Today I have Matt Hofferth on the blog. I have the pleasure of knowing Matt through another blogging community so it was really nice when I first heard from him and I was more than happy to read his first book, The Binder’s Daughter. 🙂
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My bio would tell you that I hail from Noblesville, Indiana, smack in the middle of the Midwestern United States with a giant rabbit (seriously, he’s huge) and two sugar gliders. We can sit on the back porch and take in the breathtaking view of, you guessed it, the cornfield. It might also mention that I volunteer as a high school football coach. Apart from this aspiring writer gig, I hold down a day job as an electrical engineer, but, trust me, I’d much rather be writing (and often am, when I can get away with it).
What it won’t tell you is that I’m generally known far and wide (at least among friends) for my competitiveness and extreme ability to discuss anything… at great length. That isn’t to say I’m a chatterbox, just that if you put me to the question, you’ll likely get more than you bargained for. You’ve been warned…
Who are your biggest influences?
Reading has been a bit of a journey for me. Perhaps the first full-length fiction I read was Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring trilogy. I then spent several years in the Star Wars universe and the myriad of writers there (I’m a bit of a nerd at heart). My grandmother is a big thriller reader, and she would pass books along to me, so I started to get into Tom Clancy, James Patterson, and my personal favorite, Dean Koontz. I’ve always had an affinity for the paranormal, so I dabbled in those stories before coming full circle back to epic fantasy. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (picked up by Brandon Sanderson) is perhaps my favorite series and I’m currently working through the Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. I’d like to think a little bit of each of those authors rubbed off on me.
I harbor a deep love for books, and will give just about anything a try.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
When I was 13, my father got really sick. I was reading The Return of the King at the time, and for a school assignment I wrote a longish fantasy story of my own. I think it was around 20 pages, which was quite a lot of words at that point in my life. My English teacher read the story, and encouraged me to keep writing, if only to catalog my life for later reflection. I dutifully took up a journal and probably used it more for plotting the fantastical than recording the mundane.
I lost my father when I was 18. Writing became a refuge. I dabbled in dark poetry and terrible songwriting, accompanying myself on guitar in the solitude of my room (trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing). Eventually, stories called to me again. I’d always thought of writing a novel, but at some point in the future. My father was 49 when he died. Not young, but certainly not old either. If there was one thing I learned from the experience, it was that you never know when it’s your time to go.
So why wait? My father coached a lot of my athletic teams growing up, and he was always instructing me to give whatever I was doing my all and “leave it on the court.” You never want to look back after a game and think: “I could have played harder.” Similarly, I didn’t want to look back at my life and wish I would have gotten around to writing that novel.
It’s been about five years since I started seriously thinking about writing as a career. My family, friends, and wife have all been supportive along the way, but I keep going back to the lessons learned from my dad. I approach writing like I approach a sporting event. I’m going to go out there, give it my all, and leave it on the court. Hopefully, the show is enjoyable.
What sparked your ideas for The Binder’s Daughter?
When I started the novel, I intentionally tried to keep the scope small. I wanted to write a story that two important people in my life would enjoy: my wife and my little sister. At the time, my sister was big into Twilight, and my wife has always been a fan of Japanese cartoons. (Also, she loves sushi. Our first date was sushi.) So I thought: how can I take vampires and add an Asian influence?
The nearby sushi shop we frequent is called Maneki Neko. A quick web search delivered a fun little legend about a cat and a temple priest. Otherwise, I tried to adhere to the mantra: “write what you know.” Hebron, Indiana is actually a small town close to where I was born (though I altered it a little for the purpose of the story). I studied German for four years in High School, so I pulled a bit of that in. And I’ve always loved a good adventure.
You have talked a little about your next book being an epic fantasy, could you tell us a little about that?
Ah yes, I need to come up with a proper tagline for this one. The title is Fates’ Motif, and I’ve just sent it out to my variety of editors. I’m hoping to have it out by the end of the year, but that may be a bit ambitious. It is a completely different series from The Binder’s Daughter, and my plan is to jump back and forth between the two.
Where The Binder’s Daughter is an urban fantasy, Fates’ Motif is more traditionally epic. That is to say, it has magic. It is set in a different time and place from ours. More in the vein of Sanderson, Jordan, and Tolkien than Koontz or Meyer.
