Today, we shine the spotlight on a face that some have likened to historical figures. And by some I mean me. And by face I mean Andrew Leon Hudson, a fellow author from the SFFWorld.com community, with whom I had the pleasure of working on several projects in the past years. Well, it is time to be asking questions. As it happens, Andrew volunteered to provide a bunch of answers. Here we go.
1. I read your official “bio” on Goodreads, and it’s a funny one. So you’re an Englishman in New York … I mean Madrid. Can you tell us a little more about yourself.
I’m an indie genre writer, mostly of sf, fantasy and horror, though I like crime writing too, and I moonlight as a freelance editor and cover designer. I’ve been splitting my time between the UK and Spain for just over ten years, and since both have recently started trying to tear themselves apart I can only assume that I’m somehow responsible. This is a degree of power I didn’t previously suspect I possessed, although I find I’m completely comfortable with the idea of wielding it. My current plan is to allow the democratic organs of those involved to come to their senses and make everything better, but failing that I’ll step in and impose cognitive domination over all.
Also, like Sting, I very much enjoy four-day tantric orgasms (probably; I’ll send you a hot update on that as soon as I’ve experienced one).
2. Bragging time, can you tell us about your different published works?
Well, I don’t know if “bragging” will be the right word. My first novel – a steampunk fantasy adventure – was published in 2014, but the publisher closed its doors less than a year later, and for semi-complicated reasons my book is one of the few that was not easily republishable afterwards. In a nutshell: you can’t read it. While it was available I started self-publishing small ebooks (mostly so the novel wouldn’t look so lonely) and now there are a handful of those out there on Amazon, Smashwords, etc.
I’ve sold a few stories to online magazines over the years, once here and quite often here, and in 2018 I’ll have a couple of poems published as well, which is a bit of a surprise. One is a horror chant, the other a scifi haiku, and the horror one rhymes.
Over the last year or so, I’ve been collaborating with two far more successful, attractive and popular writers (Charlotte Ashley and Kurt Hunt) on a shared world serial called Archipelago, which has been appearing as an online monthly magazine since last May. We’re happy with how that’s going, but we could use more readers!
3. When did you start writing?
I studied a Master’s degree in screenwriting in the early 2000s, but I’ve tried my hand off-and-on since I was about 17 (when I wrote a short horror novel which is now long lost, probably a good thing). I’ve been concentrating on prose fiction for the last ten years or so, mostly short stories, though I’m gradually scaling back up to longer pieces again after that setback with the novel.
4. What inspires you to create written works? Conversely what, if anything, gives you the so-called writers’ block?
I’ve always loved reading, I still do a great deal – it’s a bad year if I don’t read twenty or thirty novels, plus countless shorter things. So I expect a lot of my inspiration comes from the long experience of seeing how other people do it. Now I often find myself mimicking the style of the last good book I read, for a little while at least. As for writer’s block, I suffer more from Writer’s Starting Blocks – I can fall into fallow periods where I do nothing but read and think about projects but barely write at all. Which is fine, up to a point; but when I do feel I’m ready to get going it can be a real struggle to build up some momentum. Or just write word one.
5. You are affiliated with SFFWorld.com – we have cooperated on numerous annual anthologies, put together by the SFFWorld team and member authors, yourself included. Can you tell us how this came to be and what is your current involvement with the (ongoing) SFFWorld projects?
The first SFFW anthology in 2012 is what made me a proper member, in fact. I’d been a lurker for about six years, but when N. E. White organised submissions as a forum writing contest I came out of hiding to give feedback and vote; I even subbed a story myself, but withdrew it before the votes came in (coward).
I’ve had something in the four subsequent anthologies, and in 2015 I stepped in for Nila as editor when real life commitments meant she wouldn’t have time to be involved. She was back in charge for the next, and in 2017 it was my turn again. Every year, members of SFFW’s writing subforum discuss a new theme, and we’ve long raised and rejected the idea of attempting a shared world. Now we’re finally doing it!
6. Can you tell us more (without spoilers)?
It’s called Welcome to Pacific City, and is set in a fictional megalopolis in Oregon, north-west USA (by an amazing coincidence, exactly where a tiny coastal town with the same name actually resides… only our version has about 20 million more inhabitants). If you want to get a sense of what it has to offer, we cordially invite you to check out the Pacific City Tourism Board’s promotional site (sorry about the hacking problem, the webmaster promises it will be dealt with asap).
This time the theme is split. To give contributors something specific to chew on, we chose “Heroes and Villains” as a nice, concrete motivator (and superheroes or villains were actively invited); but at the same time, we are trying to collectively define a story-world through the different pieces, so we were looking for stories that help establish a sense of place alongside whatever else they do.
As with the previous anthologies, we’ve invited a couple of pro-writers to contribute pieces in an effort to boost the profile of the collection, and we’ve ended up with a great duo (secret identities still more or less under wraps). It’s not out yet, 2017 has been a complicated one, but the final stories have been selected and are going through the editing process now and it should be available early in the new year.
7. Did anyone tell you that, from a certain distance, you look a little bit like Leon Trotsky? And your middle name is Leon. Coincidence?
