Ten Questions About Cahill’s Homecoming, By Patrick Hester

I adore me some Patrick Hester. He’s a nice guy. He’s a smart dude. He writes a cracking tale. And he doesn’t throw things at my head very frequently. He’s got a new novella out, so I ask you to sit down and let him tell you about it. He’s got a laser gun, so. You might wanna hold still.

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?

I’m the kid from Fresno who watched too much television, read way too many comic books, played D&D in the library at school with my friends, and always made a point of being home on Saturday nights to watch Doctor Who on PBS.  I’ve been writing stories since high school, but got serious about it in 2000.  Since then, I’ve written a lot, including two and a half novels last year alone.

I’m a writer, a blogger and a twice Hugo Nominated podcaster.  I produce and host the SFSignal.com (Hugo nominated in 2012 and 2013) and the FunctionalNerds.com (Parsec Award nominated) podcasts.  I also produce Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast.  I’m also nominated for a Hugo for Best Fanzine as an editor at SFSignal.com in 2012, which blows me away.  My novels are currently being shopped by my agent, and include the Samantha Kane Urban Fantasy series (Into the Fire, Cold as Ice and Shattered Earth), set in Denver (where I now live), and an Epic Fantasy series that begins with The Queen of Shadows.  I’ve been releasing some of my shorter fiction via Amazon this year, including Consumption, Witchcraft & Satyrs, and of course, the latest, a novella named Cahill’s Homecoming.  All of this Amazon stuff started, though, with the release of Conversations with my Cat, a humorous collection of entries from my blog that you, Chuck, suggested I put together as an eBook – so I did.  ‘Cuz, when Chuck freaking-Wendig tells you to do something, you listen.  And people have loved it, so, thank you!  I also have a couple of short stories out in the anthologies Space Battles: Full-Throttle Space Tales Volume 6 (First Contact) and An Uncommon Collection (Charisma).

GIVE US THE 140-CHARACTER STORY PITCH.

Cord Cahill, Sentinel, returns to his home planet to discover the truth behind his sister’s death. What he finds changes him forever.

WHERE DOES THIS STORY COME FROM?

I was sitting in the comfy chair one night, working on one of the Urban Fantasies, and realized that I hadn’t written any scifi in a while.  A long while.  One of the things I like to do as an exercise in writing, is to put two things together that don’t normally fit or that you wouldn’t normally think of as mashing together, and see what kind of story I can pull out of those two things. That’s how Consumption (I can’t tell you what one of the two things in that story are without ruining the story, but the other one is an old Iroquois legend about a ‘ghost-witch’), and Witchcraft & Satyrs came about – with the latter, I wanted to write a story that felt southern (my mother’s family is from Kentucky), so I set it in a small, rural Kentucky town, added a witch, beans and cornbread, homebrew, and then some creatures from Greek mythology – and it worked.  On this night, though, I wanted to write a space-based scifi story and, given that I love westerns, add in a western flair.  Cord Cahill was born.

HOW IS THIS A STORY ONLY YOU COULD’VE WRITTEN?

It’s a mash-up of several of my favorite things: westerns, science fiction, John Wayne and serials.  I do intend to write many more Cord Cahill stories (may have, in fact, already written some… shhh….).  My love of serials come from watching Doctor Who (of course), and the movies and tv shows I used to watch with my grandmother, including The Lone Ranger, Zorro, The Charlie Chan Mysteries and anything from Agatha Christie.  There are nods throughout the story to different films, characters, actors and stories I have enjoyed throughout the years.  I added these little Easter eggs with the hope that anyone who may have seen or read them, would realize and recognize them.  Think of it like watching an episode of Castle and looking for Han Solo frozen in carbonite somewhere in the scene; not a distraction, just a neat little extra bit for fans of those stories or flicks.  (and yes, Han Solo does get placed in the background on Castle.)  But you don’t have to know any of that to enjoy the story.

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING CAHILL’S HOMECOMING?

For me, it’s always the ‘science’ in science fiction that trips me up.  And not because I don’t obsess over it to get it right (cuz I do), but because I know WE ALL OBSESS OVER IT!  I can’t tell you how many times my writing group has digressed into long debates over some bit of technology, real or imagined, in a story and how it does, or doesn’t, make sense.  So when I add things like faster than light travel, integrated cybernetic body implants and AI’s, all of which exist in Cord Cahill’s world, I always pause to consider how the reader will respond.  The trick is not letting those pauses become walls between you and finishing the story – which has happened to me more often than I like to admit.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN WRITING CAHILL’S HOMECOMING?

Going back to my point above about the science in scifi, I don’t want people to focus on the science so much that it distracts them from what’s important; the characters.  The science fiction – that’s the setting.  I establish in the first paragraph where we are, what the level of technology is, and then I run with the characters because that’s what’s important to me, and really, that’s what is going to be important to the reader.  A reader isn’t going to identify and connect with a faster than light drive, but they will connect with an older brother trying to do right by his family, a sister who set him on the right path, a husband grieving the death of his wife, and parents who just wanted to give their children something more than they ever had themselves.  These are the stories I want to write, and the science fiction element and setting needs to lend itself to telling those stories, not detract from it.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT CAHILL’S HOMECOMING?

