Homer Hickam: From Coalwood to the Stars

Homer HickamFrom humble beginnings in Coalwood, West Virginia to the battlefields of Vietnam to the ranks of bestselling author, Homer Hickam seems to have done it all.

His seminal book, Rocket Boys, published in 1998, was made into the critically acclaimed move October Sky a year later. Since then Hickam has authored over a dozen books and countless magazine articles, many of them bestsellers and award winners.

Homer Hickam’s story has inspired authors for years and we’re proud to feature Homer Hickam in our premier episode of Interviewing Authors.

Scroll down for a complete transcript of the interview or click the Play button below to listen to the interview now.

And don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know what you thought of this interview!

Books by Homer Hickam


Homer Hickam Transcript

Tim Knox: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another addition of Interviewing Authors, Tim Knox here with you. On the program today one of my favorite authors of all time, Mr. Homer Hickam. Now I’m sure you recognize the name. Homer is the bestselling author of the book, Rocket Boys, which became the movie, October Sky, with Jake Gyllenhaal. But that was only the beginning of Homer Hickam’s prolific career. He has written over a dozen books, countless magazine articles. Most of his books, bestsellers, won a lot of awards and his background is as fascinating as his work. This is truly a fascinating interview. Homer talks about how he got started writing in grade school and how his teacher would share his work with others, how he was always a writer through working in coal mines, being in Vietnam and how he progressed to be the author that he is today. He’s got some great advice for you.

So strap in, get ready to listen as we talk to the original Rocket Boy himself, Homer Hickam, on this episode of Interviewing Authors. Homer, welcome to Interviewing Authors. It’s great to have you on the program today.

Homer Hickam: Well thanks for having me, Tim.

Tim Knox: You’ve got quite the background. You’ve come from the coal mining fields of Coalwood, West Virginia to Vietnam to working for NASA on rockets – quite the background. At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer as well as all of that stuff?

Homer Hickam: Well I guess it actually started in the third grade. My teacher used to mimeograph my short stories and carry them up to the junior high school, so I had quite the reputation of being a writer even back then. Unfortunately, I wrote a story about my mom and she took away my first amendment rights there but, and I didn’t start writing again until I was in college at Virginia Tech. I wrote for the college newspaper. When I came back from Vietnam I got into seriously freelance writing. I was a scuba instructor so I wrote for a lot of scuba magazines. That ultimately led to my first book, Torpedo Junction, which was a history of the U-Boat wars up and down the east coast that came out in 1989.

Tim Knox: And that was your first published book, right?

Homer Hickam: Yes, it was. I was just talking to a writer’s conference over the weekend about that, about getting an agent. I worked 15 years on that book to make sure but I got it exactly right, and it was a history; it was a military history, but as always I try to write about people. People are interested in other people and so even though it is a very accurate history of this warfare up and down the east coast during World War II, I made sure that we had interesting people in there and I did a lot of interviewing. In other words, I worked really hard on this book and I found Naval Institute Press, it seemed to me, was the perfect publisher for this book. So when I had the manuscript ready I shipped it off to them and they kept it for a couple of months and sent it back and said no it wasn’t right for them. I scratched my head and sent it back again. This is just unheard of. I just didn’t know better and I said I think you ought to look at it again. And they did and this time they said okay and they published it. It came out in ’89 and it’s still in print and has been one of my most popular books.

Tim Knox: Now it’s really interesting. You say you were a writer from a young age and that’s one of the questions I think we want to share with the audience because the audience for this podcast by and large is writers who are trying to make it or trying to get noticed and a lot of them have written from an early age. I had one writer tell me it was almost like having a bug in your system that you just can’t shake. Did you always feel that need to write?