People used to say I looked like the drummer from Deep Purple, and his middle name is “Anderson”, so I think it probably is. Unless–
8. What is your daily routine?
Currently I’m teaching English to Spanish people to keep a roof over my head, so it often starts with getting up much earlier than I’d want and taking the metro across the city to talk an average of 25% slower than normal (that’s the secret to English teaching, btw, now everyone can do it). I’ve taken to walking back in order to get some exercise, so now I’m totally ripped (in that I tore a ligament).
Sometimes the metro side of things means I can get some writing done in-transit, but I usually find gaps in the day to fill with scribbling. I don’t really have a fixed-schedule life, so for me writing is an exercise in filling unexpected gaps.
9. Do you have a favorite author and/or a role model out there?
I’m not sure I can point to a single author as a favourite any more, but the personality I most admire is David Attenborough. I remember watching Life on Earth as a child and loving it, but when I first rewatched it as an adult (maybe seven years ago) I was bowled over by the way the series consistently asserted the mechanism of evolution as though it was a non-issue. He was simply saying “marvel at the world, here’s how it works”… and it’s sad that many decades later that needless debate is still being had in some quarters (though rarely by Attenborough himself – he’s well-justified in thinking he’s done his bit on that count, and can “retire” into merely fronting nature documentaries so beautiful they bring a tear to the eye).
10. Do you have a 2018 write/publish plan?
Sort of, although my experience of establishing objectives is one of setting myself up for a fall, so I tend to leave them vague (also, my favourite novel’s philosophy champions revolutionary progress without planning, so I feel I should embrace it too). Archipelago (which included a passing homage to Sir David, btw) will have its first anniversary in April, so a primary objective is for it to survive that long at least. Welcome to Pacific City should be published before then, but I plan to organise some sequel collections too, so I’ll probably start laying the groundwork for that; plus the SFFWorld.com crowd will be discussing a new anthology theme for 2018 and I’d love to be involved in that again as well, in one capacity or another.
Maybe write some other things? Publish some other things? Put me down for a bit of that.
11. What’s your best work?
Of the ebooks I have currently available, Given Names is probably the one I’m proudest of: it’s a longish coming-of-age story with a hint of fantasy to it, about a young Native American whose future is thrown into doubt following a traumatic encounter with a force of nature. I also have a couple of unpublished novellas waiting for revision and release, and one of them I’m very happy with – a hitman-and-hacker thriller. I can’t wait to write a few more like it and start putting them out there. On the other end of the scale, I just finished a 101-word story that might be perfect. Probably won’t make me rich though.
12. Your worst?
I wouldn’t like to say. Anything I’ve actually released I’m happy enough with to not evaluate that way, I’d rather shelve something I’m not satisfied with forever than inflict it on anyone else.
…FINE, if I absolutely have to pick something, it’s this.
13. Do you have a dream or an aspiration you wish to see come true one day? Apart from the obvious, mandatory dressing up as Gandalf and shouting You Shall Not Pass, that is.
It’s both pathetically modest and pitifully ambitious, actually: I just want to be able to support myself through creativity. I love writing, but I also love working with other writers, either as an editor or a designer or just a supportive peer. A life of survivable poverty founded on that would almost be perfect; add making enough to go on the occasional holiday and buy my loved ones a few nice things and I’d have all I want.
But also to slam my staff against the stone, and/or whisper Run, you fools, naturally.
14. Three things you learned in your career as an author.
* Writing can be learned — it is a craft to be honed, not some privileged artistic spark bestowed on a few but denied to others.
* Having trusted readers or writers whom you can go to for feedback and advice is almost as valuable as developing the actual skills of writing.
* Taking a four-year break from having a day job to write full-time when no-one knows who you are is a lot of fun and a great way to go broke and remain a total unknown.
15. Do you have any suggestions or advice for people just starting in the world of writing?
Start small. Short stories are great, because they can teach you how to entertain a reader in quick bursts – and this is something that longer stories need to be able to do as well (if you ever want someone to read them through to the end anyway).
If that sounds like a waste of time, because you are sitting on a great idea for The Best Novel Ever and you need to get on with it, try picking a really cool bit first and writing that in isolation from the rest; see if you can make it short-story-ish, so it still makes sense without all the stuff that you’ve not written yet.
Either way, find someone who likes reading that sort of thing and will promise to give you an honest opinion, and listen to what they say, especially anything they didn’t like. Read at least one good book about writing too (I liked The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, it’s a really accessible guide to telling stories in a way that people tend to enjoy), but don’t feel you have to do exactly what it says, not all the time.
Whether you like my advice or not, do start writing if you have the slightest inclination. I firmly believe that fiction is the great, untapped, egalitarian industry of the future – it’s the creation of something out of nothing, and that’s a resource we can all afford to invest in. The old saying that “everybody has a book in them” may prove to be an understatement. If we’re lucky, the (sometimes overwhelming) explosion of independent storytelling that saturates the internet today is just another step in the expansion of a fundamental aspect of our species. We just need to fix the capitalism problem, share the wealth, and we’ll be good to go!
16. Anything else?
Yes: I started answering these questions almost exactly ninety-six hours ago, and the reason I’ve been taking my time is that STING IS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.
Closing words: Thank you, Andrew. Good luck and Sting it away!