Author Interview: Deirdre Hopton

Coffee with Architects of Worlds Afar is thrilled to have Deirdre Hopton–author of March Forth–in the virtual studio today.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Deirdre Hopton, and I currently live in the lovely little town of Somerville, NJ.  Writing is my passion, but I currently earn a living both by bartending weddings in an upscale venue and making fruit arrangements in a franchise store.  Between the two, I generally work 50 – 70 hours per week.  It sometimes makes it difficult to find time to write, but I do my best.

I received my B.A. in English Composition and Literature from Rutgers University in 2011.  I had gone back to school as a “nontraditional” (a nice way of saying “older”) student.  First, I received an Associate of Arts in Teaching from Raritan Valley Community College, then going on to Rutgers.  Both schools were wonderful, and taught me the value of persistence.

While I was attending RVCC, I won the Nota Bene scholarship contest.  I received a $1000 scholarship and had my short story published in the Nota Bene anthology.  It was the first time I started to feel as if other people may actually be interested in my writing.  Then, at Rutgers, another short story I wrote won a few scholarships, and I was asked to read it for an audience at the Zimmerli Art Museum.

I also took a job as a correspondent at the Daily Targum, Rutgers’ renowned school paper.  They paid me $11 per article, and I was over the moon with happiness.  Somebody was paying me to write!

2. Why did you start writing?
I’ve always just written for the fun of it; it’s something I enjoyed doing.  However, I had stopped for a few years.  My stepfather passed away just before I finished college, and then life got in the way; I found myself waiting tables to make a living instead of pursuing my writing goals.  The excruciating minutiae of daily life took over the creative parts of my brain, and I let my writing fall by the wayside.

Then, on Halloween in 2014, my dear friend Sara Jane took me to see my favorite author, Neil Gaiman, speak at the New York Public Library.  During his talk, he repeatedly said the only advice he could give aspiring writers was to “just write.”

After his talk, we stood in line for well over an hour to get his autograph.  As he signed my Shimizu prints, I thanked Mr. Gaiman for years of entertainment and inspiration.  He replied, “It’s my only marketable skill.”

For some reason, his comment was incredibly galvanizing to me.  It made me picture a world in which Neil Gaiman was so busy waiting tables or bartending that he never wrote the Sandman series, or “American Gods,” or any of his other brilliant novels.  I realized that I needed to get off my butt and write a book, or I could be denying readers great books.  I realized I simply had to try.  So I did.

It wasn’t easy to do around a 50 to 70 hour work week, but I wrote my first book, and I’m working on my second now.  Simultaneously, I’m clumsily learning to do the marketing and promoting parts of self – publishing.  Also, I’m working toward making “March Forth” into an audiobook with the help of my dear friend, the incredibly talented writer/producer Erik Ransom, who’s willing to narrate for me.  It’s a pretty exciting time to be me.

3. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
The idea for the book came in several parts.  I had just left a job in a restaurant that was still very much on my mind, and I had a few passing encounters with homeless people in Somerville (where I live) that stuck with me.  As I tried to come up with an idea for a book, all of these things were knocking around in my head.  I knew I wanted the book to be about perspective and perception, and how our choices and thoughts create our worlds; as I thought about it and the aforementioned experiences were fresh in my memory, it all came together and helped me create the fictitious town of “Woodford,” and the characters within.

4. How different is the final product (the book) from your original vision?
Originally, it was going to be a much longer book.  I was going to include David Carver’s back story and tell more about his experience now.  However, at a certain point in writing, I decided to make that all a separate book, probably my next one (or possibly the one after that….I’ve started two different books recently, and we’ll have to see which manifests first).  Trying to fit too much into one book was taking away from the main themes, so this just makes more sense to me.

5. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.
For some reason, I knew the book was called “March Forth” from the very beginning.  There’s a scene in the book told from two different characters’ perspectives, and they have very different understandings of the meaning of the term, “march forth.”  It perfectly illustrates one of the themes of the book, that we’re all having our own experience based on our own thoughts, filters, perceptions.  We are each our own world, so to speak.  I feel like that scene illustrates that point really well.