The novel starts in a remote mountain village, where a brother/sister duo live with their mother. An ancient mountain pass is opened and a horde of barbarian savages descend upon the unsuspecting village. When their mother reveals magical ability and sacrifices herself for the lives of the villagers, the children escape. On their own, they decide to try to find their absent father and spread word of the invasion. They’re helped by a shady rogue and a bumbling politician, learning a few things about themselves and their heritage on the way.
I need to work on the description a bit, but hopefully you get the idea. It’s not ground breaking fantasy material, but I think it’s a great story. I hope the music-based magic system proves as interesting to read as it was to write, and the family theme will resonate strongly. I have great plans for the series as I grow as a writer and hope to have some folks along for the journey.
Why did you decide to go with indie publishing? What do you love about it?
The Binder’s Daughter is a bit of a genre buster. I was writing it for a very specific audience, and just trying to write a good story, not really a specific type of story. I think it ended up being equal parts romance and adventure, but that would make it a really tough sell through the traditional process. Especially being a young writer with no appreciable experience.
The name of my author blog is On the Job Writing. I’m a firm believer in learning through doing. You can study something at length, take a plethora of classes on any subject, but until you really do it, I don’t think you really make that knowledge your own. In almost every other career, you’re not expected to come in on day one and be an expert. There is a certain amount of learning on the job that is required. Why not with writing? Why do writers have to be masters before publishers are willing to take a chance?
I think indie publishing allows aspiring writers a place to learn, on the job, and showcase their talents. Maybe I get picked up by someone scouting for talent. Maybe I teach myself everything I need to know along the way. Who knows? The important thing is that I’m out there, learning and sharing. Getting better.
I shudder to think how many good stories have been lost through the old-fashioned query grind-cycle. We almost didn’t have Harry Potter! Don’t get me wrong, I think traditional publishing can certainly add value and help train and polish writers. It is not the only way to go, though. Not any more. And more writers will get a chance to find readers, especially new writers, through indie publishing.
Being a big sports guy, I look at it a bit like playing semi-pro baseball. Not everyone gets drafted and goes big time right away. Sometimes you have to spend some years in the minors, improving, before you get called up to The Show. And some people never get out of the minors, yet they get paid to play the sport they love for years. Not that indies are all minor-leaguers right now. Certainly, some of them are making it big even without getting picked up by a club, and that would be all-right too.
What is your preferred writing environment?
I can write just about anywhere. I’ve always been good at shutting out the noise and losing myself in a story. I’m just as likely to be at home, writing on the couch, huddled over a laptop in the car, or sneaking in a chapter during my lunch break.
Could you tell us a little about your writing process?
I write pretty slowly. Since writing is my second job right now, I have to squeeze it in where I can. I try to write a page per day. Every day, I sit down for about an hour and write. I begin by editing the previous day’s page, and then write the next. Sometimes I’ll get into a flow and write more, but never less than a page.
I share my work, chapter by chapter, with a couple alpha readers. I like the immediate feedback. Then, when the first draft is done, I send it out to betas and do a round of editing myself. After I integrate those opinions into the work, I send it out to my editors. I have several, and they work on both story flow and copyediting. I get it all back, turn the red ink to black, and then get the book up. My covers are designed by my wife.
There is a lot of Japanese folklore in The Binder’s Daughter, is this based on real folklore? And is this a big interest of yours?
As mentioned above, I borrowed from the Temple Cat legend of Maneki Neko, among other places. It is more of my wife’s interest than mine, but it has grown on me. I did a lot of Internet research on the folklore I used in my book, and hopefully I got it all right. Or at the very least didn’t offend anyone. I suppose that’s always a danger when using lore that isn’t really part of your heritage. I think the Asian twist really makes the story unique. There are a lot of vampire stories out there right now, but vampires and samurai? C’mon, that’s pretty cool, if you ask me… which you did. 🙂
How can we find you?
Oh, I’m just about everywhere I can be. My website is really the key portal that ties this all together, but feel free to look me up on any of the following:
- Facebook – Matt Hofferth
- Google+ – Matt Hofferth
- Twitter – @MattHofferth
- Email – mDOTsDOThofferthATgmailDOTcom
Thanks a lot Matt!
And if you would like to win a copy of The Binder’s Daughter, click on the ‘read more’ link below to fill in the Rafflecopter.