My guest today is Richard Hackett, author of several books and founder of SeaMercy, a charitable program that brings much-needed health care to the remote islands of the South Pacific.
Richard Hackett holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University in International Business and Marketing, with a minor in History. Married with two children, he and his family have traveled extensively in the US and sailed the Caribbean and South Pacific. When not consumed by his real world business endeavors, he has focused a great deal of his personal time and energy on military history and strategy and the character traits of military leaders. He also enjoys exploring and researching the spiritual aspects of life and Christianity. He has always been an “outside the box” thinker, yet a realist when it comes to application and implementation of those dreams. All proceeds from the sale of his novels go to support SEA MERCY (www.seamercy.org), a Floating Health Care Clinic in the South Pacific.
Q & A
How did you get into writing?
I have always been a dreamer and someone who would first think through the various options available before answering when facing challenges, so when I finally decided to put them down in virtual ink (computer), it seemed natural to me (and necessary) to get the thoughts out of my head in order to clear storage space for additional thoughts.
What genre do you write?
My favorites are historical fiction, fantasy, and Christian themes. When I can weave them all together, it’s really a lot of fun and rewarding.
What is your target audience?
I would say anyone who wants to find the good in life. Not a Pollyanna, but someone who is a realist, believes, and desires to be better or victorious in all situations (or who can even find peace in failure).
What have you published to date?
I have three novels that have been published (self-published) and one children’s story that is waiting for a final review. My first two novels, finished a month apart, were The Black Dragons (Historical Fiction/Action & Adventure) and The Eyes of the Heart (Christian Suspense/Thriller). My most recent novel is Everything – The untold story of the rich young ruler (Historical Fiction/Christian).
If you are self-published, what led to this choice?
LOL, I wrote my first two novels without reading the “writers brochure” until after they were completed. Someone suggested that I publish them and that is when I discovered that the preferred word limit was 90-110,000 words maximum for new authors to be considered. I thought I was well within that limit, but a quick word count revealed I was at 140,000+. I thought about removing content from the two novels, but since I did not write them with the idea to “sell them to make money”, but to leave memories and a legacy for my loved ones, I was happy to just self-publish.
How would you review your book for readers who might be considering it?
A Readers Digest review would be: The Black Dragons is action-filled story told during the revolutionary war about friendships, facing adversity together, taking the high rode (even when it hurts). The Eyes of the Heart is a modern day suspense thriller about a young man who must learn to use the eyes of his heart in order to see and understand what is really going on around him. Everything is a suspenseful and encouraging journey that follows the rich young ruler before, during and after his encounter with Jesus, taking you through the gospels from an outsider looking in.
Are your books available as e-books?
Yes, e-books and in Paperback.
Do you have a favorite book or character (that you’ve written)?
I have always written from a first person perspective, so the main characters (James, Luke and Addi) in each novel are very real and close to me, so it’s like asking me which of your children do you love more. Outside of the main characters, I enjoy the banter and interactions they have with the friends and foes in their lives, often the female characters can be the favorites.
If any of your books were to be made into films, who would you have as the lead actor(s)?
I can see Chris Pine as Luke in The Eyes of the Heart or as James in The Black Dragons, as he is quick witted and expressive, but the person for Addi in Everything is still a mystery to me at this point.
Which author(s) would you say influence your writing?
I loved Tolkien with his detail and creativeness (thinking way outside the box) and Frank Peretti for his “spiritual” writing style.
How did you choose the title / cover of your books? How important do you think title/cover is to the book?
That is a hard thing to do. I tried to capture an image(s) that would convey enough about the book, without confusing someone. I looked until it felt right. I’m still wrestling with The Black Dragons cover, and feel I may have rushed into that one too quickly. Because we are so visual in nature, and there are so many books to chose from, a right, or wrong cover can have a huge impact on who stops long enough to read the back cover.
What are you working on at the moment? Are you planning on another book?
I’m always thinking about what I am going to write about next. Although they were not planned as a series, I have outlined the follow-up novels for The Black Dragons and for The Eyes of the Heart due to the many requests I have received. Both would be fun to write, I just need to stop thinking and start typing.
Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
I only write when I’m inspired to write, and then only once I have the story laid out in my mind. So I never sit and stare at my computer trying to figure out what to type, it usually comes flowing out faster than I can keep up with.
Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
I plot them out in detail before I start typing. I create a basic outline, then add more and more detail to it until I feel all the pieces work together.
Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names, and what do you think makes them believable?
I do a lot of research on the era (historical fiction) and locations when creating names, but the personalities I pull from true-life encounters with people, something that being older and active in the business and social world helps a great deal.
Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
I have found that I am a better storyteller than I am an editor. If it were not for the people around me (volunteer and professional), I’m afraid final work would be rather embarrassing, which is why I involved so many people in the editing process once the story is finished. Knowing the story so well, my mind often passes over the errors. I often find it funny (I chose to laugh instead of cry) when someone hands me back the corrections and errors they have found that I missed.
How much research do you do?
Each book is different, but I tend to pour myself into the era and time period when writing. It helps me to feel and embrace the era and my writing comes much easier.
What point of view do you usually write in: first person or third person?
So far, first person only. I love the challenge of telling a story without being able to share what everyone is thinking. First person allows the reader to feel like you are the lead character and living it out with them.