6. Does your story have a moral?
I’m not sure I would call it a moral, per se, but my book definitely emphasizes the importance of taking control of your own experience rather than just kind of passively reacting to circumstances.  It also highlights the importance of having a connection to the Universe in some way, to something larger than yourself, however that looks for you (spirituality, religion, passionate pursuits, whatever).

7. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
Although I relate most to Deanna – I put a lot of myself into her – my favorite character to write is definitely David Carver.  He’s a brilliant man, basically a wizard, who’s been stricken by some strange, magical version of Alzheimer’s and now wanders lost, alone, and barely knowing who he is.  He fascinates me.  His backstory will most likely be my next book; I’ve already started writing it.  I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s so much fun to write.  He is, by far, the most interesting character to me.

8. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
Because I have to squeeze in writing time around two jobs, my writing sessions are not as structured, scheduled, or orderly as I would like them to be.  Sometimes I find time to write on the occasional slow days at my day job; other times, I squeeze in time to write on weekend mornings before I go to my night job.  I have a little writing area set up in my apartment.  Although I occasionally have background music playing quietly while I write, I usually prefer silence.  It helps me focus.

9. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
I am completely pro – outline and think everyone should use them, but I very rarely do.  Hahaha!

10. What is your favorite book genre?
Prior to writing “March Forth,” most of the short stories I wrote were realistic fiction or even memoirs.  However, I always preferred reading fantasy.  “March Forth” is my first real foray into the fantasy genre as a writer.

11. What are you currently reading?
I just finished Brendan Burchard’s book, “Life’s Golden Ticket,” which I loved.  It’s told as a fiction story, but incorporates important life lessons.  I found it very engaging.

12. What is your favorite book?
Although my answer to this question can change depending on what I’ve just read, I’d have to say “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman is most consistently my favorite.  I love his style and his character development, and the way you almost have to peel through layers of the story, and the fact that the ending is not what one would expect.  I love everything about it.

13. Any project in the works?
I’m working on getting “March Forth” made as an audiobook, and slowly but surely working on my next book.

14. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
“March Forth” was my first book, and took me just about a year to write.  I probably would have written it more quickly if I didn’t have to squeeze it in around my jobs, but I’m happy I got it done within a year.

15. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write.  Just write.  Don’t let anything or anyone stop you.  Figure out what you want to say, the message you want to give the world, put pen to paper, and bring it to life.  You can figure out the logistics later, like whether to self – publish, or find an agent, or whatever.  The important thing is just to write.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Books

2. Dogs or cats?
Cats, but sadly, I’ve developed an allergy to them, so dogs win by default.

3. Car or motorcycle?
Car if I’m driving, motorcycle if a trusted and responsible rider is allowing me to ride with them.

4. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
It’s easy to figure people out, moving things with your mind is harder.

5. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Hotel… I like my showers.

6. Working in a group or working alone?
Alone

7. To find true love or to win the lottery?
At this exact moment, lottery.

8. Being Spiderman for a day or being Batman for a day?
Batman!

9. To speak using ONLY rap lyrics (from songs released in the 21st century) or to speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books?
Austen

10. To never speak again or to never eat solid food again?
Ugh! I suppose food, though both would be torturous.

11. Losing your ability to speak or losing your ability to hear?
As long as I could still write.

12. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
Never watch another film

13. Spending half a day locked in a coffin (there would be a hole for air, of course) or spending two days trapped at the bottom of a well?
Half a day in a coffin with air; I could use some naptime.

14. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
Buh bye, chocolate.

15. Have every day be Saturday or have every day be Christmas?
Every day as Christmas would be lovely; on Saturdays, I bartend weddings.  It’s a lot of work and I’ll pass on doing it every single day.

Thank you for joining us, Deirdre!
Readers: want to connect with Deirdre? You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and YouTube. Also, be sure to check out her author website and blog.

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