Unpublished Author Extraordinare: An Interview with Seth Herman

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I met Seth Herman via a virtual writer’s critique group which he put together.  Seth is a true inspiration to all of us writers who are chasing that dream.  Read his interview and you’ll see what I mean.  Enjoy!


7NB: Can you tell us a little about your completed novel?
SH: Well, I have two 95k-word novels finished off, and I’m five chapters into my third. So I guess you could say I’m a bit of a workaholic dreamer – I keep on writing and hope something gets picked up, sooner or later.
Both of the finished novels are YA/fantasy – the first is a hodgepodge of randomness, with sci-fi aspects included as well. It’s basically a combination of everything I’ve ever loved about movies/novels/TV thrown into a blender, and it’s admittedly lousy. But I love it.
            The second is much more structured, and that’s what I have out with agents now. It’s more of a YA/urban fantasy, about a boy who protects Gargoyles during the day. The plot is just much tighter. Although for some reason I got much more of a response from agents for my first novel. Maybe the writing’s better there, who knows.
7NB: Where do you get most of your ideas and inspiration?
SH: From everything I’ve ever read, watched, or thought about. It’s a jungle inside my head, I swear. I’m a guy who grew up on Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton, then switched over to YA fantasy novels. Pretty dramatic shift, I know. People tell me I write my YA like they’re thrillers, and I guess that’s probably got something to do with it.
7NB: What prompted you to write your first novel and how long did the first draft take?
SH: Stephen King writes in “On Writing” that everyone’s had that moment where they’ve read something and thought, “Jeez, I could definitely do better than this.” I won’t call out the author or the novel, but I had one of those about five or six years ago. I dabbled in writing for a few years, then really started taking myself seriously. I knew I could really do it when I got a few short stories published. No big money, but just vindication for all the hard work. It’s not like I had written a hundred of them, either – just a few, and two sold pretty quick. So I knew I wasn’t just messing around.
7NB: Do you have a set writing schedule, or are you more of a “when the mood hits” kind of guy?
SH: My time requirement is strict, but it’s not necessarily at a given hour. I write for one hour a day, six days a week, no excuses. It’s the best I can do with a super-packed schedule. But you’d be amazed at what one hour a day could produce. I wrote my second novel while learning in grad school and teaching classes, to the point where my schedule was 8am-1pm, 230-7pm, and 8-11pm. That’s right, I was busy with work/school for twelve and a half hours a day. Yet I still wrote for that hour a day – usually during lunch – and I knocked out a novel in less than four months. When I told people I had written a novel during those months, the only response I got was, “When?!”

7NB: Can you tell us about your current WIP (work in progress)?  We’d love to hear about some of the characters or what the main idea is, if you don’t mind sharing.

SH: This is my first novel written in first person POV, and it’s also my first with major religious undertones. I’m a Jew, and if I was going to write in first person about a character, I figured he should be as close to me as possible.
            The book is another YA/urban fantasy, about a boy who is enlisted to help protect thirty-six righteous people. According to Jewish legend, there are thirty-six hidden righteous people in every generation, in whose merit the world exists. Someone is trying to knock them off. The protag must protect them without letting them know who they are – after all, knowing you’re keeping the world running would lead to arrogance, and that would eliminate some of the righteousness. It’s a complicated mess that I’m trying to sort out as I write, something I probably shouldn’t do, but I’m too excited to write it and I can’t help but go ahead without a straight outline.

7NB: What does your writing workspace look like?

SH: Heh, wherever I can plop down a laptop. Nothing else needed. When I move into a bigger apartment my wife says she’ll think about letting me have a study. Until then, the dining room table it is.

7NB: Your WIP is a YA novel. Any plans to write for other age groups?

SH: Nah, this age group is way too much fun. If I can’t make it in YA, I can’t see myself trying something else. Unless this religious book seems to fit better with an adult, which I don’t think it does.

7NB: What is your favorite YA novel of all time? How about your favorite book on the craft of writing?

SH: Loved Lord of the Rings, although copying that writing style would be career suicide. Loved Harry Potter, of course, as well as Percy Jackson. I was super impressed with how Rick Riordan kept the pace moving – that was the fastest I ever read through five books in my life. It took me like a week. Amazing to read something so smooth and light and quick.
            My favorite book on writing was, well, On Writing, as mentioned previously. Man, can he write. I hate horror, but that was fantastic.
7NB: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
SH: I was always the kid who wrote too much in English class, but I never seriously considered it until I picked up said book and thought I could do better. It’s been five years since, and I’m still waiting. But if I knew it would take this long and I’d pound out two and a half books in the process, I’d still do it all over again.

7NB: When you start looking for agent representation, what are some of the qualities you will look for in an agent?

SH: Need someone who will be hands-on. I want someone to help me with edits and ideas, someone I can bounce concepts off of and get a decent response. And someone who’s personable, and humorous about the whole thing.

7NB: What is the best advice anyone has given you with regards to your writing?

SH: Nobody has really ever given me any advice, to tell you the truth. I don’t have any friends who are writers, and I never took any formal creative writing classes. I read a lot about the craft of writing, but I don’t remember anything that really stuck out. Yeah, I’ve been alone for a while doing this, but it’s still fun as anything.
7NB: What is the advice would you give to aspiring writers who can’t seem to get their butts in chair to start their novel!
SH: I basically gleaned the following mantra from those ten or fifteen books: stick your head in your keyboard, type a bunch of letters, and see what comes out. If you don’t like it, you can always edit it later.
Even the worst writing is better than no writing. After all, you can edit bad writing. You can’t edit a blank page.
And even just a few minutes a day is amazing. You’d be shocked at what those few minutes add up to.
7NB: What is your experience like, balancing writing and being a father?
SH: Oh, the father thing is amazing; there is nothing that can compare to being a dad and being around with your kids. That said, it’s just another thing that “gets in the way” of the writing. To tell you the truth, anyone who says that has their priorities wrong – the writing gets in the way of being a dad. But it’s just like anything else – you have to set aside time for both, and if you don’t, you’re going to sacrifice something. And my kids don’t deserve to have their time sacrificed. So I have to budget my time accordingly if I want to excel at both things, and I try my hardest to do that.
7NB: What are some of your favorite blogs you follow?
SH: To be honest – yours, and that’s it! I don’t have time to follow blogs. I was following Mary Kole’s Kidlit for a while, but then she rejected my manuscript, and I was done with that ;). But seriously, I don’t have time to read someone else’s lousy writing. I’d much prefer to read my own (and make it better, of course).
Thanks so much for having me – this was a ton of fun.
7NB: Thank you Seth, it was a pleasure to have you! You are a true inspiration, and your books sound amazing! Can’t wait to see them for sale 🙂
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Now, do you feel there’s any reason why you shouldn’t be writing an hour a day, or doing anything that is your true passion, for an hour a day? Isn’t it amazing what one can do with a little discipline and a schedule?

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