JV Hilliard has Created a Masterful World

JV Hillard Master Session Transcript

[00:00:00]Announcer: This is the FutureX Podcast, episode fifteeen. In each episode of the show, we interview a platform designer, author, or publisher. They’ll talk about how to build online communities that are diverse, welcoming, and safe. Now. Here’s your host, Lee Schneider.

[00:00:14] Lee Schneider: This is the FutureX Podcast. I’m Lee Schneider. Let me introduce our next guest the way he introduces himself. Born of steel, fire, and black wind, J. V. Hilliard was raised as a highlander in the foothills of a once great mountain chain on the confluence of the three mighty rivers that forged his realm’s wealth and power for generations.

[00:00:37] His father, a peasant twerg, toiled away in industries of honest labor and instilled in him a work ethic that would shape his destiny. His mother, a local healer, cared for his elders and his warrior uncle, who helped raise him

[00:00:53] JV, welcome to the show. That’s the best introduction I’ve probably ever read

[00:00:59] JV Hillard: It’s a funny story behind it. I was asked one time to come on a podcast with a gentleman who said I get a lot of people asking to be on my podcast. So submit something that is creative and little did he know I’m a fantasy adventure author. So what I did was I sort of just cast myself into my own role as a chronicler of my realm of Warminster.

[00:01:20] And I wrote my bio not knowing I was doing it for permanent purposes. I wrote it just to see if I can get on his podcast. He turned me down because he didn’t think I was serious. And, and I said to him, I was like, you asked for this. You know, but honestly, I use it a lot. And I get, I get people say that to me a lot, that they like it because it’s unique.

[00:01:37] It’s not that, you know, and if you decode that, you can find out that born of steel, fire and black wind means I’m from Pittsburgh and three mighty rivers. And you keep reading through it and it’s pretty good stuff. So I, I try to, you know, it’s, if you had a decoder ring of JV Hilliard, you would know who I was and where I was.

[00:01:54] Lee Schneider: Right. It’s the three, confluence of the three rivers. That’s what, uh, tipped me. I realized, you know, this has an analog in real, the real world. So,

[00:02:03] JV Hillard: Exactly right. Had some fun with it, right?

[00:02:05] Lee Schneider: Yeah, it’s good. So, you mentioned Warmister. Tell us about the Warmister Saga, what it is, where it is and what readers can expect.

[00:02:13] JV Hillard: Yeah sure, so if you’re a fan of either epic fantasy, or sword and sorcery, or even some dark fantasy, you know, it’s probably the series for you. It’s, it’s, it has a lot of Lord of the Rings kind of baked into it, Game of Thrones, if you’re ever, if you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons, or you like Sword of Shannara, this is a series for you.

[00:02:34] Um, and it’s based in the realm of Warminster, so. As you can imagine, I’m not allowed to use Middle Earth or the Westeros, so Warminster is my realm that I’ve created, and I’m a long time, you know, role player. You know, I’ve played Dungeons Dragons and various games like that over the last 20 years, and you know, during that period, many of those campaigns, we had unique creatures, and we created unique worlds, and even our characters have sort of gone off the rails and done some fun things.

[00:03:03] You know, so I’ve baked into my realm much of that, which I’ve built over the years of playing the game. So, if you’re a video gamer, if you’re an RPGer, if you’re a cosplayer, if you like that kind of stuff, you’re gonna like Warminster. And Warminster is, is exactly that. It’s epic fantasy meets dark fantasy, and they come together to create…

[00:03:23] A four book series. Uh, and, and those books, uh, can be found, uh, as you mentioned, pretty much ubiquitously online. If you like downloading audio books and listening to them, or if you like an e book, you’ve got your reader, or if you like the, like you said, analog, you’ve got the whole… The book that you’re sitting down by the fireplace or in bed reading.

[00:03:41] You can find it at every place from my publisher at Dragon Moon Press, all the way down to Amazon, Audible, and points between at your local Barnes and Noble. Uh, you know, things like that. So, uh, but the, but the novels start out, um, you know, in a very epic fantasy kind of way with the introduction of both the, uh, the, the good guys and the bad guys.

[00:04:02] You follow a multi point of view. You know, third person adventure that includes three good guys versus one arch enemy. Um, you know, and there’s a little bit of hero’s journey in there. You get a lot of, uh, forbidden love and some tropes that you find with, uh, what I would describe as sort of like the chosen one versus the false prophet.

