And now, from Inside the Writer’s Studio,
A Very Special Interview With Taylor Hoch
As a hopeful novelist-to-be, I was given a darned good piece of advice from a very accomplished author: Read Steven King’s “On Writing.” And, learn it.
By the Gáe Bulga of Sétanta, that author was spot on!
Taylor Hoch knows a great deal about storytelling, and has fashioned many brilliant narratives for over 20 years. She is a delightful bard whose melodies entertain while infusing a keen undercurrent that lets the listener know what’s really going down.
She has traveled the United States, gently mending architectural masterpieces as a restoration carpenter using only hand, sweat, and tool. Every so often, she regales groups of gamers with her astounding ability to narrate table-top role-playing games, bringing them into fantastic worlds to collaborate wild stories of derring-do.
Along with her adorable partner and two stalwart sons, she has a little place out in the country, complete with farm dogs (who’d much rather be indoors), an exquisite cat (just ask it), a serious clan of gnomes (make no mistake-they are serious), and a modest clutch of cackling free-range chickens. If you do step foot on the property, beware: prepare to do battle with a fierce and protective gargoyle named Aloysius. If you dare.
And yet, when met face-to-face, Taylor is down to earth, making you feel like an instant friend. Her wit is both acute and unassuming, her positive attitude is uplifting, and her very aura emanates a loving candor.
Yeah, I think she’s a really cool person.
Proudly, I present to you Taylor S. Hoch.
Taylor! When did you start writing? What inspired you to start? Please share with us your humble beginnings! And spare us no details!
Taylor: I love to read. As a kid, there was nothing I enjoyed more—well, other than baseball. I was this weird combination nerd and jock. If there was a ball game, I was playing; but come rain or dark or being grounded, my head was in a book. I always carried a paperback with me—always. Line at the grocery store—reading. Eating a meal—reading. Bored by the teacher’s lecture in class—sneaky reading.
In high school, one of my poems got published as the front page piece for a special holiday edition of the school paper. When I was walking around school and seeing everyone reading my work, I thought, “Wow!” I was hooked!
Reading that piece now (yeah I still have a copy) I realize it was a terrible poem, but it planted the seed, the belief that I could write something others would like to read. It took a long time for that seed to germinate, at least in respect to publishing a novel.
My love of poetry and music turned into a love for songwriting. I traveled around the country for twenty years working as a restoration carpenter on historical sites and playing music at festivals. But in 2005, I was diagnosed with a spinal disease that left me in a wheelchair for the next five years, unable to use my legs or my left arm.
My whole life had to change. Rather than give up, I turned my attention to writing the novel I always planned to write, but never found the time. Now I had tons of time; too much time, really. Thanks to the advent of online college, I was able to focus on finishing my degrees, and the structure allowed me to concentrate on my book.
I always read to my kids—classics mostly—and their love of those stories made me wish for a book with the same feel. I wanted the same magical connection to myth and legend, but one which contained more diversity and dealt with modern issues kids face every day. My Prospero series was born of the combined desire to create that book for my hypothetical grandkids and also graduate with my master’s degree.
It amazes me how adversity and loss can be such a positive force. Yeah, it can break you, but I think it can show us how to be more than we thought we could be. We can do more than we ever thought possible. After being told I would never walk or play the guitar again, in 2011 I took my first steps out of the wheelchair. The effort it took to accomplish that was…grueling. I won’t go into it, but it made me believe in myself in a way I hadn’t since I was that kid walking around seeing people reading my poem in the school paper
Since then, I’ve published three albums of Americana music. Three of my songs made it to the Indie charts in Europe, and one song, “It Must Be Love,” stayed at number five for six weeks and played on over 16,000 radio stations and the BBC network.
Now when I talk about my books at a convention, or play a concert for a party, or just walk from one side of my house to the other, I know the impossible is possible. That belief has become a part of my daily life.
Wow, Taylor! Your story is incredibly inspiring! You are an artist with many talents. I’d love to know where we can find both your books and your music.
Taylor: I’ve published five books in my Prospero series, “The Curse of the Dullahan”, and my sixth book, “Seizing The Stone,” released just this past June of 2019. The series is a middle grade urban fantasy series based on Irish mythology and folklore but set in a small town in the United States. All six books in the series are available on Amazon.
The individual songs from my first album, “Out of the Blue,” are available for download and can be purchased on Amazon.
