Monday, July 20, 2009

Interview with Steve Hockensmith, Keynote speaker at Redwood Writers Conference

Steve Hockensmith Interview by Annie Acker

At the ripe young age of forty Steven Hockensmith has achieved a rare feat. He's managed to not only write, but publish, roughly thirty short stories and three novels. His fourth hits the stands on July 21st, 2009. Even more impressive, his first novel, Holmes on the Range, made him a finalist for the 2007 Edgar, Anthony and Shamus Awards in the Best First Novel category. Accolades for Hockensmith's writing don't stop there. His first published mystery story, "Erie's Last Day," won the Short Mystery Fiction Society's Derringer Award. It later appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2001.

Steve first began writing as a child. He was a geeky kid making his own comic books or fantasy epics, short stories and little books in grade school. In high school he wrote a lot of "bad poetry" and worked on the high school yearbook. Later in college he wrote "quasi-literary vignettes" while juggling a double major in Journalism and History. Now he prefers short story writing with humor or dark writing. "You have more freedom than a novel because of the time invested. You can experiment more. A novel is a year of your life and 99 percent of them are never finished."

To me humor is the hardest form of writing. So I asked if it comes naturally to Steve. "Humor is the thread that runs through the majority of my writing in both short stories and novels. I'm not a comedy writer though. My novels are historical mysteries with humor."

When asked if he ever experiences writer's block Hockensmith replied, "I do and I don't. Some days I agonize about one sentence for 15 minutes. If I have a block there's something wrong with the writing content; what is the perspective of a lead character or the intricacies of the plot. What do I need to fix? I'm sort of a perfectionist, but only about writing."

His biggest influences were Kurt Vonnegut who has a similar worldview. Vonnegut got Hockensmith excited at a young age to do offbeat fiction. Then reading Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler inspired him to write mysteries. "I felt simpatico with him. I felt a connection to his whole outlook. It was through my mystery stories my agent found me."

Besides a sense of perfectionism, luck and timing were the secrets to his success. "Timing makes a huge difference. The way I ended up with my agent. I don't think I would be where I am today without Cheney Literary Associates in New York City."

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Editor's Note: Steve Hockensmith is the luncheon Keynote Speaker at the Redwood Writers 2009 Conference, October 24, 2009. He will deliver an exciting and humorous talk about getting published, "Anything I Can Do, You Can Do Better: Getting Published Made Easy(ish)." More details here:

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