to a superstition about an ancient Basque air goddess.



Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Character driven, though I like to think I find a balance between character and plot. It is the reactions of the characters to a situation that create the plot for me.



Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer?  Why?

Following on from the last question, my characters surprise me a lot and take me in directions I don’t expect, so I would fit under discovery writer. However, I generally have a basic idea of where the plot is going and sometimes of the end, so they have autonomy within a few basic parameters.


What point of view do you prefer to write, and why?

Usually third person omniscient. That gives me the freedom to look at the story from every angle and see what’s going on in different places. I can write from first person or any other perspective, but for Fantasy I find omniscient works best. If I were writing a Mystery, it might be different. Following just one character to discover clues works well in that genre.


I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

Well since it’s summer and only a little cold, I would probably take a walk first thing every morning and breathe in the pure air. Then I would go back to the cabin, where my computer and reference books await, and do some writing. I would also have paper and pens in case of a power cut, not to mention candles. Then apart from food preparation, I could enjoy some leisure reading in the afternoon,  so I would have a variety of books to read. Wildlife can get close out there so I would have to spend some time outside at times of the day when deer or raccoons might happen by. I’d rather stay out of the way of bears though. They scare me.


They scare all sane people. Talk about your books individually.

Jaq Hawkins Wake of the DragonDance of the Goblins established a world for me. The process of creation was as important as deciding the plot and following what happens when humans in a post-apocalyptic situation encounter goblins. The magicians were an accident. I threw them in and they took over! The blighters… but it made for some good back story. Some of the short stories about the goblin world explain how they became the ruling class in a mock-feudal society after the cities were literally reduced to rubble.


Demoniac Dance was forming by about the fifth chapter of Dance of the Goblins. I needed to see what happened in the next generation and before I knew what was happening, Namah was running from her unwanted marriage. Characters from the first book developed further and new ones, especially the child characters, sprang into life and just started interacting. Sometimes a story just writes itself!


Power of the Dance, again, was already forming before the end of Dance of the Goblins.  By then, the basic plot points for Demoniac Dance were already established and because of certain relationships among characters, I just had to go one more generation and make it a trilogy. There was a gap of time between the first book and the subsequent novels because of my filmmaking efforts, but the stories were ever present in my psyche and wouldn’t rest until I had written them.


The Wake of the Dragon was the result of hearing the song, Airship Pirates, by Abney Park. It has no relationship to the lyrics of the song, but the general concept of airship pirates set my imagination on fire and I had to concoct a story. At first it was just a piece of flash fiction. On the old MySpace forums, I sometimes participated in a bi-weekly writing contest where the host presented a topic or parameters and anyone who wanted to wrote a story of around 500 words based on it. I can’t remember what the topic was that time, but it might have been pirates. This provided a good beginning and a conclusion, but I felt the need to add much more, so expanded it into a full size story.


Was it your intention to write a story with a message or a moral?

Not my intention, but Dance of the Goblins in particular has a lot to say about the nature of assumptions, prejudices and narrow minded thinking.


What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

As a proper Fantasy nerd, I want them to want to dress up as goblins to go to Fantasy Conventions.  These are my target audience, the people who enjoy doing that sort of thing.




You’re both traditionally published and indie published. What are the differences? 

To make the transition, I had to overcome the attitude that self-publishing was vanity publishing.  My first novel had been published in 2005 by a small publisher who was failing at distribution to the U.S., and by 2011 I saw the rise of indie publishing and the changes it was bringing. By 2012 I was frustrated by the limitations of small publishing and wouldn’t be able to interest a large publisher in a book that had already been released, so I gave the indie road a try.


What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishng?

Absolute control! I have the right skills to format and edit my book properly and one of my great fears in publishing Fantasy novels was that I would get stuck with a book cover that didn’t reflect the characters properly. I work with talented artists for my book covers and they draw my characters as they are described. Also I get to choose release dates and don’t have pressure from a marketer who just wants fast content.


Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

The one thing traditional publishing still has an advantage on is bookstore shelf space. This is changing slowly and a lot of people shop online these days,  but bookstores are still wonderful places to shop and it would be nice to see my indie books on those shelves along side my trad published titles.


Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

We can and should. We have to be meticulous about proof reading and getting other people to proof read and find all the mistakes we’ve missed. Also honest feedback about story progression. I participate in several author groups online and have read some excellent books by indie authors, and some that could use some work. I always feedback nicely but write honest reviews and if a story isn’t up to scratch,  I think it’s in the author’s best interest to have that pointed out. It can be done politely though.

Book covers and blurbs are important too. A cartoon cutout book cover isn’t going to get the attention or respect of a good, professional book cover. A lot of indie authors can’t afford price per page editing or professional artists to do their book covers, but there are other ways. Your mother, who will say your story is very nice, dear, no matter what, can still red pen typos. Exchange reading with other authors for honest feedback can get other eyes on your story. If you can’t afford Photoshop or don’t have the skills for graphic arts, some creative use of photography (like a good sunrise) and an interesting font in the right colours can make a good cover.

For example, when I see a cosy mystery with a cartoon cutout cover of a woman in front of a bakery, I immediately think how much better it would look to go to a good bakery, get a beautiful cupcake, and photograph it up close. You can do it with a smartphone right there on the plate in the shop and that photo on a plain background with an arty font would draw the attention of someone who would want to read a story involving a bakery. You also get to eat the cupcake, so win-win!

There are always alternative ways of doing things, you just have to give it some thought.


Where do readers find you and your books?


One response to “Interview with Jaq D Hawkins

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  1. Reblogged this on Daermad Cycle.


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