[00:04:22] And so, Damus Alaric, who’s my main, main character versus Graytaurus the Mad, who’s the evil villain, you know, come together and duke it out over the four book series.

[00:04:33] Well,

[00:04:33] Lee Schneider: that’s a great introduction for people. And I know that everyone always wants me to ask, where do your ideas come from? But I’m not going to ask that question, because the answer is always either who knows, or

[00:04:44] JV Hillard: ha, ha!

[00:04:45] Lee Schneider: from, you know, the ether, or something, which is a good answer. But I’d like to ask about world building, because what are the rules for the world, for this world that you’ve built over the books?

[00:04:59] JV Hillard: Yeah, so the rules are there are no rules, right? Anytime you make up a sci fi or fantasy novel, you can suspend as much disbelief as you want. You’ve got to base something in reality, right? And so you’ll find things like gravity. And a sun and a moon and or things, but you know, it doesn’t have to be the same everywhere you go and in my world, a lot of it is based in what I would describe as sort of a traditional fantasy realm where things are primarily medieval to renaissance, but I’ve tried to bake into it various parts of our world to make it look familiar.

[00:05:34] So you’ll find some Scandinavian mythos. You’ll find some Native American mythos. You’ll find some Asian mythos all wrapped into one to create this realm and part of that is keeping Not just in your head what’s going on, but also keeping track of these societies that come together to do that. So I’ve created a map.

[00:05:52] I’ve created what I would describe as sort of like a Noble Family tree so that you can take a look at the families because you might lose track of them. Hey, it’s a it’s an epic fantasy and Book One, there’s a lot of new names flying at you, and until you get used to hearing them, this is a way for you to keep track of them.

[00:06:09] I’ve even gone through and, you know, and, and started to, uh, put together for my, the third novel, which is being released this month. Um, you know, I even have what I would describe as sort of a flow chart, uh, for the Cathedral of the Watchful Eye, where both the bad guy and the good guy come from, so you get a sense of the types of positions that are all within this sort of…

[00:06:30] You know, this, this worldwide church of the protector, the divine protectorate of Erud, and so you get a lot of that, and I think that helps people follow along, but it also immerses you in something that’s fantastical, right? It’s something that doesn’t exist. But it’s based in some of those realities, and it allows people to kind of pull you through.

[00:06:50] So, whether you’re Lord of the Rings, and you see a sword and a shield in an elf, or you’re Westeros, and you see a sword and a shield in Jon Snow, you’re gonna find a lot of the same stuff in mine. With a little bit of a twist, I like to put the gothic in my stuff. I like to have my version of what I would describe as the Q, uh, using a James Bond term.

[00:07:09] There’s a city… of inventors that creates the next generation technology and you know, and some of that stuff gets used by the good guys and the bad guys in very important times during the series and things like that. So I, I, it has to be unique and you know, the way that I’ve done it is I’ve, I’ve borrowed from the best, you know, and there are things out there that anybody can use like an elf, you know, and stuff like that.

[00:07:32] And I put my own twist on them, but you’ll see that all of my monsters are unique. You’ll see most of my characters are, are pretty unique, uh, and, and I hope folks like that.

[00:07:41] Lee Schneider: Well, you said the rules are, there are no rules, but I bet there’s consistency. There, you can’t pull out a sword and then it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, I imagine. I also heard you talk about a flowchart. Do you find that the visualization of things helps you?

[00:08:01] JV Hillard: It sure does. You know, I am, there are two types of writers. You know, there is the pantser, the Stephen King style, which they write by the seat of their pants. And whatever they’re writing, just flow, they can sit down and write and they just, it comes out. I’m the absolute opposite of that. I am a plotter or a planner.

