Heather Hildenbrand is the author of the Dirty Blood series, The Specials shorts, Across the Galaxy, and Whisper. She’s a Words With Friends addict, occasional sarcastic sassy pants, and in an argument with me, nine times out of ten she’s wrong. Just saying…
Matt sometimes likes to talk smack. And by sometimes I mean whenever his mouth is open.
Heather’s a great writer, and someone I’ve come to call my friend in the world of publishing. She’s been kind enough to talk with me about books, publishing, and help me with some of my projects. Her most recent accomplishment, which puts her in the category of bad ass chicks, was changing her car’s windshield wiper blades. This girl can pretty much do it all. I also heard from a totally unreliable source, that she’s working on creating an army of small rodents to do her bidding. So getting on her bad side is not currently recommended, lest you find yourself with the desire to be gnawed to death by fuzzy beasts, or beaten down in public by an old wiper blade.
For the record, the army isn’t so much rodents as slimy, mollusk ninja killers. No one believes me how stealthy they are but I know the truth and I am going to show the world. <insert evil laugh here> Only problem: I’m scared of them too. My therapist and I are working on this.
And as such, I think we should start a “keep your sanity” fund for Heather’s therapist. God knows she is not an easy client to have. She should get a medal. *ahem* Anyways, in honor of not suffering either of those painful and somewhat embarrassing fates, I’ve invited her on the blog to be this month’s December Author Alert. I’m hoping this buys me enough time to build a secret hideaway somewhere in the Rocky Mountains where she will be less inclined to track me down. I’ll let you know how that works out.
It sounds like you have a secret cabin to hide in… DO not get me started on that whole cabin argument. We both know that’s a dead-end road conversation! (Because I will win. Screw your dragon. And your magic ring. The cabin is mine.)
1. No messing around here. Hypothetical #1 – You do succeed in creating your army of fuzzy, man-eating rodent beats. What’s the name of your fuzzy second-in-command, and what’s your first order of business?
Again, you’ve got the fuzzy and the rodent part all wrong. My army of choice would be mollusks. They are badass. And scary.
So probably his real name, like on his identification, is Sal the Slug. Seems like slugs wouldn’t be real creative in the naming of their offspring, small brains and all that. But since it grosses me out to say the word slug out loud I would probably call him Death Eater because that’s what he looks like in my mind’s eye.
2. Your Dirty Blood series has developed an awesome fan base that can’t wait for more. How many books are going to be in the series?
4… or 5. (I feel like the guy from Monty Python and you just asked my favorite color. I’m so dead.) Truthfully, I don’t know for sure yet. I mean, I know what’s going to happen but I’m also long-winded and it’ll probably take at least two more books to tell it.
3. Aside from Dirty Blood, you’ve published a few shorts as well as stand-alone stories. What do you prefer writing more, stand-alone books, or an ongoing series? And what’s next on your publishing agenda?
I definitely prefer writing a series. It is way more complicated to keep up with that many ‘threads’ or storylines but I get pretty invested in the characters and a stand-alone makes me sad when I have to say goodbye to them so soon. As for what’s next, I am working on something top-secret right now. I won’t release any info until I am closer to finishing because the whole thing has been pretty stop and go for me. But by end of December I will have deets! And it’s super-awesome-amazing, trust me. After that, Dirty Blood #4 will be written. It must be, lest I start getting cyber-tomatoes thrown at me. Peeps are really impatient. Then again, my cliffhanger was just mean on that last one! #SoSorry #ButNotReally
4. You’ve teamed up with two other authors to create Accendo Press. What made you decide to put this together, what have you learned by working regularly with other authors, and what’s on the horizon for Accendo?
I have learned SO MUCH working side by side with Jenn Sommersby and Angeline Kace. The different talents we all bring to the table (Angeline is amazing with marketing and covers and just has a great head for the business side of things and Jenn is an amazing editor and grammar ninja… what do I do again?) The thing is, we’ve found a way to combine our strengths and move forward in this business faster than if we’d done it alone. (“With our powers combined…” *said in a superhero voice*)
Seriously, I’m really grateful to have found them. Everyone needs a Jenn and Ang. As for Accendo, the horizon is wide flipping open and we don’t even know where it’ll take us but that’s the beauty of this business right now. Possibilities are endless. Angeline is working on the sequel to Descended by Blood. That’ll be out 2013. And Jenn has just signed with Daniel Lazar of Writers House! We are SUPER excited about that!! So, who knows what’s next!
