Here is the very first interview in my series A Day in the Life. Please meet Douglas D. Hawk, author of Moonslasher, On Wings of Leather et al.
Terrie Leigh Relf: What are your daily writing/creative rituals? How do you prepare your space for these activities?
Douglas D. Hawk: My space is a windowless office in the basement of our house I built in about 1975 or ‘76. It holds my incredibly cluttered worktable with my desktop computer and printer, a second worktable I use to spread out papers and research and what have you, and an old school teacher’s desk I bought about the time I built the office. I keep my laptop on the latter. There are piles of paper and books everywhere, and the nerd zone around my computer is complete with a glow-in-the-dark wolfman, a tiny figure of The Flash, and a plush beaver puppet wearing a shirt that says: “Bad to the Bone” (there’s a story there, but it’s too long to tell here).
Although I’m retired, I find I like a routine. I usually get to my office, coffee in hand, about eight-thirty or nine. I spend an hour going through emails and checking a few websites. I try to start working at about ten. If I’m on a first draft schedule, I’ll write until I have about 1,500 words written. After a leisurely lunch, I go back to work, either writing or editing. Toward the end of the day, I try to read for an hour or so.
TLR: Do you have a “day job” in addition to being a writer/artist? If so, what (if any) challenges do you face? How do you rise to those challenges?
DDH: Before I retired I did public relations for a university and later a large community college system. I loved the work for the most part, but I don’t miss rush hour traffic, the drunken boss, paranoid administrators, grumpy legislators and egotistical professors. Back in those days, I usually wrote on the weekends and some evenings. I never bought into the lame excuse that “I work all day and I’m too tired to write.” Baloney. If you want to be a writer you have to write, write, write. Carve out the time, even if it’s only a half-an-hour a day. Excuses will never get an article or book finished.
TLR: Describe a recent writing/creative session in detail. How long was it? What activities did you perform? What did you accomplish, and so forth?
DDH: I’m currently finishing a manuscript that began as a novella (about 35,000 words) and now is a full-blown novel (81,000 words). After completing six rewrites (a lot for me) on the computer, I printed a hard-copy and edited it with a bloody red pen. At the moment, I’m inputting the changes. When I finish those, I’ll read it aloud on screen to better check the flow and cadence and seek out any pesky misspellings, awkward phrases, and stupid mistakes. It took me the better part of two-weeks to go through the hard copy manuscript. I tend to fade after about 50 or 60 pages. It will probably take that long to read it aloud and finish the editing.
TLR: What tips do you have for other writers/artists?
DDH: Anyone who gets an email from me sees my all-time favorite “quote-to-live-by” from writer Fredric Brown: “If you want something badly enough, you’ll get it; and if you don’t get it, it just goes to show you didn’t want it badly enough.” I’ve lived my adult life by those words. No excuses, no blame game, no silly rationalizations. My inability to achieve a goal is not my wife’s fault, my friend’s fault, God’s fault or anyone else’s fault. The failure is squarely on me. Go after what you want; if you don’t get it, there’s no one to blame but yourself.
That said, here are three writing tips I have found helpful: First, write fast. Get it on paper. Don’t talk about it, don’t contemplate your novelist navel thinking about it, write the damned story; you can always fix the flubs in rewrite. Secondly, write what you know and write what you don’t know. Sure, we’re always told to write what you know, and it’s solid advice, but don’t be afraid to stretch. Most of my novels are set in Colorado. I’m a native; I was raised in a rural farming community, spent much of my summers as a kid in a mountain village, and I’ve lived in Denver for 42 years. I’ve been all over the state, and I understand the Coloradan mentality, at least to a point. However, I’ve written about other places where I’ve never been. I had to research extensively; however, in the end it was worth the effort because I forced myself out of my comfort zone. Finally, trust your instincts. It’s amazing how the subconscious can find solutions. Nearly every night, I fall asleep thinking about some facet of a novel-in-progress. A concept for a book I’m researching came to me while I was drifting in that twilight zone between consciousness and sleep.
TLR: Anything else you’d like to add?
DDH: A few thoughts on the creative process. One of the beautiful things about fiction writing is living so many vicarious lives. In the novel I’m finishing, I get to be one of four in a coven of 18-year-old women with magical powers, a corrupt police chief, a sociopathic professor, and a vicious alcoholic mother, among others.
I know writers who hate to write fiction because characters don’t behave as the writer has prescribed. When a character goes “off script,” that’s when the creative juices start flowing. “Hey, pal, you can’t do that to me. I won’t stand for it,” the character says. Okay, what will you stand for? What is it you want? Magic time! A character or characters start down an unexpected road and suddenly the story in enriched by their stubborn determination to carve out their own path and their own destiny. And, if they go too far off the path, you can always drag them back.
Here’ a brief bio from Douglas:
Born and raised in the San Luis Valley, I graduated from Monte Vista High School in 1966, attended Adams State College (now University) from 1966 to 1970, earning a double major in speech and education with a minor in journalism. I was married in 1967 to Jean Jones and our first son, John, was born in 1968.
After completing my student teaching in the fall of 1969 and with the Draft Board breathing down my neck, I took a two-enlistment in the army. Trained as a military journalist, I served in the public information offices at Fort Eustis, Virginia, and at VII Corps Headquarters outside Stuttgart, Germany. Back in Denver, our second son, Aaron, was born in 1972.
After completing a master’s degree at the University of Denver in 1978, I became more dedicated to my writing. In 1982, I wrote Moonslasher, which I sold to Critic’s Choice a few years later. I was the interim director of public relations at DU when I sold it and my second novel, The Occult Madonna. Changing jobs, I went to work for the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) as first a staff writer and then manager of communications. Leisure Books bought On Wings of Leather in the mid-90s and published it as The Devouring. It was named one of the 10 best horror novels of the year by Science Fiction Chronicles.
I retired from CCCS in 2008. Since then, I published a daily online “newspaper” for higher education that was popular, but became a victim of the recession. For a year, I wrote a blog, “It’s the End of the World. . .Not” and served a two-year stint as president of the Colorado Authors’ League. Along the way, I judged first novels for the Horror Writers Association and entrenched myself in e-publishing. My Kindle Books can be found HERE.