[00:08:21] And for me, You know, I reverse engineer my stories. I write the end, and then I go back to the beginning, and then I fill in the middle. Uh, and that’s a little bit different than, than folks might be used to, and maybe that’s my left handedness in me, or whatever, I don’t know. Uh, but that’s the way I, I see things, and therefore I don’t miss putting things in a very…

[00:08:39] You know, when you’re writing epic fantasy, there’s a lot of details, and some of which are… They’re just there to character build or world build, and they’re just there to make it unique, and it doesn’t necessarily mean something super epic has to come from it, it just has to be something that makes you feel like, oh, he’s thought about that detail, like he has a different name for a copper coin, he doesn’t call it just gold, or, you know, a credit, if you’re writing, you know, sci fi, fantasy, it’s, you know, he’s, he’s, he’s thought through these things through, and they’re called laurels, and palmettes, and, yeah, and things like that, and, and so all those details go into it, and without that flow chart, you know, without that big board that I call it in my, in my, my den, I would, I’d get lost and that way I keep everything regimented and I’m not, I even do that when I go back and edit to make sure that if I use a word coin or I use the word gold or if I, I use something that’s just too generic, I try to go in and put my own little spin on it.

[00:09:31] Lee Schneider: That’s cool, yeah. It’s really about a trust factor with the reader, right? There’s a point where the reader has to kind of relax and go, Okay, this author has got me. This is going to be okay. Sure, they’re coming up with all these crazy names for things, and sure, maybe even physics don’t work the same way, but at least I can trust it.

[00:09:54] And I think that’s what makes people turn the pages, but also makes them pick up the next book in the series.

[00:10:00] JV Hillard: yeah. I think you just hit the nail on the head. I mean, there’s got to be enough reality that they can suspend the rest of the disbelief that they have. to kind of follow along, right? So you, you have a situation where folks are already throwing themselves into a fantasy world. So they’re ready to do that.

[00:10:16] They’re ready to release, you know, these mortal coils that we have in our world to enter into the realm of warm and stir or Westeros or wherever they, Shannara, wherever they want to go, you know, they can do that. Uh, and so they’re, they’re, they’re prepared to do that. And my kind of reader wants to do that.

[00:10:33] So all I’m doing is just baiting them in and biting, you know, here, here’s a little bit, here’s a, here’s some bait. Here’s a little bit of tidbit here, something that you’ll like. And then oftentimes I’ve got to be honest. I hear a lot about that at conventions and book signings and people that like it, or people that want more of it, or people, you know, tell you, you know, how they, Appreciate the effort of detail that you put into something as part of that, even though they, you know, sometimes they might have to go back and look and see what it means, they’re willing to do, they’ll, they’ll go to a glossary somewhere, you know, and check it out.

[00:11:02] So I’m doing that, too.

[00:11:04] Lee Schneider: Yeah. Yeah, you talked about feedback. So what kind of response has the series gotten in the fantasy community?

[00:11:11] JV Hillard: It’s, you know, it’s more than I expected. Uh, at first, you know, I wrote this thing. and I am out there in a sea of other books to many respects, but, um, what it really comes down to is, is, People that have read it have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the point where I’ve optioned the intellectual property of the novel to a virtual reality augmented reality company that’s going to be making a video game out of it in 24 and 25 and I’m in the process now of transitioning this, uh, into a graphic novel, a lot of the feedback that I’ve got is, you know, your descriptions are really rich and, and I want to, I want to see this, not just read it, uh, and even though it’s years from anybody even remotely considering it for a big screen, um, you know, I think a graphic novel or a video game will help that, that, that effort.

[00:12:07] And so I’ve, I’ve gotten some really good positive feedback on it. A lot of, uh, of folks that are gamers or RPGers, uh, like it. Cause when they cast themselves into the battles, they can feel the game around them. You know, and, and that it’s not lit RPG in the way that, um, you know, some, you know, uh, authors and novelists do.

[00:12:26] This is. You know, really, I think, you know, the battle scenes harken back to, you know, gamers, you know, they’ll really kind of get it from that, those, that single shooter point of view. Uh, but I also think that, um, you know, that, you know, folks like it because it’s different. Like, I haven’t, I haven’t done the same tropes everywhere.

[00:12:45] Sure, there’s spellcasting and stuff like that, but I’ve created my own pantheon of gods and, you know, and I, you know, the feedback that you get. It’s humbling, right? A lot of times people will tell you not only what they like, but what they don’t like. Uh, and sometimes it’s funny. There’s a comic relief to it where folks come up and say, Please don’t kill this character.

[00:13:02] You know, I like this character. And meanwhile, you already know they’re dead. You know, they just haven’t read that far. You know, you’re like, Oh, well, you might come back to me at the next convention and let me have it a little bit. But, um, you know, I, I think that, you know, when someone comes to you that you don’t know and they, they hand you a, you know, a piece of fan art that they’ve done.

