I received an email from Nicky at Uniquely Books, wanting to introduce me to a new to me internationally acclaimed author J.M. Hoffman. And instantly, I wanted to share with all of you. So today, we get the chance to welcome and visit with Mr. Hoffman, here at CMash Reads.
J. M. HOFFMAN
Acclaimed as a “master raconteur” who writes with a “flair”(Times Literary Supplement of London), Hoffman has authored two non-fiction books and contributed to over a dozen others.
The Warwick Files is his debut work of fiction.
In addition to traveling the world lecturing about his books, Hoffman has also directed a dance troupe, taught darkroom technique, and explored Patagonia on horseback.
My 2010 non-fiction book “took me five months and fifteen years to write,” as I explain in the Introduction: “five months of actual writing,” and fifteen years of research.
How long, then, did it take me to write “Checkpoint,” the inaugural tale in The Warwick Files?
It’s a short story, not even 10,000 words long.
I touch-type about 75 words a minute, because even though I ignored most of middle-school, I did pay attention in one class: typing. They trained me to type 10,000 words in two hours, twenty-two minutes.
Now, I’m a notorious procrastinator, so we have to pad that considerably with time for things like grabbing a snack, checking my e-mail, and checking the postal mail, even at 9:30am, just in case the USPS suddenly revamped my delivery schedule and didn’t tell me. Call it a long morning to type 10,000 words.
But of course that’s the easy part.
It takes much longer to decide what to write, something I usually do while driving or bicycling. I came up with the premise for “Checkpoint” on the way home in late summer. Then I filled in details over the course of follow-up drives and rides. Call it a couple of weeks.
But even that isn’t the hardest part.
The bulk of the work is creating the world in which the stories take place: the details that lie in the background, the background of the characters, the character of the locales, the local color, the colorful anecdotes, and so on, to say nothing of the voice of the author. (I promise I don’t play this kind of silly word game in The Warwick Files — at least, not often.)
While “Checkpoint” is a complete story, as are all of the short stories in the series, it’s also part of a larger picture that readers discover bit by bit. This is why we called the stories “episodes.”
I chose the thoroughly charming village of Warwick, NY for the central location, modifying it only slightly. That gave me much of the background. But I still had to invent some places in the village that are vital to the storyline, but which were inconveniently overlooked by the village planners and so don’t exist.
And I needed the main characters, starting with the hero. The reader meets him when he’s in his 30s, but I had to create the life experience that formed him: his childhood, teen years, first love, first job (which is classified, so please don’t ask me), and so on, as well as his general temperament and personality. Without those details, I couldn’t write the story.
I had to do the same for the important auxiliary characters, some of whom don’t even appear in the first few stories, and even for the minor roles, because this kind of detail keeps things interesting.
I’d put the total time — again, mostly in the car and on my bicycle — at somewhere around two months, on and off, bit by bit.
But the real investment in time isn’t writing at all. It’s reading. While I’ve been doing that since preschool, it wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I started making mental notes as I read: Why does this work so well? How did the author pull that off? What would I do differently? And so on.
In this regard, I’m grateful to my favorite authors: John Grisham and Tom Clancy, who introduced me to fun-filled fiction; Lee Child, whose books are still my personal favorites (even though, obviously, I love all my indirect mentors equally), and more.
So it took me a morning, two months, and more than twenty years to write “Checkpoint.”
I hope you enjoy reading it.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Checkpoint: A man evades a police checkpoint and unknowingly triggers his own murder. Police Chief Kai Goodman knows why. Do you?
The Warwick Files: A police chief with a secretive past. A quiet New York City suburb. And, officially, no spies.
THANKS TO AUTHOR, J. M. HOFFMAN, I HAVE
FIVE (5) SIGNED BOOKS TO GIVEAWAY.
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NORWAY, SWEDEN, and INDIA)
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