Interview with Barry James Hickey

What are your five favorite books, and why?
I enjoy a variety of genres. My favorite books include Tolstoy's WAR & PEACE for its epic scope, Mark Twain's HUCKLEBERRY FINN for its views on slavery, John Grisham's A PAINTED HOUSE for its vividness and simplicity, John Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH for its social commentary, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's GULAG ARCHIPELAGO for the stark realism of Soviet concentration camps and THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFE, a novella by Carson McCullers for its twist on traditional love stories and details of place and characters. Being an autodidact by nature I have read at least 4,000 books, both fiction and non-fiction. In my Hollywood days, I read 3,000 screenplays that were available to me. My favorite reading hobby as a boy was reading various encyclopedias from A-Z. I have forgotten much more than I have retained, but oh! Such joy! Now I get to combine my love of reading with my love of writing.
What do you read for pleasure?
I enjoy mass fiction sprinkled with non-fiction, especially science and economics.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I prefer the feel of paper. I have read Kindles and Nooks and both work well.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I use at least a dozen sites to promote my work, including press release sites. When my budget permits, I do believe in companies for television and radio interviews.
Describe your desk
Cluttered with work, cleared, cluttered again.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Chicago. It is a tossed salad of cultures bumping heads. I never felt safe there, but was never afraid, either. I was too busy investigating our imperfect human natures.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first poem on an elevator when I was twenty. The first line began, "Cold thoughts spring from the winter fountains..." My first attempt at fiction was a novel - THE SONS OF MARCO POLO - when I was 21. My second attempt at a novel was VOYAGEUR... 38 years later and they still live on rubber-banded index cards hiding in small metal file boxes.
What's the story behind your latest book?
ONCE UPON A KNIGHT is a modern tale about a Nebraska farmer who discovers he is the last heir to the throne of King Arthur. His alcoholic uncle is Merlin and there is a secret tournament approaching which will change man's destiny forever.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I haven't been able to find an agent to break in to major publishing houses with their distribution chains and marketing abilities. I had the same problems with 16 years in Hollywood as an actor and writer. There is also something very freeing about publishing my own work. From the first page to the last, I am solely responsible for the content. I never had such freedom working in the collaborative arts of film and live theater.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It is a good path for readers and writers to share work at a reasonable cost.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The process and discovery as I write, waking up in the middle of the night confronted by an unfinished character who has his or her own ideas for their story arch...
What do your fans mean to you?
Most of my readers just love the ride-alongI realize every day that I am able to touch the hearts and minds of strangers with my imperfect words. I will never know what true impact I have in my readers' lives. Other writers have influenced me, given me a different world view and spread my world landscape far and wide. My loyal readers especially enjoy my odd imagination and the strange Ferris wheels I create for them to ride on.
What are you working on next?
THE ADVENTURES OF ELJER PEECE. The rest is a secret.
Who are your favorite authors?
Too many authors to count. I love one Hemingway, dislike the next. The same with Steinbeck, Twain, Grisham, Michener and Larry McMurty.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I have to. I have two dogs.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I still sing professionally. People still ask me to act. It is a long list.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I find books based on my new interests.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
My first story was for a newspaper about my first date for a Valentine's Day insert.
What is your writing process?
I get up at 5am and write until 7:30. If nothing comes to me, I watch a movie. I also write on Sundays - all day and into the night. I also carry around a note pad and make notes all the time about what I am thinking about. I stack the notes up and once a month I go through them, keeping the good ideas, throwing away the rest.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first book I remember reading was RASCAL by Sterling North. It was about a lonely boy growing up in the Wisconsin woods. Even though I came from a large family, I felt invisible most of the time.
How do you approach cover design?
The picture must convey the idea of the book.
Is writing a profitable career?
Writing can be profitable. I would like to hit a home run or two financially, not just for me, but to take better care of my family. I won't be around much longer.
Published 2014-12-27.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.