This month we have an interview with published writer, Patrik Hill. My encounter with Mr. Hill was a bit different than my other meetings. Usually I would post an ad on Facebook or Twitter, asking authors to contact me.
This time however, I ran across a post from Patrik on a Facebook writing group, where he was offering encouragement to fellow writers. At that point, I contact him, asking if he would be interested in sharing his knowledge with my readers. He gladly volunteered to participate and answer some of my questions.
With only a few short interactions, Patrik came across as very positive, enthusiastic, considerate, and readily offers advice. He is also a perfectionist, and pays attention to details.
Now on to the interview!
Bio: Patrik Hill is the author of Downtown Noir, as well as the essay and poetry collection entitled The Five Aces of Israel: reshuffled. A self-described adventure geek, he has traveled all over North America, Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands, exploring mountain trails, back country lakes, jungle canopies, and ocean reefs. A certified SCUBA diver, Patrik is as at home on land as he is beneath the water. Patrik often uses these experiences and people he meets to mold and shape the characters of his books.
Patrik has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Montana State University emphasizing on Criminal Justice. He has worked as a draftsman, a restaurant manager, and a healthcare professional. Patrik currently lives in Bozeman, Montana, with his family, and is working on his next novels, Thru the Glass Darkly: Retribution, and Detective Stories After Dark.
Starting as early as the age of eight years old, Patrik has been writing short stories and producing fiction in various lengths. Stories of mad scientists and mechanized robots led to narratives experienced throughout teen years and early adulthood.
While in college at Bismarck State College, studying journalism, Patrik realized that corporate writing just wasn't his cup of tea, and while the experiences at BSC proved to be invaluable, serving to provide a foundation on which his current writing is based. He left BSC in 1999.
Published Works: Downtown Noir
Current Projects: Detective Stories after Dark, and Thru the Glass Darkly: Retribution
When did you begin writing?
I was eight years old, writing on my dad's IBM PC, using old 5.25" floppy discs and dot matrix printers. I had always been writing and daydreaming and scribbling things in my notebooks when I was supposed to be taking notes in class, but those became foundations for stories, and they became the backbone for my writing technique. So as early as grade school I was "home publishing" various projects and making my own short stories and characters.
Did you receive any special training or attend a school?
I have never been formally trained as a writer, so to speak. I originally went to college in 1997 to study journalism but I felt that it was too corporate and that I wasn't always able to express the ideas that I wanted. I felt that by being told what to write it was conflicting with what I wanted to write and coupled with other reasons, I chose to leave college and basically find my way in the world. I went back to college in 2010 and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology. I minored in Writing, so for that I guess you could say that I was formally trained, but the minor was really just to help satisfy requirements for graduation. During this time I was expecting to go into law enforcement so I hadn't thought about using writing as a career that much. Funny how a few years change things.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I grew up reading authors like Stephen King, Tom Clancy and Neil Gaiman. They helped mold my writing style and they really helped to give me some direction and the foundation of writing. I guess mechanics would be a good word, here. However, I use a lot of life experiences, from working in a hospital, being a delivery driver to sketchy neighborhoods, etc. I've always heard that truth is stranger than fiction so I figured that it wouldn't be a bad place to start. When I was studying sociology, it really clicked with me, and with the emphasis on criminology, it led to a lot of case studies that were just too crazy to believe. It provided a lot of source material for when I sat down to write Downtown Noir.
Do you use any special resources when writing? (other books, computer programs, etc)
When I was first studying journalism I held onto my AP Stylebook and I still have a copy of Strunk and White's book floating around. I feel that they are great resources to help guide and to mold the creation, especially if you are trying to convey thoughts in a clear tone. However, I also like to write as if the thoughts were shotgunning out of my head, just one after another, and so sometimes I will throw the rulebooks out the window and just go for it. I think that it allows the author a bit of creative latitude on how they want their characters and their scenes to be perceived. I figured, if I do that, and I own it, well then, that's my truest form of creation.
What is (in your opinion) the most important thing to remember when writing, and why is it so important?
