Interview with KA Hopkins

How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I'm too old to accept rejection graciously. Many publishers cannot afford to look at someone like me who takes several years to create a book and does not have a sizeable writing portfolio - so the self-publishing route is the only option open to me. The other advantage is that epublishing has a potentially much larger market than hardcopy. It's a numbers game, cheaper books and larger markets - hopefully more sales.

For a newbie, the Smashwords style guides and FAQs are invaluable sources of how to - the best I have seen actually.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
So many books, TV shows and movies drive me crazy - in a lot of ways, to the point where I finally decided…I can do better. How hard can it be? Pretty damn hard actually…
What's the story behind your latest book?
I'm not sure where the story came from. One night I couldn't sleep and starting jotting down ideas using a mindmap format. In a couple of hours, I had the entire outline of the book, even after all the revisions, the framework of the story stood up pretty well.

Given the number of stars visible with the naked eye in the night sky, the belief that mankind is the only intelligent life in the galaxy, is pretty arrogant on our part. Assuming there are intelligent alien beings, and somehow they have managed to crack the time and space challenges of travelling the light years between stars - what are their motivations towards Earth? Given that they are much more technically advanced than mankind, what would they want with mankind? Why even bother with us - primitives? That's the springboard for "Humble Beginnings."
How do you approach cover design?
I try and pick several major elements within the book for the cover. I write out detailed descriptions for each element and make stick drawings to get rough proportions, then send all the notes to several professional cover designers and let them work their magic.
What is your writing process?
In no particular order…
• I like to write when it is quiet, it doesn't matter what time. I can't have any distractions when I write, or I end up wasting a lot of time.
• I try and write every day, with a goal of three to five thousand words a week.
• I use mindmaps to lay out the characters, themes and plots. The best classical sci-fi has always had a lot of reality and humanity woven into the stories, so I read a lot and watch the news for interesting trends - these I weave into the story arcs.
• No matter what technique an author uses to write, one needs a means to keep track of hundreds of themes, characters and plot items, all without repeating yourself - mindmaps are critical for me. My technique is to outline a chapter or series of chapters, fill in the outlines, then go back when it is done and update the outlines. It is much easier to search an outline than looking for a specific paragraph, especially when your book gets to be over a 100,000 words.
• Once I have a rough plot, characters, and story arcs in a Mindmap format…I free-write, ignoring grammar, spelling, and sentence structure; pretty much everything that you have ever been taught about writing. I have two goals with this approach- the first, "capture the creativity" anyway possible - the second, "unpredictability" - let the story take you to places that you did not imagine in the original outlines.
• Once the rough draft is on paper, then the hard work of editing begins. At least 60% of my time is spent editing - sometimes more.
• I have a number of trusted friends and co-workers who help with continuity and editing - no matter how many times you go over your story yourself, something will always get missed (typos are like cockroaches, you can never get them all). Remember, a poor story with perfect spelling and grammar is still a poor story- poor spelling and grammar will detract from a great story. It is a yin and yang relationship. For me it is all about the story, but the story has to be readable.
• My editor spends many hours correcting the novel ways that I have found to abuse and misuse the English language. Once this is done, I then go over the manuscript again, and again, until the story is fully fleshed out, compelling and seizes the reader. After which I have a group of beta readers look at it and provide feedback. I constantly ask: is it entertaining, is it a fun read? If yes…then it's ready to publish. If no…
• Writing is easily one of the most difficult things that I have ever done - I'm in no way a natural and have to work at it.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Living in a small gold mining town in the NWT Canada. I grew up with one channel of TV available only three hours per day and a couple of AM radio channels. It was dark for months on end, as the sun never rises in the far north during the winter. In grade four, I discovered, Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys could take me to places that made the long winter nights much shorter. Reading became my window to wonderful new worlds.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote technical documents for secure military communication systems and project management guides for decades. Humble Beginnings is my first attempt at a sci-fi novel.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Sorry, I can't pick a favorite. Let me think about it.
What do you read for pleasure?
Biographies, science fiction and some fantasy.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My father was a military officer and I followed in his footsteps joining the Signal Corps at eighteen; so I moved around a lot. Constantly moving means that you see lots of different cultures and people. This provided me with a unique view of the world. Having been a soldier I have seen first hand the results of war, where people have lost everything. This experience gives focus, as to what is really important in life and what's just noise.
Who are your favorite authors?
Mainly science fiction, military or paranormal:
• Jim Butcher
• Rorke Denver
• Richard Dolan
• Alan Dean Foster
• Harry Harrison
• Robert A Heinlein
• James P. Hogan
• Lloyd Pye
• John Scalzi
• Zecharia Sitchin
• tons of others
What is your e-reading device of choice?
SAMSUNG Tab S, it has a great screen and very good battery life, which allows me to read pretty much anywhere, anyplace.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Usually the need to pee - not as young as I use to be. In previous careers, I gave up counting how many times I should have died or been badly hurt doing the crazy stuff that I did. I have lost a lot of friends over the years, all of them passing much too young. I want to earn what fate has given me. I try and find something to appreciate in each and every day. Some days are good, some not so much.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Flying
I love to fly, ever since I can remember I wanted to be a fighter pilot. Poor eye sight disqualified me from military flying but I joined the military anyway as a means to pay for college. Once my initial enlistment was up I took private lessons, earning private, commercial, aerobatic and tail wheel ratings. Eventually fate was kind enough that I ended up owning a number of tail dragger aircraft. Now I have a preference for Russian aircraft - I love the round engine experience. My current plane is a highly modified Sukhoi 29. With nearly 430hp up front and a thrust-to-weight approaching .95 to 1 - it's a hell of a ride.

Martial Arts
While I have never been accused of being good at martial arts I do enjoy going to the dojo with my kids and working out in the disciplines of karate, Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu.

Sporting Clays

Of all the shooting sports that I have been lucky enough to experience, nothing beats sporting clays. Unlike trap shooting (clay pigeons fly away from you) or skeet (clay pigeons come out of two known towers), sporting clays combines the best of all worlds where the clay pigeon targets come from a variety of locations often hidden from the shooter. It is sometimes described as "golf with a shotgun," because a typical course includes a variety of ten to fifteen different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
By browsing what's new and the best sellers.
What are you working on next?
I'm currently working on about a dozen project management guides and the sequel to Humble Beginnings.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I found that I love the entire creative process of writing a book - words matter. Entire chapters can change direction and meaning by changing only a few words and sentences-that's pretty powerful.
Published 2015-06-09.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Stuck in the Middle
Series: Undreamt Consequences trilogy. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 100,060. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: November 3, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi
Stuck in the Middle, is the second book of the Undreamt Consequences trilogy. It explores the premise that advanced civilizations will have artificial intelligences and biological beings interacting as equal citizens; so much so that the AIs appear to behave more 'human than humans.'
Humble Beginnings
Series: Undreamt Consequences trilogy. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 113,060. Language: English. Published: June 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi
(4.50)
Jake is just trying to get by, when he meets a sentient alien scout ship that has a small problem. Forced to seek help from an old Special Forces buddy, they discover extraterrestrials with a galactic corporate agenda have been visiting Earth for thousands of years. Oh and that small problem, puts Jake in the awkward position of being either Earth’s savior or the worst mass murderer in history.