Interview with CC Hogan

What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is the beginning of a new fantasy journey called Dirt. Set on a world of the same name, it tells the story of a young man, Johnson Farthing, who lives in a coastal town with his sister. Farthing is desperately poor. The two of them were abandoned by their father when young and, with the help of some friends, they have brought themselves up, scraping around to find enough work to live. When they were younger, they even stole food.

Times are a little better now. Farthing's sister works as a maid and he scratches a living shifting dirt in a handcart, doing odd jobs and, currently, is digging a well. Then his sister is kidnapped by slavers and his world changes for good.

With the help of good people, Farthing chases across the world of Dirt carried by a beautiful Sea Dragon called Fren-Eirol to rescue his sister.

But this is just the beginning and the story escalates into a fight for freedom and a war that will spread across continents.

Dirt is a High Fantasy Saga about war, people, freedom, love and the search for a home. The dragons may be huge, but they are intelligent, cultured and live in communities with their own needs and their own story. The magic is subtle and mistrusted, and problems cannot be solved at the wave of wand.

This is a real world, full of humour and love, but it is a desperate world, and Johnson Farthing is about to change it all.

The first series is three books long, plus a sequel that tells of the aftermath and acts as a prelude to series two.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
If I am to be terribly honest, I have to say that the lack of an agent would be it!

But having wandered down this route, I find I rather like the interaction directly with those who will read my books that I desperately need. With the exception of a few rather anal trolls, the book reading community seems to be a warm and friendly place, and I rather like it!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I used to hate planning. It is one of those things that you hear every writing tutor talk about as this huge, chore; essential, but hard and studious.

It quite put me off writing, to be honest. But then I threw away all the conventions - things like using templates for characters or planning in a set way - and I just started waffling and keeping random notes. Basically, I made a game of it.

Now, I love it! I use OneNote for everything and I can spend hours and hours of happy me-time playing with ideas, chatting about characters, cuddling up to them and leaning all about them. It is fun, it is rewarding and it makes writing the books a hell of a lot easier!
What do your fans mean to you?
I will let you know once I get some more, but basically they are a friendly audience to whom I owe a duty to entertain. Writers are storytellers, the modern equivalent of the bard sat in the corner of a tavern entertaining the drinkers. They were not on a stage, did not use microphones, but sat as equals to those around them, sharing their wondrous tales.

We should never forget that and should not try and set ourselves on a higher plane.
What are you working on next?
The High Fantasy Dirt it going to take a lot of my time. I have written the first four books and am halfway through series two. There is a third series in the planning plus many short stories and single books.

I also want to write a sequel to my book The Stink. Set in 1970s London, it tells the tale of five 16-year-olds starting a band. The sequel will be set two years later when they go on the road - it will be a lot naughtier!
Who are your favorite authors?
I don't read enough at the moment as I am so buried in my own book, but if I look back over the years, I think Peter Carey and Umberto Eco would have to sit at the top of my list.

Carey in particular has a wide and fractious imagination that I love. He also is a nice bloke, which always helps!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The alarm clock.

Too glib? Well, I have to say writing is probably an addiction, so I do not inspiration to rise; I cannot wait to get up and lose myself in a coffee and my own little world.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I am also a musician and composer, so that takes at least part of my rent-paying time up.

I love cooking and one day will write a mad cook book - possibly based around the taverns I keep inventing in my stories.

I love wine and song and spend time with others drinking down both!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I do; well, sort of! It was terrible, but to be fair, I think I was about eight years old. It was the tale of a girl who found a monster and beat it up then sent it home. That was about it.

Strangely, it is not a theme I have revisited. Perhaps I should one day.
What is your writing process?
I think I probably break a lot of the rules.

I write in a vaguely episodic fashion, each chapter being set the task to achieve something important, and so I plan like that too.

I am a great believer in character and dialogue and both of those lead my stories. I was taught by some very clever people that if you write an opera, if the story will not fit on the back of a cigarette packet, then it is too complicated.

My books, Dirt especially, are incredibly complex and the world is large and detailed. The are subthreads, back stories, long histories and mystery after mystery, and yet, the actual plot could be summarised in very few lines.

So, my process is simple. I write a VERY short plot and then I put that aside and I meet my characters. I learn about them, flesh them out and find out how they tick. To be honest, I don't really care what they look like and if readers are hoping for complex descriptions of what people are wearing, what their leg measurement is or even how much hair they have, don't expect a list. I dribble my descriptions in because it is far more important to me how they think.

Once I have them partly worked out, normally be writing a short, waffling essay about them, I then start putting the details of my story together in OneNote. I break it down into lots of bits to get me going.

Once I am confident enough with my world, I just start writing. I let the words flow and I get a rhythm going. To me it is pretty much the same as writing music; I just start playing and see where I go.

While writing, if I mention anything that might come up again (name of a tavern keeper, a facial reaction, a river through a town) I note it down on OneNote. I have taught myself to do this and not leave it till later and just having good notes of people and places has saved me so much time later on. My notes for Dirt are not novel length and not just notes but a complete library of the world and my thought processes. I highly recommend this approach.

I have three large monitors, so I have Word open in the middle, OneNote to my right and then things like email and browser in the left. Though sometimes I have Photoshop open with my maps. Oh, yes. Maps are important to me too and I love drawing these.

So, confused? Well, good. Because my writing process in terribly confused, but a lot of fun!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
This was not the first, but the one I remember from when I was nine or ten that has left an impression was John Wyndham's The Chrysalids.

I was intrigued by the idea that if you reduce population hugely and take away their technology, that they can regress into a more basic primitive society to such a degree that they forget where they came from.

