A very good morning to all of you, indeed. It’s Sunday! What are you doing with yourselves? Going to the gym? Baking up a storm? Running the younglings to and fro? Or maybe you’re like me and have a long, leisurely day of doing absolutely naff all planned. Although, I am in the midst of an epic blogging frenzy so not quite naff all, though certainly nothing physically strenuous.
I’ve got Andrew Fukuda here with me today, who was kind enough to answer a few of my burning questions about his debut novel, The Hunt. Now, I’ve been waxing lyrical about The Hunt on Twitter for a while now and if you’ve picked up a copy you’ll know why. Honestly, it’s one of the most exhilarating and unique novels I’ve read this year and I’m so excited to see where Andrew’s career goes from here, as I’m certain we’re going to be hearing a lot more about him over the coming years.
I’ll save the rest for my review but, until then: Thank you, literature overlords, for answering my prayers and letting *actual* vampires make a comeback. Not vampires that sparkle but actual, ‘I’m going to soil myself in terror’ vampires. About bloody time, pun very much intended.
And now I’ll hand you over to Andrew Fukuda, vampire saviour:
1. Hi, Andrew! In case any readers haven’t come across The Hunt yet, can you tell me a little bit about the storyline?
Gene, the last human alive in a world taken over by vampire-like creatures who lust for the taste of human blood and flesh, must hide his humanness in order to survive. When he is selected to participate in a hunt for other humans, he is thrust into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing.
2. Talk me through an average day when you’re working on a novel. Do you have a set number of words you have to write per day or do you set yourself different targets?
Early on in the manuscript, I write at least 1000 quality words a day. Usually that amounts to about four hours of work, although it can take as long as six hours, and on rarer occasions, two hours. Once the story starts coming into its own, I try to write 2000 words a day.
3. In young adult fiction in particular, it’s important that readers bond with the characters - what do you think is the most important thing to get right when you're creating a character?
The approach should be to first really know the character before writing down a word. If you try to flesh out a character by pushing around the words in your manuscript, or merely inserting “character” lines or paragraphs, the result will likely come out less than desired. You can dress a scarecrow all you want, add all the accessories, but it’s still a scarecrow. It’s not living, dynamic, breathing. The character has to start in your head; and only after you’ve mentally walked in his/her skin, when they are so real and alive you instinctively know how they like their eggs cooked, are you ready to write. And when you tell that person’s story – as honestly as you can – the character will naturally flow out of you and onto the pages. He’ll walk and breathe and laugh and cry in 3D.
4. The YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets The Hunt apart from the pack?
The protagonist is a male which is quite unusual, especially considering the vampire(-esque) genre. And I’ve flipped the usual convention on its head: instead of a minority of vampires living surreptitious lives amidst human society, in The Hunt only a small cluster of humans survive in a world of vampire-like creatures.
5. Some writers relate take great inspiration from music while they’re writing. Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what artists/bands do you like to listen to while you write?
The Hunt is set in a stark, bleak world where vampires have overtaken the earth and humans have been driven to virtual extinction. To put me in the mood, I listened to songs that were raw and relatively stripped-down, and which were lyrically filled with angst. The theme of darkness and light is one which percolates throughout The Hunt, and songs which were similarly themed (either lyrically or tonally) found their way onto my playlist. Post-grunge bands whose works are heavily infused with spirituality, such as Skillet and Switchfoot, really got me in the right mood, and I felt quite indebted to them.
6. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you always been this way?
I’m as pure a pantser writer as they come – the ghost of James Dean hovers over my keyboard. This is especially true when it comes to action scenes. Because I like to keep the action raw and visceral, I often throw my protagonist into predicaments from which even I’m not sure how he’s going to escape. Sometimes, I paint him into such a terrible corner, I can see him turning to me and saying, “Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to get out of this?”
But I’m finding – as is the case with many authors writing sequels in a trilogy – that with book two and three, I’m evolving more into a plotter. With tight deadlines looming, there’s no time for mistakes.
7. Can you tell me a bit about your journey with The Hunt? When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the novel being accepted for publication?
It took me about a year to write The Hunt. As the story came into its own, it really sucked me in and I was writing at a pretty fast pace the last month or two. I spent a few weeks on revisions, then out went the query letter to several agents. Two weeks later, I had seven offers of representation. Two months later, St. Martin’s Press bought the book at auction. While I was still in a cloud of disbelief, my foreign rights agent called me with the wonderful news that Simon & Schuster (UK) bought the UK rights in a pre-empt. It all happened is such a mad, exciting flurry!
8. How important do you think social media (i.e. Twitter/Facebook/blogging) is in today’s market for a writer?
Hmmm… I don’t think I’m the best person to ask. My blogging and Facebook usage is quite sparse, actually. I formed a Twitter account at my publisher’s and agent’s behest, but have been using it less to promote The Hunt and more to connect with other authors.
9. What would you say is your worst bad habit when it comes to writing?
Let me count the ways! Hmm… there’re too many to count! But let me give you one. My editor keeps taking out similes in my manuscript – she tells me I have too many, and she’s right. I blame this on my English teacher in secondary school who used to scream “Similes! I want more similes!”
10. What did you hope to accomplish by writing The Hunt? Do you think you have accomplished what you set out to do?
I hoped to tell a riveting story that would appeal to both genders, to the young and old, across cultures. A universal page-turner, in other words. A tall challenge! And I didn’t know how to do it! So I simply wrote from the heart, telling Gene’s story as honestly and purely as I could. I was left with a story that – even after many revisions and re-reads – still got my heart pounding. But it was also one which blurred many of the genre conventions, and I was faced with a very real temptation to add a few tropes to make the work more accessible. I thought about heightening the romance, or having the protagonist make more “acceptable” choices, or filling the book with more world-building information (as is the case with most dystopian YA books but which, for reasons too complex to go into here, wouldn’t have tonally worked in The Hunt).
But shaping the book to fit convention would have undermined and compromised the vision and tone of The Hunt. I stuck to my guns, and I’m glad I did. From early reviews, it seems that discerning readers – young and old, male and female! – have really bought into these calculated risks.
11. Do you think your teenage years have influenced you as a writer? If so, how?
My teenage years certainly influenced The Hunt. Like most, my adolescence swung like a pendulum between the extremes of self-discovery and self-forfeiture, the latter of which happened whenever I was peer-squeezed into one of those false molds society expects you to fit into. So much of Gene’s existence – shaving his arms and legs, repressing laughter – metaphorically captures the way teens are often forced to act and think in socially-acceptable ways. As one reviewer put it, Gene’s existence “captures the excruciating experience of high school, where it feels as if every gesture receives close scrutiny by the entire student body.” I like that.
12. Thank you so much for your time, Andrew. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?
I’m working on book two and three of the The Hunt trilogy. Book 2 – which is titled The Prey – is almost finished. My editor is delighted in it! I’m just now beginning to plot out Book 3. Thanks for this interview, it’s been a lot of fun!