In our latest installment of Interview with a Writer, Charlotte Writers Group catches up with DH Hanni. She is an active member regularly attending Saturday critique group and we look forward to seeing more from her in the future.
Question: What role has Charlotte Writers Group played in your writing journey?
Answer: It’s been a great group to get really solid, constructive feedback on my work. At least one of the pieces read by the group has been accepted for publishing. Even being around the group has helped my work as I learn a lot from reading other people’s works and the kind of suggestions given during our critique group sessions. Definitely has made me a better and more aware writer. And I can be my weird self and no one bats an eyelash.
Question: What propelled you into the world of writing? What/who was your inspiration?
Answer: I’ve always enjoyed writing although, until a few years ago, the bulk of it had been essays and research papers. On and off throughout my life I’ve always come up with stories I’d run through my head but rarely committed them to paper. The older I got, the more I started writing them down but always talked myself out of doing much more with them. Then I had a mind-numbing job and started writing during my lunch hour. Quickly, I realized how much I enjoyed it and rediscovered writing comes somewhat naturally easy to me. One of the few things in life that does. I started writing more and more until determining that writing is what was best for my mind and body. I took a chance a few years ago by quitting my “real” job to pursue writing and while I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be career wise, it’s been worth taking the chance and devoting myself to what I love. I’m a much happier and better person for it even though I’m the worst boss I’ve ever had.
Question: Describe your writing process. (How do you begin? What comes first—character or plot? Do you outline? Is your process the same for every project?)
Answer: My writing process is chaotic, in my opinion. It’s odd because I’m a naturally organized person and abhor inefficiency, yet when it comes to my writing, that all goes out the window. The only constant about my process is it’s about character first and foremost for me. They tell me they have something to share.
If I’m writing a short story, I don’t put a lot of thought into it before writing. If it’s for a themed anthology or contest, then I will because I’ve got constraints. If the story is just something that comes to me, then I generally just start. I do try to write down a basic idea and a possible ending but I really let the characters run the show.
If I’m writing a novel, then I do a lot more planning. I don’t do any outline in the traditional sense. It’s very stream of consciousness and I write anything and everything down in prose-style. I jot down possible scenes, vague physical descriptions, personality traits, that type of thing. I then try to organize the scenes in a tentative order knowing full well that it will change as I get into actually writing. Depending upon the project, there will more than likely be research which needs to be organized.
Question: Describe your routine as a writer. (Is it daily or weekly? How do you structure your day/week? How many hours of writing versus research? How much time is spent on “business”—queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?)
Answer: I try to write every day but I do take days off because sometimes my brain (and body) need a break. Generally, I write in the afternoon to early evening and occasionally late at night. I’m definitely not a morning person so after I wake up, I use that time to read articles about writing and the industry, articles that might provide inspiration for future stories (because apparently I can’t have too many), searching for publishing opportunities, that type of thing. If I need to do research for something then I figure out where to input that time. Sometimes research takes the place of actual writing since it’s difficult for me to juggle multiple kinds of projects at the same time. My brain works best concentrating on one thing. At this point in my career, I don’t spend any time on querying or seeking an agent but that is a goal of mine with the next year or two as I, hopefully, have a novel worth pursuing.
Question: What resources are essential to your writing process (software, writing tools, research sources)?
Answer: I’m kinda odd as I write everything in pen on paper. It just feels more natural and organic to me. I didn’t grow up having a computer so I’m used to using pen and paper. It’s great because it’s really portable and one doesn’t have to worry about finding an outlet for a laptop or the weight of one. A couple of Christmases ago, I asked for and received an Echo Smartpen, which is an electronic pen. I write in special notebooks and using Livescribe software, I plug in the special pen into my computer and it translates my crappy handwriting into text. I then use Word to clean it up.
I do have Scrivener and use it more for novels especially ones that require research. It’s a robust piece of software and I’m still learning it even though I’ve had it for a couple of years. I also have a couple of random name generator apps on my phone to help me with character names as well as a few websites favorited on my laptop to help. I have a dictionary and thesaurus app on my phone as well as paper versions. I’ve got so many websites bookmarked for research I found myself forgetting about most of them.
Question: Talk about your perspective on representation (pros and cons of having an agent) and any attempts you have made at securing representation.
Answer: I don’t have much of a perspective on having an agent as I haven’t sent out any queries. Honestly, seeking an agent seems incredibly scary to me.
It seems like it really depends on what kind of career you want as a writer whether or not you need representation. There are plenty of small and medium presses out there that will accept manuscripts from people who don’t have representation. Then there’s always the option of self-publishing. But it also seems like it’s a great idea to have one especially if you want to secure a contract with a big publisher or if you believe your work could receive movie and TV rights and be published internationally.
Question: Share your experiences interacting with publishers (query letters, the editing process, cover design, marketing/sales). If you have self-published, describe the pros and cons to this process.
Answer: I haven’t had too many experiences with editors and publishers other than through having short stories published. So far it’s been really positive and it’s truly a collaborative effort. When I’ve gotten suggested changes from editors I also take my time looking them over to see if I agree with them or not and understand why changes are being suggested.
DH Hanni bounces from science fiction/fantasy to historical fiction with a few stops in the present. She has been published online in the Copperfield Review, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Gravel Magazine, Indiana Voice Journal, and Lorelei Signal. Her work has also appeared in print in anthologies such as the LocoThology 2013: Tales of Fantasy and Science Fiction and First Contact Café. In her spare time she enjoys reading, doting on her three furry children, watching sports, enjoying nature, soaking up history, cooking, and movies. Currently she resides in South Carolina with her wonderful husband. You can find DH Hanni at dhhanni.net or follow her on Facebook.