Interview: On Writing

A moment with someone who looks just like me.

We recently had the chance to have a brief interview with Graeme K. Hefner about where is writing has been, and where it’s going.

JE: You finished the third draft of your first novel a year ago, correct? Why the delay in publishing it?

GH: I shopped it around a little while before getting sick of rejection letters. I really didn’t get that many, but I could tell that my cover letter wasn’t selling the book right, so I decided to rewrite it. It (A Man on a Hill) isn’t the easiest book to sum up in a paragraph. Around that time I also started playing World of Warcraft, which has stalled my writing until recently.

JE: What makes the book hard to summarize?

GH: The plot isn’t very straight forward. Most of the people who read it haven’t really caught on as to what’s going on, in fact. I’m happy with it, but I think it’s really more of a second or third novel that I just happened to write first. I get the feeling it’ll sell better after I’m already published.

JE: What sort of things make the plot difficult for people?

GH: You might want to preface this answer with a spoiler warning. [laughs] For one thing, there’s no straight forward antagonist. If you read without thinking about it much a Man on a Hill just seems to be the tales of some poor kid’s misfortune. There’s no one causing it, he’s just unlucky. If you read it closer, though, it becomes a story about how you have to live your own life. Vergil is his own antagonist. Everything that happens to his mentor eventually happens to him, right down to the death of Elisabeth, which parallels the death of Rachel before her. There’s a sense that if he’d been more willing to go his own way with life rather than follow in Richard’s footsteps, he would have been okay.

It’s hard to do something like that without being heavy handed, so I made the messages subtle. It’s pretty obvious when you look back on it.

JE: I’ve heard that you called the ending to that book a “happy” ending, and not at all like your normal “Graeme” endings. What makes it happy? What’s a Graeme ending?

GH: I have a bad habit of ending a story right before or during the climax, so that there isn’t any falling action. That’s what a Graeme ending is. It works really well in my short stories, but I don’t really think it fits in a novel. People have threatened to kill me because of those.

As to what makes the ending of A Man on a Hill happy; Vergil ends up with Rebecca. He’s given a chance to redeem himself that Richard never got. It’s not really happy though, because you can already see signs that he’s going to throw away Rebecca to pine over Elisabeth. You can see this with the amount of time he spends at the grave. Again, it’s what you read into it.

JE: Are you going to work on A Man on a Hill any more?

GH: Some slight edits maybe, but the story work is done. I’m happy with it. I might self publish it one day for the hell of it, if no one ever wants it.

JE: Let’s talk about the new book you’re working on. You’ve called it still born in other interviews. What’s that about?

GH: I started writing it in a flourish last summer and got about 15,000 words done in just a few weeks. But then I hit a wall with the story, and my friend Kenny came down to stay with me awhile. I’m just now picking it back up, and I’ve started over from scratch with a better storytelling style. The same thing happened with A Man on a Hill actually. It’s not so much still born as a early second draft.

JE: Do you know what this one’s called yet?

GH: I was called it Survivors last summer. Right now I’m leaning towards either Survivor Type or Somewhat Damaged. So, no.

JE: Is is true that you set out to create the polar opposite of A Man on a Hill intentionally?

GH: Sort of. This one is in third person rather than first person. This book also starts off with a bang and keeps going. Other than the first three chapters, which are short, the entire book takes place in just one day. The pace never slows down. It’s still a pretty introverted story though, with an even smaller cast of characters. And the story is still not quite straight forward, but this one won’t require a ton of analyzing to get meaning from. But it’s still tricky.

JE: What makes this one tricky?

GH: The three protagonists are difficult to like. Well, wait, that’s not true. You like all of them, but all three also act as the antagonists of the story. All three of them also go through a heroic journey, so you don’t know until the very end which one is the real hero, who’s the real villain or villains. I tried to make them all sympathetic at the start. That feeling sticks with you to the end, and you like them all even when you shouldn’t.

JE: But the narrative itself is more straight forward?

GH: Yeah, this one doesn’t start at the end. It cuts back and forth between three points of view, though.

JE: I’m sure everyone is looking forward to it.

GH: If you go the forums on the Jux Entente website, I might be placing some sneak peaks up for public consumption and critique. I might even throw up the ending. Don’t worry, I’ll put spoiler warnings all over that thing.

JE: Thanks for your time.

GH: No problem. If you ever need me, I’ll be right down the hall.

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