Interview with Hal Emerson

Published 2014-06-30.
What do you read for pleasure?
Anything at all. If it's written, I'll read it.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Nook, though I don't have any particular brand loyalty here. I would say, though, that it's important to get an e-reader that is ONLY an e-reader, i.e. one that doesn't let you play games or surf the web. If you're going to get one with those capabilities, just get an iPad and admit you aren't really going to do much reading on it.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This is a hard one - but I'll give it a shot by choosing my consistent favorites from each major category I read:

Classic Lit: Julius Caesar by Shakespeare - the characters are among the most well-rounded I've found, and the drama is compelling, particularly the central question: allow a good man ultimate power, or kill him before he becomes a tyrant? In particular, Brutus' struggle with killing his best friend (and, historically speaking, possibly his father, though Shakespeare doesn't really delve into that), creates a very compelling character arc. What would you do for what you thought was right? Honorable mention: The Odyssey, particularly the Fagles translation

American Lit: East of Eden by Steinbeck - I love the idea of "timshel" though I'm not a religious person. I think the idea of mankind changing their destiny based on actions in the past (i.e. learning from history so it is not repeated) is a fantastic moral, and the prose of Steinbeck cannot be beat. Honorable mention: To Kill a Mockingbird.

Scifi: I'm a Heinlein man, and my favorite is Stranger in a Strange Land, though of course Starship Troopers and Moon is a Harsh Mistress are good places to start as well. I enjoy Asimov too, though he could have used a "show don't tell" seminar, and am just starting with Philip K. Dick, who has great concepts but seems to have trouble ending his books.

Fantasy: Earthsea by Le Guin, which I read as a younger man and did not fully appreciate. She is a great example of writing fantasy that is very adult in its messaging, and her descriptions, while sometimes sparse, are a good blend of stated imagery and implied imagery. Honorable mention here goes to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time saga, which, while perhaps not the best overall saga, still retains its place in my heart as the gateway drug that got me into reading 1,000-page books.

Historical Fiction: Shogun and Tai-Pan by James Clavell. Clavell does historical fiction very well, and the way he describes the clash of eastern and western cultures is very good. Honorable mention here goes to Sharon Kay Penman and her fantastic England/Wales books, in particular "Here Be Dragons," which my dad read to me when I was a kid.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Social Media blitzes - The Prince of Ravens hit #1 in the Kindle free store when I got a few sites to advertise it and simultaneously tweet/FB post about it on the same day. Otherwise, take criticism as constructive even when it's not - if people say your characters are acting out of character, don't get mad - really think about if the reviewer has a point, and if they do, think about re-writing the scene in question. It's the beauty of ebooks - if there are glaring errors that slipped through the vetting process, you aren't stuck with them - do the extra work to make the book better.
Describe your desk
I'm a horizontal writer in the tradition of Mark Twain and Truman Capote - I need to be lying down in order to write well, usually on my bed or a couch, though I'll use the floor or a patch of grass in a pinch. I'll take walks when I'm stuck writing, but I always have to rush back to my lying-down space of the day when ideas come up.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it influenced my preference for arboreal settings - I love me my semi-wilderness full of pine and oak forests.
When did you first start writing?
When I was 14 I mocked up a draft of a book I still have called "Sean Darcy and the Order of the Magi" that never really came to anything. Maybe I'll go back to it at some point - there were some great twists I threw in there.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I'm working on a number of books right now, and most of them revolve around either "I want to tell (this person) a story they'd like" or "what would someone do if ..." Those are my two favorite ways to start.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Taught me how to format, showed me how easy it was to get my books out there, and provides a really great author experience.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Uh ... making stuff up that people pay me for. When would that ever get old?
What do your fans mean to you?
They mean a lot to me, particularly because I'm a fan of a lot of other authors myself and I know what it is to be invested in characters. I try not to think about fans when I'm writing, though - that way lies madness. I write for or about a single person, typically someone representative of the demographic I'm going for, and try to make the story as honest and whole as I can. I think writing is a two-way street - I come up with the bones of the story, but that's useless without your imagination to flesh it out. It's a uniquely human experience that plays on our creative capacity as human beings - and I couldn't do what I do without people who are willing to join me in my imagination for a spell.
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Books by This Author

The Ring of Eman Vath
Series: In the Land of Aeon. Price: Free! Words: 159,810. Language: English. Published: June 8, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » General
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
A classic epic fantasy tale that examines modern questions of morality and belonging. In the style of "A Wizard of Earthsea" and Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series.
The Lost Kingdom
Series: In the Land of Aeon. Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 157,590. Language: English. Published: June 4, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » General
A classic fantasy in the epic style of "Game of Thrones" and "A Wizard of Earthsea" with a modern flare. Readers looking for a coming of age tale set in a sword and sorcery setting will not be disappointed.
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 90,510. Language: English. Published: August 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
(5.00 from 1 review)
Fifteen-year-old Augustus Hale was born to be perfect. His genes were chosen at conception, his body enhanced with nanotechnology, and his right arm replaced with a bionic computer. He is a Preset, a creation of the Genetic Revolution that has allowed the survival of the human race. Now, stranded on the barren planet Spes, he has to do the one thing he was never born to do: find his way home.
Oberon's Children
Price: Free! Words: 136,800. Language: English. Published: August 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fairy Tales
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
An orphan girl named Mol wakes in the middle of the night to music. Enchanted, she follows the sound into the forest of Arden, where she is taken captive by a man known only as the Erlking; a man who rules a kingdom of monsters. Leaving her life as an urchin far behind, Mol becomes part of the Erlking's Bower for reasons she cannot understand, her only guarantee a future shrouded in mystery.
The Prince of the Veil
Series: The Exile Trilogy, Book 3. Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 170,580. Language: English. Published: January 27, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Science Fiction
After the death of Geofred, Prince of Eagles, Raven and the Exiled Kindred find themselves trapped in the city of Banelyn and under siege by the indomitable Prince of Wolves. Forced to fight for the lives of his companions, Raven finds himself descending into madness he cannot control, even as he tries to understand the prophecies contained within his brother's mind.
The Prince of Exiles
Series: The Exile Trilogy, Book 2. Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 165,860. Language: English. Published: April 17, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
After the victory at Aemon's Stand over his brother Ramael, the Prince of Ravens is now a confirmed member of the Exiled Kindred. But his new-found life is shattered when the Empire invades to take revenge. Raven soon finds himself faced with a choice: does he run, leaving Leah, Tomaz, and the other Kindred behind, or does he become again a Prince, and fight the very Empire he was born to rule?
The Prince of Ravens
Series: The Exile Trilogy, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 132,160. Language: English. Published: November 8, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Adventure » Action
(5.00 from 3 reviews)
The Prince of Ravens has known nothing but privilege and power - until the day an attempt is made on his life. Now he must flee across the Empire he once helped to rule, searching for answers and running from those who would have him silenced forever. He, the Seventh Child and prophesied Lord of Death, has been Exiled, and the Empire will stop at nothing to keep him from his destiny.