I love it all.  It’s everything I wanted from this character and this story.  Cord is damaged and he doesn’t even realize it.  By the end, he does.  The question becomes, is it too late?

WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?

I went through several rewrites, so I’m not sure there is anything I would do differently that I haven’t already tried, except maybe to get it done a little quicker.  (I think the first version was written in 2009…

GIVE US YOUR FAVORITE PARAGRAPH FROM THE STORY:

If I have to choose one, it’s a flashback memory.  Returning home, Cord is confronted with a lot of memories.  One in particular stands out when he is reminded of the time he and his girlfriend were caught in a compromising position at a dance.  The father of his girlfriend wanted Cord’s father to punish him severely, but Cord’s father saw it as two teenagers full of hormones ‘exploring’.  That isn’t to say Cord won’t be punished, though, and when his father informs him that he will be kept so busy with chores and duties on the family ranch that he won’t have time for any other such explorations to happen, Cord objects.  His father tries to set him straight.

 “I’m not a little kid.  I’m a man!”

His father laughed at that.  “You’re a man now, Cord?  Poking a girl in the hay don’t make you a man,” he said, pushing his finger into Cord’s chest for emphasis.  “If you’re a man, then are you going to grow up and start acting like one instead of running around like a damned fool?  Fighting, stealing horses for joy rides in the desert, painting your little brother white head to toe and convincing him to run through town pretending to be a ghost, and now this mess with the Spalding girl?  These are not the actions of a man, Cord, they’re the actions of a boy acting out. I won’t be here forever, and I’m getting tired of waiting for you to step up and show me the kind of man you’ll be.  Are you going to be the kind that skates through life, always running away from responsibilities, or the kind people can count on and know that he will be there for them, for his family?  When you figure that out, that’s the day you will be a man, Cord Cahill.  That’s the day when you’ll show me and everyone else who you are.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A STORYTELLER?

I continue to write, tell stories.  I’m polishing up the Epic Fantasy right now, and I’m 40,000 words in on a Space Opera I’m pitching as ‘the Hunt for Red October in space’.  I intend to write more Cord Cahill stories, and work on more short stories to release via Amazon.  Folks who sign up for my email list on atfmb.com get to see those stories for free before I put them on Amazon.  Hopefully, the novels I’ve written will be out there soon, too.

Thanks to you for spurring me on to try the Amazon route, and for posting this on your blog.  I really appreciate it, Chuck!

If folks are interested in more from me, I have some links:

Patrick Hester: Blog / SFSignal / Functional Nerds / Kirkus@atfmb

Cahill’s Homecoming: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

 

6 comments

  • Great questions, Chuck! I love the format and the probing nature of the questions. Good stuff.

    Equally good answers to the questions, Patrick. I love how you danced around the surprises in Consumption without giving it away. For those of you that love a good twist at the end of a story, check that one out. Heck, check out ALL of Patrick’s stories. If you love great characters, you’ll love anything Patrick’s dribbled on to the page.

  • Wow, you keep a lot of balls in the air. I’d be interested in hearing more about your platform-building tactics and how you’ve found giving your stories away for free has contributed to your overall success. I’m considering a similar model as I prep my WIP novel in the next year or so.

  • Hi Emily – I’m happy to share my approach to all of this. I decided to do a podcast years ago as a way to connect with people. That grew into a combined podcast with John Anealio and became The Functional Nerds. John’s model is to give away his music for free or ‘pay what you want’, and it works well for him. After a few years of sending my stuff out there and getting a few nibbles, I was on the fence about putting stuff out there myself. I’d considered it for a very long time but knew there was still a stigma attached. As that stigma began to fade, and I saw hybrid authors like Chuck doing both, I started thinking about doing something closer to John’s model. Then one night, Chuck saw my Conversations with my Cat posts (I may have linked them to him) and said I should bundle them in an eBook and sell them. That was the kick in the pants I needed to give it a try.

    John uses a musicians website/service called ‘bandcamp’ for his music. It let’s him put his music out there, set prices and collect email addresses for email marketing. I use MailChimp, WordPress, Scrivener and Amazon to do something similar. My audience begins with the folks who listen to my podcasts. I also have a decent Twitter following that has grown from those podcasts. I’ve met wonderful and supportive people like Chuck through the podcasts and my editing duties over at SFSignal.com, and those folks are kind enough to tell their own followers.

    I write in Scrivener, which makes things ridiculously simple to create really nice eBooks. I do my own covers in Photoshop. I give away stories to anyone who signs up on my email list. My plan, before life and work interrupted, was to release a new story/eBook every month in 2013. Usually about 2 weeks after that free eBook goes out, I put it up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and send out a follow up email asking that anyone who enjoyed the eBook, go out and leave a review – and many have! Which, of course, helps with the whole Amazon ranking stuff. I’ve even had some friends send me screen shots of emails from Amazon recommending my eBooks to them, which is beyond awesome.

    I am still trying to get novels published through the traditional routes, but I am far more comfortable than I was even just a year ago, releasing stuff myself, and may even put out some of my novel length fiction here in the near future.

    If you have any more questions, let me know. :)

    ~P
    @atfmb

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