Sunday, August 4, 2013

Interview With Author J Rivers Hodge

What type of books do you write? Historical Fiction, more specifically Southern Gothic. My only novel is about the life and struggles of citizens during the American Civil War. The Legend of Anne Southern...First of the Legend Series isn't a "Civil War" story, but it's impossible to avoid such a stormy stage. So there are some battle scenes and quite a bit follows the career of Union General William T. Sherman.

What inspired you to write it? When I was a child (about 4 or 5 years old), my grandfather told me stories about our ancestors. The only story I remember concerns a family fleeing down a country lane; they can see their home burn behind them. That is all I remember of the story.
Later, at family reunions, I learned family lore about how my great-great grandfather (Tobias Hodge) and his four sons escaped from Georgia to Florida after a dispute with some on General Sherman's men about some horses. They came to central Florida, west of Gainesville and to refuge in the swamps. Because Tobias was unsure if he was wanted by the US Government, he and his boys hid in the swamp five years. My grandfather's story was the seed that started me writing. The "fleeing Georgia" event is only a tiny part of my novel, but perhaps the most important part.  

What is the writing process like for you? When I started, I didn't know how to "write." I joined Critique Circle, an online critique site and those writers taught me. It took 10 years to finish my manuscript then I learned 700,000 words were too many to publish. I made one story into two (thus the series) and published the first as The Legend of Anne Southern.

When I submitted my manuscript for publication, it was rejected because of faulty editing. My lovely wife, Brenda, did a terrific job of editing my story. The Legend of Anne Southern is credited as--"by J. Rivers Hodge with Brenda Hodge."

What did you do before you became an author? I trained as a pharmacist, and worked as a pharmaceutical salesman, a lobbyist for a major drug company working with the Government of the State of Florida. Also, during that time I owned and operated "Confederate Yankee Antiques," a shop in Renninger's Antique Mall in Mt. Dora, Florida.

How does it feel to be a published author? I feel great. It took much, much more work than I anticipated to publish my first novel and I'm sure the second one (The Legend of Joe Edge), not yet edited, is going to take more work than I want to think about.

Any advice for struggling writers? Yes. If you're struggling, get involved with a good critique group (I recommend Critique Circle online) and post and critique, post and critique, post and critique. Then post and critique some more. I think it's impossible to improve your writing skills by attending meetings: book festivals, writing seminars, talks by famous published writers, and all that jazz.

Like learning how to drive, to learn how to write, you have to practice writing. Critiquing the writings of others is also important. We all LOVE our own words, so you can "see" your mistakes in the writings of others.

Additional and optional suggestions--but highly recommended.

1. A great story can overcome average writing. Concentrate on your story.

2. If you don't have a background in creative writing or literature, take some courses in American and International Literature at a local college to learn the elements of a story. You can learn, for instance, the elements of the "coming of age" story. These elements are classic and different than most think they are.

3. Don't worry if you don't understand "point of view" (pov) at first. It'll come to you. Especially don't get frustrated when someone tells you your pov isn't correct. Write your story and worry about pov later. If you can't help yourself and become obsessed with pov, read and study The Rhetoric of Fiction, Second Edition by Wayne C. Booth. It's deep stuff, but the truth is the truth and this book is the Bible of pov.

Where do you see book publishing heading? Everything is going to be electronic and more quickly than we think. If you love books in print, hold them tight because soon they will cease to exist.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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