Thanks to cyberspace I am able to interview Stephen R Hulse, author of The Blue Hour and Shadowchaser without shelling out for rail-fare and getting soaked in the rain en route. So pour yourself some virtual tea or wine and sit back and enjoy the interview.
Me: Stephen, I’m glad you could spare me some time. What gave you the idea for The Blue Hour?
SRH: First of all I must say, Melanie that this virtual wine is a positively superb vintage. Now, where were we? Oh yes, what gave me the idea for The Blue Hour. Well, I’ve always had a long standing love affair with classic noir “Private Eye” fiction in both print and film/TV. So following the publication of Shadowchaser, I was casting around for that all-important second book idea, and the idea of taking a classic noir approach to a modern day mystery with a slight supernatural undertone appealed to me. I also knew I wanted the story told in the First Person, by a strong, yet flawed, female lead – with the much more traditional male Private Eye, as the partner figure. My main inspiration and driving force that kept me going during the creation of the characters and story and the book’s actual writing period was my then fiancée, Jillian. Who was then – and remains to this day – my Muse. In fact the central dynamic for the Alex Churchill/Gideon Wade relationship was based very much on my own relationship with Jill. (Of course, Jillian – unlike Alex Churchill, I hasten to add – is neither a recovering alcoholic, nor prone to viciously and repeatedly hitting people with brass Knuckle-dusters. Umbrellas, possibly – but never Knuckle-dusters. Without her faith, perceptive advice, and unstinting support, the book simply wouldn’t have been possible.
Me: The Blue Hour has some enigmatic and interesting characters. Are any of them based on people you know personally?
SRH: Yes. It’s a widely known and well acknowledged and established fact that I’m on first name terms with a vast assortment of psychotic thugs, despicable villains, and coldly calculating sociopathic criminal masterminds. And Death and I have had more than one close encounter. But enough about the writers I know. Apart from my former fiancée, Jillian’s already mentioned strong influence on the character of Alex Churchill, (and to a lesser degree all of the female characters in the book), I have to say that none of the other characters have a direct real-life counterpart. Although there are tiny elements, character ticks, if you will, of people I know in all of them. I think that’s unavoidable when you’re writing fiction. It’s very seldom that a character is created entirely out of whole fictitious cloth.
Me: The Blue Hour has a lot of violence and high adrenaline scenes. Are you an adrenaline junkie by any chance or do you find writing this kind of stuff comes easy to you?
SRH: My idea of an adrenaline high is to have a third digestive biscuit with my Before Bed cup of tea! But I do find writing action sequences comes very easily to me. I’ve been blessed with a highly visual imagination – so first I see the basic action in my mind’s eye as if projected on a movie screen. Almost an animated storyboard. Wedded to that, I then fine tune the scene by choreographing the various action moves. It’s akin to editing a movie. I choose the most visual angle that, for example, we would see Alex throw a punch at a bad guy; and then I translate that visual image into prose. There was also the odd time or two when to ensure something I have in mind is at least theoretically possible, I actually tried it out in real life. For example, you might recall the scene where Alex finds herself hanging upside down outside her apartment window facing almost certain death from the fall. I actually did that. I hung myself upside down outside one of my own windows, to satisfy myself that what I had in mind was actually possible. Fortunately, I’ve thus far at least, managed to talk myself out of single-handedly taking on a group of well-armed thugs – or taking a bullet in the name of research.
Me: Without giving too much away can you sum up The Blue Hour in one short paragraph?
SRH: Certainly. The Blue Hour is the unholy love child of Raymond Chandler and Neil Gaiman.
Me: If The Blue Hour ever got made into a movie or TV series who would you ideally cast as Alex Churchill and Gideon Wade and why? I know from your bio that you have done writing for television so am sure you could pull off a show-stopping ratings-topping script.
SRH: Ah, possibly the most dreaded question of all! Quite honestly, I haven’t got a clue. You might have noticed, but throughout the book I go out of my way not to describe Alex in any in-depth physical detail. There was a reason for that – and no, it wasn’t that I’m lazy. (Although I am lazy by inclination). It was because I wanted each reader – particularly my female readers – to see Alex in their mind in their own highly personal way. It gives them that added dimension of identification with the character that is often lost when a writer describes their character down to the tiny pearl-shaped mole on the lower portion of their left elbow. It also serves a secondary particle purpose. If the book were to made adapted for TV or film, it allows the director and casting director the widest possible scope of talent to choose from. Of course, their choice might not be my choice, or your choice – but it would still be a valid one.
Me: I know that you self-published Shadowchaser in paperback but do you have plans to do the same with The Blue Hour? If not, why?