When planning Dirt series two I decided to bring a touch of this idea into my story and I think it adds something clever and real; the idea that society can go backwards and dismiss the past as no more than a fantasy.
How do you approach cover design?
This is very difficult for me - I have no money!

So, my covers are a mixture of what abilities I have myself plus a need to do something different to a lot of the other independent authors out there. There is a huge reliance on stock photos and closeups of beautiful men and women and though those covers are clean and professional looking, they are also very predictable.

There is humour in everything I write because I have a basic belief that it is part of what it is to be human (or dragon), so I try and get a little of that into my covers too.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a kindle fire, old one. This is not so much by choice since it was a prezzie! But it does the job mostly.
Describe your desk
I mentioned a little of this before.

I have three huge monitors which are currently showing the maps of Dirt as a desktop background - kind of useful.

The table top is covered with a mexican rug and I use cheap chopping boards for my mouse and as somewhere to put my booze.

I have an ergonomic keyboard (basic one, nothing flash) and a large wacom tablet.

Since I am also a musician, on one side of the desk I have a stack of keyboards and on the other a smaller desk with everything from an amp to an espresso machine. I keep all my bits and pieces in a selection of carved wooden boxes scattered over the desk.

It stays pretty tidy, to be honest, which is not me at all! But I suspect that is because I generate very little paper these days.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in North London.

So far it has only influenced one book: The Stink (go read it!).

I love London; I love the noise and the bustle and the constant rumble that is like a sleeping dragon. I love the cafes and the small shops. London is a thousand and one villages crammed together, and even in the centre, you find village life in the small communities squashed between the shops and the tourist attractions.

My writing is really influenced by people, not so much places, and how they can adapt to any lifestyle in any location. London is just one of those.
When did you first start writing?
I have written most of my life, including copywriting for many, many years.

I struggled with writing a novel and started and abandoned many. But then, a while ago, my life changed and I promised myself that I would finish the Stink. I got down to it, shut the world away and did it.

I have not managed to stop since and I have written nearly a million words in the last year.
Published 2015-10-29.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

People of Dirt
Series: Dirt 2 - The Story of Silvi Farthing. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 228,490. Language: English. Published: January 19, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
It is hard to see which is worse. The siege of Don in the beautiful kingdom of Sarn, the enemies beyond the Red Mountains who wish to wipe out the dragons, or the terrible winter in the north that is starving thousands. Can the young Silvi Farthing lead the people of Dirt? Can the dragons save the refugees? People of Dirt; the dramatic finale of Dirt, series two.
Dragons of Dirt
Series: Dirt 2 - The Story of Silvi Farthing. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 174,790. Language: English. Published: January 11, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
The dragons are returning to Preland and Bind, but while Silvi, Ferret and Mistry search for the descendant of the Cwendrina, forces are building that might ruin their plans.
Girls of Dirt
Series: Dirt 2 - The Story of Silvi Farthing. Price: Free! Words: 167,380. Language: English. Published: December 14, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
It is five centuries later and the disease that was killing the dragons is no longer a threat. They want to come home. Can Silvi, the distant descendant of Johnson Farthing become a rider and find a country that will accept the dragons in a world where most think dragons are nothing but children's stories?
The Stink
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 132,270. Language: English. Published: July 23, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Urban, Fiction » Coming of age
North London, 1976. The longest, hottest summer on record. There are strikes, the water is running out and the kids don't understand their parents. Which bunch of idiots would think it is a good idea to start a band? Five sixteen-year-olds take over an abandoned building to rehearse and end up wrapped in a coming-of-age tale, of love, mayhem and murder!
Series: Dirt 1 - The Story of Johnson Farthing. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 71,700. Language: English. Published: November 3, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Book 4, Season 1 - 4th EDITION (2018) - The fantastic sequel to series one of the high fantasy Dirt. It is ten years later but the world is still not at peace. A wonderful tale of looking for freedom and a home. Includes the short story Mistry's Tale, the prelude to Dirt, Series Two.
The Fight for Dirt
Series: Dirt 1 - The Story of Johnson Farthing. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 179,060. Language: English. Published: November 3, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Book 3, Series 1 - 2nd Edition (June 2016) A Tale of dragons, freedom and the search for a home. The dramatic finale to Dirt, series one and Farthing and the battles continue as Farthing rebuilds his army. They must choose the perfect moment to fight back, to free Dirt from the stranglehold of the Haftens and the Heinela Cwendrin.
Bloody Dirt
Series: Dirt 1 - The Story of Johnson Farthing. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 176,450. Language: English. Published: November 3, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Book 2, Season 1 in the incredible fantasy saga. 4th EDITION (2018). War is coming. It is inevitable and as the friends find events overtaking their plans, will the dragons help, or turn their backs? The beautiful tale or love, war and friendship, continues in Bloody Dirt.
Series: Dirt 1 - The Story of Johnson Farthing. Price: Free! Words: 160,320. Language: English. Published: November 3, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
(5.00 from 1 review)
Book 1, Season 1 - 4th EDITION (2018) - A fantastic tale of love, war, friendship and dragons! Follow the journey of Johnson Farthing as he races across an ocean carried by a beautiful sea dragon to rescue his sister from slavers. But this is just the beginning, and his world is about to change forever.
Yona and the Beast
Series: Dirt 1 - The Story of Johnson Farthing. Price: Free! Words: 24,670. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
(5.00 from 1 review)
A beautiful and heart-rending short story about the slave called Yona and a huge Calliston, set on the world of Dirt. Yona is cold, as are the others, but with the help of a stranger, they escape from confinement and flee across the continent of Bind on a huge beast. This fantasy tale is set during the same period as the events in Dirt, series one, but can be read on its own.