Homer Hickam: Yeah, it’s always been inside of me but I can tell you this – in order to be a good writer you have to be a good reader. I love to read from… I learned to read when I was five years old, before I went off to school. I read everything I could get my hands on throughout my whole life. I’ve been a reader and I still am because a writer who doesn’t read… I don’t know, I don’t care how many writing classes you go to, you just don’t pick up the techniques that you need. But, yes, when I came back from Vietnam and went to work for actually the Army Missile Command, I just felt this overwhelming need to write. And that’s what led me to start writing, freelance writing for a number of magazines. I really cut my teeth on writing and learned how to hook a reader writing these magazine articles.

Tim Knox: Did you think it was the thing they say, if you do something enough you become an expert at it? But I have to believe there, there has to be some kind of innate talent for you to write. But you say you read to keep learning and honing your craft.

Homer Hickam: Oh yeah I’m always asking myself, especially if I’m reading a book that I like, and in a way becoming a writer can kind of spoil your reading because you kind of read on tracks. You’re reading as someone who wants to enjoy the book but also, as a writer, noticing the techniques that the writer uses and especially the ones that make you want to turn the page to see what happened. So I’m always reflecting on that as I read along.

Tim Knox: Did you notice that the more you wrote did you become critical of the writings of others? As you were reading those books were you doing so with a judgment eye or were you really doing it to learn how they did what they did compared to what you did?

Homer Hickam: Well, you know, as I wrote more I became more critical of myself and I think that you have to be your harshest judge. I don’t ever believe that what I write is my best work. I always think that I can hone it. I can always think that I can make it a little bit better. These days that means taking a page and turning it into a paragraph and then reducing a paragraph down to a sentence. Even if you can come up with one word that gets the same thought for a sentence, you try to do that but, yes, especially I’ve gone back and read books again that I liked. Now that I’ve been working in the writing industry for all these years I do look at them in a different way.

Tim Knox: Right. Is that one piece of advice you would give writers – to learn to self-edit? Because a lot of writers, I guess me included at some point, we love the sound of our own voice. Do we need to learn to edit to be better writers?

Homer Hickam: Absolutely. You’ve got to let your work cool down for one thing. Usually when I write and I think in the back of my mind oh this is really good, this is fine stuff, there’s another little voice back there and it’s a voice of experience that says you’re probably going to throw this away because what you think in the heat of the moment, when you let it cool down and for different writers that takes a different amount of time – for me a day or two – and then go back and read it you think, my gosh, how could I have written? This is awful. But if there’s any magic I think to my work, and I believe for most writers, it’s in the rewrite. So you want to get it down and once you get it down you can go back and fix it and make it better.

Tim Knox: Okay. Well you talked about your first book and how you sent it twice to the Naval Press, which I think is just a great way to handle rejection. You just go back.

Homer Hickam: Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it.

Tim Knox: I’ve been there; I’ve done that, yeah. Well let’s talk a little bit about the next boy though, Rocket Boys. Now what was your process in writing that and getting that finally published?

Homer Hickam: Yeah that’s a question that comes up all the time.

Tim Knox: I’m sure.

Homer Hickam: Matter of fact, I ended up writing a Kindle single, a short eBook that we later went ahead and printed out called from Rocket Boys to October Sky because that question… everybody thinks that’s my first book and they couldn’t imagine how was it that you as a NASA engineer wrote this book that kind of became a classic, you know? And they made a movie out of it. Actually it started with a magazine article. I didn’t plan on writing this book but when the magazine article was published in Smithsonian Air & Space, my phone almost melted down from New York publishers calling and Hollywood producers calling, saying, “Are you going to make a book out of this?” And I said, “Well I guess I am now.”

However, it wasn’t an easy process. Memoirs were kind of new back then. Angela’s Ashes had been published. It was about the only one that was really making any kind of headway and so I kind of had to invent the genre of memoirs along with some other writers at that time who were working in that field. I had some false starts. I threw away a lot of stuff until I finally figured out how to tell it and I had to tell it actually through the voice of that 14 through 17 year old boy who lived that experience. At the time I was 55 and I had a lot of other experiences, been overseas a lot and done a lot of different things and I had to somehow find that boy and let him tell the story. I think that’s why Rocket Boys has been so successful.

