Interview with Author Jeff Hampton
How has being a Texan influenced your writing?
Texas is a big and colorful state – a country unto itself, really – and it inspires stories that are big and colorful.
Why did you choose to write in your particular genre?
I didn’t choose the genre; it chose me. I live in a real world with real people and I like real stories about real people. Science fiction and fantasy can wow us with amazing technology and powers; those stories only work and we only are attracted to them when the characters have emotions and challenges that we can relate to.
Where did your love of books and storytelling come from?
I’m not sure because it’s always been there in one way or another.
How long have you been writing?
My education and career have been in journalism and communications, so I have been writing in one way or another for more than three decades.
What kinds of writing do you do?
All of my published book writing is fiction, but I’ve also written essays and short memoir pieces and plan to publish them too. My fictional stories usually contain pieces of events and real emotions from my own life, so it makes sense to go ahead and share more of the details through non-fiction writing.
What cultural value do you see in books?
The traditional journalism I’ve worked in has been overtaken by social media, but books will never die as long as there are storytellers telling good stories. Movies and television put it all on the screen, but books still allow room for the imagination and that is so important.
How does your book relate to your faith?
Many of my stories are about people who are trying to figure out the meaning of life and how they fit into it. And they often discover the meaning of life through community – not acting and living as solo characters but as members of something larger than themselves.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part of writing for me is knowing when to let it go and trust it to readers. I could edit and tinker forever, but if I do that then it never gets published and read.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Not knowing where the characters were going next. I had a broad idea of where the story was going, but my characters become real people, and they don’t always do and say what I think they will do and say when I first start out.
Which character from your book is most or least like you?
Dave is most like me. He has lost a wife to illness and is trying to rebuild his life. On the other hand, Dave is much more outgoing than me. I am more of an introvert and a potential loner like Sam.
What did you find most useful in learning to write for publication? What was least useful or most destructive?
Because my fiction is embedded with real life, I had to live and experience more of life before I could write about it. In some ways, I wish I had started writing fiction years ago but the reality is I had to wait, so I would know how to clothe fictional characters in the real joys and sorrows of life.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
I quit a full-time job a few years ago to focus more on fiction and essay writing, but my writing today includes freelance articles for business and institutional magazines. The paid work is very different, so it is a good counterbalance to creative writing.
What are some day jobs that you have held? Have any of them impacted your writing?
All of my day jobs have required writing – newspapers, magazines, corporate communications, etc. – and I think the newspaper work has instilled in me a brevity that keeps a story moving.
What does your perfect writing spot look like? Is that what your ACTUAL writing spot looks like?
I have a wonderful upstairs room with a big window looking out over the neighborhood. It’s a great place to write and was created for that purpose. But the truth is I write wherever I am and whatever I am doing. I’m always thinking, taking notes on an iPhone or iPad, scribbling on pieces of paper. But it all eventually comes together in my upstairs room.
Do you have any strange writing habits or writing rituals you’d like to share with your readers?
Some writers are very focused and disciplined and will tell you they sit down at their desk and hammer it out for hours on end. I start and stop and shift gears a lot. I get stuck on a scene or a conversation, and so I switch gears and work on a freelance project or go work in the yard or run an errand. Doing those other things always sends me back to my desk with fresh ideas.