Thursday, December 26, 2013

Jaq Hawkins, From Occultist to Novelist...

From Occultist to Fantasy Novelist - An Inevitable Journey

I have always been a writer. From when I first learned to tell the sounds of letters as a small child, the need to write has found ways of expressing itself. By the time I was fourteen I was writing short stories prolifically and at that age, decided that my life goal would be to become a professional writer.

Exactly what I would write had not yet been carved in stone at that age. Fiction seemed an obvious choice, but my storytelling skills had not yet been fully developed. A good English teacher helped me to learn to recognize where edits would be required, especially on run-on sentences, and the mind of a dedicated professional began to form.

At an age when many new writers self-publish their first novels these days, I was experiencing life. I had been told that a writer must live first to have something to write about, though advice of that sort would never have stopped me from writing. However, I wrote only for myself during that part of my life. Many adventures later, I settled down to a less transient situation and the idea of writing professionally returned.

The question was, what did I want to write? There was much to choose from; Fiction, stories based on my real-life adventures... but the decision was given direction when a magazine editor asked me to write something specific for his publication. I had taken an interest in esoteric subjects at a very young age and the old adage, 'write what you know', came into play.

So, I wrote an explanatory article about chaos magic - a subject that was of great interest to a special niche of readers at the time. This sparked additional articles for magazines in the same subject area and I became a regular contributor to a glossy magazine called Mezlim, often writing something offbeat about their monthly themes. It was always a personal imperative for me to find a unique angle to the issue topic so that I wouldn't be writing the same sort of thing that everyone else would write about the subject.

In the 1990's, I decided it was time I wrote a book. By then I had developed a certain reputation in the esoteric market and had an extensive track record of articles in print. I finished the first book in 1994 and began to look for a publisher. In those days, traditional publishing was still the only choice (apart from vanity publishing, which I wouldn't touch) and my subject matter was usually handled by small niche publishers.

Over the years I had learned a lot about the writing business, including how to prepare a proper manuscript. It all helped. I was given encouragement by the largest occult publisher in the U.S. that they would be interested in my book, but they wanted certain changes. The one that made me hesitate was a formula they wanted to impose to make the book fit into a how-to series they were producing at the time. I felt that it would compromise the intent of the book rather far, but still hadn't made a final decision when I was introduced to the owners of Capall Bann publishing in England.

Capall Bann had a very different criteria. They told me that if I could get the manuscript into ascii file compatibility, they would publish the book. Now days people might ask what that means, but in the mid-1990's I was writing on a word processor and computer compatibility was not automatic. Things have changed in the technical world.

A solution was found for the technical requirement and my first book was released in 1996. Naturally, I immediately followed it
with more in the same subject matter and even before my Spirits of the Elements series had been completed, I had developed a solid reputation in occult writing. After eight books had been published, the desire to write fiction began to nag at me again.

This is the part of my writing history that many readers of my early published material will not have known. I was writing fiction at the rate of two or three stories per day at the age of fourteen and my love of reading Fantasy fiction in particular made me want to create my own world... one as wonderful as Darkover or Pern, or even Amber with its attendant horrors. The Fantasy writer had simmered beneath the non-fiction writer for long enough.

I had even attempted to formulate an alternate world for a story on more than one occasion, but I found that trying to force or consciously outline a Fantasy world just wasn't working for me. When the world that would become the backdrop for my Goblin series came to me, it crept in unexpectedly on the shirttails of political theory. It was the year that Bush the younger was about to be re-elected under the shadow of questionable vote counting practice and I had dipped my toe into activism enough to find that most activist groups had their own agendas and lacked willingness
to work on a larger co-operative scale.

The thought of how things should have worked led to a dialogue exchange that went through my head between an anarchist and someone who simply couldn't understand the concept of a leaderless society, and suddenly I had a conflict between a world of goblins who have no formal hierarchy and humans with their various government structures. I wrote it down and the world grew into a post-apocalyptic feudal society of humans with a shamanic, very tribal people living underground to avoid war, though conflict was inevitable.

By the time I was a few chapters into the first novel, I had notes for two more and the story had grown into a series. I decided at that early stage that three was enough for a single series, but I would keep an open mind on additional 'side stories' or even the possibility of additional contained series like the early Pern books, which started with a trilogy and was followed by another trilogy.

At some point I was inspired by a Steampunk song to write a story about airship pirates in that genre, which gave me a chance to write in an alternative Victorian England for a change of scenery. The
Wake of the Dragon is also destined to have a sequel, but probably not an extensive series, though an idea for a Khempunk novel in a similar vein is kicking around in my writing notes.

Ideas have flowed ever since and I cannot keep up with them. They include other alternate worlds as well as variations on real world themes. It seems that once the floodgates of world building were open, there could be no stopping the possibilities. At present I have a science fiction novel involving a moon colony slowly developing, though my intent in the coming year is to go back to my publishing roots and write some new titles in the Mind, Body, Spirit category as it is now called. My traditional publisher of that kind of material has not yet joined the digital age and the freedom to control my own output in the world of indie publishing has brought a desire to bring that side of my writing into the ebook market, after receiving several requests to do so from readers of my early books.

As I said at the beginning, I have always been a writer. Writing fiction and non-fiction have both become inherent parts of who I am. Finding a balance between the two may be a challenge while I catch up with some of the ideas I have waiting for their turn to be written, but the journey from esoteric writer to fiction novelist was not so far after all, because it was always a part of me.

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