DAB: Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?
ENH: Living overseas as a child books were my only connection to the United States. 25 years ago there wasn't internet. My teacher read "Where the Red Fern Grows" to us in 4th grade and I was so impacted by it that I started writing short stories then and have wanted to be an author ever since.
DAB: Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?
ENH: One of the drawbacks of always wanting to write (since 4th grade) is the backlog of ideas I have. I have six books completely outlined at this point, we're talking 7 to 8,000 word outlines each, all ready to go... but starting a series made me put all of those even further on the backburner. I came up with my ideas by imagining myself in different situations in life and wondering how I'd get out of them. I was a huge fan of "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" books as a child, and yet always felt restricted by the limited options they presented. I always wanted more. Accordingly, I've tried to take the options and possibilities even further.
DAB: What was the catalyst for this novel’s premise?
ENH: The catalyst for this book is all the tragedies that take place around the world. There are countries where bombs go off everyday, where people are killed en masse and where tragedies exceed most of what we've ever had to deal with in the United States. Those are daily or weekly things there. As tragic as the Boston Marathon bombing was, there are many countries in the world where that wouldn't have even registered as a huge event. That's a sad reality. I've always tried to imagine what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot... What if all those foreign wars became domestic? What if all those things happened with that regularity here? If we lost all our comforts and freedoms, what would we do? How would we survive? Things like that.
DAB: Do you have a character(s) in your novel with whom you closely identify?
ENH: I believe an author has to be intimately in touch with most of their characters. You have to be able to identify with what makes each character tick. I wrote a lot of this book in narration, giving the narrator (Ryan) a lot of my ideas, humor and voice... but most readers don't want a book to feel "opinionated" so I entrusted a few high-cost professionals to cut all the "excess opinion" out and hopefully leave the meat/core of the message still there. Still, I've had people for years tell me that I look a lot like Ryan Reynolds, so I gave the main character the name Ryan and envisioned him as being cast in that role as I wrote it. I guess you could say I can identify most with Ryan.
DAB: Were there any characters you found difficult to write?
ENH: Wooly was hard for me to write. He's a racist jerk, to put it nicely. Racism has always troubled me--forgive the understatement. Honestly, growing up in Africa I never even noticed the differences between whites and blacks until I moved back to the United States. Then I started getting teased for where I'd come from (in Africa) and getting a lot of racist remarks made about myself and my family. Even as a caucasian I was deeply torn apart by those comments and can't imagine what other minorities face every day. I don't understand why it matters what color we are, or where we're from. One of the things America prides itself on is freedom--and it's supposed to be freedom for all Americans regardless. Idealism, I know. Anyway, I wanted Wooly to be hated by the reader, but found it impossible for me to have him say the kinds of things that even were said about me. I just don't have it in me to hate like that. So I needed a little help with him and his part.
DAB: Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?
ENH: (Laughs) Uh... yeah. I've always been accused of being overly sensitive but I am a guy and therefore somewhat out of touch with "reality." I'll write something and run it past my wife and she'll help me "fix" it. All of my editor, book club, and author friends are women and always willing to help me there too. I can handle the ribbing when I write a dumb line and one of them says "a girl would NEVER say that." That's why you trust people like that to help you get it right!
DAB: Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?
ENH: Danny is my favorite character. He's the hero, the one the rest of them have to count on to get through all of this. I can't say he's everything I'm not, but I've empowered him to do many of the things I wouldn't be able to do. I've given him the composure I wish I had. He's had a rough life (already at just 20 years) and handled it with class. We all can look back at things we did early in life and shake our heads at ourself. We all had idiot moments. I like giving my audience, particularly those in that stage of life, a role model of someone who's gone through a lot and made the right choices even when they were hard. Danny makes mistakes, but we all do. It's how you bounce back or take responsibility for them that determines who you become.
DAB: How long did it take for you to craft this novel?
ENH: I sat down and wrote the outline for this book over three weeks last June (2013). Then I finally started typing it on October 12th, using Victoria Lynn Schmidt Ph.D.'s own "Book in a Month" as my guide. It took me 70 days to write the first draft, and then 185 days to edit, redraft, copy edit, redraft, and rework 19 more times. The final version, as it stands now, is my 20th version of the story. I hope it shows when people read it. I wanted to make sure, if I was going to give this a real run, that I put my absolute best foot forward... no typos, no sloppy writing, polished, professionally copy edited, etc. I hope it translates as I believe it should.
