My guest this week for a pre-lunch aperitivo and chat is the talented author and editor, John Hudspith.
In the northernmost spire of his black-brick château, Johnny edits novels by day and scrawls scary stories by night. His novels – Kimi’s Secret
and – Kimi’s Fear
are available in paperback and e-book, and have received a wealth of rave reviews on Amazon. He’s a brilliant editor as well, and you can read the testimonials to his work here.
Welcome, Johnny, to my artist’s studio in Italy. What can I offer you? A glass of Prosecco? A spritzer? A Bellini? Or perhaps a Peroni?
Prosecco and a Peroni, please. I’m in a fizzy mood.
Ooh, I’ll join you in a Prosecco, and might have a second glass when you move onto your Peroni. Just a sec while I open the bottle.
Okay, make yourself comfortable. We’ve known each other for about six months now since we started working together, and I’d like to introduce you to the readers of my blog. You’re a lovely man with a wicked sense of humour. Thanks for agreeing to the interview. I’ll start by asking what made you decide to become a writer?
Compliments and alcohol – I like it here. Cheers! Does one decide to become a writer? I guess like most writers I doodled from an early age, but encouragement from family impressed (or scared witless) by my tales of terror, pushed me on to making something of it.
You certainly have a wonderful way with words. Which authors inspired you when you were younger?
Enid Blyton’s wicked imagination is my earliest memory. Mr Pink-Whistle’s crazy adventures a particular favourite. Though I soon found my brother’s hidden ‘adult’ books and discovered they were even more fun. 😉
I too loved Enid Blyton. I can remember The Magic Faraway Tree was the first book I read on my own. What books do you enjoy reading today?
I like reading books that are crafted well, books that can take me to another place without me noticing I’m going anywhere, stories infused with the essence of place and unique voice. Sadly, such reads are hard to find.
Hmm. Tell us about the inspiration behind your first novel, Kimi’s Secret!
Kimi’s Secret was a personal mission. I wanted to take all those influences from my youth: aliens, UFO, time-travel, Hammer Horror films, Alfred Hitchcock, the works of Conan Doyle – as well as my love for birds – crows especially, and to create an original fantasy world as well as an entertaining story, using those influencers to best effect. Oh, and I also wanted the story to be loved by the young reader as well as the old.
I’ve just finished reading Kimi’s Secret. Awesome! Here’s the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads:
Alice fell down the rabbit hole and Kimi is whisked off to Heart, a cross between Narnia, Phillip Pullman’s alternative earth (Heart being an anagram of earth, of course) and Wonderland. Hudspith’s world is populated with the most astonishing characters – from terrifying crows, strange fairy-like creatures (famoose, whose favourite food is rotten teeth), Tulpas (protectors created from the humans’ essence), Balancers (special humans), and many, many others. There’s lots of gloop and goo and grossness not to mention dodo brains on the menu. Kimi develops as the novel progresses and she learns how to use her magic powers (mojo – love it!) She’s an engaging character and I was alongside her all the way, willing her on to success. I won’t give any spoilers, just say you’ve GOT to read this book if you like exciting, zany, crazy, mad stories that are scary and funny at the same time. It’s an absolute page-turner and I’ll definitely be reading the sequel to find out what happens to Kimi next.
How does your second novel, Kimi’s Fear differ from Kimi’s Secret?
Although Kimi’s Fear is a follow-on (what happens next), it’s markedly different from the first book where structure is concerned. The first book had a full-circle twist to it that required quite a bit of weaving, as well as introducing the reader to the workings of the fantasy world. That took some doing, and it ended up a hefty tome. Kimi’s Fear is a lot shorter simply by the nature of the story.
There’s no genre for my doodling – I guess it’s a mishmash.Though maybe it errs on the side of horror. Right now I’m attempting literary – an allegorical tale based on the horrors of humanity and false love and devotion. I’ve set myself another mission: eight POV characters, and dual stories (real-time and allegorical) running at the same time. Can I keep it entertaining but true? Can I use so many POVs (as well as tense and voice changes) and not lose reader? We shall see…
Well, I’ve read the start of your WIP. Although I found the prologue slightly disturbing, not being a regular reader of horror, I was intrigued by it. Once I’d read on, I was hooked by the characters. It’s an interesting premise, and I’d love to read the rest of the novel. Oh, I can see your glass is empty. Here, let me pour you a Peroni and top up my Prosecco.
Cheers! Kimi’s Secret and the structure within was a challenge – making the story and the otherworld work work at the same time as making the read suitable for all ages. Kimi now has fans from age 9 to 90 – so I’m pleased with the result.
As for how did I overcome it? Multiple storyboards, notepads, draft after draft after false start after false start after pulling all my hair out – and five years to do it in.
Same thing happened to me with The Orchid Tree, which I messed about with for ages until you came along and edited it so brilliantly. Tell us how you became an editor!
When I started learning the craft I became hooked on peer review. I could see the shortcomings in the work and had to learn how to articulate those shortcomings in writing. One happy recipient asked if I would apply my analysis to the whole novel and became my first client. Word of mouth quickly brought more work, and a year later I was freelancing full-time.
You have a knack for pinpointing what works and what doesn’t in a client’s manuscript. You’ve edited nearly 100 novels, over 100 shorts and several novellas, I believe. What do you think is the secret to your editing success?
The secret to success is a happy client. I go the extra mile.
You certainly do. When you suggested some rewrites of a few chapters of The Orchid Tree, I was bowled over by the attention you gave me to help improve my story. If you could give my readers one important tip when self-editing, what would it be?
Read your work out loud, with the passion and skill of a great orator, as if you were reading to your intended audience. Doing so will unearth the blips and jars.
Can you give an example of what you mean by blips and jars?
Contractions (or the lack of) are a constant offender. People speak in contractions. So should your narrative voice.
That’s an excellent tip. On a personal note, I know you have two delightful dogs. Would you tell us about them and let us have a couple of pictures?
Ollie is a Border Terrier/Jack Russell cross, he’s around six years old, a rescue dog, lovely temperament.
And Barney is a recent addition – he ran out in front of the car one day; a wet mass of stinking muck. We believe he’s a Whippet/Terrier cross – another lovely temperament. To quote our vet: ‘His legs are too short and he’s got a neck like a giraffe, but he’s a handsome boy.’
It’s been great chatting with you, Johnny. Thanks for dropping by. Before you go, please can you leave readers with three facts that might surprise them about you?
I could tell you about the thing in the cellar, or the time with the FBI, or the banana fetish, but I might get arrested…
Ha ha ha! Readers, I told you Johnny has a wicked sense of humour. But, on a more serious note, if you’d like to know more about John Hudspith, click on this link to his website http://www.johnhudspith.co.uk/ And there are some useful tips on editing and the craft of writing on Johnny’s blog.