Thursday, April 23, 2009

Author Q&A with Jerry Hunsinger, 'Axe of Iron' series

Author Jerry Hunsinger (the Axe of Iron series, Vinland Publishing) spent most of his adult working life as a commercial pilot, and pursued writing novels as an avocation after retirement.

How did you get your start in writing?
My writing was sporadic until 2004. My wife Phyllis made me believe in the story that I had held inside for my entire adult life. Without her support and advocacy, I would not have begun, completed, or published this first novel of my series. It is the most difficult undertaking of my life. She pushes me just enough and I need a push on occasion, to get the job done. Ultimately, this effort led to publishing after I wasted one year seeking a literary agent to pursue publication of my work through a large publishing house. So today, I both write and publish. How long that will continue is impossible to estimate at this point.

What does your writing routine look like?
My day begins not later than 0700, after coffee and the newspaper, and typically continues until the evening hours. I found that I had to factor composition into the day—I have a schedule I try to adhere to--or all I did was promote and socially network for visibility. I do try to write daily, but that is not always possible given the myriad business details that come up that must be attended to. I have written only historical fiction novels. My first novel, Axe of Iron: The Settlers was published August 1, 2008. It is the first in the Axe of Iron series. These books are a continuing tale about a medieval people whose lives are surprisingly like ours. They have the same basic desires for happiness, love, food, and shelter that has dominated the thoughts of generations of cultures the world over. These character-driven, historical fiction books tell the adventures of Greenland Vikings as they struggle to establish a settlement in North America 1000-years ago in the face of hostile native opposition.

Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.
Historical fiction is my favorite genre. Our bookcases sag under the volumes that we have retained. For pleasure, I read everything that Wilbur Smith and W.E.B. Griffin write. I also own every book written by C. S. Forester, Alexander Kent, and Ayn Rand. Sir Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples is an excellent reference work. Ken Follett is another favorite. His Pillars of the Earth was superlative. The works of the aforementioned authors have been read repeatedly because they are able to spin a tale that is engaging, entertaining, and realistic.

What are you working on next?
Axe of Iron: Confrontation is in the edit process and is scheduled for release in June 2009. The series is five or six books and the release of each volume will follow at the rate of one per year until I have told the tale.

What made you decide to write this novel?
I have had a lifelong interest in the medieval Norse people. That interest is focused on the five hundred year history of the Norse Greenland settlements. The mystery surrounding the abandonment of the two known settlements and the disappearance of every single person living therein has captured my imagination. Years of research has led me to believe that they did not disappear, rather they assimilated with the natives of North America. My series of books tell a plausible tale in support of that contention. No other author has ever treated the subject the way I have. Axe of Iron: The Settlers is my first novel. It is a character-driven, historical fiction book. My characters tell the story and the reader sees the events through their eyes.

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
The entire process has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbies, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Do your homework, believe nobody, and get everything in writing, research, research, and research.

I have seen many aspiring writers take one class after another in the hopes that this acquired knowledge will pave the way for them. I, too, took many writing classes. If you spend all your time worrying about plot, voice, POV, etc. you will never actually take the plunge. In the final analysis I can say the classes helped, but what I finally found was, ‘In order to learn to write, you must write.’ You must have a story to tell, find someplace where you can do so without interruption, and set down and get at it. You will make mistakes, certainly, but you will learn your craft in the process. Another piece of advice for you: if you do not own a recent edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, buy one; it is the bible of the industry.

We write because we must; we have a story to tell. Now that I have actually gotten the process going with one book published, I derive satisfaction from telling my tale to others. I expect that feeling to continue as the Axe of Iron series unfolds. The entire writing/publication process was difficult and expensive. There are two major downs to writing and both are part of the learning process. With high expectations, I presented my rough draft manuscript to an editor—wrong approach—forget the expectations. I got my masterpiece picked apart, marked up in red, and seriously in need of correction and rewrite. My response? I dropped it in the trash. Phyllis to the rescue! She made me see the error of my ways and pushed me to do what all writers must do at this stage, dig in, and do your job. I cracked up the editor by telling her that she had said that ‘my baby was ugly.’ Actually, it was ugly, so I had to fix it, and I did. Hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. An English teacher is not an editor and you cannot edit your own work, so hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise.

Do your homework on the submission guidelines before you query. All agents will have their own guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow their submission guidelines. Dealing with agents is the most disheartening undertaking for a writer. Agents act like the writer exists because of agents, when in fact it is the other way around. I wasted a year trying to find an agent from among those professing to have an interest in my genre only to find that there are not any in existence.


J. A. Hunsinger said...

Thanks for the great post, Jackie. I will put it out to all my contacts today and stop by occasionally to respond to visitors questions and/or comments.


Cheryl said...

Great interview! He has some great advice for aspiring novelists. I read this book and really enjoyed it.

metcalfe said...

Capt. Hunsinger has written a book in the "epic novel" genre. It is unfortunate that this wonderfully creative form of story-telling has fallen out of favor with the general reading public. His research is thorough, his story is convincing and his style is compelling. Turn off the TV, pour a glass of cab, sit back, and read the "Axe of Iron". You won't regret it.