Tim Knox: You mentioned that that started off as a magazine article. Is that a great way for new writers to get started, to try to get things printed in magazines initially and then move on?

Homer Hickam: I think so, I really do. I mean, for one thing you have to figure out how to get the editor interested in what you’re writing about so you start learning how to hook an editor and you learn how to also hook a reader because you don’t have much room. Usually when you start out it’s going to be a very short article generally so you have to learn how to be spare with your words and hook the readers right up front. Now, quite honestly there’s not as many magazines that take articles and short stories and so on as when I first started out but there are other forms of that and that can be writing for blogs and also a lot of these magazines have gone online. Amazon now has their Kindle Single program where basically you’re self-publishing but you can still write the magazine article length and really learn your craft in the process. They just won’t print anything on Kindle Singles. It still has to be good. There are a number of different avenues that weren’t available when I first started writing.

Tim Knox: I think you’re right. There are a lot of avenues now but I think you still have to be – to get noticed at least to the degree that you are – you have to be a good writer and you really have to work on the craft. I know you do a lot of workshops and teaching and that sort of thing, and it seems like everybody is a writer. What’s the advice you give to someone who comes up to you and says, you know, I’ve written this book and I can’t get anyone interested in it – what do I do?

Homer Hickam: Well, you know, first I want to find out what have they actually done in terms of getting somebody interested in it and then if I have time I’ll start trying to peel that onion back a little bit to see what it was that they wrote and how they wrote it and, you know, just think about it. A lot of folks just get it in their head that, for instance, like writing memoirs is just easy. You just write down what happened. It doesn’t quite work that way. I, a lot of times, will ask them what have you read lately and if I hear well I don’t have to read, I don’t ever read much then I know that they’ve got a huge barrier right there in ever becoming a published author. Truly the best way to learn how to write and get published is to read a lot. If you’re writing for a certain genre like science fiction or a romance novel or so on, read a lot of those books. And also try to go out and get published somewhere else – in a church bulletin, anywhere, and then when you write your letter to an agent or to an editor you can say I have this experience. They know before they ever read the first word that here’s somebody that’s serious about their craft. You have to be a professional in this business if you ever hope to get published and make some money out there.

Tim Knox: Right. You know, you mentioned agents and publishers. Let’s go back again to your resubmitting that to the Naval Press. Was there rejection early on for you? I know that’s one thing that all writers have to learn to live with. We’ve got to have a thick skin and just keep on going. But if you will, talk a little bit about did you face rejection when you were going to look for an agent or get published in other ways, and how did you handle that?

Homer Hickam: Well I almost hate to say this, Tim, but I never got rejected very much with my writing and I think the reason for that was because I targeted toward a known quantity. Like when I was a scuba instructor writing for all these scuba diving magazines, I knew those magazines forwards and backwards and so I knew their style. So I think that’s the key to not getting rejected if you’re writing for a magazine, is to know to read that magazine and know everything about them before you ever make a submission. Had I just used a shotgun approach to some of my stuff I’m sure I would have been rejected. That’s not to say that I wasn’t. Sometimes my best effort just wasn’t good enough. I just didn’t quite give them what they wanted and it got rejected. Torpedo Junction, the publisher that it went to ultimately, I mean the very first one it went to, perhaps if I had tried to then just accept that rejection and went on to other publishers I might have gone through the rejection process but in this case I didn’t.

When Rocket Boys came along I actually had publishers looking for it so I had to get an agent to make any sense of the whole thing. So I was introduced to agents who were looking to represent me. My career has been one that’s been filled with fortune and I know it. I’m very lucky in so many ways to get where I finally managed to be.

Tim Knox: Right and Rocket Boys really quickly turned into the movie, October Sky.