5. Hypothetical #2 – You’ve decided to grow a garden and it takes up most of your backyard, but after you’ve spend a hard weekend of preparing the garden and planting everything, you inadvertently destroy the home of several grass fairies that lived there. Irate with your actions, they bewitch your vegetables and months later, they’ve grown beyond their regular size. You’re extremely impressed with the turnout, but the night before you plan to pick all the wonderful food, it sprouts arms, legs, faces, fiercely sharp teeth, and attacks your home.
In two paragraphs of less, describe what is attacking you, how you keep your family safe, and how you resolve the vegetastic attack.
Ohmygawd it’s killer squash!!!
See, Mom, this is why I hate squash! They’re killers!
I run for the back door and slam it closed as the first wave splats all over the glass. I am safe. For the moment. But then they are organizing, strategizing. Constructing catapults from across the yard. Squash is a brain food. Way too smart for their own good. I have a moment’s panic as I cast about for a weapon of some kind. There are so many of them and only one of me. Could this be the end? Death by yellow vegetable??
There is someone who can save me! My mother, the kitchen-tool-wielding-ninja! There is no one better than her with a spatula (I once almost lost an eye for no good reason due to her wild spatula-flailing. And Thanksgiving? When she used the electric carving knife on the turkey?? We all cleared the kitchen. #BettertobesafethanSORRY) I dial my mother and explain the danger. She is there before I can say ButternutSquashPie and she does not hesitate in choosing her weapon. In one hand, a spatula with a no-slip-grip handle. In the other, a handheld battery-operated mixer. I’m terrified—and I’m not a squash.
“Ready, Set, Go!” she yells.
I slide the back door open and she rushes them, cutting them down with the precision of Paula Deen or Gordon Ramsay. These killer-veggies do not stand a chance against my mother.
When the last squash has been sliced and mixed, my mother returns to the kitchen. I am breathless from watching the gore but she is not the least bit affected. She smiles brightly at me, her hands stained yellow. She begins filling a pot with water, sets it on the stove. She catches me watching and turns, saying, “You always did hate cooking for the prep work.”
Let the record show that Heather used more than two paragraphs. My dragon and magical ring could’ve done it in two paragraphs. Just saying…
6. Out of all the books you’ve published, do you have a favorite? And if yes, what is it about that one that makes it so?
The Dirty Blood series is definitely my favorite storyline but Whisper is my favorite for the writing. I poured so much of myself into that one. I didn’t hold back. It feels like the most vulnerable of all my books and therefore the one I’m most terrified for people to read. I think that makes it my favorite.
7. Writing and publishing can be an exhausting job. There is always more to be done, bad reviews can be discouraging, and there is constant pressure to publish your books faster and faster. Do you ever feel like the stress is too much, and you just want to call it quits? And is there something specific that keeps you going even when it seems impossible?
There is a constant pressure, for sure. That being said, I definitely don’t ever want to quit! I love writing. However, I do take “breaks” where I slack off on the marketing side of things (like lately) because that wears on me. I also don’t really read reviews unless they are emailed to me by a reviewer I’ve sought out for a new release or a tour. In other words, I don’t browse Amazon reviews and definitely do NOT check Goodreads. It does stress me out to read them. Even if it’s a good one but the person is waxing on impatiently about when the next one is coming. I can’t listen to that and still focus on my next story. So I just don’t. If I have to choose which head space to be in, I will always choose the writing.
8. At this moment, if you had to give three pieces of advice to writers who planned to publish soon, what would you tell them?
