by John Hartness
“So . . . what do you do for a living?”
That’s how the conversation usually starts, and who knows where it’s going to head from there. I’ve had a lot of these conversations in the past few weeks, because I’m acting in a community theatre production of John Ball’s In the Heat of the Night. You might have heard of a little movie by the same name? Came out a few years ago, like 1967. Had this handsome African-American guy in the lead, name of Poitier? Yeah, that’s the story. Well, there’s a stage version. And I’m in the local production, playing several small characters over the course of the evening.
This week we’re in technical rehearsals, where everyone is working to get all the costume, lighting and sound issues worked out before we open. This means that the actors have a little more time to sit around than we’ve had for the past few weeks, and we finally get around to asking those “getting to know you” questions.
The problem is, my answer takes too long. Because I’m a writer. And since I’m not J. K. Rowling, James Patterson, Stephen King or a handful of others, that means I’m also half a dozen other things to make ends meet, get my creative fix, get my brand out there, keep myself busy, etc. etc. etc. as Yul Brynner would say.
Yes, there will be a lot of theatre references in this blog post. Put on your Wicked soundtrack and enjoy. You have been warned.
So yes, I am a writer. When people ask me how long have I written, I respond that I learned at about age six, but I was a slow learner. My professional writing career took a lot of twists and turns, a fair number of stops and starts, but began in earnest (and it’s important to be earnest, after all) in 2005 when I started my first blog. I blogged about poker, and life, and politics, and posted some short fiction through 2007, when I started writing news articles for the online gaming industry.
Don’t laugh, the pay was great.
Don’t get any ideas, Deb!
So I tell people that I sat down to write the Great American Novel, and accomplished two-thirds of the task. I wrote a novel, and I am American. That book was The Chosen, which I went on to self-publish in 2010.
And sold nine copies in the first month.
News flash – I didn’t quit my day job.
Or my night job.
But I kept at it, and I published a bunch more stuff, caught the discerning eye of Deb Dixon at Bell Bridge Books (I catch a lot of eyes, because I’m usually the biggest guy in the room, and I look like the bouncer), and sold her my Black Knight Chronicles urban fantasy series.
Then I quit my day job.
Yes, I’m impulsive.
And quite likely insane.
But never boring!
Anyway, back to a more traditional narrative and paragraphical format (is paragraphical a word? It is now!). So I sold the Black Knight Chronicles to Bell Bridge and kept self-publishing my Bubba the Monster Hunter short stories. Think Larry the Cable Guy meets Harry Dresden. Yeah, makes my brain hurt, too. And I write ‘em.
But I realized fairly early on that I would have to branch out if I was going to survive as a writer. So I started writing nonfiction again. I have twenty-plus years of experience in the entertainment lighting industry, so I’ve written a few articles for the trade magazines there. My panels and workshops at conventions are always well-received, so I’ve started teaching classes at Carolina Learning Connection here in Charlotte. I’ll be teaching novel writing in January, so come on out and say hello!
I also realized that just writing my blog wouldn’t be enough to get people’s eyeballs on my work, so I developed a YouTube show. I talk to writers about their three favorite things: themselves, their books, and alcohol. The show is called Literate Liquors, and we’ve had guests on there ranging from David B. Coe and Faith Hunter to Richard Kadrey and Brandon Sanderson. It’s a lot of fun, even if you sometimes get an author like Sanderson, who doesn’t drink (yes, they exist!).
So . . . Hi! I’m John G. Hartness, and I’m a writer. And I’m a lighting designer. And an actor. And a blogger. And a YouTube host. And a self-publisher. And a teacher. And a director. And an eBay junkie. And a Magic: the Gathering addict. And whatever else I need to be to keep rolling between the ditches. Because the writer’s life is crazy, sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes terrifying. But it’s mine. And I’m gonna enjoy the ride. Come on, get in. Plenty of room in the passenger seat. See y’all down the road.
John G. Hartness is certifiable, but a lot of fun to party with. He is the author of The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books and the creator of the Bubba the Monster Hunter short stories. He can be found at www.johnhartness.com and @johnhartness on twitter. He will be your friend forever if you bring the beer and fried pickles.