[00:13:20] You know, I try to put that stuff up on my website and use it to show social media and thank people, uh, for that. And, you know, I even had one guy at my last convention in Richmond come up and he made a baseball card out of me. He has a collection of baseball cards that he has of his favorite authors and he gets them to sign at conventions they go to.

[00:13:37] And he brought, I didn’t even know what he was doing, he was handing me this card. I was like, I just thought it was cool. I was like, oh, that’s a really neat idea. And he liked my stuff so much. I autographed it for him and stamped it with my logo on the back and that kind of stuff really is, like I said, it’s humbling.

[00:13:51] It is what you hoped would happen when you wrote, you know, and it’s, it entertains people. So, you know, I, you know, I, I’m always open to constructive criticism, whether I read them in people’s reviews that they leave for me online or they’re courageous enough to come up to me, to tell me to my face, good, bad, or ugly.

[00:14:08] Uh, and I, and I tried to, uh, you know, I, I try to res respect that and, and, and learn from that constructive criticism from time to time.

[00:14:16] Lee Schneider: I’m curious about extending your work into graphics novels and video games. Not only how that works, but how it got started. Did you wake up one morning and say, I need more merch, I need more IP, or was it they approached you? How does that begin?

[00:14:32] JV Hillard: So it began exactly that way. It was, I got approached, there was a, the CEO of the company read my stuff and he was a fan and said, would you consider being one of our first games in the door? And, you know, I didn’t know anything about it. And the process started from there. We got together, we talked about it.

[00:14:49] We sat down with my IP attorney and hacked out a, you know, a revenue model that worked for both sides, and then I started into it. Now, I’m not a technologist by any stretch, so my, my input is limited except for setting the confines of what the realm really is, within the game, and giving him details on character backgrounds that he’s used to promote the game as they’re getting early adopters and playtesters for it and things like that and you know, I’m basically a storyboarder, you know It’s like I’m there to tell them this is how this would go and you know Help them in and their team for their To their credit has read through it, they get it, they ask questions.

[00:15:25] They never do anything without my approval. And it’s just been a lot of fun. On the graphic novel side, it came from one of the Discord groups that the video game company had set up. Uh, they, there was a gentleman who was working on graphics for them that says, I also do graphics for graphic novels, you know, and he started showing me some of the fan art that he was just drawing ’cause he was trying to design

[00:15:49] the graphics for the game. And he’s like, what do you think of these? And then that became the concept of going out and finding a publisher who would publish a graphic novel. And they’re interested in doing that if you have enough of a fan base, you know, and so one came to me, the other. I went to find them because I think for any artist you want to be in as many media as you can and and the medium of books or ebooks or graphic novels or video games or movies or whatever that helps get your product out there and I look at because I’m a very entrepreneurial person I look at this as I am my brand and my books are my product and now I’ve got additional product to sell as you mentioned more merch in this case Here’s a video game, you know, or here’s a a graphic novel for an adaptation for those adults like this guy right here that still read comic books.

[00:16:42] We don’t call them comic books anymore. We call them graphic novels as an adult but Still the same thing, right?

[00:16:49] Lee Schneider: Right. It’s interesting to me that you’re not seeing it as a dilution or You’re not being a purist about it. It’s okay to extend and build out and have more folks, in some ways, inviting more points of view, inviting more creative people in to the vision.

[00:17:10] JV Hillard: Well, two minds are better than one right and 20 minds are better than two You always have to be the captain of the ship if it’s your intellectual property, uh, but I also know what I don’t know. And I could never create a video game for myself, and that’s an additional revenue stream. And potentially, folks that’ll play the video game might want to buy the books.

[00:17:29] Or folks that are reading the comic / graphic novel might also want to buy the books or play the video game. And so it’s just another way of, of, you know, getting the story into as many hands as possible. And in some cases, what I’ve learned in the graphic novel stuff is that, you know, I can take two pages explaining something that’s going on in a graphic novel,

[00:17:51] you’ve got one square of three or four squares on a page and it’s got to say exactly that so they’re taking my verbose nature and you know, and they’re putting it –bam– on on one square. And that’s tough, you know, um the video game stuff in my head I see things and on the screen you see something and you’re like that’s not it. But that’s good enough, right?

