Mother Nature has been toying us lately with scorching degrees, so I implore you all to find a seat beneath the shade or settle into your favorite chair indoors. From there, feel free to pour yourself a cup of tea or lemonade (or, in my case, hot cocoa), and kick back: relax a bit; take a deep breath - perhaps attempt a pose or two of yoga? But get comfortable, as I'm delighted to have up-and-coming author Tony Acree with me today to answer a few questions. His upcoming release, The Hand of God, is scheduled to come out Spring 2013 through Hydra Publications.
G'Morning, Tony! It's great to have you here.
It is my understanding that your upcoming release, The Hand of God, is tentatively scheduled for publication through Hydra Publications for spring of 2013. Can you tell us a bit about your novel? What genre is it?
The Hand of God can best be described as a supernatural thriller. The novel tells the story of Victor McCain, bounty hunter, who finds out his brother has sold his soul to the Devil. Vic is offered a chance to save his brother's soul by finding a missing woman who has stolen something Satan wants back. The novel is about choices and consequences.
A supernatural thriller, eh? It sounds intriguing!
Do you have any other published works? Tell us about them.
My short story, Leaves of Departure, appeared in Kentucky Monthly Magazine. The story is about a father and his estranged daughter dealing with a painful anniversary. You can read it for free on Smashwords.com. In the past, I have written news and information articles for The Cumberland, the Kentucky outlet for the Sierra Club.
I will certainly have to check out your short story! Thank you for letting us know about it~
What was the hardest part about writing The Hand of God? What was the easiest?
The hardest part of writing The Hand of God, by far, was finding the time to write. I committed myself to writing at least 500 words every day and there were days it was a struggle to do so. This is my first novel and like anything new in life, it took me time to learn the proper way to go about it. The easiest part is coming up with the story line. From the beginning, the story flowed effortlessly.
Why must Time be ever-elusive? You'd think someone would have come up with a time-controlling device by now.
What is your writing schedule like? Are you more of a ‘morning’ writer or an ‘evening’ writer?
There is no doubt I'm an evening writer. I tried getting up with the rooster's crow and writing, but found it's not for me. I usually start writing around 6:30 p.m. and write until around midnight.
It's good to know what writing schedule works best for you. I find that the early morning or late evening works for me. The middle of the day seems to lack in creative spirit.
Can you tell us about your route to publication?
I attended an event called Pitch the Publisher in La Grange, Kentucky. Each author submitted an opening chapter as well as a complete synopsis of their book, then got the chance to meet with three different publishers where you're given fifteen minutes to "pitch" your book, followed by fifteen minutes of feedback from the publishers. I was lucky enough to have all three publishers offer a contract on The Hand of God, as well as Jericho, a private detective novel set in Louisville, Kentucky. I chose to sign originally with Otherworld Publications, as they were located in my hometown. When they decided to close their doors, Hydra Publications agreed to take over publication of my book and I could not be more thrilled.
And I am ecstatic that you are part of the Hydra Team! Congratulations~
Would you describe yourself as a plotter or a pantser?
I'm more of a pantser, although I've known how my book starts and ends from day one. It's all the stuff in the middle I let go where it wanted to go.
I understand you’ve incorporated religious sects and constructs in your novel. Can you tell us about the research involved or how you went about creating these distinctions?
I did a lot of research on the Devil, Satanists and the history of Devil worshipping. This includes reading every verse in the Bible where Satan is mentioned and particularly his fall from grace as the Angel of Light. I also did my best to make sure I did not use any names for organizations which actually existed. The first half dozen names I thought up for use in The Hand of God had already been used, either partially or in total.
It sounds like you put a lot of work into the research aspects. I can't wait to delve into it once it's published.
What sort of moral code is featured in your novel?
The main problem Victor struggles with is the issue of a moral code, or his lack of one. What will he be willing to do, what boundaries will he push, what lines will he cross to try and save his brother's soul. What would any of us do, given the choice he faces. Victor is, at heart, a good man, but who is forced to do some not so good things. He soon realizes he is putting his own soul at risk just to free his brother, and he really struggles with the choice.
I think this is something we all can relate to in some manner: struggling to identify our moral code and ethics. Such a character as Victor could surely attract many readers for the purpose of 'relatability'. (I think I just coined a new term).
How do you portray Heaven and Hell in your work?