Homer Hickam: Yeah, actually there was a race to see which one would come out first. I was still writing Rocket Boys while they were making the movie, October Sky, and that’s why there’s a lot of differences between the two.

Tim Knox: I think Rocket Boys is an anagram, or October Sky is rather. Talk about that. How did that happen?

Homer Hickam: Well the way that happened was… I spent most of the days on set so I knew everybody pretty well and Joe Johnston, the director, and Chuck Gordon, a producer and all the actors and Chris Cooper and Laura Dern, Jake Gyllenhaal of course. Unfortunately, having Jake play me and he went on to become such a famous actor that now I have to go around apologizing for not actually being Jake Gyllenhaal. I’ve heard that he has to go around apologizing for not actually being me. I don’t know how true that is. Anyway, they wanted to change the name Rocket Boys, which I was very much against because after all I was an author. You want the movie to have the same title as your book because there’s a nice synergism there and you end up selling a lot of books. But because Joe Johnston had made a movie called Rocketeer and also a movie called Rocket Man was scheduled to come out about the same time, they decided they had to change the name and ultimately Joe came up with the title by just… they had unsuccessfully tried to come up with a different title and it looked like they were going to fail and I was pretty happy about that.

He put Rocket Boys in his computer in an anagram software and out popped the only anagram of Rocket Boys, October Sky, and it was on the same day that he edited the scene where the townspeople and the boys looked up into the October sky and saw a Sputnik fly over. He and Chuck Gordon, producer, called me and they were so excited and how wonderful it was and told me that that was going to be the name of the movie and I said, “I hate that title. I’ll never have anything to do with a movie called October Sky,” and then in unison they said, “Oh great, Homer, we knew you’d love it.” That’s how they paid attention to me about everything to do with that movie really.

Tim Knox: I understand. Well it was a great movie and a great book. Let’s get back to the process of writing. Do you write on a schedule? Do you write every day? Is it different now than it was a few years, because you’ve been really prolific – 15, 16 books I think, numerous articles. What is your schedule when you are working on a project?

Homer Hickam: Well I write every day. It’s rare that I don’t. When I get up in the morning I usually hit the computer at least by 8 o’clock in the morning and go on through lunch, but generally afterwards. I’m always on deadlines. Like right now, I have a book for HarperCollins that they want to see in September and I’m struggling with it and I’m trying to get a handle on it. It’s the type of book that not too many people have worked on. It’s actually a book about my parents before I was born, when they carried my mom’s pet alligator from West Virginia to Florida. It seemed easy when I proposed it but now the actual writing is a little hard but I’ll get there. I have a confidence that I will get there, but so it’s every day that I work and I like having deadlines. I have deadlines put in my contracts. It’s a great way to focus my attention.

Tim Knox: Well that’s really interesting. You have that put in your contract so you’ve got to work on the book. It’s a motivating factor almost.

Homer Hickam: Yeah, and I generally take the advance and they spread it out. You get a portion of the advance when you sign the contract and then when you turn the manuscript in and it’s accepted then you get another amount. Then you get the next amount when they publish and then the final amount when the paperback comes out. So it’s all kind of spread out but you, you know, you got to hit these milestones in order to actually get paid, although I write for the love of writing, you know. I would do it probably if I wasn’t paid for it, which I think is a bad attitude. But I like to get paid for my work so I charge ahead. Sometimes I write when I don’t feel like it and sometimes I know I’m writing really junk but I have the confidence to know that I can go back and fix it.

Tim Knox: Right, right. So even if you’re forced to write, at least you’re doing something even if it’s not something that you’re going to keep, but you are writing.

Homer Hickam: Yeah and writers should do that. You should go ahead and get it down, even when you know this is not my best work, I can do a lot better I don’t know what, blah, blah, blah. The fact is that the next day or even a week later when you go back and look at that, you have something to work on. You can start shaping that and molding it. I always keep telling people the magic comes out in the rewrite. It’s rare when the first time you put it down that that’s the best you can do. You will see it in a different light. You will see it as it’s cooled. You’ll see it the way, somewhat the way the editor’s going to see it and the way that the reader is going to see it. So you can start shaping at that point. But if you don’t have it down on the page then every day you’re just staring at a blank page or a blank computer screen and that can be pretty intimidating.