[00:18:13] It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be something that’s, you know, that you can explain or make sense. And like you said, it’s like you’re inviting other people in to help you. And I don’t look at it as change or threatening in any way. I look at it as more helping it get into another medium so other people can enjoy it.

[00:18:30] That might not pick up, you know, a 500 page novel, but they’ll jump on their phone and open up an app and go to the video game. You know, that’s good enough for me.

[00:18:40] Lee Schneider: It’s interesting that people are going to come at this from different directions. Like you said, not everybody is a 500 page novel reader. But it’s kind of cool that they could experience it in a different format. And maybe they will read the novel, or maybe they won’t. Is it okay with you that, aside from the money and the fun and the notoriety, is it okay with you that they might just consume some other type of media and never come to the books?

[00:19:05] JV Hillard: Yeah, I’m okay with that. You know, it’s, it’s a good story, right? And it’s, and I’m not like, you, you used the term purist before. I think that’s a really good term because what I found out in helping to build a video game and what I’m finding out and helping to put together this graphic novel is that it’s never going to be the same.

[00:19:25] Like, there’s things that they can do within the confines of a video game that I’m never going to be able to do in the confines of a novel, and vice versa, right? So it’s, you know, I don’t look at it as a dilution as much as I look at it as a building. You know, this is another way that you can experience the realm of Warminster, um, and I think that’s just as good.

[00:19:43] The story is still there. The basics of it. You might not get, you know, my… You know, Hawthorne -ian description of some of the characters, or, or, you may not be as immersed in it as you were reading it, but, you know, like, I’ll give you a perfect example. My wife doesn’t read. She listens to audio books. You know, her life doesn’t allow her, you with kids and, and work and, and travel and all that kind of stuff that happens, you know, that’s the way she consumes my books.

[00:20:10] And if I didn’t have an audio book for her, she wouldn’t even know what was happening. And my, my voice actor is well-known in the, in the fantasy realm. He, he’s done plenty of books for that and has a sort of his own gravity to it. And when I read my book, I’m, I hear his voice now. You know what I mean?

[00:20:29] And so these things converge, and I think that’s, that’s all good. And it’s okay for people to, you know, like different characters or like different forms of it. I just want to make it available as much as I can.

[00:20:40] Lee Schneider: Now, in our briefing, you told me that the series is ending in December 2023. How, how does all this fit into it and what’s happening next?

[00:20:48] JV Hillard: sure. So, you know, book three comes out this month, uh, and the last book, The Echoes of Ghostwood, will come out right before the holidays of this year, 2023. Uh, beyond that, there’s a couple of things that are in play. I’ve got a couple of shorter novellas that I’m working on currently that, I’ve kind of taken inspiration from those I’ve met along my, you know, my book signings, um, where they tell me what characters they like and what they want to learn more about.

[00:21:14] And so these novellas are going to buy me time between this and the next series, um, to introduce the origin stories of some of the more popular characters, right? So this, they’re not going to be 500 page stories. They might be 180 page stories or, you know, something like that, where they’re small stories that give Sort of like a peek behind the curtain to a character that is popular and people might want to buy that book, right?

[00:21:37] And, you know, it’s something that’ll be easily digestible. It’s stuff that I’ll have done in, in, sort of like the hopper. So that the minute this goes in the new year, I’ll be launching a couple of those and that’ll buy me time to get through what I need to get through to get to the next series of what I think is going to be three books.

[00:21:53] Might again be four or five, we don’t know at this point, but I’ve got the, I’ve got the crux of the story, like I know how it continues, but we’ll see what that looks like when I get there, but for now, this is a way of keeping Um, elements of the story fresh, keeping readers engaged, looking for the next thing that’s available, something that I can get out that’s easily digestible, and we’ll get people talking, which will also allude to the conclusions that are going to happen in the next series that they didn’t get, uh, from, from this series, which I, I think that’s, that’s important.

[00:22:27] Then they’ll know the background story, um, and be able to take that into what they’re going to be reading and understand that better, uh, and I think that what that encourages is that cross pollinization of product.

[00:22:38] Lee Schneider: Well, that’s an ingenious idea, and makes me also curious about building an online community, connecting with people online. Is it a gaping maw to be filled and therefore terrifying? Or is it just something that you do? What’s your emotional response to being present online? Do you feel you always have to be there?

