Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed author James Pack about his writing and his recently released book, The Hook, an engrossing supernatural thriller that successfully combines detection, horror, and human drama. (Read the review here.)
James Pack is a member of Horror Writers Association and has published several collections of poetry and short fiction. Learn more about James and his collected works on his personal blog http://www.thejamespack.com. He lives in Tucson, AZ.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I often research as I’m writing the first draft. Sometimes I don’t know what I need to research until I start writing a scene. My forthcoming novel, The Hook, takes place during the late 1970s before I was born, so this required a lot of research to make sure things were as accurate as possible and so people who lived during that time will feel it’s an accurate portrayal of the time period. In many cases, I’ll do a lot of research while developing characters before I start any writing for the story or novel. Other times, I just start writing an idea and let it take shape as I go and do the research as I go.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing a novel?
The most difficult part about writing a novel is keeping the story going in the write direction. There’s a lot to write for a novel and I always plan an outline for the overall plot and number of chapters. After that, I’ll do an outline for each individual chapter so, while I’m writing, I can reference that and know if I’m moving away from or towards the end of the story. Planning an outline also helps with editing other drafts of the story.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think most writers when they’re starting out, I’m including myself in this, tend to think the writing has to be some scholarly paper with big, grandiose language. They think they have to describe every tiny detail and don’t put much thought into dialogue. That’s why I’ve tried to move away from myself telling the story and letting my characters tell the story. There’s more freedom with the writing and you can focus on character rather than narrative summary. I think this also makes things more interesting for the reader.
How often do you read?
I try to read every day if I can. I might miss a day here or there, but I read at least four to six days a week on average. It’s important for writers to see how other writers are doing things. I like to write horror stories, so I try to read horror stories as well. I like to think I’m doing a peer review of someone else’s work. Sometimes, I notice someone wrote a scene a certain way, and I’ll take note for the future if I ever need to write a scene like that.
How do you select the names of your characters?
When naming characters, sometimes I’ll use names of people I know as a starting point. Other times, I’ll search for names that mean a certain thing, like a trait or quality I want a character to have, and I’ll use a name that means something specific. For my forthcoming novel, The Hook, when looking for last names, I chose the most common names that were found in the town where the story takes place to give it some realism.
How did you decide which form or genre was right for you?
I experienced a lot of trauma as a child and a little more as an adult. I have strong memories of nightmares I’ve had and not many recollections of good dreams I’ve had. Because of this, I’ve always had an interest in horror and have found more pleasure in reading horror than watching horror movies or TV shows. I had many ideas for storied based off my dreams and nightmares so this felt like the right genre for my writing.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
I believe that well-rounded characters with no plot is still an interesting story, whereas a strong plot with flat, weak characters will be less interesting. Personally, I like stories that have both a strong plot and strong characters.
How many rewrites did you do for this book?
For my forthcoming book, The Hook, there were about three revisions. The first revision was the most extensive where I cut out many parts and extended scenes between characters. I also had to fix a lot of continuity errors. The other revisions were mostly grammar and punctuation or adjusting things for better formatting.
How did you decide on this title?
I originally called the novel, The Hook, as my working title. I thought I might come up with something better as I wrote it. The Hook was a nickname for that part of Hallowell, MN where the story takes place. After finishing the first draft, that title felt appropriate, and I think maybe readers will be curious after reading the synopsis what the title might mean.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on some new short stories. I published a collection of horror stories back in 2019 titled The Morbid Museum. I plan to release a 5th Anniversary edition with a couple new stories in 2024. That also gives me more time to work on my next collection of horror stories which I hope to have finished by the end of 2025.
Categories: BookView Review Interview
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