In my opinion, the most important thing to remember when writing is to make no apologies for it. I was hindering myself for so long because I felt that if I put a novel out there, and it "swear words" and "sex scenes" I was going to have to apologize for it, and backstep over myself, and try to explain that it's not me, it's the characters... But when I stopped making apologies for my work, and I put it on paper, and put it into the world, it was amazing how refreshing that was. I still have to chuckle because at the age of 37 my mother will call me to gently chide me about the language used by certain characters in the novel. I guess the parental thing never goes away. But after that, be open to advice. Ya know, make no apologies for what your write and what you create, but if you have someone who is willing to help you mold that into something better, whether that's a creative editor, or a dialect coach, or any subject matter expert who can elevate your work to a higher level, do it. Use the resources at hand, and be open to them guiding your work to a better state. It's hard to let go, but when the raw product becomes a polished novel, man, that's just awesome. But, never, ever make apologies for your work.
What is (in your opinion) the most challenging part of writing, and how do you overcome it?
Following up directly with what I just said, the hardest part is putting my work into someone else's hands for editing. A lot of times the editor has no idea what thoughts or emotions were running through your head when you put a sentence down on paper, and so to have them start going to town with the proverbial red pen, it makes it hard. But it's something that has to be done. I must have gone through my novel five or six times looking for grammar mistakes, punctuation mistakes, spelling mistakes, etc. And then I handed it off to an editor and she found all these other things and I'm thinking, "Good Lord, was I drunk when I went through this?" But then she goes through it and starts to rearrange stuff, and correct stuff, and it's in those moments when you feel like a failure because it wasn't perfect the first time, or the second, or even the third or fourth time... But you go with it, and you allow your editor to help you. Sometimes I would have to fight for what I wanted, and I would have to put my foot down and say, "No, this needs to be this way, and this is why..." So sometimes you compromise and other times you trust that the editor is going to make it work for you. I have to always remind myself that my editor doesn't know what I am thinking, and she doesn't know the story line the way I do. I can see the streets, and the buildings, and the cars, but she only sees what I show her, and so to have her read it from the reader's point of view, it really helps me to expand upon the base that I've already created. It's still oh so hard to hand it off to my editor, whatever project I am working on, because even though I am a grown man, I still feel as if I am a 3rd grade student hoping the teacher doesn't rip my essay to shreds.
Did you use an agent? (why or why not?)
When I first published the book I didn't use an agent. In my naivety I felt that I could do it all on my own. Looking back I find myself laughing because as I now search for an agent for the book, ultimately a publishing house to look at it, I have to chuckle because I think that if I had gone through an agent in the first place, this process might have been easier. Although, I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason, and so as I continue to be the end all guy for the novel, it's funny because you meet certain people, you work with certain groups, and it all seems to fall into place. The short answer is that I would love to have an agent to help take the burden off my shoulders, but for the time being, I'll wear the cap of the writer, the agent, the whatever I need to be guy...
Did you use an Editor? If not, what process did you use to edit your work?
I did use and editor. I knew that up front I wasn't going to be smart enough, or clear headed enough, to catch all the errors that I made in the book. So while I tried to edit while I worked, and I did go through the novel when it was all done, I did also send it off to an editor, someone who would go page by page and red pen the hell outta it. I didn't use a professional editor, but rather a gal who I knew through college who is deep into writing, and she was able to catch even more mistakes. I probably should have used a professional editor but at this point in the game, I'm kind of proud of the random spelling and grammar mistakes that weren't caught. I am going to own them because even though the novel isn't perfect, it's a little rough around the edges, and frankly I feel that goes well with the content of the novel. I could probably go back and reedit everything, but to what end? The novel has been out for over a year. I will own the imperfections that are the novel and I will get to enjoy the way it's slightly off kilter either through printing, or through those tiny mistakes. Like the author, the novel will never be perfect. But, it's good enough for now.
How did you get your book published? (self-published, Vanity publishing, Mainstream publisher).
