Wednesday, 30 January 2013

#justimagine Author John Hoggard on Fusion, Elite, Oolite and the value of a good critique

I’m pleased to introduce John Hoggard, author of the story, Baby Babble, that appears in the Fusion anthology. John is no newbie to writing. A local newspaper printed one of his science-fiction stories when he was six, and buoyed by this early success he has been writing science-fiction ever since. He described his writing process by saying that his wife and two children tolerate his periods of absence, while he stares, frustrated, at a blank screen.

As John tells me, his route to inclusion in the anthology wasn’t straightforward. ‘Although I'd made the long list,’ he tells me. ‘I wasn't included in the original short list for publication. I was pleased I'd made the long list, but disappointed that my story didn't have quite the right "something" to be included. However, Daniel emailed me with some editorial comments (all brilliant, accurate, useful) and said if I made the changes I *might* be included.’

And what was his reaction to that? ‘I stayed up until 2 in the morning editing away. I had a very nervous wait, before I found out I was in. I was dancing round the room when I did find out (which caused a raised eyebrow with my work colleagues!)’

I ask John about his motivation for entering the competition. Like several other contributors, he tells me the prizes were not top of the list. John says, ‘I love Sci-Fi and I love short stories. My family has had its own personal battles with cancer this year, so the fact that the competition was supporting a cancer charity was important to me. I didn't really think about any of the prizes, but I did really want to get published!’
He saw it as a good thing to have established authors in the anthology along with the prize winners. As he says, ‘They have a fan base of their own and you have to hope that some of those will also cast an eye over your own work. You also hope that because these authors have a reputation to maintain, they're not going to let their work be associated with anything other than quality - which means, if you're in, your work is also good...’

That’s certainly true of John’s story in Fusion. He also has some wise words on the value of constructive criticism in the writing process, saying, ‘Being critiqued is always useful, when done properly. It's one of the things that my own Writers Group, WordWatchers does extremely well - and we have two international authors amongst our membership, so we must be doing something right. I think good critiquing is a major part of that.’

In recommending a really good read to take the boredom from a long-haul flight, John turns to a book that also held me spellbound many years ago. He says, ‘I would have to go back to my childhood favourite and that would be The Lord of the Rings. I have lost days at a time to that story, so it would have to be several back-to-back long-haul flights.’

And going further afield, I ask John to imagine he’s a space scout for an alien race who has discovered Earth and learnt its history. Would he make contact? He tells me, ‘Yes I'd make contact, but I'd be quite tough with the human race - very much in the way of my short story in fact! An ultimatum to the human race to sort itself out peacefully or we would have to enforce that "peace" upon them. Despite the large number of Exoplanets discovered, it is clear, at the moment, that the Earth is a rare jewel and we, as the dominant species, are rather abusive to our host. As I once heard: We do not inherit the Earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children.’

John’s fan base can only have grown with the inclusion of Baby Babble in Fusion, so his fans will want to know what he’s doing now.

‘I "finished" my current work-in-progress about nine months ago, but I've been putting off the hard part, the edit, for several months now. Of course, I've still been writing and entering competitions (like the Fusion competition) but I know they are simply distractions, enjoyable though they are.’

We’re all glad you entered the Fantastic Books competition, John, but no more displacement activity – get on with those edits!

If you want to read more about John and his writing, you won’t have far to look, He is well distributed across the internet. A good place to start is his author page on his Writers Group, WordWatchers, which is updated regularly. He is also on Twitter, where I can attest to him being both opinionated and entertaining on a variety of subjects, not just writing or publishing. 

John is also a big fan of the computer game Elite and its remake, Oolite, and he contributes quite a lot of material to this game under his gaming nom de plume of DaddyHoggy. You can read some of his game-related fiction published for free by his friend and fellow Fusion contributor, Drew Wagar.

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