Interview with Nathan Hall

What's the story behind your latest book?
Well, my latest finished work is a short story titled "Perfect". It's a world in which every perfect creation is immortalized, and so is its creator--made invulnerable and immune to age. This is the goal of most of the population. This is the source of power and influence in the world, and the measure of each city's greatness.
What are you working on next?
My pitch is this: In my story, the genocidal overlord who the hero sets out to overthrow, is so beloved by the people that the hero can't find any support. It's Epic Fantasy set on a secondary world, a standalone novel that will hopefully become part of a three book series.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Knowing that someone is enjoying my work. it is so gratifying to hear that someone has enjoyed what I've worked so hard to create. Hearing about someone rereading my work because they liked it so much is one of the things that can brighten my day, no matter how dark it is otherwise.

Money probably won't hurt, of course. But I wouldn't know about that, yet. ;)
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have many motivators. For one, it can take up to a year and a half to hear back from publishers on a story. The waiting would drive me mad. For another, this was the only way I knew to quickly and easily publish my short stories, which will not necessarily be the focus of my career. In addition, it's free marketing, allowing me to reach a broader audience.
How do you approach cover design?
That's an interesting question. Due to my position as a college student, funds are lacking (otherwise I would pay for a semi-professional cover). Instead, I use my own background in the arts to create a cover, using the paint program GiMP.

The design largely starts with a simple image that evokes a character, event, emotion, or theme of the story. I work around my own limitations in building a cover, usually discarding the first few ideas as they prove too complex or involved. Once I've found a design that works, I usually spend an average of 15 hours executing the design. Hopefully, the results both capture the eye and create interest in the reader.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
I believe that my greatest strength is my ability to build characters and to write solid, interesting viewpoints. Inspired by the greats (such as Robert Jordan and Dean Koontz), I've worked pretty actively to make my characters vivid, unique, and realistic, and maintain a voice that's a few steps short of stream-of-consciousness.

After that, I believe my strength is the ability to use the English language. Edgar Allan Poe is a huge influence on me, and so some of his use of language in prose has influenced how I choose words. I try to make my stories pleasant to the ear as read aloud, in addition to being vivid in description and depth.
What is your greatest weakness in writing?
I believe that my greatest weakness is a lack of consistency. I need to sit down and write a few times a week, every week. So far, I've failed to do that. It's something I actively struggle with. It keeps me from being as productive as I need to be.

Other than that, I think I have separate issues for short fiction and for longer fiction.

In short stories, I find myself to be sticking a little bit too loyally to typical structure. Short fiction is the place for experimentation, but I'd like to take advantage of it to a greater degree. I also feel that my short stories occasionally feel like the prologues to longer works. I'd like to get them to stand on their own to a greater degree, and be more satisfying upon completion.

In longer works, I find that I don't worldbuild quite enough, or spend enough time on the magic system. Generally, I correct this in later drafts, so it isn't as noticeable. But in early drafts, most of the worldbuilding is free-written, and so not always internally consistent noror completely engaging.
When did you first start writing?
I first seriously started writing after reading The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan. So I of course started a 10-book epic, which I slogged through for about seven years, worldbuilding, outlining, plotting, and writing, before I realized I wasn't nearly good enough to write that yet. I've since learned to start with what I'm capable of, and work my way up.
What are some of the greatest writing resources you've found?
Well, the first is easily the podcast Writing Excuses. It's a free online podcast in which professional writers discuss issues and skills in bite-sized chunks of 15 minutes apiece. I can't overstate how awesome this is. Available at: www.writingexcuses.com

Another source of information I've used is Write About Dragons, a site for writers, on which there are videos taken of an actual, college-level creative writing class. One of the podcasters from Writing Excuses, and a New York Times bestselling author, Brandon Sanderson, teaches the class.

There are others. I'll add to this as they come to mind.
What is your writing process?
That depends on the length of the story, and also varies slightly from story to story, as well.

For a short story, I begin with a really neat idea. Something that I haven't seen anyone else writing on. My short stories are my exploratory works, where I take a "what-if" that gets me excited and run with it.

From there, I worldbuild slightly (a page or two), and then I try to find a character who sits in conflict with what I know of the word, and who allows me to explore the idea in a fun way. From there I build the immediate setting and the characters surrounding the main character (usually only one or two for short stories).

After I have those, I generally free write until I strike on a primary conflict. Then I go back and outline the conflict to a loose resolution. This allows me to finish the story with confidence in its climax. Revisions are mainly for foreshadowing, and for tightening the prose, strengthening voice, etc.

For novels, the process is slightly different. I generally worldbuild several pages, and outline the basic plot to a greater degree. I generally look for sets of characters that offset each other and allow me to explore the theme from different points of view. Usually, a novel takes three or four really neat ideas fitting together, before it's ready to start.
Published 2014-04-10.
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