Hell is definitely a real place in my book. You meet the Devil in the first line of my novel and part of the story line is about the battle Satan is waging to claim his spot in Heaven. For years, I have carried on an internal debate on whether Heaven and Hell really exist and the book gives me a chance to argue both sides of the issue. Victor is a guy who never gave the question of whether there is a Heaven any thought. He really didn't care one way or the other. But now confronted with the knowledge Satan is REAL, it throws his view of God and Heaven into a blender, spinning around in his brain.
I quite like the imagery on that one. ;)
What sort of symbolism do you employ in your writing? Do you tend to stick to a single motif – or do you just write whatever comes?
If this book has one defining motif, it would be about making choices. It makes no difference if you're an atheist or one who believe in God: every day we make choices, some big, some small, but they all add up through the course of our lives. This book is about the choices each character is forced to make and the consequences that result. I like taking people who are balanced on a knife's edge and then push them, to see which way they fall.
How do you summon the Muse? What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read constantly. Books, websites, magazines, anything where the printed word can be found. I like to keep my mind engaged. And I use it for a tool when I need information on how to perform a task I know nothing about. With a few quick mouse clicks, you can begin to learn about any subject you wish. I also like to play Texas Holdem poker. I like the combination of math and the need to pay attention to details (such as your opponent's tells) the game requires.
I, too, peruse words whenever I can - and however I can: from reading, to gaming, to everything in-between. It keeps the gears turning, if you know what I mean.
Can you describe your writing style for us? What processes do you go through while writing? (i.e. outlines, character maps, index cards, etc…)
I don't use outlines. I've been able to keep the overall plot of my book floating around in my gray matter and generally have an idea of where I want to go, if not how I will get there. One thing I do use is a big white board, with each character's name written on it, so I can just glance up and recall who is who. I also use the character interview technique, to help keep the voice of the character consistent.
A fellow pantser all the way~ Brilliant!
What is your writing environment like? Do you have any writing rituals? (such as a ‘must have’ food, drink, chair, etc…)
My favorite writing environment is the one thing which has really surprised me. I don't, as a general rule, like writing on laptops. I prefer my ergonomic keyboard and my large monitor on the desk in my office for most things I write, such as this interview. But I've found the best place for me to write my novel is with my laptop, sitting in my recliner with the footrest up, and the laptop on my lap. The smaller screen makes me focus in on what I want to write. The chair makes me feel comfortable. I have a single lamp on behind me offering just the right amount of light and from time to time, music or a baseball game on the TV with the volume turned down. So far, this works for me.
It sounds like you've quite the comfortable writing arrangement. It always helps to have as little distractions as possible - and being comfortable is a way to eliminate possible annoyances.
What were your favorite books to read as a child? As a teen? How about now?
When I was a kid it was Agatha Christie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alexandre Dumas and Arthur Conan Doyle. In my teens, I was big into fantasy. I read everything by Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks, and David Eddings. Now I like to read thrillers, by authors such as Lee Child, Michael Connolly and John Sanford. I do also like the occasional fantasy novel by Jim Butcher (love me some Dresden) and R.R. Martin. For the record, I was reading Game of Thrones long before HBO showed up on the scene.
Hmm. I'm curious: Have you always known you would be a writer? What inspired you to begin your first novel?
I have known I would be a writer since 6th grade, after reading a poem by Robert Frost and thinking, "I can do this." Throughout school, I wrote poems for friends and family. My poems appeared in local and school papers, as well as our senior yearbook. I then moved on to short stories and finally, a novel. The inspiration for the first novel I started, Jericho, was a comment made by my brother, an electrician, about something he found while working at a large mansion. From there, the brain took over and took off.
Ah - a fellow poet! Are not the words of poetry beautiful? Divine, almost~
Lyrics are a form of poetry. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?
I do occasionally and in most cases, jazz. I will also listen to southern rock when writing action scenes. Nothing like Flirting with Disaster when your character is, well, flirting with disaster.
I'm quite intrigued: What sort of creatures do you include in The Hand of God?
There can be no doubt Satan is a creature. Once one of the brightest stars in Heaven, now the ruler in Hell, he fits the description. Several supernatural creatures make an appearance, but the novel is really about people and the choices they make.
Can you describe how your experiences in life influenced your novel?
I grew up as both a man of science and of God. I attended church regularly, but also planned on majoring in physics and computers in college. Reconciling these two halves is a fight I continue with today. Both Creationists and Evolutionists have the same problem: Creationists cannot tell you where God came from and Evolutionists cannot tell you what came before the Big Bang. Many of the arguments made by characters in my novel, on both sides of "Does God exist" debate, are ones I've made myself. I'm still not sure of the ultimate answer, but The Hand of God allows me to explore the issue in more depth.
