Interview with Hickory Cole

How do you approach cover design?
I take great pride in my covers. I think the old adage "You can't judge a book by its cover" is only partially correct. The cover is clearly one of the key components that can grab a potential reader's eye, but does a great cover ensure a great read? Of course not, but a bad one will almost certainly ensure the reader will pass on the book. I personally create all my covers, partly because I am a control freak when it comes to the creative aspect of my books, but also because I really enjoy that part of the process. When I released my short story "Amnesia" as one of my first Smashwords titles I got nearly a thousand views on the first day. I was really proud of that cover, and I think it had a lot to do with the huge volume of interest.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I enjoy a good story. Often, I look for a mystery of some sort, not a pure crime mystery, but a nice suspenseful thriller where you are trying to figure out where it is headed, and usually can't until the end. But my favorite pieces are ones that construct a world that I can connect with. These five works have not always been on this list for me, but for now they are.

1. Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain) - I discovered this book when I was young. Mark Twain is still one of my favorite authors. From the scheming young boy, conning a bunch of boys into white washing his aunt's picket fence to the story line of a boy's first crush on the vulnerable young Becky Thatcher to the ultimate villain, Injun Joe, the story grabbed me from the start to the very end. You can't go wrong with this literary classic

2. Stone Cold (David Baldacci) - This was the first story in the Oliver Stone series that I picked up and I found it quite enjoyable. I love a good suspenseful thriller and this is one of my favorites..Baldacci is an easy read, very fluid and he created a great story in this book. If you like a good conspiracy plot I highly recommend this one.

3. Five Skies (Ron Carlson) - This story is a great story about three men working on a remote construction project for one summer. Nothing much happens for 95% of the book as far as plot advancement goes, but it's a great character study watching these characters explore themselves and each other. Carlson does a great job with the imagery of the scene and the internal struggles of these three compelling characters.

4. The Last Oracle (James Rollins) - I came in late to this series (Sigma Force) but the prior stories were not required reading for this novel. Rollins creates an intricate plot, where fringe science meets the mystery of the untapped human potential. It's an excellent thrill-a-minute page turner. This genre more or less encapsulates my sweet spot for storytelling. I love sci-fi, emphasis on the fi, not the sci, sci-fi light if you want to call it that. Plus as I explained earlier, I gravitate towards the suspsense/thriller. This one has the perfect blend for me. I think I may read this one again, this weekend.

5. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) - My wife and son read this book and suggested I give it a try despite its YA target audience. I'm so glad I read it. I really loved the surreal world created by Collins, with the compelling and unimaginable cruelty of the Hunger Games at its center. Katniss Everdeen has all the quintessential characteristics that make for the perfect heroine. This is easily my favorite read in the past five years.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have the basic Nook. The e-ink devices are all great, hands down better than the backlit varieties in my opinion. When you can read your Nook when sitting in a lounge chair poolside, I mean come on... Do I need to say more?
Describe your desk
Cluttered desk, cluttered mind. I think that's the saying. What was the question again?
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up 45 minutes from where I live today. Some who read that first sentence can tell that place must be in Texas, where people describe distances in units of time. Texas is indeed a big place. I have always lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. I suppose certain idiosyncrasies of the Texan and Southern dialect have infiltrated my writing, but I tend to pick settings where rain falls more freely. I love writing about places I've visited, not so much about the place I live. I took my inspiration for the setting of my novel, Little, from a family trip we made to Tennessee.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
My favorite part of writing is creating a new story. Every story begins with so much potential, and I love all the possibilities at my fingertips when I begin writing. That is one of the great things about writing short stories. The journey from beginning to end is a brief one, so there is less time for it to get off track, but as I have continued writing, and expanding from my shorter length tales to a full novel I have found a lot of personal satisfaction in weaving the intricate details of a longer plot. It is certainly more challenging to be sure, but even more rewarding when it all comes together in the end.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are the most precious commodity to an artist of any kind. Without them we are simply crazy people, wasting our time. It is my job as an author to put forth a product worth my fans' time. We enter a new contract with each new book they download or buy online. Even if the story is offered for free it costs them their time. And people don't want their time wasted any more than they want their money to suffer the same fate. If we as authors don't waste our fans' time we will be rewarded by future purchases and, in a perfect world, a recommendation to a friend. That's when fans begin to multiply. That's when things get exciting.
What are you working on next?
Currently I have a novel in the very early stages I am working on. The tentative title for the book is Straight, and it centers around the struggle of two men who eventually find themselves at odds with one another. Both are coming from very different worlds, one a homeless recluse living in the back woods of Virginia who thrusts himself into the center of a spree of criminal activity orchestrated by a local street gang of which, the second man is a reluctant member. I really love where the story is headed currently and I have my eyes fixed on the destination. I hope to have it completed by late summer of 2014.
When did you first start writing?
I remember loving the art of writing all the way back in high school, but I never tried to cultivate the talent until I began writing later in life, about age 42 if my math is correct. I started with a novel where I wrote myself into a corner. I hate when that happens. I tried again a few years later and completed my first novel. It was horrible, full of cliché and... it was just terrible. I realized I was biting off too much, and I needed to hone my craft, so I began writing short stories and submitting them for online contests. When my first short, The Equation, won honorable mention on Authorstand.com I was elated. I was encouraged to continue by the modest amount of success. Eventually I took a half dozen honorable mentions on that site along with a couple of first prize awards that actually paid money and eventually sat down and wrote my first full length piece worth publishing. You will find my novel, Little, on all the sites Smashwords distributes to.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Recently I have tried to find fellow indie authors to read. I really enjoyed Michael Stark's "The Island". He created a very compelling apocalyptic tale with a unique twist that I found very fascinating. I also found a couple of great suspense/thrillers with Paul Pilkington's "The One You Love" and Dennis Batchelder's "Soul Identity". Both are great stories. I use a Nook, so I generally search for titles on Smashwords first, then, once I find one that grabs me, I look it up on B&N and buy it.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The story I remember first writing was a creative writing assignment my junior year in high school. We had to incorporate characters from all of the novels we had read that year in class. I made a spoof piece that involved crazy ways of getting these characters into one central place and for some reason I peppered in John Wayne and a few other cameos as well for reasons I don't recall. I'm sure it was not that great, but the highlight of the project for me culminated in a chance moment when, for reasons I cannot explain, I had to get something from my English teacher during another period. When I approached the closed door of her classroom I heard her reading my story to her class. It was a rush like none other I had experienced before. Appreciation for my work coupled with a captive audience. One of the most validating moments of my life.
Published 2014-02-15.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Road Trip
Price: Free! Words: 1,420. Language: English. Published: November 23, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
A man finds himself along a narrow stretch of highway unsure of his destination. He ponders his life's journey as he considers this one, whether to continue towards the unknown or return to the familiar despite the obvious pain associated with the only place he knows as home.
Alone
Price: Free! Words: 1,190. Language: English. Published: November 16, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Themes & motifs » Psychological, Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
(4.00 from 1 review)
A man aimlessly wanders the streets of an empty world until he hears a mysterious voice that leads him through a red door that will help free him from the solitude he desperately hopes to escape.
Replica
Price: Free! Words: 4,620. Language: English. Published: August 24, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
When Chief Auditor, Paul Reynolds, uncovers a massive embezzlement scam involving thousands of disappearing high end cyborg units he discovers a trail of evidence leading straight to himself and must quickly uncover the truth before he is implicated for a crime he did not commit.
Amnesia
Price: Free! Words: 5,380. Language: English. Published: November 11, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General, Fiction » Science fiction » High tech
A man wakes up in a strange place with no knowledge of how he got there or who he is when a mysterious woman enters the scene and his life. Armed with nothing but his own intuition and a mysterious package to guide him he must make a crucial decision that will change his world and that of his new acquaintance forever.
The Equation
Price: Free! Words: 5,250. Language: English. Published: August 25, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
Foundry McDermott is at the top of his world when the revelations of a dear uncle shake his perception of reality to the very core. A mysterious book and a simple equation transform a seemingly ordinary afternoon into the critical turning point in his life.
Kalini
Price: Free! Words: 3,000. Language: American English. Published: August 25, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Urban
John Corning is conflicted about his feelings for the new work force represented by Kalini, an entry level immigrant contract worker. His world has long since been up ended by their presence, but his reluctance to fully accept them is challenged one evening by chance circumstance.
Photographic
Price: Free! Words: 4,710. Language: American English. Published: August 21, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories
(5.00 from 3 reviews)
A man burdened with an image he can never forget seeks out the person whose chance encounter turned him into the cynical person he is today. Plagued by the image of the man found standing over the body of his mother, he hopes to fill the emptiness inside with a confrontation he has avoided for years.
The Death of Emily Pritchett
Price: Free! Words: 1,980. Language: American English. Published: August 17, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literary collections » American / General, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Drama
A beautiful young debutante meets a senseless and untimely demise. The eye witness account, retold from a peculiar perspective, leads to the question, could the tragedy have been prevented.