Technically, my first story was at the age of five. I don't remember what it was about except that Superman and Batman were key players. Also, I didn't actually learn to read or write until I was six. I filled about twenty pages with little scribbles that I thought looked like words, bound it (backwards I might add) with staples, and put it on my shelf next to the Sesame Street books and Little Golden Books. I am certain I offered more than one reading though I can't say the story had much continuity.
I tried to write a book at ten but it never quite went anywhere. I tried again in my teens and put a 30,000-word story on paper. I also wrote and failed to publish several short stories and poems. People were less than supportive, but looking back I see where they were right. I wasn't too young to write well, but I certainly wasn't mature enough to write well. I have considered whether I might be able to salvage some of these stories.
I put it away for about twelve years but never gave up on writing. I wish I had stayed with it as I am now fighting many problems with my style that could have been fixed back then. After a few years in the Army, a few years of marriage, and a few kids, I finally had some life experience. Though I have been attempting to write since I was very, very young, I have only been serious about attempting publication for the last two years. I did publish about half of those stories in the first year, and I was very proud to say that I was accepted 5% of the time.
Do you write in multiple genres or stick to only one?
I am very much against the idea of "genre" fiction. If a book is so easily pigeonholed then it probably needs some more depth. A good genre piece will have elements of mainstream literature. It will have vivid, realist characters. It will have romance (not the "romance" we see slapped together and plagiarized today, but actual love). I strive to keep the lines of genre loose in my writing.
That said, all of my fiction could likely be classified as science fiction simply because it is not realism. Then again, technically, Stephen King is a science fiction writer. I would prefer the term "dissociative fiction" personally. I do create science and gadgets when I think it is warranted, but a good science fiction story focuses on characters. The science (or pseudo-science I usually throw in there) is part of the plot, not part of the story.
I have several books in the works that will likely be pure mainstream. Though mainstream they still have some dissociative elements. While upcoming collection of short stories is classified as romance, it could also be classified largely as science fiction. Some of the stories could be classified mainstream. I write what feels right (including poetry) but I try to mix genres as much as possible.
What and who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from experience. Therefore, even when a book has nothing to do with my wife and children, they inspire me. When my book is not military, my time in the military inspires me. One of my upcoming (planned) books was inspired by a criminal law class.
Reading any other author inspires me in some way. I am a slow reader because I never fully read for pleasure. I always read with something of a critical eye. What works? What didn't work? What can I steal? What did they say? How did they say it?
I love the classics. I have been investing a great deal of my time reading the old classics. I especially love American literature. I always feel inspired when reading these.
Another source of inspiration is movies. I am a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan. I have always felt that Psycho is one of his (and one of the) best films. Rope, The Wrong Man, and Strangers On a Train are also on my list of classics. The book Rebecca by Daphne D'Maurier is better than Hitchcock's movie, but both are excellent. Stanley Kubrick has always inspired me. The Shining is both an excellent book and movie as is A Clockwork Orange.
Do you read the same genre(s) that you write in? What sort of books intrigue you?
I read a lot of science fiction. I prefer social science fiction however. Examples would be the Dune series, most work by Heinlein, and Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle. (The latter leans somewhat away from social science fiction.) Phillip K. Dick has his moments. I absolutely love the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. These books are excellent satire and just fun to read overall.
I read very broadly. My current degree in English offers me the chance to do so. I've moved into more poetry recently after taking a class to teach me how to read poetry. I will also be taking a global literature class after my British literature class. The Red Badge of Courage inspired me to write an academic paper on the link between heroism and bravery in literature and culture. Kipling inspired me to write a paper about the Light Brigade after reading his poem "The Last of the Light Brigade," which tells about what happened to the survivors of Tennyson's poem. In short, I find inspiration almost anywhere.
Favorite author and/or book?
I always say my favorite book is the one I'm reading now. My second is the one I just finished. My third is the one I plan to read next. However, I do love Robert Heinlein, especially Starship Troopers. The movie did not do the book justice. Very similar and also an excellent book is Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Walter Miller Jr. unfortunately only wrote one novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz. Taken with his monumental short story "Death of a Spaceman," I feel the literary world lost out. Naturally, the Dune series is at the top of my list.
I also love all American realism. I even learned to appreciate Henry James (which is not easy). The only author I cannot get into is James Joyce. His writing proves you can have plot with no story.
I refuse to get into the fanfic realm. I also do not enjoy this new craze of young adult fiction. I feel the stories tend to be shallow. There is no subplot, and the movies reflect this lack of nuance.
Tell us about your novel and where the idea came from. Is this part of a series or a standalone?
This novel came from the merging of several ideas. Many of my story ideas start with "What if...?" This was: What if people had computer chips in their brain that broke? Next, I thought it would be interesting to see a new type of zombie book. I felt that everything zombies do, humans are technically capable of doing. Our bodies can move without oxygen. We can be capable of super human strength.
I realized that the practical upside of this would be to share information. Needing a name for these, I called them Allies and the computing cloud they formed Conglomerate. Then I realized that many people would not like the idea of a computer chip in their brain (I sure as hell would not). Naturally, they became Adversaries. I didn't want to clone the Eloy and Morlochs (The Time Machine by H. G. Wells) and the two groups seemed incomplete. Out of nowhere, a group of pure criminals arose, the Raiders. As I wrote, the Raiders suddenly became very important.