DAB: Tell us about a typical day in your writing world.
ENH: A typical day in my writing world starts out pretty early. My wife will bring my 17 month old daughter in to me between 3 and 6 AM (I can't sleep in our bedroom with that monitor on, so I willingly take the couch). I'll entertain her while my wife goes to a real job. When she comes home between 5 and 6 I'll play with my other three kids until 7 or 8, then watch a couple shows and play some games with my 11 year old son. He goes to bed around 10 and I'll write for 2-3 hours, then catch a few winks before my insanely happy little ball of sunshine gets me up to play again.
DAB: Do you write full-time or part-time?
ENH: I'd say I write full time. I write for a national golf magazine, GolfGetaways (as E. Nolan) and a regional publication called Tee Times. I've been a national travel journalist for 7 years now, going into my 8th (parallel to my 8 years at home as a stay-at-home-dad) and that has allowed me to really practice perfecting my words and work, vocabulary and concepts. I realize, after years of college classes and career writing opportunities just how "bad" of a writer I was a decade ago. I could have never pulled a novel off like this then. But timing and opportunity are everything. Small paragraphs led to larger ones, large paragraphs to a full page, and full pages to feature pieces... and now the book. Transitions and progress. My editors at the various magazines I work for and freelance for are very diligent and critical with the submitted work, and it's taught me a ton about how to write and reach readers where they are.
DAB: Have you ever experienced writer's block?
ENH: I've never had writer's block. But I've had writer's "traffic jams." Where I ran into problems with this novel was when my mind drifted off to the other 6 fully-outlined scripts I have in my drawer. I want to write ALL of them at the same time. Ha! Doesn't work that way. But there are certainly times where I almost go crazy with the ideas and visions I have crawling out of that drawer and begging for their own attention. I have to button down, throw on my headphones and block out everything else and just focus on "one book at a time."
DAB: When I write, I have particular composers and music that gets me in the mood for certain scenes and characters. Have you ever written to music?
ENH: I ALWAYS write to music. I don't think I can concentrate when it's quiet. I sleep with a fan on at night because without it I believe my thoughts would be so loud they'd keep me awake. Music propels me, and my interests are quite varied there: Marley, Metallica, MercyMe, Matchbox 20... pretty much anything with an M but Mars and Miley. And I always have a little Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift thrown in there (that's what you get with three daughters).
DAB: There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not. What is your preference?
ENH: My outlines are alive and spread all over my workspace. I feel like they're a necessary evil. I simply don't have a good enough memory without having them there to track all the "potentially brilliant" ideas I have. I'm not saying they always work, and I'll often ignore them if I get on a roll... but sometimes I'll find a note on those outlines that will have a dramatic impact on the story... and since I'm known for going to a grocery store for milk and coming back with a full cart but no milk... I think I need the outlines.
DAB: How do you handle negative feedback about your novel(s)?
ENH: This is a two-part answer. I LOVE negative feedback before it's published. I'll submit my work to a billion critiques if people will be honest... not malicious or effusive in praise... just honest. I want to know what works and what doesn't. You don't have to tell me I'm great. I don't think I am. I'd be a fool to pretend I can reach everyone to the same extent. I'd obviously love to be loved uniformly, but that's just not a reality. But I do really appreciate having people who will help me improve my work. I DO want to be the very best author I can be. I'm sensitive and a perfectionist, so I'll always keep working on the craft.
On the flip side... negative criticism after my book is published is considerably harder to take. I've invested seven full months of my life into this book. It is me, in a few hundred pages. Just as anyone else would hate to be told they've failed at work, or anything else, I always wish people would consider the feelings and realities of the person who wrote the book. With that said, I've read many books that people have written that are full of mistakes, and show no evidence of proofreading or care for professionalism. Those writers kill the rest of us who give all we've got to making our products the best they can be. I hate getting reviews/feedback on-line from people who didn't read the whole book. I think it's unfair for someone to say the whole book is bad because they didn't like the beginning. There are a lot of great things in life that would be worthless if you only took into account the first part. I just want people to be fair.
DAB: Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?