[00:23:04] Or there can be gaps? Or where does it land with you?

[00:23:07] JV Hillard: Yeah, you know, that’s that’s the the answer to your question is both yes and no. It is a gaping maw. This is giant, hideous black hole that could never be filled. But if you’re not there, your apps, you’re conspicuous in your absence, right? You know, in order to be successful in our business, especially those that are not with the top, you know, the big four, big five publishing houses, and that’s everybody except for just a select few.

[00:23:35] Um, we all have to, we’re competing for that same real estate, right? And so, whether you’re an indie author who’s just throwing your product out into the sea of Amazon. Or you’re someone like me that’s working with a small, niche publisher. Uh, I mentioned the name Dragon Moon Press before. If you can’t tell what she publishes by the name, uh, then you’re not paying attention.

[00:23:58] But that kind of stuff, it allows me to not just build those communities. It allows me to build a newsletter list. It allows me to stay in touch with my readers. It allows them to tell me what they like and what they don’t like. What they want to see more of. And that informs me when I’m writing the next novels.

[00:24:12] And I’m not arrogant enough. To not want to give them what they want to see, right? So, like, even though I might want to know this end of the story is the way that I see it, when 20 other people are telling me, no, no, no, we want to see the end, then you don’t have what happened at the end of Game of Thrones on HBO, where everybody was cheering for Daenerys, and I’m not going to spoil it, but it didn’t work out like most of us wanted it to work out, and then you leave with a sour taste in your mouth.

[00:24:37] You know, this is entertainment. I want people to walk away being entertained and if it’s okay if they have a good ending or it’s okay if, if not everything happened that they wanted to have happen, but at least they know that they can get a hold of me. So whether it’s DMing me or, you know, uh, you know, finding me on my Discord channel or, uh, you know, just, you know, sending me notes through my website, whatever, I want to be present so that when people do reach out, I’m listening to them.

[00:25:03] They feel like they had a chance to connect with me. I’m not just some. You know, crazy artist that’s living in his basement and comes out just to feed himself once a week, you know Like that’s not what i’m doing. Like i’m i’m here talk to me What do you want to see and i’ll see what I can do to make it happen Uh, and I think that you know Not everybody thinks that way and I and I get that i’m not saying my way is right but The tools that social media brings us are free, save for the time value of money that we, you know, like me putting in time.

[00:25:34] Sure. There’s value in that. I get that, but I’m getting the value back out. People know who I am. They follow me. They like my stuff. They buy my stuff. They contact me and that’s what you want and I can’t if I were at one of the larger publishing houses I might not need it as much and frankly that would probably be taken out of my hands and put in the hands of professionals to do You know and and let them kind of kind of run with it because they know what they’re doing.

[00:25:58] I’m not that Yeah, I might never be that. So for me to be successful in this, this mid marketplace, I’ve got to use every tool that’s at my disposal. And to do that, um, you know, I use social media, among other things, like going to book signings, libraries, conventions, speeches, book clubs, you name it.

[00:26:18] Just I hit it all. You just can’t be shy with that kind of stuff.

[00:26:21] Lee Schneider: What’s your favorite part of being an author?

[00:26:23] JV Hillard: Uh, you know, my favorite part is when someone comes up to you and tells you what they like about the book. You know, as, as stupid as it sounds, if you’d have asked me that two years ago, I would have said finishing the first novel. Now it’s like, this is what I do. It’s, it’s no longer, this was, you know, this thing I kicked off my bucket list.

[00:26:40] Now that I’m living it. And when you get someone coming up to you, asking you, like, like I, I was at the GalaxyCon in Richmond a couple of months ago, and just being able to be part of the. The classes that they had for first time authors and or a judge for their creatives and things like that. You feel like you’re part of a community that cares.

[00:27:03] These people spend their time to come and see you in some cases their money to come and see you and then want to tell you what they thought about your stuff. And it That’s it– it’s strange is that humility is for you. Like when you find out that people really like it and they’re waiting for like, when’s the next one coming out?

[00:27:20] I can’t believe you did that. Tell me how I can’t. You got to tell me how this ends or, you know, that kind of stuff or they want to vote on, you know, colors for coats of arms and it’s just, it’s just really cool. That is, that part is my favorite because then it, that energizes me and it’s like, I want to write more.

