An Interview with Alexis A. Hunter – Part I

“The end or the beginning.

I couldn’t decide which.

The sacks of money littered across the table seemed promising.  The fellas’ laughter raucous as it echoed off the ceiling.

That smug grin on the boss man’s face said I had done well enough.”

From “Uncertain,” part of the Noir Series by Alexis Ann Hunter

     Alexis A. Hunter is an author who specializes primarily in short fictional works often fantastic or supernatural in nature, and darkly poetic in style.  She has had 3 works published, and 6 more have been accepted for publication, including her 7,500 word short story “Cruel As the Grave,” which will be published in Wicked East Press’ “Beneath the Pretty Lies” anthology.  She also runs a blog – http://idreamagain.wordpress.com – where she posts many of her short stories, and you can follow her on Twitter: @AlexisAHunter.  Alexis lives in West Virginia with her husband Bo, and her psychotic cat Ripley.

Michael Traven:  You’ve been writing a story a day for a writing challenge you found online. How many days has it been?

Alexis A. Hunter:  It’s been about twenty-six days since I started this challenge. I didn’t actually find out about it until about three days into the month. I had to do a couple make-up stories to catch up with the others, but ever since then I’ve been going strong. Only two days left!

What are the rules of the challenge, other than a story a day? And have you stuck by those rules? Have you written more than required?

     There really aren’t a whole lot of rules to the challenge. The goal is to complete a story a day – no matter the length. Julie – the founder of this challenge – wants us to focus more on quantity than quality. It’s about finishing stories and conquering the ever-dreaded writer’s block.

     Most of my stories came out in the flash fiction range. A few wound their way over 1,000 words. I know a couple folks who would write what they call ‘twitter fiction,’ too.

Speaking of flash fiction, that’s something that you’ve been doing for a while now. How has flash fiction -positively or negatively- affected your writing ability? Any lessons learned or realizations had?

     I honestly never thought I’d be able to cut my word count down to under a thousand. As long as I’ve been writing, I’ve leaned toward the verbose side. I remember writing college papers 4-5 pages over the limit.

     So when I discovered flash fiction – I picked it up as a challenge. And it has been incredible trying to learn to cut a story down. It has taught me to choose wisely – not just in what words are chosen, but also when looking at the bigger picture.

     Stuff like, how do I hint at the things that have happened prior to the story? Writing flash fiction has really honed my ability to subtly refer to a character’s past – rather than making a huge ‘info dump’ like I used to do.

     Negative impacts? I sometimes have a hard time writing stories over a thousand words. I tend to feel like I have to cut the story short. Sometimes the endings are abrupt. Those are all things I have to work on smoothing out.

You’ve had several works published, with several more on the way to publication. Do you feel that you have a better understanding, now that you’ve been through that process multiple times, of what publishers/magazines look for in a story?

     To a certain extent, yes. I do feel a little more prepared when facing the submission process. Expectations and desires vary greatly, however, from publisher to publisher – that much I have learned. The one thing that seems constant is that they all want polished manuscripts. They don’t want your rough draft. I’ve made that mistake a few times – not sending a rough draft in, but one that wasn’t quite polished enough.

     But as I said, publishers vary a lot as far as what they’re looking for, or so it seems to me anyway. I think half the challenge for the writer is matching the right story to the right publisher. I’ve found it handy to peruse the publisher’s website as much as possible, thoroughly pour over the guidelines, and if at all possible – get a copy of their previous publications.

     One of the greatest resources for me has been a website called duotrope (link if you want to). Honestly, if it weren’t for this incredible tool I probably wouldn’t have a single story published yet.

How many times will you usually rewrite a given piece before submitting?

     Actually it’s very rare for me to do a complete rewrite. I did on my first published story, but on very few others. It’s just not something I do as a writer. I prefer to edit, unless the story just really didn’t click and I think it would do better with a rewrite.

     Don’t get me wrong – I believe in the power of a good rewrite. I just don’t use that option very often.

Do you feel the reason for that is because these are short stories and flash fiction, or do you think you would treat a novella or a novel the same way?

     I think I might treat novellas and novels the same way, honestly. I might actually be less inclined to do a complete rewrite on a story that long.

     That problem for me is that when I try to do a rewrite, I feel like I have to capture all the same lines from the old version. So essentially, I get stuck writing the same thing all over again. This is the reason why I scrapped my last novel project.

     Next time I move onto a story of that length, I do think I might do some small rewrites. Maybe chapters or sections occasionally as needed.

How long do you typically spend on a story? A day? A week? And have you noticed a difference in this time from, say, 5 months ago?

     In almost every case, I knock the first rough draft of a story out in a single day. A single sit-down actually. I think it hawks back to my fear of writer’s block. When the mood strikes, or the words flow easy – I don’t want to let up until every bit is down. No matter how bad or good it is. I know I can fix it later.

     There are only one or two stories that I wrote over the course of a few days or weeks.

     Editing is a different matter. I try to make myself spend at least a week in editing. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more.

     As far as how that differs from five months ago – not a whole lot. A year ago it would differ a lot. A year ago I would take a week to write a story.

TO BE CONTINUED.

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2 thoughts on “An Interview with Alexis A. Hunter – Part I

  1. Pingback: Interview over at Coffee Shop Daily « Inyë ólëa ata

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