Today’s interview is with Kirk Hammond, author of Opposable. I reviewed Opposable previously.
To order a copy for yourself please use the affiliate link here: Opposable (2nd Edition) (The Halteres Chronicles Book 1)
Questions about Writing
Is writing your full time job? Do you also consider it a passion?
Kirk Hammond: At this point, writing is a passion and has been since grade school. I’ve been blessed to have the resources and time to complete a manuscript, start a publishing company, Badass Sci Fi, and get a novel on the market. It’s a tough gig, though.
I have three more manuscripts in various stages of development and will continue releasing new material with hopes I someday find an audience and be able to write full time. Regardless, I’ll keep writing. It’s my legacy.
Amanja: That’s all very ambitious and I wish you so much luck!
What is your schedule for writing like? Do you make time for writing or do you squeeze writing in when a moment becomes free?
KH: I don’t make time for writing. Because of my writing, I have to make time for everything else. Between writing, my website, BadassSciFi.com, research, and networking, it takes up many of my waking, non-working hours.
Over the last five years, I used NaNoWriMo to crank out some serious words and complete drafts. It’s a great program and very motivational.
How much planning goes in to writing before you actually write a sentence? Or do you just let the words flow and do heavy editing later?
KH: Before I completed my first novel, I spent about eight years just playing around with ideas, worldbuilding, drafting short stories and novellas, and creating characters.
When I made the decision to combine the projects I was working on into one universe, I found my voice and it all started clicking.
Since then, other than a style sheet for the series, the process is pretty organic. I sit at my laptop, and many times I have no idea what’s going to happen until I start writing.
And yes, heavy, heavy editing later.
How do you handle criticism or negative feedback on your writing?
KH: I’m not going to lie; I don’t handle criticism very well. I’m way too sensitive, which is an asset for writing, but a hindrance for most other things.
I’m getting better, though, and I do carefully consider all the relevant feedback, it just takes me time to process. Many of Opposable’s finer elements are a result of me implementing constructively critical feedback.
You have to humble yourself and learn humility. I’m still learning.
A: Finding the relevent criticism is a skill worth honing.
Do you have any tips and tricks for aspiring writers?
KH: My biggest thing is, if you have an idea, be it for writing or otherwise, stop talking about it and at least document it. Don’t let it get stuck in your head. Take steps to share it.
And keep doing it for every good idea you think you have. They’re not all going to be diamonds, but don’t stop digging.
A: I definitely understand ideas getting stuck in my head. Sometimes even just saying it out loud helps me solidify an idea.
Questions about Reading
Do you think it’s necessary for a good author to also be a prolific reader?
KH: Writers need to read. I struggle with this, saying to myself ‘why should I waste time reading when I could be writing?’
But your reading list doesn’t have to consist solely of material in your specific genre. Yes, you need to be familiar with the conventions of your chosen genre, the tropes and elements, but branch out.
A large portion of my reading comes from research. An author needs to become an expert in many areas in order to craft a plausible and compelling story.
A: I really appreciate this point. I think many readers don’t understand how important this is. It drives me crazy when I happen to know a lot about the subject and it’s clear the author didn’t put in the leg work.
How do you find time to read?
KH: Reading and writing kind of go hand in hand with me. If I have time set aside for writing, I already know reading will be involved. I don’t believe in distraction-free writing. I have my laptop, Kindle, music, pictures, dictated notes, maps, and even the tube at the ready when I’m in my creative zone.
Does reading give you inspiration for writing? If so what books have inspired you?
KH: Reading does inspire me, it pushes me to elevate my craft. The immense, immersive worlds J.R.R. Tolkien or Frank Herbert created boggle my mind, but keep me striving to achieve a modicum of their brilliance. I turn to David Wong (Jason Pargin), Chuck Wendig, and Christopher Moore to help with balancing humor and snark. And H.P. Lovecraft, of course, for that ominous, gothic, otherworldly dread.
A: David Wong is so underrated!
Who’s an author that you think is criminally under-read?
KH: Chuck Wendig is the sh**. I first came across him when I read The Kickass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience. He’s so diverse; comics, movies, blog, novels, and he’s funny as hell. Terribleminds.com is great. I don’t usually follow Twitter, but when I do, it’s for him. He’s a badass.
A: I will definitely have to check him out.
What’s a book from your childhood that holds a special place in your heart?
KH: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, always. The story was so engaging and relatable. The action is so vividly written, and back then…no spoilers.
Interesting, the two books I remember from that period of my life are Ender’s Game and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
A: Ender’s Game was a formative book for me as well. Couldn’t get through Heart of Darkness though…
Questions about Your Book
In which of the protagonists of Opposable do you see the most of yourself?
KH: I see myself in the narrator, Dr. V. The story involves a bit of metafiction, with Dr. V having written a novel. There are also some interactions and other characters that are pulled from real experiences.
You mentioned to me that you’ve been sober for some time now (congrats!). Is it more challenging or therapeutic to write for characters who imbibe so heavily?