I originally used an online company to publish it, so that I could see what it would be like to actually have a printed, finished product in hand. When I had that done, and I could see what it was going to be, I then talked to a friend of a friend of a friend who knew a guy, who could help me publish the work. It's easiest to say that it's self published, but I also use Amazon to publish both the print book and the eBook format.
Do you handle your own marketing?
I mainly use social media to market the book. Listen, free is good. So with the availability of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, it makes it very easy to reach a wide variety of audiences. However I do also pay for a web domain so that I can have a professional site to market the book. Also whenever there is a local event that I can be a part of, I try and utilize that, because local exposure is often the best way to get your name out there. So when local bookstores like The Country Bookshelf offered to let me come in and do a book signing in downtown Bozeman, MT, it seemed to be a bit of a no brainer. I'm currently working with a graphic designer to get postcards and mailers made up, but I also use traditional business cards and handbills to market the novel. Take a stroll through downtown and there are so many places that allow you to hang a handbill on their community corkboard, I justify that it's worth the two hours to walk the streets once a month, hanging signs, sipping coffee, talking with people about the novel. Always have at least one book on hand. I always have my shoulder bag with me, what my kids call my man purse, and there is a copy of the book in there. Don't be afraid to part with a free copy to someone if they are genuinely interested in the book. I'd rather be out the cost of the printing of the book for a potential fan, than to try and haggle on the street over the $20 cover price of the book. And besides, it offers a lot of street cred when you have a book that you can autograph and hand out to a potential fan. People see that, and especially in Bozeman where everyone loves local, they remember that the author is a stand up guy. He took care of a fan. I may be out the cost of one book, but I can generate a few sales via the internet or the local bookstore. Conversely tho, I also carry my smartphone and I have a credit card app that I can swipe people's cards if they so desire. Always be ready to make a sale. Don't be afraid to talk your book up, or use social media. In addition to the mailers, I am working on press kits to send out to newspapers, magazines, and TV stations. I did one interview with Bozeman Magazine over the summer and that was what helped pave the way for the book signing. Be ready to put yourself out there to talk about your book. It's scary as hell to be the guy who is comfortable behind the keyboard, to now have to be in front of people and cameras, but it's also really exciting to have people be excited about your work.
What is your best marketing tip?
I guess I kind of covered that with the previous question.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
My advice to all future and potential writers is to write. It doesn't matter if it's in a dime store notebook, a leather bound journal, a PC, or even if you speak your thoughts to a voice recorder and transcribe them later. Just write. Start putting words on paper. People may try and stop you from publishing your work, but they will never be able to stop you from being a writer. There is an inherent power in that ability to create something magical with the power of words. To be able to sway people with your thoughts, it's better than any drug. But for the love of God, just start writing. Seek counsel from others who have been where you are at. I once heard a quote that says, "If you are the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room." Always be willing to learn and be willing to accept the guidance offered. Never throw any of your writing away, no matter how terrible it might seem. If you felt it was good enough to put on paper, your mind is telling you that it can be used, maybe not now, but certainly later on. Keep notes, files, take pictures of places that inspire you. Travel, if you can, see the world and experience different cultures. Every one of these things, these experiences, is absolutely necessary to writing a great novel. A five year old could describe a country diner out on Route 37, but until you've sat in the diner, and felt the sticky soda pop on the floor gluing your shoes to the sun faded tiles... Until you've smelled the lard on the hot flat top as they cook bacon and eggs, well that is what makes the novel... Be a student of the world and a person of humanity. Learn others' stories so that you may further your own, and broaden your own horizons... For the love of God, take notes. Take pictures. Create your own worlds within your dreams and meld them with the real world. And don't ever stop writing. Write all that you can stand every day, even if it's only one sentence. Write what you can when you can and perfect your craft.
In closing, I would like to thank Patrik Hill for taking the time out of his busy schedule to take this interview. Sharing his knowledge, experience and insight are truly appreciated. Hoping everyone found it as helpful and informative as I did. I wish him well in his future endeavors, and look forward to hearing more from him in the future.
Until Next time.