ENH: I just finished the Divergent series. And the Hunger Games series before that. I'm a huge fan of the first two Hunger Games books and like Suzanne's style of writing. There are a lot of comparable qualities between her style and mine. Otherwise my all time favorite books would be: 1. A Time to Kill 2. Clear & Present Danger 3. Wilderness Champion 4. Where the Red Fern Grows and 5. The Horse Whisperer. I do love to read, but ADHD makes it hard for me to even write at times, and sitting still to read (and not move my fingers at a maddening pace) is even more challenging. I need something with a fast pace, and my wife would tell you that I write that way too. Frenetic. Otherwise I'd give up on it. It has to keep my interest (which is no small task).
DAB: What are some things you’ve done to get the word out about your novel(s)?
ENH: Self promotion is hard for me. I don't like asking friends to promote me either. I just feel like enough people have enough on their plate to worry about someone else's stuff. I'm fortunate that I have several friends in the industry who have offered up newspaper ads, email blasts, etc. They always tell me to ask and they'll help, but that doesn't make it less hard for me. On the other hand, all of these people know I'd do anything in the world that I could for them if they ever asked... so maybe once or twice a lifetime it's okay for me to ask for something as well. Honestly, it's people like you who open doors to the "unknown" and "not yet popular" among us, who give new authors the chance to be heard. I'm certain you don't get the credit you deserve in that regard either, but people like me are extremely grateful!
DAB: Do you have any writing pointers for the authors in our audience?
ENH: I'd tell everyone it's hard. It's not easy. Not any step along the way. If you're not personal friends with an agent, editor or publisher, it's going to be a long road, and when you get to the end you're going to feel overwhelmed. You have to believe in yourself and be extremely driven from the beginning to make it to the end of even one book, much less several. I submitted my work to 80 agents before I elected to go the eBook route. I got 20 replies and all of them were essentially the same response: I like the idea, the book sounds good, but I'm looking for YA (young adult) and this is more of a blend of Young Adult and General Adult Fiction. I get it... there's no sure thing or formula. I love crossover genre books, but clearly they're not for everyone.
I'm a long way from "making it" but I write because I LOVE to write. I think you have to. In the end, whether or not it makes any $, it feels good to know you accomplished something a whole heck of a lot of people never thought you could.
DAB: Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?
ENH: I'm halfway through Book 2 in this "20-20" series. Book one involved so much movement and so much setting up. This book is really letting me dive into the characters and provide the audience with some real tangible connections. It's already more intense than the first book and I've been able to take a lot of the feedback from all the professionals who reviewed and edited "Emergency Exit" and weave it into Book 2. It's cool to give yourself goosebumps when you're typing out certain paragraphs. That's been a regular experience the past few weeks on Book 2 (tentatively titled - "Redemption Island")
DAB: Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.
ENH: Emergency Exit is a semi-apocalyptic tale of a domestic war, where several nations have banded together to take on America. Catching the United States off guard with a multi-stage chemical attack, they achieve almost complete success, and send in an army to finish the task. But most of the American survivors have no military training. There is no defense...no real way to fight back. The few survivors got lucky and now they have to figure a way out. This isn't a war story. Even with all the devastation it's more about survival.
The book follows a small group of people in Minnesota that discovers they somehow survived the massacre and now must deal with the reality of all those that didn't and what is still coming their way. We get to make the "incredible journey" across the country with them, with the final goal being reaching safety in Hawaii. The reader gets to see both sides... why the antagonists are in pursuit as they are, and what they think happened... and what the protagonists are doing and struggling with as they just try to survive. It's supposed to be an epic, and a little bit surreal... but it's also supposed to make you stop and think... "What if?" There's a love story wrapped in there, and some surprise visitors along the way. Feedback says it's an entertaining and thought provoking read, and that's what I was aiming for.
Keep aiming Ever - keep aiming! I hope, dear readers, that this interview was as entertaining for you as it has been for me. But this isn't the last we'll see here of Ever N. Hayes. Coming this summer, I'll have the pleasure of reading and reviewing 2020: Emergency Exit. Stay tuned until then for my review!
Ever N. Hayes has been a professional journalist since 2007. Currently living too far in the Upper Midwest with his too beautiful wife and too many kids (4), he loves to read, write and golf (typically not all at once). He came up with the "2020 Series" (including his debut novel - "Emergency Exit") after being frustrated by all the illogical holes in the Red Dawn movies (both versions) and after reading the Hunger Games and Divergent series. "This (Emergency Exit) is a story every American can connect with... a plausible unfolding of the fears and thoughts we have in our head." Connect with him at:
Facebook: Ever N Hayes
Amazon Author Page: Amazon.com/author/evernhayes