Tim Knox: Sure. Now when you write, do you go through the entire book from start to finish? Do you know what’s going to happen or you just write a chapter at a time?

Homer Hickam: I kind of know what’s going to happen but sometimes my kind of knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t turn out to be what actually happens. I don’t outline and I do loop back. I make it a third of the way through the novel and realize that it’s changed enough that the first chapters need to be reworked and that kind of nags at me. It kind of draws me back so I will go back and rework those first chapters. My wife gets scared sometimes. It will be a month away from a time for me to turn in a manuscript and she’ll say what chapter are you on? I’ll say chapter one and she gets scared.

Tim Knox: She’s standing behind you poking you with a stick, getting you to write.

Homer Hickam: She’s my first reader. I trust her judgment. She’s also a big reader. She’s not a writer but she’s a very good reader and a pretty good editor. She’ll tell me when I’m off in the weeds. I may not always agree with her but I know I’m going to get an honest reading.

Tim Knox: Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about character development because you create really wonderfully thought out characters. How do you do that? What’s your process? I know if it’s not based on you, but you mentioned you were a 55 year old man writing a 14 year old boy. Talk a little bit about it if you will, character development.

Homer Hickam: Yeah, I always have in my mind characters before I start writing because I think ultimately what people are really interested in are other people. People are always saying well here’s a plot for you, Homer. I don’t need plots; I got plenty of plots. It’s the characters that’s the tough part and making them come alive. So I give a lot of thought about my characters and who they are and how they would really act. When I’m writing, if I have them doing something that… they kind of talk to me and say I wouldn’t do that; I wouldn’t say it that way. So pretty soon they become very real people. Quite often I can remember their names a lot better than real people. I think that’s what you have to do. Your characters have to come alive and for that you’ve got to think about them a whole lot, even minor characters that may only be in just one scene in the book. You can’t just let them be paper cutouts. They’ve got to be real. Somehow in as few words as possible you’ve got to flesh them out.

Tim Knox: And do you let the characters really drive the story? Do you put yourself in their heads and think like they do in the story?

Homer Hickam: Well, you know, it’s kind of a strange process. I think they start talking to me more than I talk to them. So quite often I’m a little bit surprised at what they want to do. As their God, in a way, I can always throw up roadblocks to keep them from doing what they want to do. So it is an interesting process when you create characters that are so real and you worry about them in a way. In my Josh Thurlow novels it started with The Keeper’s Son – The Keeper’s Son, not only Josh who’s a coastguard captain in a World War II, but also his semi-sort of girlfriend, Dosie. I’ve gone on to two more books past that first one and I’ve been kind of worried about Dosie, you know. She was kind of a vulnerable character and we left her situation a little bit, well, totally incomplete. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen to Dosie so I’ve been worrying about her and wondering if I need to write another novel and bring Dosie back to see what happened to her.

Tim Knox: It sounds like Dosie’s very real to you.

Homer Hickam: She’s very real and, you know, sad to say I think she’s realer to me than a lot of real people. So that’s kind of sad.

Tim Knox: What does your wife think about Dosie?

Homer Hickam: Oh she knows. She’s lived with a writer for a lot of years who’s always creating these characters. Of course I have to say the Josh Thurlow novels can get a little rough between men and women, so to speak, and she has asked me how do you know that? Well I’m a writer. I have a good imagination.

Tim Knox: There you go. Let’s talk about that because the Josh books are set in World War II and a lot of your books are not in this particular time era. What do you think the value is to really doing research to understand really what was going on during that time period and I guess the importance of researching not only your characters but the locations and the time eras you’re in, because I do read some books that seem to lose track of time and the author kind of create their own version of time. What are your thoughts?

