VWC: When did you decide you wanted to be an author? What are some of the things you did to reach that goal?
DH: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. That was it. I suppose I’ve been lucky that way. As a kid I was always writing stories and reading, reading, reading. There’s really no better way to become a writer than to be a voracious reader.
VWC: How has your background as a newspaperman helped you with your career as an author?
DH: Working at a newspaper you learn how to write very quickly and can’t afford the luxury of writer’s block. You also learn how to take some criticism and to work in a noisy environment. For a long time, it was a great job and it seemed important.
VWC: How do you find a publisher for your first book?
DH: First I found a wonderful agent named Esther Perkins who taught me a lot about the difference between simply writing fiction and writing fiction that might be published. Unfortunately we never landed a book deal together. When Esther retired I found another agent who gave me a whole new crash course in writing fiction. The agents are the ones who find a publisher.
VWC: How do you find a publisher for a book now?
DH:Publishing has changed so much in the last twenty years. You still need an agent to get a book deal with one of the big publishers. You needed a press to print a newspaper. Technology has changed all that.
VWC: Have you ever self-published a book? If yes, what are the greatest challenges for a self-published author?
DH: Self publishing is a great option. Dickens was a self publisher, after all, cranking out serialized stories for magazines that he owned—but he was also a great storyteller. I have self published a book with some success but with a lot of help from paid designers, copy editors and marketers. I would highly recommend hiring a pro to help you publish the best book possible.
VWC: You’ve written thrillers, historical novels, non-fiction, mysteries, and the Sea Lord Chronicles for younger readers (MG or YA?), do you have a favorite genre?
VWC: What book that you’ve written is your favorite and why?
DH: The best book I’ve written is the one I just finished. Somebody else actually said that, not me! My favorites are Sharpshooter, because that was my first novel; and I really take pride in Rebel Train, and not just because it was a Jeopardy! question. I wrote that novel in longhand over several months between the hours of midnight and two a.m. I would come home from the night shift at the newspaper and write, and then, be up first thing in the morning with our daughter so my wife could go to work. That’s how badly I wanted to write.
VWC: In addition to your historical nonfiction books, many of your novels are based in history. Do you enjoy research? Do you visit the places mentioned in your books?
DH: History really comes alive for me when I try to imagine the people who lived through historical events. I love the research and try to visit all the historical locations I can because it helps to get the atmosphere right.
VWC: How have you managed to write and publish 8 books in the last 2 years?
VWC: Do you work on more than one book at a time?
DH: Yes, I usually have one almost finished and then one in the outlining stage.
VWC: Do you have any time-management secrets for writers?
DH: An outline is very important. It took me a long time to learn that, so save yourself a lot of grief and spend the weeks you need to write an outline. My outlines are very rough and incorporate character back story and plot points, but by the time I sit down to write most of the story is “there” just waiting to be written. The other factor is time. It does help to have some sort of schedule. I have the luxury now of writing in the morning or right after lunch. For many years I wrote late at night and on weekends to get things done.
VWC: What projects are you working on now?
DH: I’m working on a sequel to my World War II story, Ghost Sniper.
VWC: What advice do you have for writers trying to get a book published?
DH: Read all you can and write all you can. Writing is definitely a craft that you have to work on over time, so it helps to read craft books, attend conferences, or just sit there and ask the age old question, “Is this showing not telling?”
VWC: Who was your favorite author as a child?
DH: The wonderful frontier adventure writer William O. Steele.
DH: I would say that I never miss a John Sandford thriller.
VWC: What was the most valuable piece of writing advice given to you?
DH: The game changer for me was going to school at Washington College in Chestertown and discovering this whole community of writers there. Through that I learned that you know what, it’s okay to be a writer.
VWC: And now, the final and most important question: What’s your favorite kind of cookie?
DH: Pepperidge Farm Chesapeakes with a much of tea.
Thanks, David, for stopping by. Watch Whimsical Words for more Guests, Quotable Wednesdays, Writing Tips, Recipes, and lots of other interesting posts. Have a historical Monday! – Vonnie
PS. If you want to show some love, visit my Amazon page and buy one of my books. 😉