[00:27:36] I got to get out there more, more people want this. I have to do this for them so they can continue on in the story. And so that, I think that’s the most rewarding part. And the part I like the most is that contact with readers.

[00:27:48] Lee Schneider: That sounds great. Very rewarding. So what’s your least favorite part?

[00:27:52] JV Hillard: Editing. And I, and I’m going to tell you right now, if any author is being truthful with you, that is the worst part of this job. And part of it is it slows the pace. Right? There’s a pit. When you get into a groove, at least I get into a groove when I’m writing, you know, you’re just hoping that the thing you hand to your editors is almost done.

[00:28:15] You know, like when they’re going to send back, and they’re going to send back this really good, and it’s never that way. You know, like my first drafts have 1100 mistakes in them, and that’s no exaggeration. You know, and you go back, and you have to You know, fine tune and hone and make perfect. Uh, and there are things in there that you miss because you’re too close to it or It’s happened in your head, but hasn’t happened in the novel yet.

[00:28:36] And you’re like, Oh, there’s an entire gap of a chapter. I’ve got to write or rewrite. And, you know, authors call it killing their darlings. You know, there are things that you have to cut that hit, hit the, you know, hit the film room floor that you love that will never see the light of day. And you have to listen to your editors.

[00:28:54] You have to listen to your beta readers. You’ve got to listen to your publishers. They’re telling you what you like. It’s almost like. You get into a sneak preview of a movie, and they’re showing you one of three endings, and you’re telling them which one you like the most. Right? That’s the thing that’s going on there.

[00:29:08] Your beta readers get your books, and they’re like, I don’t understand this, or, what does this mean? And, you know, I, there’s something missing here. When you hear that enough, you’re like, alright. And it’s just tough because then you got to go back and cut stuff and add stuff and reread. And it’s just, it’s the process of it is just demoralizing.

[00:29:25] Cause you realize how, how great you think it was when you hand it to somebody. And then by the time they hand it back, you’re like, what? Like I had that many errors and most of the time they’re right.

[00:29:36] Lee Schneider: What I find so often is what you call continuity in a movie. I’ll have someone put a glass of water on the table and then realize in the chapter before I had them sell the table. And there is no table. Or, or, you know, I can’t remember what color, I said their eyes were green, right?

[00:29:55] You know, all those kind of things. And that’s where, uh, charts and graphs and notes and things like that just to keep the continuity going is hard. How do you find beta readers?

[00:30:06] JV Hillard: I think beta readers are in, to most, to the most part, well intended. They try to uh, help as much as they can. Uh, and in many instances, I’m a beta reader back for them. And that way it’s authors helping other authors.

[00:30:18] Uh, and they know the space. And what I mean by that is if I handed my book She’s going to say it’s the greatest thing she’s ever read. Right? That’s not what I need. I need someone that understands fantasy adventure, sword and sorcery, epic fantasy, dark fantasy, and they understand the nuance, the differences, so that they can say, I don’t get this.

[00:30:38] Um, or this is missing, or I’d like to see this, or we enjoy that. And then you know what more to put in. Uh, and. I think that that helps or frankly what more to take out. Um, you know, and I think that they’re extraordinarily helpful. Um, and you know, I, I would not want to launch a new book without it going out to a handful of trusted people that understand the marketplace that are going to say, wow, this really fits into something, or it’s not anachronistic.

[00:31:08] Like you’re writing a book for the eighties, right? But we don’t want that. This has got to be something that’s, contemporary. And so you, you know, and you’ll find that you may, I could name a couple of places where that’s happened to me where you’re just like, Oh yeah, that’s right. Or you reference something that’s a real life event.

[00:31:24] That you can’t reference because it didn’t happen in your fantasy world. You know, that, you know, and you’re like, aha, you know, and maybe an editor might pass that over, uh, because they’re not used to editing, or they edit multiple genre where that beta reader is going to say, this doesn’t make sense because this doesn’t exist in this world.

[00:31:41] Lee Schneider: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now, do you reach out to these people? How do you locate them?

[00:31:46] JV Hillard: Yeah, in most instances, I’ve found them on social media. That tool I talked about before, right? You know, you got folks out there, they’ll, they’ll reach out and say, I’m looking for beta readers, or I’m willing to be a beta reader, or my publisher has had a host of beta readers that have, that like the idea that they are getting an advanced reader copy and they, they’re influencing the outcome of a final product, uh, as part of that.

