Monday, October 26, 2015

Author Interview: Bill Hoyt

Author's Note: What follows is a reprint of an interview I did with Beth Jones of The Hungry Freelancer in late 2012.  It is published here for archival purposes only.

In the upcoming weeks, I'll be posting a series of author interviews. I've chosen several Kindle authors who have successfully published their work online. If you're looking for some new books to read or just want to learn what makes indie publishing work, check out these posts.

Today's interview is with Bill Hoyt, author of Good Hater: George Henry Hoyt's War on Slavery. You can buy Good Hater exclusively on Amazon Kindle for $2.99.

What is your book about?
Good Hater details the Civil War career of a young Massachusetts lawyer who became the most feared guerrilla hunter on the Kansas Missouri border, George Henry Hoyt (no relation). That career is bookended by two speeches, one delivered to the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-slavery society before the war, and the second delivered to a group of freed slaves in Kansas near its end. I compare these speeches and demonstrate how the bloody realities of war changed the lofty ideals of the first speech into the brutal cynicism displayed in the second. I also demonstrate how the abolitionist legacy of John Brown was carried on in Kansas by many surrogates after his execution in Virginia.

What made you decide to publish as an Indie writer, rather than opting for trade publishing?
There are really two reasons. The first is purely selfish: I'm not a big fan of gatekeepers. I knew the book was good or at least was filled with good information, and I had no intention of waiting around, possibly for years, for an editor to decide that money could be made on it. As an indie publisher, I maintained total control of the publication and marketing process, from picking the cover to pricing the book and deciding where it would be available. As an author primarily interested in making the story available, the decision was easy.

The second reason goes back to my historical training. One of my assignments in my first class as a history graduate student was to utterly shred a history book written by a Harvard professor and published by Oxford. The exercise was designed to help us overcome our fear of "credentialism." But I learned a second lesson: despite the persistent reputation that books published by reputable presses are good (or in the case of history books, accurate), it's not necessarily true. Independently published books can be better than books published in a standard manner, and I believe over time, the public's perception will reflect that reality. So independently publishing a good book helps that process along. 

What was your favorite part of creating your book?
This is going to sound strange, but it was actually finding old pictures that illustrated the content of each chapter. Research was a blast. Writing was fun - and if it's not fun, you should be doing something else. But once it was 99% done, adding that little something that made it "done" was the most rewarding part. I love to finish things, and in this case, finishing meant adding the material I could not include when it was a stuffy grad school thesis.

If you could tell new writers one thing, what would it be?
Write. It sounds simple, and it is deceptively so. But so many people refuse to write until they know precisely what they want to say, therefore they never really start. Write a story, write a paragraph, write a description of a particularly ugly nose, but write something and edit it later. You can always throw stuff away (and you will). You can always expand, and you will. But often, you will never know exactly what you want to say until you have said it - then the editing process helps you to say it better. But write something every day, even if you have nothing to write, and maybe especially if you have nothing to write. Writing is a discipline, and you must discipline yourself to do it by doing it.

Want to learn more? Visit Bill Hoyt at El Borak's Myopia or "like" Good Hater on Facebook.

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