Interview with Billie Hinton

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do. I was about 2 years old and I filled an entire yellow legal pad, line by line, with cursive scrawl. I didn't even know how to write letters yet but I had a story to tell. I would love to know what it said! There's a photo of me asleep on the sofa in my yellow footie pajamas, pen still in hand, pad opened to the latest page of my story. Even at that young age I was writing to make sense of my world.
What is your writing process?
I usually start with a fragment of something - it might be the last scene of the book, it might be a line from a song I've heard, or a photograph or other visual image. Something mushrooms around that fragment and I become hooked to tell the entire story.

I write the rough draft as quickly as I can and then make many passes through that draft following threads, filling in, taking out. I think of my writing process as excavation. There is a strong sense that the entire book is already there and I'm the archaeologist carefully unearthing it.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember the first book I ever checked out from the library and read myself - it was Danny and the Dinosaur and it was about a little boy who became mesmerized by the dinosaur in the museum. It came to life and became his best friend. I loved that book. I must have checked it out a hundred times. The idea that something from the past could come to life was very compelling for me as a child.
How do you approach cover design?
I attended photography school for a year in college and still love documenting pieces of my day with photographs, so the book design process is huge fun for me. Shutterstock is one of my favorite sites. I love poring through thousands of images, filling my lightboxes with those that put me in mind of the book I'm working on.

I'm still learning about using the cover to market the book. As a reader the cover is the first thing that either pulls me in or doesn't, so I know how important it is. As the author I want that cover image to speak to me as well as the potential readers of my books.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This is always hard. I have a lot of favorite books.

Five that have stayed on my list for many years:

Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. I'm counting this as one of my five favorites. I love that he uses four different characters to tell their version of the same story. When I first read the Quartet I was blown away by it. As a young English major moving toward being a psychotherapist, I resonated with these novels that allowed me as reader to see from different perspectives and put those together in my own mind into the whole story.

Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible. I was absolutely amazed that she wrote that book - created the world of that story. It too is told from the POVs of more than one character - which again allowed for a reader experience that felt something like assembling a cake layer by layer. The richness of that novel stays with me year after year.

Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain. I often hoard books and don't allow myself to read them when I have a strong feeling the book will, as I put it, knock my socks off. I hoarded Cold Mountain for a number of years. It lived up to my expectations. The alternating voices of Inman and Ada were brilliant, and the overlay of Homer's Odyssey added depth to the book. In my own work I have a fascination with the warrior archetype and this tale of a soldier trying to find his way home, both literally and psychologically, is one I love re-reading every single year.

Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. Ondaatje creates a spell for me with his writing style, and there is something about this particular novel that takes hold and doesn't let go. This is one of those books that I go back to regularly just to read certain passages. Over and over again. His words have become part of the fabric in my head. I love that in a book and I love when a reader tells me I did that for them with one of mine.

Diana Gabaldon is on my mind right now because of her Outlander series being made for TV. I can't pull one book out of the series but I will say that when I stumbled onto Outlander, the first title, which at that point had been out for a number of years already, I thought I would overdose on pure delight knowing there were 3 or 4 more volumes already waiting for me. And big fat volumes too! The world she creates with this series is addictive. And her characters so real there are scores of readers arguing passionately about the casting for the TV series. I love that she crosses so many genres with these books.
What do you read for pleasure?
Novels mostly. I'm picky though and when I get my hands on a book I know I'm going to love, I set it aside and save it for a rainy day. I have to have a few books on hand that I haven't read yet that I know will blow me away.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I do 90% of my reading on my first generation keyboard Kindle. I love it. If I upgrade it will be to the Paperwhite. I will read on my iPad if I happen to have it with me and want to get in a few minutes of reading time on the go, but at night, in my bed, the Kindle is the very best.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Word of mouth by people who have read my books. I think finding the readers who love one's books and characters and style of writing is the key to success. How to do that seems to shift and change but somehow it's what has to be done to build an audience.
Describe your desk
My desk has my big iMac front and center, my ergonomic keyboard and mouse and gel wrist rests, all in the right configurations so that I can write comfortably. After writing on a laptop for years I developed some issues in my forearms, so this set-up is important.

