It seems like every day I check my email and get another note from a supermodel asking, “Omg, when are you going to interview PT Hylton?”
Usually I’m all like, “Ladies, please, why go with Coke Zero when you got ice cold Dr. Pepper right here?”
To which they reply, “That makes no sense. And we’re not supermodels, we’re figments of your imagination.”
“Touché,” I hypothetically reply…
Anyway, here’s my interview with Awesome Indie PT Hylton, author of “Regulation 19“.
JLM — Cormac McCarthy once said fiction that doesn’t deal with issues of life and death isn’t literature. How do you feel about that? And do you have any guiding philosophical beliefs about writing?
PTH — Literature needs to feel like it’s dealing with life and death issues even when it isn’t. Whether your character is trying to save the world, catch a thief, or get the girl, it’s your job to make it feel like the most important thing in the universe. Do that well, and you have a killer book. Do it poorly, and you have melodrama.
My guiding principle while writing is ‘always forward’. I never go back and change anything, not even the smallest spelling errors, until the first draft is complete. My forward momentum is the most important thing to me, and I’ll do just about anything to protect it. After the first draft, I pull out my samurai sword and start chopping off the rough bits of the story. But not before.
JLM — When you wrote Regulation 19, did you come up with the entire plot ahead of time? Did you outline, or did you just fly by the seat of your pants the entire way and hope you weren’t wasting your time?
PTH — I did not outline, and I didn’t really know where story was going. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to do that again. That said, I think I subconsciously knew where it was headed. The villain, Zed, showed up when he needed to without any planning on my part.
JLM — How did you approach editing? Did you hire someone, or did you do it yourself?
PTH — I hired an editor. She was great. Worth every penny. Working with an editor teaches you a lot about your weaknesses. The twelfth time you see a similar issue pointed out, it starts to sink in.
JLM — At what age or time in your life did you first start writing fiction? Did you always keep it up, or did you quit for a while and then come back to it?
PTH — I’ve wanted to be a writer since junior high. Through high school and college, I turned out the occasional short story, but I didn’t start writing regularly until my early twenties. At that time I started a production company with two friends, and we began making very low-budget films. I wrote all the scripts. That was the first time I got serious about my writing. I think I wrote something like six feature-length scripts and ten short scripts in about two and half years. I wrote my first novel shortly after that.
After our production company shut down, I threw myself into podcasting and stopped writing so much. I suddenly looked up and notice eight years had passed. That’s when I decided to get serious about my writing.
JLM — Did you read any books about prison before you wrote Regulation 19? If so, which books? Be honest, have you been to prison?
PTH — I have not been to prison. In fact. I have this irrational fear of being falsely convicted of a crime and sent to prison. That’s probably why I was drawn to write about it.
I read a reference book for writers about how the legal system works. I got most of my prison knowledge from there. I had a couple people with, um, inside knowledge of the penal system read the book as well. I tried to get Frank out of prison as early in the book as possible to minimize my chances of getting stuff wrong.
And, okay, true confession, I also read ‘Orange is the New Black’.
JLM — What’s your take on the state of indie publishing today? What about its future?
PTH — It’s been said a million times, but this is a great time to be a writer. Without getting too grandiose about it, I think you can liken it to the early days of punk. Everyone was grabbing a guitar and starting a band. Some of it was good and a lot of it wasn’t. But there was an excitement in the air, a sense of freedom that you can still hear today when you listen back to early punk.
It’s also cool that there are all these little ‘scenes’ in indie publishing. A lot of them are gathered around particular genres, message boards, or podcasts. Indie writers are (mostly) quick to help each other out and support each other.
I think the future is bright. Indie publishing will continue to grow. The quality of the books will continue to improve. I think we will see new services popping up that cater to the indie writer’s needs. Hugh Howey has speculated that we will see agents moving into a ‘producer’ type role and helping to coordinate the cover art, editing, and proofreading for their indie clients. It’s going to be a fun ride, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend.
JLM — Other than John L. Monk, who is your favorite indie author and why?
PTH — There are so many good ones working today. You took the obvious answer off the table.
I think I’d say Robert Swartwood. It is partly for sentimental reasons as his book ‘Man of Wax’ was the first indie book I ever read. Swartwood is great at writing action, making us care about his characters, and putting those characters into ridiculously tight spots. Check out ‘Man of Wax’, ‘The Serial Killer’s Wife’, and ‘Legion’.
JLM — How easy or difficult has it been writing the sequel to Regulation 19?
PTH — Depends on the day. Some days it feels as easy as sledding down an icy slope. Other days it feels like hiking through knee-deep mud. Overall, I think it has been easier than Regulation 19. I know the characters already (most of them) and I understand the world.
The most fun part has been playing with the larger mysteries that were left unresolved in Regulation 19. I love sneaking in little payoffs to things the reader had probably forgotten all about until I reminded them. That’s not to say all the mysteries will be resolved in this book. They won’t. But the answers we do get are going to be really fun.
JLM — How do you feel about reviews? How did it feel when you got you first non-five star review?
PTH — Reviews are awesome! I read each one with a smile on my face. As I said earlier, I spent years writing scripts that were never produced and novels that were never read outside my immediate family. It is a joy to see strangers react to my fiction, even when it’s not positive.
My skin thickened substantially during my eight years of podcasting. We got plenty of negative reviews. At first, it was upsetting, but over time I came to understand that it was no judgement on my personal worth if someone didn’t connect with my stuff.
JLM — What are your plans going forward regarding marketing Regulation 19 and/or the sequel?
PTH — I plan to start an indie author interview podcast sometime in the next few months. The key is to figure out how to pull it off without cutting too deeply into my writing time. I’m still working out all the logistics.
There are some excellent podcasts that focus on the business end of writing (Rocking Self Publishing Podcast, Self-Publishing Podcast, The Creative Penn). Mine would be more geared toward readers. We’d have an in-depth discussion of one of the author’s books, their characters, their world, etc.
Now, if some of that author’s readers listen to the podcast and decide to check out my stuff as a result, all the better! But it’s mostly an excuse to call up some of my favorite writers and ask them questions without coming off like a stalker.