James R. Hannibal interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: May 18, 2016 12:50:40 PM
James R. Hannibal interview with David Alan Binder
His bio from his website: James R. Hannibal is a former US Air Force Stealth Bomber pilot with over a thousand hours of combat experience including over-watch, close air support, and HVI captures. He graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1997 with a bachelor’s of science in Middle Eastern Studies and earned a master’s of science from Central Missouri State University in Aviation Safety Sciences. His flying career included the A-10 Warthog, B-2 Stealth Bomber, MQ-1 Predator, T-38 Talon, T-37 Tweet, and the Boeing 737, 757, and 767. When he is not flying or writing thrillers, James occasionally reviews for the New York Journal of Books.
1. How do you pronounce your name?
My last name is pronounced just like the name of the guy with the cigar in the A-Team who loves it when a plan comes together.
2. Where are you currently living (at least the state or if outside the US then the Country)?
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience so far?
Keep writing. Keep learning.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I walk. Miles and miles. I walk and dictate into my phone, and then come back to the computer and refine. That keeps me moving both physically and within the story. It also keeps me from getting hung up with marketing busywork.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I am not a fan of self-publishing. It had the potential to bring out the best in literature. Instead it has brought out the worst. So many people are deceived into believing it is a get rich quick plan. It is not. It is hard work. It is beating your head against a brick wall in hopes that the wall will somehow break and reveal opportunity and blessing. And when that fails, too many frustrated writers resort to unethical practices like buying reviews or using sock-puppet accounts to promote themselves and run down others, so that even those who are trying to stay out of it end up getting shot in the crossfire. The self-publishing explosion has brought a few works to light that otherwise might not have made it, but it has also caused an apocalyptic flood of anger, hatred, backbiting, and—not to put too fine a point on it—really bad writing.
a. What is the name of your publisher and in what city are they based?
My Nick Baron covert ops books are available from Berkley Books at Penguin. My pirate adventure is with Brilliance Audio. And my upcoming Section 13 children’s mystery/fantasy/adventure series will be published by Simon & Schuster Children’s. All are in New York.
6. Any insights into eBooks vs. print books, and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
Digital reading was an inevitable advancement in literary tech, and we will be seeing interactive VR, holobooks, and who-knows-what-else in the future. New tech for reading is not evil, nor is it the end of print books. New ways to read or experience literature are merely new portals into the same infinite expanse of worlds that reading provides.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Hard work and persistence. Also, fork over the cash and get your rear out to some good conferences. They offer invaluable learning and networking experiences.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquiring an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
Agents are essential. Get JEFF HERMAN’S GUIDE. Find out who wants what you’re writing. And query your tail off.
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Write. Write, write, write, write, write. And did I mention write? Like any other craft or skill, this one takes practice. Your first work is not the world-changing, incredible piece of literature you think it is. Trust me. Don’t even hand it to your writers’ group for critiques. That's not worth your time or theirs. Put it aside, attend a conference, read four more books on writing, and then write a completely different story. Have your writers’ group critique that one, then start all over again with all the other steps I mentioned. And when you’ve finished that round, do it again.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned about your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
That walking and writing at the same time could be so effective.
11. How many books have you written?
I have four published works, one coming out in November, I’m a quarter of the way through another one, and I’m halfway through another. I think that adds up to five and three quarters, but I’m not really a math guy.
12. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
See my answer to the question about helps for new writers. If you need specific books to get you started, read STORY ENGINEERING, STORY PHYSICS, the entire ELEMENTS OF FICTION WRITING series, STORY TRUMPS STRUCTURE, and THE WRITER’S JOURNEY
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Don’t force it. Don’t come up with a completely unbelievable twist and then spend the whole story building up to it just so you can throw it in your reader’s face at the end. That will earn you a bad review and a mental punch in the nose from your readers. Steven James writes extensively about twists in STORY TRUMPS STRUCTURE. I can’t put it any better than he does.
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
Don’t write about vampires because everybody’s buying vampire books. Don’t write an Al Qaeda (or, these days, ISIS) terrorist thriller because everybody’s writing about Al Qaeda or ISIS. If you write what everyone is buying or everyone else is writing then you’re only adding to the mass confusion. How can you possibly stand out? My books stand out because I wrote what I wanted to write—what I thought was cool, or special, or amazing. Turns out there are other folks who think the same things are cool and special and amazing and nobody had bothered writing for them because everyone was too busy writing about vampires and Al Qaeda.
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I’m terrible at marketing. So are 99.999999% of all other authors. Stop marketing and write. You can spend THOUSANDS on Facebook ads before you even realize it, and you are probably shooting yourself in the proverbial foot at the same time. Facebook ads should be the best author marketing tool available. Unfortunately, thanks to greedy people corrupting the system and the nature of the algorithms involved, what should have been a good thing has become the biggest hammer by which aspiring authors smash their own thumbs. Spend half as much on a publicist who has made themselves an expert in multiple marketing platforms, and you’ll get ten times the return. Plus you’ve just delegated the marketing so that you can write, write, write.
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I would write more, read more, and market myself less early on. I would have attended a conference like ThrillerFest four years earlier than I did so that I could learn from the real masters.
17. What saying or mantra do you live by?
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. In light of that, none of the rest matters.
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