Author Spotlight – Mitchell Hogan
Mitchell Hogan is the Aurealis Award-winning author of A CRUCIBLE OF SOULS and REVENANT WINDS.
Mitchell was given the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy to read when he was eleven and a love of fantasy novels was born. He has since accumulated numerous bookcases full of fantasy and sci-fi novels and doesn’t look to stop anytime soon.
He lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife, Angela, and daughter, Isabelle. Mitchell has a degree in Chemical Engineering and worked for a pharmaceutical company and a bank, before following his dream of writing fantasy novels (making stuff up) and home brewing.
His latest book, SHADOW OF THE EXILE, is released on October 9th 2018.
Thanks for joining us today, Mitchell. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I’m currently reading Blackwing by Ed McDonald and really enjoying it. Major player motivations (the Deep Kings and the ‘wizards’, both with seemingly god-like powers) are unknown (apart from survival), and the protagonist is surprisingly likeable for someone who has a lot of unlikeable traits. The story is quite dark and gritty, which some readers might be weary of by now, but I haven’t read too many ‘grimdark’ novels so I don’t have grimdark-fatigue.
The author manages to add small details which provide a lot of backstory details and raise questions — without spoiling the story, such as when the protagonist and his two companions encounter ghosts for the first time in the Misery.
I don’t have a lot of reading time, so these days I’m very picky and abandon books if they’re not hitting all the right notes for me. But with Blackwing I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the story.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
A Mage/Thief, spells and staff are my weapons of choice! It was a close decision, as now that I’m older and wiser I think Cleric was a greatly underrated and unappreciated class. A cleric/ranger is tempting but you can’t beat a mage/thief for utility and overall fun! And ability to solo… Just make sure you save your aoe spells in case there’s an even greater emergency later on (just kidding cast them as soon as you can!)
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Type. My handwriting has always been appalling, and sometimes I can’t read what I’ve written… I put it down to the fact that my brain is always thinking ahead rather than on what my hand should be doing.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
Are the shrimps on a BBQ? Because that might be worth listening to. I like to have faint background noise (music) which serves to distance me from reality and helps me remain immersed in my world. At home I have a two and a five year old running around, so silence isn’t an option. To prevent being interrupted I have a permanent desk with the Sydney Writers Room, and I go in as much as possible which allows me to get a good amount of writing done. Someone recommended brain.fm to help focus, but I haven’t tried it yet.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
Some novels I plot out, but most I pants. I find writing a detailed outline doesn’t leave a lot of wriggle room for when characters surprise you (which they often do). And instead of going with a newer, better idea, there’s a strong urge to “stick to the plan” which might not lead to a better outcome. However, if you’re pitching unwritten work you’d better have a synopsis, i.e. a PLAN.
I also tend to work on a few projects at once. For example, I’m currently working on four different books in three different series. One is my “squirrel”, as Nalini Singh would say, which you keep hidden away and don’t tell anyone about so there’s no pressure. And the others came about as I’m always looking toward the future and what I’ll be either pitching to publishers or self-publishing. In my mind, finishing writing a book and then stopping to think about what to do next wastes a lot of time—especially with the longer timelines in the publishing industry. If it takes you six months to a year to write a novel, and in that time you’re not releasing anything or pitching anything, then to me that’s dead time.
For example, when I finished writing Revenant Winds last year rather than going straight into writing the sequel I wrote a shorter Sword & Sorcery novel, and 10,000 words of another novel and a pitch to go with it which I sent to 47North. My idea was to have two new series I could develop and pitch while writing Revenant Winds 2. As luck would have it, 47North loved my idea so much they contracted for two books, which then meant I had to drop everything else and write them. If I’d just sat down to write a sequel then I wouldn’t have landed the publishing deal.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
RPGs and MMORPGs. I love gaming, though these days I don’t have the time to play much. I like to level characters, to see them overcoming tough challenges and becoming better and more powerful, if only in small increments.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Peppa Pig… my daughter wanted to watch it. These days the kids take priority, and when they’re finally in bed I do some work rather than watch tv. I do have a VERY long list of shows I want to watch though.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
With my daughters, and I’d probably invite family over for lunch/dinner/bbq. I rarely get time to relax so an extra day would be welcome 🙂
Aw. 🙂 If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
The en dash. Who uses them and why? The best dash by far is the em dash. Sorry en dash, no one cares about you, you’re not even on the keyboard. Well, neither is the em dash but Ctrl-Alt-keypad “-” is the shortcut.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
I’m putting the finishing touches on DAWN OF THE EXILE, sequel to SHADOW OF THE EXILE (both published by 47North), which follows a demon summoned to a human world and his efforts to earn redemption from his exile. There are a great many epic fights and lots of sorcery, complex motives and twists, and a magic system I have really enjoyed exploring.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, the creators of Rick and Morty, for an epic fantasy series in a similar vein — “following the misadventures of a cynical mad sorcerer and his good-hearted but fretful grandson, who split their time between domestic life, monsters, demons, and magical-inter-planar adventures.” Throw in plenty of references to fantasy novels, movies, and tv series, and you’re on a winner! I did just see a comic book like this, but I don’t think there’s an animated series of it out there … Is there?!
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Best: “Finish the first draft. You cannot fix what isn’t written.” So many writers agonize over each sentence or chapter, wanting to get each one ‘right’ before moving on to the next. Don’t do that. Move forward, get it done, then worry about polishing.
Least: “If your books aren’t selling it’s your cover/blurb/marketing that’s the issue.” Maybe, but it might also be your writing. Don’t be afraid to receive honest feedback, and use it to make your books better.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
I almost said the Aztec empire (which wasn’t really an empire), but in the end I have to go with China. But which Dynasty to choose? Probably the Tang Dynasty for their experiments and advancements with alchemy and science. They even invented the first gas cylinders and air-conditioning.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I think of my kids starving… No, I have trouble starting every time, but I know that once I start and get a few paragraphs under my belt the words will flow for a while. I just have to psych myself up to begin, which usually involves getting rid of all distractions and having a hot tea or coffee in front of me. Some authors swear by reading what you’ve written the previous session, but I find I need to get on with it and get stuck in.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart, starting with Bridge of Birds. Follows Number Ten Ox and Master Li (kind of like Watson and Sherlock…), as they investigate crime and fight evil in an exotic and colorful setting that is “a China that never was”.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
Only three sentences? Wait, does that one count? Shit, that’s two…three down…
If you love epic fantasy with unique, immersive worlds and detailed magic systems, and a lot of sorcery—including intemperate sharks with frickin sorcerous wands attached to their heads—then read my books. One even won an award. My latest, SHADOW OF THE EXILE, is out on 9th October and is from the POV of a demon bound by a desperate sorceress.
It sounds fantastic, Mitchell. Thanks again for joining us today, and good luck with the new release!
Mitchell Hogan is the Aurealis Award-winning author of A CRUCIBLE OF SOULS, REVENANT WINDS. His latest novel, SHADOW OF THE EXILE, will be published on October 9th 2018.