And, if anyone would like a copy of any of my three CDs, or an autographed print copy of my books, they can directly contact me through my website.
Below, you can see my official music video, “Everything’s Fine.” Check it out!
Whoa! That is an awesome video! I could swear the guy playing the father was Billy Bob Thornton…but I digress.
Now, it’s time for The Big Self-Publishing Questions:
What moved you to self-publish your work? What was your first work that you self-published?
Taylor: “The New O’Donnellan Heir” is the first book in my series and the first novel I self-published. I had self-published two albums by this time, so I had a good idea of the time and effort involved in the self-publishing process. It’s a little different with a novel, but the basics are the same.
I enjoy being in control of all aspects of the work I’m producing, and indie publishing is a good fit for me. Going through the process makes you hone your skills, teaching you to be an author and not just a writer. The process gets easier the more you do it because you learn from each mistake—and you will make mistakes. That, too, is part of the process.
I also really enjoy the camaraderie of indie authors. We tend to share information and help each other through the pitfalls associated with the process, share each other’s work, and promote each other. It’s like being part of a network of rebels, of people who believe in themselves and their work, and make the effort to prop each other up. We know that our industry is not some sort of Hunger Games competition where only one can survive.
Could you describe the process you went through?
Taylor: That would take forever, but I’ll say that anyone thinking of self-publishing should keep two main things in mind.
First, hire an editor. No matter how many times you edit it yourself, you will never catch everything. You need an outside party, another trained pair of eyes to go through the book before you put it out there.
Second, unless you’re also a graphic artist, you need to hire someone to do your cover and any other art or special formatting for the book. This is really important. Your book is one in a vast ocean of others and your cover is what will first draw a reader’s attention.
Also, if you are planning on doing a series, you need to think about branding. You want everyone to be able to look at each book and see the connection, to know whether a book is the next in a series. This requires making choices about fonts, colors, concepts, etc., all of which will become an intrinsic part of the novels, even the ones you haven’t written yet. You will need someone with that expertise to guide you from the get-go, or you’ll end up having to go back and re-do books you’ve already released.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge in self-publishing?
Taylor: Advertising. Getting the book out in front of the right audience. As an indie author, that is solely your responsibility. For me, this is by far the hardest part, not because it isn’t enjoyable, but because of the physical requirements involved. You have to go out and find your audience, engage them, and pull them into your work. You’ll need to make appearances at libraries, book stores, conferences, conventions, book fairs, anywhere and everywhere you can. You have to spend the time to build relationships with others in the field, and you will have to develop your own fan base.
Often as a self-published author, you will also have to prove your book is of a quality equivalent to work presented by an established publisher. This harkens back to what I said about hiring an editor and graphic artist.
What do you like best about it?
Taylor: I love the fact that my books are mine, and I am my books. I get to make all the decisions about every aspect of the product. I can put the time and effort into creating something unique, something I am proud of and have faith in, and see that vision become reality. By the time I’d gone through the process of self-publishing my first book, I knew it so well—not just the story, but everything about the book. Getting out there and talking about it felt natural and easy.
As we know, self-publishing has its detractors. How do you respond to them?
Taylor: Don’t punch them!
Okay, that’s just about the best advice I’ve ever heard about anything!
Taylor: [laughing] Okay, let me explain. I had a conversation with one publisher, and when I mentioned my book was self-published, he said, “Oh, so you’re an impatient writer,” and he wrote me off. I worked on my first book for five years before I finally held a copy of it in my hand, and I was impatient?
A lot of the prejudice against indie authors is disappearing, though. As the market for print books declines and the eBook market grows, there is a trend showing self-published authors will capture 50% of the market by 2020 (Coker, 2017). If you want to read a great article about this change in the market, I’d recommend this one as a place to start:
That is a really helpful article! What is your advice to authors who are considering self-publishing for the first time?
Taylor: You must be willing to do the work, and realize that it’s all on you—every part of it! You must be self-motivated, disciplined, and a pro at managing your time. No one is going to make you do any of it. You are responsible for knowing the market and the conventions and rules associated with your genre and the age demographic of your audience.
You must study and learn all aspects of the process from writing to sales and taxes. If you’ve ever owned your own small business, then you’ll understand what the job entails—and it needs to be a job, not a hobby. It is really up to you whether or not your books will be successful. If you can’t devote yourself to it and jump in prepared, self-publishing is not for you.
