Interview with Author Dylan Hearn

Dylan Hearn

Interview slots are now closed until September 1st, when I am opening the slots up for author book release and promotions (i.e. without the interview).

I had the pleasure of being recommended Second Chance by Geoff Le Pard, which is now sitting high up on my list of to read. I then stumbled across a particular post of Dylan’s, ‘You Know You’re A Writer When‘ and after a fit of giggles and eye rolling because I did most of the things on his list, I knew I wanted to interview him. You can find his blog here. I am delighted to present an interview with Dylan Hearn:

Dylan author photo

Dylan’s Current Books:

Second Chance

Second Chance Dylan S Hearn
 One crime, four people and a secret that could shake the world to its foundations.

Four lives become linked by a student’s disappearance: a politician looking to put integrity back into politics, an investigator hoping to atone for past mistakes, a data cleanser searching for a better life while haunted by his past and a re-life technician creating new lives for old souls. 

But it soon becomes clear this is no ordinary case, and in the pursuit of the truth, long-held secrets risk being revealed. 

Set in the near future where everybody is connected and death isn’t final, this is the story of how far those in power will go to retain control, and the true price to pay for a Second Chance.

Which you can buy on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

His second book is Absent Souls

Absent Souls - Dylan S Hearn

One death, two nations on the brink of war, and four people fighting the ghosts of their past.

Mick O’Driscoll has a problem. A man has died in the Scrambles, and nothing happens in the Scrambles without his permission, or so he thought. The death spells trouble and O’Driscoll knows it. The question is, who killed the Prime Delegate’s brother on his turf and why? 

Set two years after the events of Second Chance, Absent Souls follows the story of four people struggling to deal with events in the present while tormented by events from the past: an Investigator, tortured by the memory of a man he couldn’t find and a crime he was unable solve; a crime lord, forced to live a life he inherited but never truly wanted; a Professor, using academic success to drown out his guilt; and a Global Governance operative, slowly becoming the very thing she’s fighting against. 

Forced to work with those they distrust in an effort to uncover the truth, it soon becomes clear that it’s not just their own lives they need to protect, but the very future of humanity that’s at stake.
When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?

Most of characters tend to develop as the first draft progresses. I’m no good at filling out character sheets, I don’t have the patience. I usually have an outline of them and an idea of the role they’ll play in the story, but in the same way the story deepens and becomes richer as you write, I find characters do too. And I love those lightbulb moments where from out of the ether I learn something about their past. The downside to this approach is it does mean I have to go back and re-write early scenes, or adapt dialogue based on what I’ve learned about the character as the draft progressed, but that’s a small price to pay for the fun of the journey.

The only exception was Mick O’Driscoll. He appeared briefly in Second Chance, almost as an afterthought, but when he did appear he came fully formed. Then, when I started writing Absent Souls, I knew had to play a major role. He just wouldn’t leave my head until his story was told.

There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work, you have several books, is there any part of you in any of your characters?

I don’t think any of my characters represent me (at least I hope not). It’s actually one of the biggest challenges as a writer, to stop your own thoughts and feelings interfering with the story. I was talking to a friend the other day who is an actor and there were great similarities between how he gets into character and I prepare for writing. It sounds a bit pretentious but I almost have to channel my characters through my fingers and onto the page. As soon as I get in the way, it’s obvious.

The other thing is that I love to paint different sides of a situation, so while I may have my own opinions on some subjects, hopefully you can’t tell on which side I lie while reading my books.

How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?

As I said earlier, I don’t have the patience for character sheets. I get to know them through the writing, allowing snippets of their backstory to percolate through my subconscious until I become aware of them. The one thing I try to avoid is to describe my characters in too much detail. I may give an idea of a character’s age and have been known to drop hints about hair or eye colour occasionally, but I would rather the readers would form their own mental image as to what they look like.

In an early draft of Second Chance, I mentioned late on that one of the characters had a paunch, only to get scalded by a beta reader saying that it threw her out completely because up to that point she’d seen the character as athletic. I took the paunch reference out. 

Are you a planner, or free writer? Im guessing the answer is that you edge on the side of free writing by the sounds of letting your characters flow? but maybe you throw a little planning in the mix?

I see myself as a loose planner. Even though what I write is classed as Science Fiction, it’s really a thriller, with all the plot twists and changes in direction you’d expect from the genre, so I need to do some planning to understand how everything fits together. I also like to have an idea of where I’m heading and what the ending will be.

When I wrote Second Chance, I spent six weeks developing and refining my plot, making sure each strand interlinked into a cohesive whole. Then, when I started writing, my characters decided to rebel against these constraints and do other, more interesting things. Rather than fight against it, I went with the flow, adapting my plan as I went along and making notes on things I’d need to add or change in the earlier stages I’d already written to fit with the new direction.

