Walter H. Hunt, science fiction and alternate history author of The Darkwing Series and A Song in Stone, stopped by to visit Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester on Saturday, October 6th. In addition to selling books and sharing his writing, he kindly gave us an interview so you can find out even more about him!
Thank you so much for joining us, Walter!
For those who missed you on Saturday or are not familiar with your work, what can you tell us about The Darkwing Series and A Song in Stone?
The Dark Wing universe is set in the future, where mankind has reached the stars and encountered alien races. In each of the four books, we are introduced to one of those races: the birdlike zor, the reptilian rashk, the felinid otran, and of course the insectoid vuhls. It is a series with a considerable amount of war – enough to characterize it as “military science fiction” – but it is intended to grapple with the ethics and morality of war, and what effect it has on society.
A Song In Stone is a standalone novel, which begins in 21st century Scotland, at Rosslyn Chapel – a “place of mystery” a few miles from Edinburgh (which I visited while in Scotland in 2005). It is said that there are stone carvings at Rosslyn that are an encoded piece of music – the “Healing Music of Rosslyn” – and that is the center of the plot. The principal character hears the music, and finds himself suddenly in the 14th century . . . and the only way he can return is to follow the “esoteric pilgrimage” from Santiago de Compostela in Spain all the way back to Rosslyn . . . except that the chapel has not yet been built.
What’s your favorite place to get inspiration? And once inspiration hits, what is your writing technique: do you plan, write by the seat of your pants, a combination thereof?
Inspiration can strike anytime, so I don’t really have a “favorite place.” I’ve had ideas in dreams, on car trips, in mystery chapels in Scotland – and lots of other places. It’s why I make sure to have something to take notes. You never know where it might lead.
I rely on my intuition to plot, but I generally have some sense of the scope of a book. I’m not a rigid outliner; that tends to reduce that scope, I think, which might close off an avenue that would otherwise be productive.
I know you do a lot of research for your books, but a lot of the cool information you find may never make it to the book’s page. What is the coolest thing you learned in your book research that never made it into the final book?
I don’t know if I could pick out a single thing – but I always wind up with a lot of material that just doesn’t fit into the narrative. For A Song In Stone, I provided about 15,000 words of notes and gloss to my editor – “to answer her first sixty questions,” as I put it at the time. Most of that is up on my website for reference.
What’s been your favorite adventure in researching?
My current project is a novel in Eric Flint’s 1632 series, and I’m the first to write a novel set in North America. I had to start almost from scratch; we have lots of misconceptions about the earliest colonial era, and there’s a lot that isn’t commonly known. I know a lot about it now, and really have a feel for the period and the place(s).
What has been the best piece of advice you ever received as an author? And what advice would you pass on to other authors?
Finish the book, I was told. The way you separate a “writer” from an “author” is whether s/he finished the project.
Just as seriously, I continue to be grateful for all of the help I have received and the kindnesses done to me since I became a professional. Booksellers, conventions, and interested fans have been kind, and I continue to be appreciative.
What are some of the things you’re working on now? What can fans expect in the near future?
I have a 1632 book, probably coming in early 2013. I have a book on mesmerism, set in the middle 19th century and nominally “steampunk”, which is on submission at the moment; I have high hopes for it. I also have an alternate history novel that I intend to return to as soon as my commitment on the current book is done.
How can fans better stalk – er – follow your work?
On Facebook, and at my website http://www.walterhunt.com.
What question do you wish people would ask you in an interview, and what would the answer be?
“I understand that you’re a Freemason. How has that affected your writing?”
I’ve been a Mason for 25 years this coming spring, and while some people tend to be amused by it, I have to say that it has made me more insightful and thoughtful, just as the teachings of the Fraternity have helped me be a more charitable, honest and upright person – as a father, a husband, and a friend. I take pride in it.
Thank you, again, Walter! It was wonderful visiting with you at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester this Saturday, and we look forward to seeing you again!