Homer Hickam: Yeah, I’m a deep researcher. Of course I was born in 1943 so obviously I wasn’t, I’m not a veteran of World War II but every time that I’ve written about Josh I read, you know, as many books as I can get my hands on that happen during that era or that place, like with the… and sometimes it totally changes what I was going to write about. An example is The Ambassador’s Son that took place in the Solomon Islands during World War II. That’s where Guadalcanal is and Jack Kennedy was there. President John F. Kennedy was in the PT-109 so I wanted to read up all of that and then I came across the very obscure fact that there was somebody else there. His name was Richard Milhous Nixon. When I discovered that and started reading in-depth about both these men during wartime in the Solomon Islands, I knew that I had an opportunity for a real tour do force where Jack Kennedy and Nixon got together and of course who knows? They may very well have. There’s two weeks missing out of John Kennedy’s life and so the whole book takes place during those two weeks.

Tim Knox: That’s great. What an imagination and if Forrest Gump had made an appearance it would have been complete.

Homer Hickam: Well James Michener makes a guest appearance as well. He was there at the same time so it was really cool to bring all these people together.

Tim Knox: Fantastic. Just a couple more quick questions. What are your thoughts on writer’s block? Do you think there is such a thing and if so do you ever get it and how do you plow through it?

Homer Hickam: Well writer’s block to me is where you stop because you’re afraid to go forward because you’re not sure of what really should be happening next and you think, my gosh, if I choose this… you’ve got a hundred millions of avenues you could possibly go down but it’s all an assess of characters. If I choose this avenue, what if it doesn’t pan out? What if there’s a better way to go? So you kind of get in the gridlock and you’re afraid to go forward. Again, having a deadline really helps me in that regard. I have to decide, I have to go forward. For me, that would be writer’s block. It never really stops me from writing but I always do worry a little bit until I get… and sometimes I have to go back and throw all that away and start over again. But I won’t know unless I go down that avenue. You have to have courage as a writer. You really do. So I think writer’s block is sometimes a loss of confidence and courage.

Tim Knox: That’s a great point. I think you really do have to believe in your ability to write a great story to be a successful writer.

Homer Hickam: You’re absolutely right, you do. Of course you have the advantage after writing a few books and so on to know that what you’ve written before was acceptable and some people liked it, so you have that confidence. When you first start out that can be very difficult, I understand that, but you just have to get beyond that because again it’s a matter of being a professional. You are writing not just for fun and for yourself. You’re writing for an audience and you have kind of a compact with your readers that you are going to deliver the best writing you possibly can. It’s going to interest, at least interest them, if not enthrall them. I want to enthrall them if I can but if I can’t do that at least I want to interest them and want to make them turn the page.

Tim Knox: Do you think some authors as they obtain the level of success like you have, the quality of the writing actually goes down because they think that no matter what they put out there the reader’s going to buy?

Homer Hickam: Oh, absolutely. That’s the great pitfall that can sometimes grab hold of a writer who’s been successful and that mainly has to do with deadlines I think to a certain extent, and also it has to do with the publisher themselves. You write something, you’re on deadline, it’s got to get out there, you did the best you can, you get it to the publisher who accepts it whether that’s your best work or not because they also want to go ahead and get it out. They know it’s going to sell a whole bunch of copies anyway and make their money back and make some more. So, yeah, we can all get a little sloppy. I try really hard not to let that happen and they have to kind of pry the book sometimes out of my hands, even though I have a deadline. If I don’t think it’s ready I won’t let it go.

Tim Knox: Right. Just real quickly, you mentioned Kindle before. The thing now I think is self-publishing is so much easier than it used to be, you know. It’s not really the Vanity Press anymore. You can go to Kindle and create space and actually self-publish. Your thoughts on self-publishing versus the traditional publishing route.