When you are developing a book, what other tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, scraps of notes, vodka?!

I write with Scrivener, which has been designed with writers in mind. In it you can create a chapter or a scene, attach a brief synopsis, then move these scenes around really easily until you’re happy with the structure of the story. They even have a virtual cork board so you can visualise the scene synopsises on virtual cards and organise them that way if you prefer. I also always have a notebook by my bed (as my best thoughts on a story always seem to come just as I’m about to fall asleep) and use the notes function on my phone to jot down anything that comes to mind when I’m out and about.

I’m quite lucky in that I’m a very structured thinker, so I don’t really need timelines as such because it’s all there in my head. That said, I have been caught out one or twice so I’m always on the lookout for possible inconsistencies during the edit phase. I also use music to get me in the mood for certain scenes, but I can’t write with music on, I have to write in silence.

Has your technique changed over time?

Very much so. For Absent Souls, and my current book Genesis Redux, I’ve

been much looser with my outlining. There may be some scenes where I have a very clear idea of setting, what will happen and the overall flow, whereas with others I may have just one line.

For the Chapter 1 of Absent Souls, the scene outline says “Mick O’Driscoll called to scene of death. A drug user has died horribly. Drug user very important.” Before writing I had no idea who the person was, how they died or where the scene was set, but from that – with a couple of reworks – came a key plot theme that drove the majority of the story.

The difference between Second Chance and Absent Souls (and Genesis Redux) is that I now trust myself to be able to come up with a solution. Sometimes these solutions happen in the first draft, sometimes they only become apparent a number of edits down the line, but I know at some point  I’ll have an answer.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?

I’m not sure you can actively look for inspiration. You can put yourself in situations where it is more likely to strike (like going for walks, visiting a gallery etc.) but inspiration tends to strike at the unlikeliest times.

One of the reasons I write is so that I can investigate something that’s bothering me, not on a personal level, more the big questions in life. With Second Chance, the first of these questions was how we could tackle long-term issues (like climate change) when our political, business and media institutions were increasingly focussed on the short term? The other thing floating around in my head at the time was whether we are purely a sum of or memories, or if there is more to us than that? Both of these questions formed the seed around which Second Chance was created.

But inspiration is the easy part. It’s creativity that turns a germ of an idea into a story, and you can stimulate your creativity through hard work. It’s not the only way, but most of the ideas in my book have come through brainstorming, research and reading. Lots of reading.

What kind of an environment do you write in? Day/night/silence/music/desk/sofa etc

I spent 25 years working at a desk and defining my own tasks so when I stated writing I treated it exactly the same as I had my work. I’m lucky enough to have my own office, so on my writing days, after doing the school drop-off, I come home, make a cup of tea, then write, not stopping until I’m hungry or I need to collect my boys. I sometimes listen to music before I write, to get me in the mood, but I can’t write with music playing. I find it too distracting (and it doesn’t take much for the procrastination monster to come visiting).

I’m 53K words into my first novel, it’s taking over my brain! What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started?

I think the writing process is a very personal thing. What works for one person doesn’t always relate to another. There bits of advice that have chimed with me are:

  • When writing a first draft, allow yourself to write badly. Just get the story down and don’t worry too much about phrasing, pace or grammar. Most books are formed in the edit, not during the first draft. You can fix most things in the edit but you can’t fix a blank page.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration to strike, just write. A regular routine helps.
  • If you are struggling with a scene, stop and move onto another, but keep writing. I tend to find changing scenes frees my mind to mull things over until I come up with a solution to the original problem. If you’re still struggling, think about changing the POV or setting.
  • Try to stop writing in the middle of a scene. It gives you added incentive to come back the next day and finish it off. It also helps you start off at a good pace.

 Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why?

I chose to self-publish. A few friends, having read Second Chance, suggest I should look to get it published. I didn’t know that much about self-publishing at the time so I sent of two or three submissions and immediately realised it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the sudden loss of control. From a professional point of view I’ve been self-sufficient for years, my success or failure being down to me. With the submissions process I was giving away that control to others. It didn’t take me long to decide to self-publish.

What I would say, though, is that this was a very personal decision. There are many good reasons to publish through a publisher, large or small, so if that’s your dream, go for it. 

 What do you wish you knew about the publishing process before you started?

I liken the publishing process to having a child. You can read up all you want but it’s only until you do it that you truly understand what’s involved. It’s like the advice to get your book edited. I’d thought I’d thoroughly checked Second Chance before publishing, only to be told there were typos. I had no idea that a person could be blind to their own errors, or just how much scrutiny a book requires before publishing. I probably lost the confidence of a number of readers because of this error. Thankfully, I was able to correct this quickly but it came as a real shock at the time.