SRH: No, at this point I don’t have any plans for The Blue Hour to be released in paperback. For writers such as us, without the vast resources of the large publishing houses to back us, paperbacks are simply not cost effective at the moment. The ebook sector however, offers huge potential scope – and the possibilities of this relatively new fledgling industry we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of yet. Don’t get me wrong, I would be delighted to see the book on the shelves of the major bricks and mortar book chains. But until they either start recognising the vast potential of the self-published or small press indy industry, it simply isn’t a financial viability.
Me: What have Amazon sales for your books been like?
SRH: Do you see that huge, shadowy hulk directly above us? That’s what remains of The Titanic. So that should give you a fairly good idea of what the Amazon sales of my books have been like. But hopefully that’s about to change. My books are about to move to a new home with a newly established indy e-publishing house, and allied with that will be an increased publicity drive to raise awareness of them. There are a lot of wonderful books by very, very talented writers out there, but if word of their existence doesn’t reach the potential readership – everybody loses.
Me: Do you have any major book-related projects in the pipeline at present that you would be happy to talk about?
SRH: I do indeed. And not just my own. In partnership with the vast talented writer/editor Kristen Stone, we have formed Blue Hour Publishing. BHP will be dedicated to releasing Amazon Kindle exclusive ebooks of the highest quality, and ranging across all genres. Our first two releases were Kristen’s own wonderful Edge of Extinction, and Rags Daniels Foxy Lady. It’s my turn next, with completely re-proofed and re-edited versions of both The Blue Hour and Shadowchaser, slated for release very shortly. As for my own future writing projects, workaholic madman that I am I’m currently writing three books simultaneously! Said three books being The Insignificant Other – which is the sequel to The Blue Hour. Shadowchaser II – which readers of the first book have been (im)patiently waiting for five years. And last but by no means least – a brand new comedy thriller, provisionally titled: The Dark Eye Agency featuring my brand new female lead character, who I have to admit, I’m more than a little bit in love with. Want me to describe the basic premise in a single sentence? Bridget Jones…as written by Raymond Chandler.
Me: For those who have not read it (Myself included) can you give us a brief summary of Shadowchaser without giving away too many plot details?
SRH: No. Sorry, I’m quiet frankly rubbish at summating my own work. So I’ll simply cheat and give you the product summary from Amazon. The barriers are coming down, Reality itself is beginning to unravel. Come apart at the seams. Things – dark forces – long excluded are beginning to claw their way back into the world.
The fate of Humanity itself hangs in the balance.
Humanity needs a hero, a champion. What we get is – Martin Thorn. The wrong man, in the right place, at most definitely the wrong time. The wit and sophisticated suspense of Alfred Hitchcock collides with dark Supernatural adventure in Shadowchaser.
Me: Has your self-publishing experience with Shadowchaser been a good or bad experience and why?
SRH: Often frustrating – but ultimately unquestionably good. I’ve learned much about both the writing process, and more importantly – the business and marketing process. I’ve also learned, to my vast surprise, that I’m getting to be rather skilled in the latter two subjects.
Me: Do you have any advice for up and coming writers?
SRH: This one’s drop dead easy. Write. Then write some more. The write even more. Then continue writing. Writing is like exercise: the more you do it, the more you benefit from it. Believe in yourself. Believe in your talent and ability. Accept the setbacks and above all – learn from them. Writing, like life, is an on-going process of growth and learning. Realise that, embrace that, and even if you never succeed in selling a single copy of anything – you’ll still have done something worthwhile and profoundly satisfying.
Me: What have been your best and worst writing experiences to date?
SRH: My best experience of writing? Typing the legend The End on whatever project I’m currently working on. My worst experience of writing? Typing the legend The End on whatever project I’m currently working on. Because that means I’m saying goodbye to characters I’ve come to care for. But on the upside, it also means I’m about to meet brand new characters I’ll eventually come to care for equally as much.
Me: Who are your favourite authors and do you feel you have been in any way influenced by their style?
SRH: Melanie dear, the |Internet itself isn’t big enough to hold the entire list of my favourite authors. But at random off the top of my head and in no particular order of preference fiction-wise, I’ll go with Tolstoy, Jane Austin, Raymond Chandler, Dickens, Ian Fleming, Mickey Spillane, Robert B. Parker, F. Scott Fizgerald, Matthew Reilly, Simon Scarrow, Robert Graves, Rober E. Howard, Alexandre Dumas, H.G. Wells, Jules Vern, Neil Gaiman…and…can I stop now? Oh, wait! A special mention to the rather wonderful Lindsey Davis, who writes the equally rather wonderful Falco series of historical detective novels.
Me: What are you reading at present?
Too much to finish in a single lifetime, I fear.
Me: Thanks for your time Stephen. I “borrowed” the excellent vintage virtual wine from Tee Geering’s virtual wine-cellar.
You can view Stephen’s bio at https://writerswithvision.wordpress.com/male-author-profiles/
You can buy The Blue Hour and Shadowchaser here.