KH: Thank you! I believe I’m far enough along to look at the subject somewhat objectively. It is therapeutic insomuch that it serves as a reminder. I know it seems counterintuitive, because it’s glorified in the novel, but that was part of my catharsis. I put the good times in the book, but I never forget the bad times personally. I never forget why I stopped drinking.
Opposable is the first in The Halteres Chronicles series. Do you already have the whole series planned out in your head? How many books can we look forward to?
KH:This is where it gets fun. The Halteres Chronicles, as it exists today, consists of two separate points of origin. I completed the first incarnation of Opposable, a story solely about cats with opposable thumbs, in 2008. In 2016, I drafted Halteres, a worldbuilding exercise taking place entirely on an alien planet. Later in 2016, inspiration struck, and I decided to combine the two. The result is what you read.
I feel as though I already have a rough draft of the prequel, the original Halteres manuscript. It serves as my encyclopedia for all things alien in the series.
I used NaNoWriMo to put the finishing touches on Spire, the direct sequel to Opposable. We’re sitting at about 103k words or about 400 pages with that one. I’m very excited. I’ve written the ending, and it will lead directly into the next entry, tentatively titled, Conscript, or some crap like that. I’m currently seeking beta readers for it.
So, my is to keep promoting Opposable– Book One, release Spire– Book Two, then either Halteres– Book Zero, or Conscript– Book Three.
As a series writer, I always have to be thinking two or three books ahead, not only to avoid writing myself into too many dead ends, but to keep introducing characters and elements that can carry the narrative beyond the current story.
The luxury I have is I’ve already fully realized most of the alien elements of the universe, so I have a lot of good material to pull from.
I also have a short story, Patton’s Sad Tail, a direct Earthly prequel to Opposable, available on my website. I must admit, however, it’s pretty raw, and I’m going to revise it, so read at your own (and my) peril.
A: This all sounds great! I know I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series as it comes out and I hope my other readers will be as well!
I’m going to make a leap and assume that you are a cat person. Did any real cats influence the different personalities of the three main cats in the book?
KH: All the cats are based on real cats. In fact, my current cat, Dexter, developed Patton’s character for me. He supplied all the details I needed, complete with missing fang, paralyzed tail, and psycho personality. He’s my muse.
Herbert is based on a cat I had for 19 years, and Phreyja one I had for about six months before she ran away.
A: So cute!
The whole concept of the Arca Trochia is complex and fascinating. How did you come up with the idea for this biological interstellar internet network?
KH: I have a background in biology and taught high school for 12 years. Every year, I’d assign a project called the Cryptomorph, where students would ‘discover’ a new species and apply all the principles of biology to it.
I created an exemplar organism that possessed traits from all five kingdoms (or three domains). I did a search for the largest organism on Earth. Depending on whether you’re measuring area or mass, it’s either a fungus (area- 3.5 mi2) or aspen groves (mass- 6600 tons). They both have massive subterranean networks of either hyphae or roots.
I combined that with research finding certain bacteria produce biofuel and some even ‘breathe electricity’.
A: Fascinating! I wish I had had such a cool project to work on in biology.
Questions about You/ Just for Fun
What is something mundane that doesn’t seem to bother most people but drives you absolutely insane?
KH: Okay, so this might seem a little random, but one thing that really tweaks me, is when a car passes me on the left, I look over, and there’s a pair of nasty, naked feet on the dashboard in the passenger seat, just glistening and sweating in windshield-magnified sun. Makes me want to hurl.
A: Oh no… I’ve definitely been those feet on many a road trip.
What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken?
KH: I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to put together a string of solo road trips the last four years and location scout for my novels. Before I published Opposable, I retraced the route the gang took in the novel.
It became a vision quest culminating in me finding a trail in Sedona called, and I crap you negative, Brins Mesa (close enough for me), that when you stand on it, you get a clear view of Teapot rock.
And I can neither confirm or deny this, but I may, or may not have, done some afterhours hiking on the rim of the Grand Canyon to reenact some scenes in the book.
What’s your favorite present you’ve ever received?
KH: The only present I remember sneaking into my mom’s closet and playing before she could wrap it, was my very first Atari 2600 with the crappiest version of Pac-Man you ever saw. I loved it!
If a stranger wanted to win you over, how would they start the conversation?
KH: “Hey, did you hear the Foo Fighters are playing at Dodger Stadium before a midnight double feature of Robocop and Aliens?”
A: That is definitely a night worth following a stranger for!
What’s something you would scream at your younger self until you were sure they heard you?
KH:“You’re not hearing things! I’m your future self and I’m going to kill you!”
That’d be funny.
A: You are the first to say they’d prank themselves!
Where Can People Find You?
KH: All badass sci fi- Badassscifi.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
KH: Thank you so much for the platform you provide! It’s hard trying to build an audience and I greatly appreciate your contributions! Spire is coming soon, and if anyone is interested in being a beta reader, hit me up!
A: See the contact info above to become a beta reader!