I have little figures from my sandplay collection (I am a psychotherapist and utilize Jungian-based sandplay with clients) sitting on my desk at all times. These change depending what book I'm writing. I have notebooks and pens to the right where I make all kinds of notes. Notes about new book ideas, notes about things to do, notes about the book I'm working on.

On the wall behind the desk I have a number of framed photographs: one of the ocean, one of two crows in a tree under a full moon, and one of a raven.

The window to the right of my desk looks out on my horses' paddock and pasture and I often have horses visiting me when I write.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a tiny southern town which always felt oppressive to me and I couldn't wait to grow up and leave it. At some point in adulthood I missed some of the good things about a small community and we bought a horse farm in a different (and much more progressive) small southern town.

My books all have strong characters and I know living in small towns influenced that - in a small community you get to know people and you hear stories that go back generations. It's that same layering thing that happens when you get different POVs in a novel.

I also think a small town often becomes a secondary character in a story. Think about Larry McMurtry's books. I haven't explored that in my books as much as I have terrain - the actual landscape - but one of these days I will probably write about my little town as it was when I grew up in it.
What's the story behind your latest book?
A young woman leaves her father and her home and heals a broken part of herself in the process. It takes place in Arivaca, Arizona and crosses the border into Mexico. This novel grew out of an image that formed in my head when I listened to Eva Trout's song Last of the Happy. It's a story about mothers and fathers and sons and daughters. And horses. And flowers. And turning one's sense of being "no count" into being someone brave and strong. And of course being afraid and weak all at the same time.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
My first novel, claire-obscure, originally titled Folie A Deux, was agented and shopped and no one could believe it wasn't snatched up and published. I made a pact with myself that if it didn't sell by the time I turned 50 I would go back to my young woman's dream of starting a small press. That all this dovetailed with indie publishing and e-books and the financial mess of traditional publishing was just pure chance.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Losing myself in the story. I often read what I've written and cannot remember writing it. And I love when synchronicity starts to happen with a book. I start seeing people that look exactly like my characters and all sorts of things start to happen that help move the story forward. It's wild and wonderful and there is nothing else quite like it.
Published 2013-09-15.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Fiona and the Water Horse (Magical Pony School)
By
Series: Magical Pony School, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 51,780. Language: English. Published: December 15, 2013. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Animals
Book two in the Magical Pony School series - for middle grade readers and everyone who loves horses! The spring equinox is near and Fiona remembers the promise she made to the water horse when he rescued her at winter solstice. She goes to ride him against the advice of friends and teachers. They know what she does not believe: that water horses are powerful and dangerous.
The Meaning of Isolated Objects
By
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 80,510. Language: English. Published: August 30, 2011. Category: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Vulnerable with worry over his daughter Wendell, Scott lets his characteristic guard down. Suddenly he finds himself falling in love, looking for a lost daughter, and trying to keep one step ahead when he realizes she is being pursued because of abilities she doesn’t even know she has, a technique known as remote viewing, which he learned and practiced in a secret government unit.
Jane's Transformation (Magical Pony School)
By
Series: Magical Pony School, Book 1. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 37,190. Language: English. Published: July 25, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
A magical pony school, four first-year students, and lots of adventure! In Book One, Jane learns to shape-shift and is soon lured and trapped by a mysterious pig woman who desperately wants a pony. Jane's friends must find her and convince her to shift back to human form.
Signs That Might Be Omens
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Series: the Claire Quartet, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 89,700. Language: English. Published: June 11, 2011. Category: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Bingham Wade lives in near isolation, bound by regret to the past, still in love with a woman he lost twenty years ago. Claire Caviness is unhappily married. When she attends a funeral in her home town, things begin to happen: she inherits money, leaves her husband, and reconnects with things she loved and lost: horses, her father, and Bingham.
Claire-obscure
By
Series: the Claire Quartet, Book 1. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 84,970. Language: English. Published: May 22, 2011. Category: Fiction » Literature » Literary
In a raw, edgy journey from trauma to restoration, Claire examines her deepest fears: grief for her distant mother and gay father, the awakening of her conflicted sexuality, and the darkness that pulls her to the intrigue and danger of two very different – and dangerous - men.