Wisdom And Experience
Will Burn the Dark Author, S.A. Hunt like being labeled…. well basically Yoda? Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m going there. Well, once you get past the first question ;). Especially since when you take this interview and the last with King’s Questioner author, Nikki Katz, I’m turning into Kim Kardashian, which is utter non-sense 😉. I just like to make these interviews unique. I’m innocent. I swears it!
I also keep wanting to type S. A. Haunt…. and I think, after reading Burn the Dark. It is Freudian. Completely.
However, Hunt is about to unleash a the first installment of a horror trilogy that while nailing all playing fields of the trauma (see the hallucinating of pimple exploding waxy flies to the killing serpents and witch hunters), also embeds an underlying thread of thoughtfulness and connection with the characters and plot lines (but you can go see my review for more of that). I couldn’t help but ask to dive more into where some of this might have come from and thankfully, she was more than willing to discuss it.
- I have read some places where you have discussed the struggles of being an indie author. However, now you have Tor/Macmillian backing you. Over the past 5 years or so, how do you think things have changed (for better or worse) for those that are on indie labels or are self-published?
Honestly I don’t know if I can say much. I’ve been out of the game for a couple years now, focusing on day jobs and working with Tor to edit the Malus books, so I haven’t had much of a front row seat to the indie thing. From what I can see on social media, though, it seems to be flourishing.
2. What would you say about being on both sides of the coin (off and on a major label)?
I used to champion for self-publishing, but now that I’ve had a couple years dealing with traditional publishing, I have to say, keep querying with agents.
Yeah, you have a lot more creative control in self-pub, but it’s going to be expensive and difficult, especially if you don’t have any background in marketing. Self-publishing is literally starting your own business, just like opening your own food truck, or starting your own landscaping service. If you have the connections and the capital, go for it—but for the rest of us, it’s going to be hard to gain traction without the resources that a publisher has: cover artists, an army of editors, publicists.
But what self-publishing definitely is not is a last resort. Don’t plop your book up on Amazon because you couldn’t hook an agent. You just haven’t found the right one yet. You think a handful of rejections in your inbox are bad? Try being rejected by the millions of people of Amazon’s book-buying public. Dead sales figures and one-star reviews.
Keep querying, keep chasing. Don’t give up. I’ve gotten upwards of 200 rejections. You never know; the day you give up might be the day before you would have gotten your big break. I didn’t even find my agent through cold-querying; I found him on Twitter.
3. I read quite a bit about your time in Afghanistan. My father fought in the Tet Offensive and Hamburger Hill. He was a paratrooper. He was heavily decorated and never the same (from what I was told). Can you talk more about this:
“Regret. Regret of things not accomplished is not an emotion you want when you’re staring death in the face. Unfinished business, that’s what all the ghosts are into, aren’t they? If I’m going to be a ghost, I want to be the kind with a full resume.”
That is an incredible analogy.
I see you’ve been reading my blog. Well, my deployment to Afghanistan was the spark that lit my fuse and started me on this path. There were some nights, sitting in the dark and listening to Taliban rockets blow up my camp, where I wished I’d written those books I’d always wanted to write.
If I’m going to die, I want to die an old fart who’s lived a full life and done everything I wanted to do. I want to show up to the afterlife and hear the ferryman say, “It’s about time. You done now?”
4. How did those experiences directly contribute (if it did) to creating the veteran in Burn The Dark and his perspective?
I certainly know more about modern weapons, military life, and combat than your average fantasy author. I learned a lot about how it feels to come home changed by war, and to feel like you don’t fit in in this world anymore. “A wolf in a land of dogs,” Robin says in Burn, and I touch on this a little bit in my other series, Outlaw King. The protagonist there is also a veteran, and when he travels to the brutal, lawless fantasy world in the books, he goes through some rough adventures, returns to Earth and suddenly feels like he’s on the wrong planet—like he’s a ghost, a stranger, a spectator in our society. Now he’s a character in that other story, not this one, the real one that we’re in.
5. <Long question shortened for the sake of everyone’s sanity> As a big fan of Stephen King who has written a tip of the hat to The Dark Tower Series, you are also a huge fan of Dean Koontz. What is your favorite work by Koontz? How has his work impacted yours and what contemporary authors you are currently reading?
Back in 2003, my family’s house burned down, which left me homeless. I moved into a little apartment in the next town over, Summerville, set up in a building that had decades ago been the town high school. “This used to be my math class,” my mother told me as she helped me move in.
Good memories of those days—never really ever saw my neighbors, except for the night of the earthquake, and it was right up the hill from the park and the town’s only hamburger stand, which had phenomenal onion rings. My first all-mine apartment, and I broke it in with every one of Koontz’s books I could get my grubby paws on. It was a tiny two-room apartment with a living room like a hallway, narrow and high-ceilinged, with a kitchenette and an unexpectedly spacious bathroom.
In the evenings after work, I’d sit in the bedroom doorway, leaning against the door jamb and grazing from a box of Cheez-Its, and read by the light of the stove hood, catching up on the Dean Koontz novels I’d never gotten to: Fear Nothing, Seize The Night, Odd Thomas, Phantoms, Watchers, Strangers, The Bad Place, Intensity, One Door Away From Heaven.
Maybe my favorite was The Taking, easily the creepiest thing he’s ever written.
If Burn The Dark has a pedigree, it’s Koontz’s mid-career work. I mean, you can’t top a villain that has four testicles and no dick.
Honestly it’s hard these days for me to find a book that really jumps off the shelf and grabs me. I can suggest Christopher Ruz’s “Century of Sand” series if you like Australian-inspired sword-and-sorcery fantasy, gruff loner protagonists, and queer characters, starting with The Ragged Blade. David Wong’s “John Dies in the End” series is another one of Burn’s inspirations, as is Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians” books.
6) What is up next for you?
In the meantime I’m working on the next Outlaw King book, a scifi story about a cyborg woman in a nuclear winter, and a haunted-house story inspired by Cold War propaganda.
I’m hoping Tor buys more Malus books so I can keep writing them—I have some great ideas for future installments.
Salem Abigail Hunt is the Georgia-born author of the Amazon Top 10 Horror Malus Domestica series, and the Outlaw King fantasy series, winner of Reddit.com’s /r/Fantasy “Independent Novel of the Year” 2014 Stabby Award. They are also a “Mentor of Poetry, Prose, & Performance” with the National Creative Society.
In 2005 they joined the Army and became garrison-support Military Police, and in 2010 they went back to military school to become a Transportation Coordinator so they could deploy to Afghanistan. Stationed in Camp Herat, Arena, Salem was promoted to Specialist and placed in a Lieutenant position in a joint Italian-Spanish command room, where they coordinated and recorded hundreds of convoys and outreach missions into far-flung parts of RC West, the western quadrant of the Afghanistan theater. They were awarded a Joint Services Achievement Medal for their efforts.
Salem is a non-binary individual, meaning they consider themselves to have a nature that is simultaneously male and female. They accept any pronoun – he/him, they/them, she/her.
They currently live in Petoskey, Michigan.