Yesterday saw the release of HeadSpace, a sweet but dark romance with a psychological twist.
Today the author, T.E. Hodden, (AKA Tom) in the ‘hotseat’ answering questions about
his books, his writing and himself!
Good morning, Tom. Welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings.
Would you please kick off by telling us a little about yourself and your background?
My name is Tom, I’m from Kent, in the UK, and my background is in a very specialised niche of engineering, in the transport industry. I’m married, to the most amazing person in the world, and I am probably best known (admittedly by a very few people) for writing short and sweet romances.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It was always there as a hobby. Like a lot of people these days, I wrote stories as a hobby, and had the luxury of experimenting with self publishing digital works before I was brave enough to submit to a publisher like Roane. When I was a kid, I wrote stories in exercise books, when I was doing my apprenticeship, there was poetry or short stories on my laptop, and eventually I wrote something that I was confident enough about to share on Kindle Market Place.
I think a lot of that comes reading a lot, from the TV I loved as a kid, but I think what sparked it seriously in my head was when Virgin Books launched a bunch of original adult novels based on Doctor Who, and shortly after the shock ‘swearing, and sex in Doctor Who!’ came the realisation of ‘Wait, people were paid to write stories like this? And it’s taken seriously?’
I’ve never expected to be taken seriously, and pretty much every time I submit a story to a publisher there is a part of me who is worried they will work I’m still just the kid writing stories for fun.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
I wish I knew so I could make it work when I needed it! Sometimes idea pop from nowhere, and sometimes they grow over a long time. Sometimes they come from pulling apart other stories and trying to work out how the plot and the details work under the hood.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?
To just write. Sit at the computer, and write something. It doesn’t matter if you write a few pages of trash, and delete it. What matters is you try, and somewhere down the line, you find an idea that works, and you keep writing it. Don’t care about the rules, or what is meant to happen in stories, or how your English teacher told you the language works. That’s what second drafts, and edits, are for.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I like experimenting. HeadSpace is the kind of book I enjoy working on. I like playing with time, and playing around with dream-logic rather than real world logic. A lot of my stories are framed in ways that I hope look at romance plots from a slightly different angle, or to dissect moments in a way I haven’t written before.
You’re a prolific writer where do you find your inspiration
The inspiration I go looking for, is from history, mythology, and folk lore. A lot of my stories tend to come from experimenting. I’ll write dozens of first chapters, and find one of them will work, and a story will just grow out of it…
Of all your books do you have a favourite?
It depends how you mean ‘favourite’. The books I write just for my own fun, are the ones about the Bears, because I can just let go, and let the scampering, sticky pawed, teddy bears do whatever seems fun. On the other hand, the book of mine that makes me feel proud, that I can read back and wonder how somebody like me, ever wrote something like that, is What Once Went Wrong. It is a long way from perfect, and it has a lot of wrinkles that I think I managed to iron out, and make right, for the tighter, leaner, more satisfying stories that Roane published, but it has something about it I just got… right.
What Once Went Wrong is a wonderful and emotional read, Tom.
Do you develop characters from your personal experiences and/or draw from that of others?
A little. If we intend to or not, we all look for characters in life. If you sit there and try to write, you give a character dialogue, and that means thinking about how people speak, and there is a bit of your brain, that we don’t even know is there, that is watching how people talk, and listening for the way they twist phrases. I don’t sit down and think “this character is based on a mate”, but I do consider how I have seen different people react to different emotions, and draw from those experiences to try and make characters feel real, and the characters start growing organically.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
A lot of the time characters start with a name plucked from the ether, that is a little bland and dull, but as I get to know the character they begin to feel more like something suitable.
Tell us about the cover for Headspace and how it came about.
It started like as one of my mood sketches. I doodle stuff when I get writer’s block to try and nudge my brain with a little inspiration. So, I doodled a romance story, happening inside a broken mind, and… it worked well, so I tidied it up and toyed around with it a lot on a computer, to use in my promotional work. When the publishers started talking to me about what kind of a cover I wanted, I sent them a few of the doodles, and they liked that one. (It is kind of my favourite. I was aiming for something a bit Saul Bass, and missed, but the result was pretty cool).
Who is your intended audience and why should they read Headspace?
HeadSpace is for anybody who likes a sweet romance. It’s a little different, (hopefully you won’t have read a romance like it), but it’s a guy meets girl story, it’s sweet, it’s dark in places, and it is very… dreamy. It’s a good story for those who like fantasy and fairytale wrapped into their romance.
What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have a wip we could take a sneaky peek at?
I have WIP but it isn’t ready to be shared yet, it’s still a little rough, and still growing and changing as I hear back from the Beta readers, and proofers. The working title is ‘The Stories We Tell’, and it’s about a guy forced to confront the woman who jilted him at the altar, with a literal gun to his head, and rake up all the dirt of her family secrets.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To cherish every moment with those you love, and not take a single second for granted.
How do you spend your free time?
Writing is my free time hobby, it’s how I decompress from my worklife. I also love art, cooking, family, walks, and museums. Above all of these, however, I love to just spend time with my wife.
Tell us about your favourite memory related to reading or writing?
Being accepted for publication in an anthology for the first time. It was a story called Feathers, for an anthology called Hearts Of Valour, and although I had played around with some light hearted and silly romance stories before, and some romantic but not quite romances, it was the first time I had tried to write a real, serious, romance story before, and I had never expected it to be picked up.
Name three things you consider yourself to be good at, and three things you consider yourself to be bad at.
I hope I’m good at my job, good at cooking, and a person people can approach if they want to talk something, anything, through. I don’t know if I’m quite so good at washing up after cooking, dancing, or adulting.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To like junk food less, and exercise more…
If someone gave you a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I have never been to America, and I think I would like to see it some day. Maybe not LA or New York, where everybody wants to holiday, but… a quite corner of New England, or to go ghost hunting in Boston.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Writing is very much a community hobby, and a serious business. I know that HeadSpace would be a far worse book if people like SallyAnn Cole, and Jenn Nixon hadn’t been so supportive when I was writing, of if Terri Rochanski and Sharon Hughson had not offered so much support at Roane. Or if people like you, Rainne, didn’t take the time to write blogs, support writers, and help the readers find books they will love. So, what I would really like to share, as corny as this might sound, is a huge ‘THANK YOU’. And thank you, reader, for sticking with us, and getting this far. I mean, you’re still here! Wow! Thank you!
Thank you for joining us, Tom. Congratulations on your new release, and best wishes for all your future projects. Keep writing awesome books!