Homer Hickam: Well I still like the traditional publishing route because the traditional publisher can do a lot of things for you that self-publishing can’t, primarily with marketing and distribution into the book stores and that kind of thing. They also take a lot of work off of you. They create the cover, they get the blurbs and they do the copy editing and this kind of thing, which is still wonderful but there is just going to be, already has been a tremendous seismic shift into where the power is. The power is coming back to the writers, not so much the publishers. I’ve done two self-published works – Paco: The Cat Who Meowed in Space is a Kindle Single and also From Rocket Boys to October Sky. That’s a Kindle Single as well. I had a lot of fun doing it. They helped get the cover and it’s done very well. Plus you get 70%, where with a book through the traditional publisher you get vastly less than that, 10-12%, something like that. So you lower the price on your self-published work and you hope you make up in quantity what you might miss a little bit in quality. So it’s interesting for me to watch it. I’m trying to not get left behind and I think a lot of very successful authors are getting into self-publishing too.

Tim Knox: So your advice to other authors would be to self-publish until you can traditionally publish?

Homer Hickam: Again it depends on the work. Say it’s a work that’s non-fiction but is of interest to a limited number of people, a number of people that the writer may know exactly who that is who’s going to be interested in their work. Say it’s something on, say, if you’re an insurance agent. You’re writing about the insurance business, just as an example. Your traditional publisher is not going to be interested in that but certainly to go out there now. It’s so easy. The tools are available for self-publication and to get that work out to your targeted audience. However, there’s many examples, not a whole bunch, but some examples of fiction writers who have just said the heck with the traditional publishers. They don’t seem interested. I can’t get to the right people to do it. I’m going to try doing it myself and they’ve been very successful, even to the point where the traditional publisher reaches down and decides to publish their work in a traditional way. So I think really every writer with every book has to simply ask themselves what’s the best route to go here. It just kind of depends.

Tim Knox: Okay, all great advice. I really appreciate you doing this interview. Tell us are you out hunting dinosaurs these days when you’re not writing?

Homer Hickam: We’ll be going back this July for another couple of weeks out in eastern Montana. The Dinosaur Hunter was a novel that I wrote that used all of that information research that I had done going out and hunting the dinosaurs and been pretty successful about it. I created a new character called Mike Wire, who’s a Los Angeles police detective who becomes a cowboy in Montana in modern day and gets hooked up and messed up by a paleontologist coming into the land. It was a lot of fun to write that novel and Mike’s a fairly popular character so I might bring him back in another novel.

Tim Knox: Good deal. Well you said you’re working on a book now that you’ve got to have in by September. When might we see that one?

Homer Hickam: Well again this is with… traditional publishers take their time so when I turn it in in September it will be a month or so before I hear whether it’s acceptable in the form that it is. I think it will be because I’m kind of showing it to my editor as I go along. Probably a year after that, maybe a little bit more before the book actually comes out.

Tim Knox: Okay, very good. Well just one last question. Any advice you would give – and I know you’re asked this 100 times a day. What’s the best advice you would give to someone who is writing, is trying to get published and is doing it every day? What’s the best advice?

Homer Hickam: Yeah, well as I mentioned earlier, you’ve got to be a good reader. So whatever genre that you’re interested in, read a lot of books about it and it’s better than any kind of writing class you’ll ever take. You will absorb techniques and then in a lot of cases you can just start writing using the style of the book or the author that you admire and then your own style will emerge out of that. Be a diligent reader and then try to write seriously, professionally and approach everything in writing in a professional way.

Tim Knox: Excellent. Homer Hickam, this has been a pleasure. People can go to your website, HomerHickam.com.

Homer Hickam: HomerHickam.com. You have to spell it H-I-C-K-A-M. There you’ll see all of my books and you can also contact us. We love to hear from our readers.

Tim Knox: Alright, fantastic. We appreciate you being on this premiere episode of Interviewing Authors. We wish you well and we will keep in touch.

Homer Hickam: Alright thank you, Tim.


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