But if you can, it is totally worth it! It’s hard, it’s exhausting, and at times its drudgery, but in the end, you’re doing exactly what you want to be doing. You’ll find you come to love even the yucky parts because you are creating something with a piece of your soul in it and sharing it with the world.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment.”
By self-publishing and getting your books out there, you are doing exactly that. To me, there is no greater high.
Okay, folks! Lock up your wife, daughters, and that MILF-y aunt! Now it’s time for our favorite part of the interview:
The Sludge Pile Lightning Challenge!
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to re-write the following text in the style of your favorite author. This text has been taken directly from The Honeywell HEPA Allergen Remover Air Purifier user’s manual:
When operating, large volumes of air are drawn toward the air purifier. Surrounding areas should be cleaned and/or vacuumed frequently to prevent build-up of dust and other contaminates. This may also help prolong of the life of the filter. If the unit is placed on a light colored carpet, a small mat or rug should be used underneath to prevent permanent staining. This is especially important in homes with contamination from smoking, fireplaces, or where candles are burned.
Taylor: Hmm…I have a favorite author for every genre, so how to choose? Oh! I know! I’ll make a confession here: I love reading historical fiction. And this is a very good thing because it is the ONLY subject my brother-in-law and I can discuss without coming to blows over the fruit salad and cranberry sauce. My favorite author in this category is Conn Iggulden. He is the co-author of the NYT #1 bestseller, “The Dangerous Book for Boys”, but it was his Genghis Khan series that just blew me away and jumped him into my favorite author spot.
So…Genghis Khan…and an air purifier….
Eyes stinging as he stood there in the stifling smoke, Temuge unrolled the scroll and read aloud, “may also help prolong the life of the….” He frowned. “I am not certain of this next word, but if the device somehow—” He did not dare resist when his brother snatched the parchment from his hand.
The Khan glanced first at the incomprehensible characters painted in elegant calligraphy across the yellowing scroll, and then down at the device of wood, iron, and cotton perched atop a small rug on the floor. “Is it a weapon?”
“It does not seem to be, but—”
“Then it is useless.” Frowning at his younger brother, Genghis dropped the parchment into a brazier. “We are warriors come to burn this city, not children here to play with toys. For once, do something worthwhile, brother.”
Khasar stepped over the headless body of the nobleman he killed just moments before. Leaving a trail of crimson boot prints, he moved next to Genghis and joined his elder brother in scowling at Temuge. Hair still dripping blood, he raised his sword. At a nod and grunt from the Khan, he hacked the device in two and kicked the debris, scattering it across the marble floor of the dead man’s reception chamber.
Genghis barked, “Find me something I can use against the palace walls, Temuge.” Scowling, he added, “Nothing else matters.”
The battle raged around them, the horde swarming into the city, killing and burning. His elder brothers turned as one and strode on through the room toward the sound of screams and clashing swords.
Furious and trembling, Temuge snatched the burning parchment from the fire and patted out the flames, scorching his soft silk robes, the barb from his brother once again calling him a child hurting much more than the slight burn on his skin.
It was not his fault he was not a warrior and never would be. He thought Genghis had finally seen his worth when he assigned him the task of learning to read and write, of understanding the enemy. Why then would his brother never listen to him?
Quickly, he deciphered what remained of the text. After reading, “…especially important in homes with contamination from smoking, fireplaces, or where candles are burned….” Temuge shouted after them, “The device could have had great value!” If they heard him, they ignored him, of course.
He was a man, not a boy! He took a deep breath, mastering his anger. A man would find a way to turn the Khan’s ability to ignore his words into a profitable advantage for himself. He almost crumpled the parchment, ready to throw it to the ground, but then thought better of it. He read, “…vacuum frequently to prevent build-up of dust and other contaminates…” and wondered what it meant. No matter. Perhaps there was another of the devices in one the rooms yet to be sacked.
He would find it and anything else he could secret away without the Khan’s notice. Fear and hatred of his brother welled in him. That, too, he must master. He knew he would never be a Khan, but he could be as rich as a Chin prince. A house like this could be his, even the palace and the city below it could belong to him, and then perhaps his brother would respect him as a man.
And if not, what then? He rolled the scroll, tucked it into his sleeve, and allowed himself a smile. If not, then he would become his brother’s secret enemy. With devices like this and through shadowy ways his brother would never understand, he, Temuge the useless, would become his brother’s nightmare.
All photos courtesy of Taylor S. Hoch and The BBC.
Post updated July 25, 2019.