The original draft was about 95,000 words. I cut this down on editing to about 85,000 words. When my editor saw it, she had some very large changes. I actually added several chapters, but I deleted several other chapters. The biggest change was an entirely new ending. It then shrank to 72,000 words. I am very happy with the way it came out. The last thing I wanted was a happy ending. I think the way I discovered to end my book captures exactly how little my characters actually learned.
Is this your first professional publication?
This comes alongside a second professional publication. Both of them will release in May 2015. The other is a short story titled "Mining Chernobyl" in the Triangulation: Steel Cities anthology. This comes out as a bit of a love story (partially anyway) and will be republished in my collection later this year. Other than that, I have not had any publications that I would consider "professional" as most of them did not pay.
What's your one piece of advice to those that want to be published one day?
Learn proper English. If you break the rules of good grammar on purpose it is rhetoric; if you break them by mistake it is ignorance. It is very obvious when someone intentionally made something a fragment. When it is a mistake, it also stands out. Mark Twain was able to write as Huck because he knew why he was writing in that way. He knew what was right. Of course, there are exceptions to needing to write decent English to get published. Look at the Hunger Games trilogy.
I know the question is for one piece of advice, but I have two. Make your characters flawed. Even go as far as to make the protagonist hard to root for. We all have the capacity to be heroes; we all have the capacity to be villains. Your character needs that dichotomy as well.
Third piece, don't get discouraged. Getting published 1% of the time is average to start. Publishing 5% is well above average. Write because you love to write and it won't matter. You won't be likely to make money, but don't let it bother you.
What was the hardest part about writing and publishing your first book? The easiest?
My first book was Murphy's Second Death. The easiest part was writing the book. I had a pretty clear picture of where I wanted it to go. Learning to format it for the appropriate markets was difficult. However, by far the hardest part was promoting it. Maybe when this book,Savage Animals, is published, people will discover my earlier novel as well. I have not sold very many copies.
Both my books have a large number of characters doing many different things. I found keeping track of them difficult. I had to make character lists at first, but when I was done I knew most of them very well.
Do you have other projects currently being worked on? If so, can you tell us anything about them?
I am working to add some weight to my upcoming collection of short stories, Love Transcends, that will come out this September. This is a book of romance stories with a science fiction element (or literary romance with dissociative elements). These are not modern romance stories. They are love stories, not lust stories.
I am starting on Orion's Forge to tell the story behind "Mining Chernobyl." I have a preview of that work at the end of my novel. It will be a very heavy book that will approach hard-science fiction at times and definitely have a military feel to it.
In the middle of next year, I plan to complete my master's thesis. This must be a "significant work of fiction." The story I want to tell is called A Year and a Day. The title comes from an old legal precedent that if you attack someone, they must die of the injuries within one year and a day to be tried for murder. (This doesn't really apply today, but it's such a good title.) A man, while on drugs, attacks a teenager and puts him in a coma. To the man's shock, the judge releases him into the custody of the injured boy's mother while awaiting trial. During this year, the man turns his life around and actually becomes a part of the family. Then the boy dies. What happens? If it comes out the way I picture it, it will be heart-wrenching.
Where can your audience keep up-to-date with you and your writing projects?
The two best places are at my website under the "Portfolio" or "Projects" link, www.orenhammerquist.com, or on my Facebook page. Be sure to like www.facebook.com/orenhammquist not request to be friends with my personal profile.
Where can people buy your book?
My book will be available at almost every online retailer. Hopefully, it will appear in bookstores, but that is less likely. You can Google it and find the book anywhere or search for me on Amazon. Goodreads usually directs you to good places, and my website has linked covers. Or just email me and I'll sell it to you.
Are there any promotional giveaways or contests going on right now for any of your published works?
I am giving ten copies away through Goodreads. I am running a promotion through Facebook that will kick off when I reach 100 likes on my page. I am running a promotion through Twitter that will kick off when I reach 200 followers. KCL Publishing is, I believe, offering a free copy of my book to one blogger.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I love science fiction B movies. Sharknado was hilarious as was Snakes on a Plane. Big Ass Spider was pretty good. Sadly, I plan to write a B movie at some point in the near future. These movies are my way of relaxing my brain. You don't have to think about them and they don't ask you to. I have no issue with books or movies that don't take themselves seriously. I think this is something we are missing in modern superhero movies; I miss Michael Keaton as Batman and I would love to see a Captain Planet movie.
I am a huge Simpsons fan. I have every season that has been released on disc to this point, several board games adapted to the Simpsons (Clue, Scene It, and Don't Panic), and pajamas that say "I AM SO SMRT." Some people laugh at my Homer Simpson coffee mug but what better way to feed an addiction than in a cup from a second addiction? I am, by extension, a huge "Futurama" fan. (Also Matt Groening.)
I wouldn't call it a guilty pleasure, but I miss "Firefly" and "Eureka." I think these were excellent shows. The first ended way to early, the second ended at exactly the right time. I am a big Star Trek fan, and I often watch them to relax.
For literature, I suppose I should be ashamed of the John Carter series. These are typical swash-buckling, hero stories. Not much depth, John Carter is essentially perfect, but I still love them. Again, sometimes you just want to feed your brain a snack rather than a meal.
We are huge Whovians, and my wife and I make time to sit and watch the new episode of "Doctor Who" whenever it comes out. I suppose this is largely one reason I love it so much. Even my children sit and watch it. If you knew my children, you would be shocked that they sit still for anything. My wife only likes the new episodes, but I also love the episodes from the '60's and '70's,