[00:32:09] There’s people out there just like to read and they’re good at it and they know what good stories are. Uh, and so you find them there. Um, and, uh, you know, for me too, I had a sort of a built in group of the perfect kind of beta readers for me. I ended up taking a, like a, uh, class at a community college about how to write my first novel and no one in my class wrote fantasy.

[00:32:30] And, you know, they were like memoirists and romance authors and horror novelists and things like that, and I was the only one. And so whenever they were reading it on a weekly basis, my updates, and they were grading me on it, um, There were things in there that they caught that, you know, fantasy readers might not have caught.

[00:32:48] You know, so by way of example, I use the term, witch’s familiar. And, you know, for me, in a fantasy world, everybody knows that’s a black cat, or a bat, or some rat that they can see through. Things like that. No one in the class knew what a witch’s familiar was. If I would have given it only to people that had read fantasy, they would have glazed right over it.

[00:33:06] So I had to stop and it allowed me to go back and just add one sentence to explain what that creature was. And that terminology meant for those that might be reading their first fantasy novel. And it’s that kind of stuff that I think is important too. So, even though I think the folks that are in your genre make the best beta readers.

[00:33:24] I share it with other people that, you know, let’s face it, make iron sharpens iron, right? You know, and you gotta, you know, other authors that are out there hustling and I’m doing the same thing to their stuff where I don’t understand why they say things in their romance novels. And they laugh at me because it’s, it’s part of the romance fixture.

[00:33:40] And I didn’t know, you know, but it’s like I’m helping them in the same way they’re helping me. And that’s why I find it very important.

[00:33:46] Lee Schneider: That’s smart. I like that. So, what should we leave people with? We’re coming to the end of our time. Is there anything you’d like to add here that we could have folks remember when they think back to this

[00:33:57] JV Hillard: Yeah. So I find that a lot of people, um, that read my stuff also want to write my stuff. You know, they want to be writers. And I would say to any aspiring first time author, because I used to be you, and I was just, just you, just a few short years ago, three things that I would offer to them. First is always be open to constructive criticism.

[00:34:18] No matter what you think, um, some people are going to have better ideas than you. Or they’re going to point something out and you’re going to say, well, you know what? Maybe I should have done it that way. So even though it might sting that one moment of sting, it’s not getting a shot. It’s going to heal you.

[00:34:32] It’s going to do something better for you. So suck it up, grow a thick skin, listen to constructive criticism. Secondly, write every day. Uh, make it muscle memory. And what I mean by that is you don’t have to write a chapter a day, a story a day. It it could be outlining your future project, right?

[00:34:47] Like go and, you know, and, and, and tweak something and make that work, you know? And I think that it’s that consistency, uh, that allows you to get up every morning and write something new. And without that, you feel like the days I don’t write, I feel like I’m missing it. Like I, I didn’t. Like I missed going to the gym, right?

[00:35:03] Like there’s something there that like, ah, yeah, like I did something wrong today, you know, and then, you know, lastly, um, you know, I would say use every tool and you mentioned this a little earlier in your questioning, use every tool that you can at your disposal to promote your work. So if you’re the kind of person that just looks at it as art and you care that.

[00:35:21] You don’t care that only 40 people read it, then that’s fine. If not, look at it and really bear down into it. Lean into social media because it’s free. Lean into anything that you can get that’s free, that’s going to expand your network, provide you with opportunities. And I look at it as, you know, having my own business, right?

[00:35:40] I am an entrepreneur of my product, right? And here’s my product, go and buy it and consume it. And so those are the three things I would leave any future aspiring author, uh, to, to, uh, as a piece of advice,

[00:35:53] Lee Schneider: Excellent advice. Thank you. J. V., thanks so much for being on the show today. This was a lot of

[00:35:58] fun.

[00:35:58] JV Hillard: it was my pleasure. So this 45 minutes flew by. So I really, really appreciate it.

[00:36:04] Lee Schneider: That’s it for today’s episode of the FutureX Podcast. Listen to all our episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, Google, or anywhere fine podcasts appear in your feed. For more info about FutureX, visit FutureX dot Studio.

Creators and Guests

JV Hilliard has Created a Masterful World
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