Do you write any poetry, non-fiction, or short stories?
I have written several children’s stories that my kids convinced me to write down for them and their kids. I picked the ones they made me tell every night before bed, the ones they would request over and over.
Do you have pieces you’ve written that you think should never see the light of day?
No. If it is not worth sharing, it’s not worth writing down. Besides, with the NSA reading everything we do, I delete those.
Have you had any rejections from publishing houses? If so, how do you deal with them?
With my novels being 140,000+ words, I have never been able to fit them under the minimum word count, so I have not spent the time submitting them (their warnings are very clear). Everything is my first novel that falls into the minimum, but I just finished writing it, so I have not pursued one yet. Self-publishing is so easy that I went that route initially. My satisfaction is when I’m holding a hard copy of my book in my hands, where it goes from there is just icing on the cake.
Do you have an agent? Do you believe they are vital to an author’s success?
No, not with 140k word novels (lol). I think every aspect of promotion is important, and agents play an important role, but there are so many capable writers and great stories, the agents are very picky and tend to go with a sure thing (established authors or celebrities) or with those willing to pay handsomely for their services.
How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or for yourself as a ‘brand’? What types of marketing have you found to be the most successful?
The marketing of my novels have been grass roots driven and since I do not write for profit, but for pleasure, driving my novels is not as important to me as I know it should be. As a result, my marketing efforts are often basic in nature. I will do an initial giveaway on Amazon, and then let word of mouth and the reviews it receives drive it from there.
What is your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything about your writing surprised you?
I love leaving a legacy of you (your books) for family and people to potentially have and to share for centuries. Unfortunately, too many life distractions (many of them are good distractions) keep me from writing. I think I was most surprised that I have a growing following of people that I do not know who buy my new releases (even outside their normal genre) based on how much they enjoyed my other books. I just need to get them to speak up and tell more people.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write from your heart, not from your pocketbook. One is a joy and reward to do, the other is an unfulfilling job that has a terrible boss in charge.
If you could invite one living writer, one dead writer, AND one fictional character to a dinner party, who would choose? why? What would you serve your guests or where would you dine?
I don’t mean to be cliché, but I would invite Jesus (living) because there are so many questions I would like to ask him. I would invite Tolkien (dead) to find out if he was slightly mad or a genius and to let him know all that effort was worth it (something he never got to see). I don’t think I would send an invitation to a fictional character, as I don’t think anyone would take them or what they had to say very serious. Dinner? Fish and Elf (lembas) bread served on a sailboat (captive audience) sailing the South Pacific.
If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
The birth of my children (I know that’s two days). I know my wife would not appreciate having to go through that “over and over” again, but those were magical moments for me and they were the start of two incredible stories waiting to be read and lived out each day.
Do you have a favorite phrase or quote?
Dreaming is free; turning those dreams into reality can cost you everything, but they are worth everything.
Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Promoting and marketing Sea Mercy (www.seamercy.org), a non-profit organization that my wife and I started, that delivers health care to the remote islands of the South Pacific. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of my books goes to support that incredible organization.
Do you have any hobbies? How do you think they enhance your creativity?
Sea Mercy and sailing is something that I am very passionate about and the idea and outline of The Black Dragons was a by-product of keeping my mind off the rolling seas (trying not to get sick). Everything was worked on and outlined while sailing in Tonga with Sea Mercy. There’s something about being on the water (sailing) that inspires me to write.
Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Goodreads has been the most helpful to date, but I look forward to seeing other sites grow and mature to the benefit of writers and readers.
Are you on any forums or networking sites? LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.
What do you think the future holds for writers?
I think the ability and technology that is now available to write and self-publish a book has allowed everyone the opportunity to share their dreams and amazing stories with the world. Unfortunately, the huge number of available stories has made finding that golden nugget novel more difficult. As a result, I believe fewer people will “write for profit” and more will write for pleasure (which is a great thing).
Where can readers find out more about you and your writing?
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
The greatest gift you can give to a writer is to take the time to tell them your thoughts about their novel (good or bad) by writing a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other book related sites. It helps us to grow as writers, it inspires us to write more (or better), and it rewards the great novels by getting it in front of the people who would also enjoy reading it. We’ve spent hundreds of hours writing hundreds of thousands of words for people’s enjoyment (hopefully), we’re only asking for less than a hundred words from you in return.
“Sell everything,” Jesus of Nazareth had told the rich young man who had traveled so far to meet him.This can’t be the Messiah, Addi thought as he walked away from the encounter. The Messiah would have known he had dedicated his whole life to God and had built a deep and powerful financial kingdom right under Pilate and Herod’s noses, a financial kingdom ready to equip and supply the Messiah’s army when he returned. He and the secret organization he was a member of just needed the Messiah to step forward, claim his kingdom, and drive out the armies of Rome as the prophecies of old had foretold. Therefore, he can’t be the Messiah. Yet Addi could not deny the miracles this Jesus had demonstrated, even driving out demons, so surely God must be with him. The man was fearless and bold when he taught the people, his message powerful and amazing, yet different from what the Pharisees and Sadducees were teaching; teaching that had not gone unnoticed by them. What must I do to inherit eternal life?