1. Revise. (even when you think it’s done. Wait a beat and read it again because too often, these newbie self-published writers are putting out work that is good but not great because they are impatient.) 2. Get a critique partner. Preferably another writer who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth. DO NOT USE FAMILY. They lie. They think they’re being nice but you don’t need nice. You need the truth. 3. Know your industry. Querying is good for the soul. I don’t mean don’t self-publish if that’s what you want to do. But learning how to write a query letter, sending it, waiting the agonizing amount of time before hearing back—all of that teaches you a lot about the publishing biz. Even just the research it takes to get online and find out who the top dawg agents are and why. It helps you keep your finger on the pulse of things and that’s important regardless of which publishing route you take.
9. As a writer, where do you see yourself, or hope to see yourself, in the next ten years?
I want to be able to say I took a “Writer’s (Work) Vacation.” I’ve read time and time again about different authors that went off to Scotland or Greece or Bali for extensive research and to finish writing (uninterrupted) whatever project they were working on. Umm… #Jealous! I would totally set my book in the Maldives if it meant I could spend a month there “researching” and then write it off on my taxes! #TotalWin
10. As a self-published author, you have to deal with certain stigmas. Sometimes they’re easy to get by, other times they require more finesse and they take time to overcome. For you, what’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in the ways of pre-conceived notions of indie authors, and how are you working, or have you worked, to overcome it?
have been SO lucky in that I haven’t felt any sort of sting from the stigmas you refer to. I know they’re out there and I hear other authors dealing with them, but so far, I haven’t had a big issue. What stands out for me is the overall view that indie books aren’t always as professional as they should be. (When I see those, I always think, “They just don’t have anyone to help them navigate how it’s done.” And I feel for them.) Because of that, I think I am more aware that my cover needs to be badass, my editing tight, my marketing broad and wide—all to fight the fact that some indie books don’t have those elements down and I don’t want to fall into that category.
11. Tell us a few of your favorite pastimes that have nothing to do with reading or writing?
I live about two miles from the ocean and two blocks from my neighborhood pool so in the summer, me and my kiddos are either at the beach or the pool EVERY DAY. I love the water and the sun. In the winter, we are basically counting down until summer. And we watch a lot of movies. =P
What’s your preference?
Love Triangles Yay or Nay: Yes! I mean, YAY! I am a big fan of choices. And tension. Love triangles give you both of those. Total Win!
Best Concert You’ve Been To: In June, I saw Andy Grammer, Gavin DeGraw, and Colbie Caillat. That was great because I discovered and fell in love with Andy! His songs inspire me. And Gavin DeGraw sings the theme song for One Tree Hill which was my fave show until it ended last spring so him singing that live was pretty epic. Oh, but also I would have to say Paramore/No Doubt. That one was pretty fantastic.
Dream Vacation: I just took it! This past August me and the fam went to the Dominican Republic and stayed at the Hard Rock for a week! It was amazing! White sand beaches, bottomless pina coladas, all-inclusive meals… *sigh* Next, I’m doing an adult getaway, though. No kids.
Cats or Dogs: Neither. My son is allergic and that suits me. Growing up I had both, (and I guess I would’ve chosen cats over dogs) but I am content with none since it means I don’t have to clean up after one more thing!
Spiders or Snakes: I am morally opposed to this question. Okay, fine. Spiders. As long as they’re already dead.
Chocolate or Caramel: CHOCOLATE. Every time.
Food: I love food way too much to choose one. Lately, it’s mango salsa and tortilla chips. But I also love sushi. And spaghetti. Although, not together. *eww face*
Color: Blue. No Green. Ahhhh! (Yes, again with the Monty Python.)
80’s Movie: Breakfast Club.
Scene From a Book: Again, I cannot pick just one!! Okay, fine, in Eclipse, the conversation between Jacob and Edward in the tent. I love that scene. Also, I just read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and it isn’t so much a scene as a line. Although any scene with Augustus Waters is a winner. But the part where he tells her, “You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.” Boom. Genius. Guys need to say things like this more often. Even fictional ones.
Smell: Outdoors. Specifically the woods. In the fall. And the summer. Okay, any season. I guess it reminds me of when I was a kid and all the time I spent in the woods behind my house. Whatever the reason, I can’t get enough of it. It smells like freedom and no responsibilities. It smells … simple. I love it.