What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me? Or what was the best advice you were ever given?

I struggle in giving writing advice because it is such a personal process. Saying that, there are a few pieces of advice that really resonated with me, so much so that I wrote a post about the ten tips which were:

1 Allow yourself to write poorly

2 Write your first draft in haste, edit at leisure

3 Write Every day

4 Write the book you would like to read

5 Read while writing – but a different tense buggers you up

6 You cannot see your own mistakes

7 Never turn your back on constructive criticism

8 Some people will hate your book but it’s not personal

9 Writers support writers

10 It’s all about the story

I also wrote another post about the worst advice I’d received which included some writing sacred cows.

Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the readers experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author? 

I’m not sure I can comment on this because I’ve not read fan-fic. That’s not because I have a problem with it, just that it’s never really come up on my radar. What I would say, as an author, is that I’d be thrilled if somebody loved one of my books enough to write their own fan-fic version. It’s just such a massive compliment. I have nothing but the utmost respect for authors like Hugh Howey who encourage readers who do this, and even endorse some fan-fic that ends up published.

The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets? 

I don’t think the publishing industry is in decline. More books are being written and more books read than ever before. The major publishers still make huge piles of cash. More children than ever read, with the biggest growth areas in print books being children and young adult titles. This is all good news.

What I do believe is that the publishing industry is becoming similar to the film industry, cutting back on costs and only heavily promoting blockbuster books. It’s true that for most mid-list and first-time authors, there’s not the money there once was, but on the flip side there are more and more self-published authors making a living (and occasionally a very good one) from writing.

50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have a book going mainstream?  

Not really. Do I wish it was something else? Sure, but then I bet my something else is probably different from yours, or many others. If a book gets people reading, and gets talked about, that can only be a good thing. I don’t begrudge EL James her success at all. Yes, there are many more talented and, in my opinion, more interesting writers out there, but for some reason 50 Shades has struck a chord with the general public, so good luck to her.

If a fascist regime was burning the worlds libraries, what books would you save? 

Far, far too difficult a question. I’d love to think I’d be in front of the building defending all the books, although more realistically I’d be at home worrying for my children. 

I am finding more and more, that writers often have several creative outlets. Do you? Or is writing your one source?

I played in bands for years, mostly as a singer but I also play guitar too (to strum along with, none of that fancy noodling lead guitarists do to try to get attention away from the singer). Sadly, other than the odd time out playing with a good friend I don’t get to play much any more. Writing has taken up all my free time.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I’ve worked in marketing for years and really enjoy it, so in a way that’s another part of who I am, but I love being a writer. What’s better than to make stuff up for a living?

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved writing, ever since school, but I hadn’t leant the other important lesson in writing: application. I was happy to come up with ideas but never got close to finishing anything. Then music took over, which is still hard work if you take it seriously but delivers a much quicker payback. It was only after having delivered major projects at work and learning the lessons of splitting a project into manageable chunks that I realised writing a book was something I could do. I’d become more patient and learnt to enjoy not just the goal but the journey as well.

I know you mentioned Hugh but….What other authors do you admire, and why?

I love the late Iain Banks, the way he could switch between literary fiction and science fiction with ease and the sheer scale of his imagination meant he was somebody who had a great influence on me (I use the ’s’ in Dylan S Hearn as a token of respect). One of the things I learnt from reading his books the way he was happy  to throw his readers into a situation with little to no setup and then gradually reveal what was going on as the book went on. 

Another writer I love is Guy Gavriel Kay. He has such a poetic quality to his prose, very different from mine, and he is a master at pulling you into a story so that you feel you actually experienced the events, rather than just read them.

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To Find out more about Dylan see his author bio below:

Dylan S Hearn was born in Ipswich, England and has lived and worked all over Europe before settling back close to where he was born. He spends his day balancing being a husband, father and writer; sometimes successfully, sometimes not. 

His first novel, Second Chance (The Transcendence Trilogy Book 1) was first on Kindle in January 2014. The sequel, Absent Souls (The Transcendence Trilogy book 2) was published in November 2014. He is currently working on the 3rd and final book, Genesis Redux, whilst fighting back ideas for other novels until it is finished.

17 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Suffolk Scribblings and commented:
    I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by the wonderful Sacha Black earlier this year. If you haven’t done so before, I highly recommend you visit Sacha’s blog, especially if you’re new to writing, as she has lots of helpful hints, tips and writing prompts, and is also very open about the ups and downs of the process.

  2. Thank you so much, Sacha! I really loved being interviewed by you, especially getting to know you better (including all the bits with us two nattering about all sorts of things that you’ve kindly cut out).

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