Are you reflected in any of your characters? How about friends and/or family members? *cruel chuckle*
Big time, yes on both accounts. As I mentioned above, the question of "Is there a God" is one I've spent a lot of time thinking about. I find many of Victor's views on the world coming from my past experiences. Other characters in the book have their basis in people I've known over the years. One does not have to work hard to create interesting characters, one just has to spend time sitting at a White Castle Hamburger joint at 2 o'clock in the morning, or a Starbucks on a business day afternoon, and keep your eyes and ears open.
The psychology of people-watching. You'd be surprised at how entertaining it truly is. And you can learn a lot from it as well.
Is there any sense of the fantastical in your work?
There is, as Victor must confront Satan, vampires, hellhounds, and other things through the course of the book one would consider fantastical. I remember listening to The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels and wondering what would I do if I were in Johnny's place. You don't get more fantastical than a fiddle contest with the Devil. In my book, I get to let Vic answer the question of what he would do when offered a challenge by Satan.
Okay - now for some random questions:
If you had the ability to travel through time, would you choose to go back or move forward? Why?
I would move forward. As a history buff, I've learned the future always brings things the current age would consider magical. Can you imagine what someone from the Middle Ages would think about things we take for granted every day? I would like to find out what will amaze me in the future.
Very true! I'm still waiting for that time-controlling device~
If you could have a discussion with any author (living or deceased), who would you choose and why?
Great question and if forced to pick just one, it would be Edgar Allan Poe. The author of the first detective novel, a writer of poetry and horror stories, all in one, plus one who died under such mysterious circumstances, I would like to learn what made him tick. A close second would be Mark Twain, just for the banter back and forth.
And a witty banter I imagine that would be!
How many states have you visited? Have you ever traveled overseas?
I've visited twenty-eight states, as well as Australia. I've also been to Canada, but as they are not overseas, so they don't count.
I once lived in Minnesota, but I never once made it up to Canada. *sigh* I've yet to leave the country.
Know what? Dreams fascinate me. Are you ever inspired by your dreams?
I have done some of my best writing following a dream. I often go to sleep wondering what a character will do next and the next evening, recalling the dream, hit a good bit of writing based on what I can remember of the dream.
What is the strangest dream you can recall?
I remember a dream where Elvis and I were traveling around Europe in an old Mustang Convertible, and we ended up stopping an IRA plot to blow up Prince Charles. You know what I mean? I think you do, thank you very much.
I love it! Isn't the Muse fantastic? The mind is certainly an interesting force.
Mountain or canyon?
Mountain. Keep on climbing up.
Hot or cold?
I'm always hot. Given the chance, I would keep it fifty-five degrees year round.
I'm always cold. Eighty or ninety degrees is perfect for me! Here's a little-known tidbit: I use a space heater in my room year-round - even during the summer.
Novels or short stories?
I like to write short stories, but novels are growing on me. When it comes to reading, novels.
Checkered, polka-dotted, or striped?
Stripes all the way. I see polka-dots and I think clown, checks and I think why?
Sunrise or sunset?
To me sunsets are more beautiful and they leave you wondering what the morning will bring.
Hardback or paperback?
I prefer hardbacks. I like my novels big and the spines wide.
The longer, the better.
Dude. Say it loud and you can get someone's attention. Say it with a laugh and you can make fun of a friend. Say it with a head shake and let someone know you don't approve. Or you can use it as a casual greeting. Know what I mean Dude?
That's quite the 'busy' word. It has so many uses depending on the context~
The number 8.
Favorite board game?
Trivial Pursuit. I'll take anyone on and spot you two pies.
"Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more." - Mark Twain
Moriarty. Sherlock Holmes' nemesis has been brought to life in many different versions and I've loved them all.
Thank you for joining me today, Mr. Acree! It's been a pleasure hosting you on my blog and learning more about you and your work. I'm thrilled you are a part the Hydra Clan, and I'm looking forward to The Hand of God.
Tony Acree was born in La Grange, Kentucky in January 1963. His short story fiction has appeared in Kentucky Monthly Magazine. He has written articles about his time as a stay at home dad for a women's magazine as well as sports and information articles. His work has also appeared in The Cumberland, the Kentucky state wide newspaper outlet of the Sierra Club. He is a member of the Green River Writers as well as The Bluegrass Writers Edge, a creative writers group in Goshen, Kentucky, where he lives with his wife and twin daughters.