Darvell Hunt has been writing fiction for over 20 years, and has dabbled in many genres, including middle-grade, young adult, science-fiction and contemporary fantasy, poetry, and even LDS horror and LDS romance. He placed in the 2005 Association for Mormon Letters Short Fiction contest, with a story called FATAL BROKEN HEART, which was published in Irreantum magazine, the official publication of AML. He also wrote two years for his local newspaper, the Lehi Free Press, from 2000 – 2002. He has over ten finished novels, some of which are targeted toward the LDS market, but has recently been concentrating on the national market.
Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Darvell: My fifth-grade teacher invited a poet to our class to discuss writing poetry and I found I had a flair for putting words together. For about ten years after that, I enjoyed writing poetry. After returning from my LDS mission at age 21 in 1989, I decided I wanted to write LDS fiction.
Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?
Darvell: Professionally, I’m a computer programmer, having done various jobs from military simulators, to slot machines, and now educational software for kids. My training for writing has been lots of reading and writing, although I would love to go back to school to get a writing degree.
Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?
Darvell: Like the old tellers of Norse mythology, I believe words are magical. I find it fascinating that you can pass on stories to other people without them actually being there—this seems truly magical. My personal mission statement with regard to my writing is this: “I want to help people think thoughts they never even though about thinking.”
Deirdra: Have you ever been discouraged along the way to your writing career? If so, how did you deal with it?
Darvell: I have quit writing many times. But, I’m like an addicted smoker who can’t quit—I always come back. I’m happier when I’m creating, so I can never stay away. If I get too discouraged to write, I just back off for awhile and eventually I find my way “back home.” If I get discouraged, I just let time take it's course.
Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?
Darvell: I am a sprint writer—most of the time I’m thinking about stories and letting them ferment in my head, like a festering sore. When I’m ready to write, I pour it out as fast as I can from my brain, without going back to edit. As such, I don’t really have a schedule. I write when I write and I think about my stories the rest of the time.
Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Darvell: My best ideas come from life. I enjoy observing people and learning new things. When I find something that completely fascinates me, I know it’s good enough for a great story.
Deirdra: Can you tell us about your upcoming book Nephi Newman and the Legend of Crater City
Darvell: Nephi Newman is a story I’ve been trying to sell for a number of years now. It is based upon 3 missing freeway miles just north of Nephi, Utah, on Interstate-15. For decades, the mile markers along the freeway skipped 3 miles and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about what could explain that--aside from a simply survey error (which was really the case).
Instead, the reason turned out be a hidden pocket of space created by a meteorite that hit the earth that was a fragment of a destroyed world. When the pieces of two worlds collided with such heat and force, science changed and created a hidden world, sucking in space from the “real world”—hence the missing miles.
Nephi Newman, a twelve-year-old boy (named after the city of Nephi, Utah) is the center of that world—although he doesn’t know it.
Deirdra: I noticed you are also a music composer. What kind of music do you write and where do you hope to go with this talent?
Darvell: I’ve always been interested in music. I generally write my fiction as if composing music, with meter and sentences that mimic lyrics—since I started my writing career as a poet. I’ve written a few songs, some with music, but I’ve yet to explore my real interest in this area.
Deirdra: How many beta readers do you have review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?
Darvell: It’s always different and depends on what I’m writing. Recently I’ve been concentrating on middle-grade and YA material. I’ve been trying to get as many kids as I can read my books. Last year, my sister, who teaches fifth grade in American Fork, read my latest book to her class. She invited me to talk with her students and the feedback I received was very valuable. I’ve been in various critique groups as well, but nothing that has lasted for an extended period of time.
Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?
Darvell: Something NEW and something that makes them THINK for days afterwards. If I do that, I consider my writing to be a success.
Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Darvell: I used to outline, but I don’t any more. I did that for my first two novels and found that it didn’t really work for me. Now, when I write a story, I outline it only in my head. I rarely start a story unless I know the characters and the general plot of what’s going to happen. I let the story ferment in my head as long as I can before actually putting anything on paper—although I do allow myself to make notes along the way, so I don’t forget. Once I’m ready, I write it as fast as I can. By then, I know what’s going on it just pours from my head onto the paper. I typically let my stories ferment in my head for at least a year before I feel comfortable writing them down.
Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block?
If so, how do you deal with it?
Darvell: Yes. When this happens, I stop writing. I don’t proceed until I know where I’m headed. I would rather do this than write something boring or stupid or rambling. For my latest middle-grade novel, I wrote for five days straight, after letting the story ferment in my head for two years. This is a shorter kids’ novel of about 25,000 words and I had reached about 15,000 words or so. I didn’t get back to it for about six months, after I had time to think about where to go, and I finished it up in about 3 more days. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how I finished it. If I don’t feel the story flowing, I don’t write it—this often means I don’t have enough information to proceed. In the meantime, I’ll work on something else, as I usually have around 2-4 projects going at the same time.
Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Darvell: I go to a “different place” when I write, so what’s going on around me is not that important. I can write in a crowded room with my family, although I DO get interrupted often, or in complete silence. Generally, I do write best when I’m alone.
Actually, I’ve written a lot in hotel rooms during trips to Las Vegas for work. I’ve listened to music often as I write, but it has to be low enough to where I don’t want to sing along, and it can’t be a fast beat or it distracts me. Silence also works good for me.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Darvell: One of my favorite techniques is to end a writing session—usually at the end of a chapter—with a hook to the next chapter that even I don’t understand where I'm going. I’ll end with something that I find an intriguing problem that even I don’t know how to solve. I like doing this for two reason: first, if I don’t know what’s coming next, how’s my reader going to predict it? Second, this gives me time to think about what I just did, so by the time I get back to my next session, usually the next day, I will have some interesting way to continue the story. I’ve found this works great for the creative process and keeps me excited along the way.
Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Darvell: Stephen King, by far.
Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
Darvell: I write about experiences I’ve had and people I know, but change them to “what could have or should have happened” and alter the characters to make them more interesting. If I cannot relate a setting to a real place, or a character to a real person, I have a hard time knowing enough about them to write. This is not to say that the people and places of my stories are recognizable from the “real” world, though.
Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Darvell: I struggled with my writing for a long time, until I discovered Stephen King. He helped me to understand that it’s not about the writing, but about the story. Great writing can only carry a story so far, but a great story can compensate for lacking in the writing. There are many other writers I also enjoy reading and trying to mimic, including Og Mandino, Terry Brooks, Nora Roberts (as J.D. Robb), Sue Grafton, John Grisham, Suzanne Collins, Stephanie Meyer, Willard Boyd Gardner, Jennie Hansen, Ann Dee Ellis, & Dean Hughes. I admire writers like these because they know how to craft great stories.
Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Darvell: I don’t eat while writing, but have plenty of Diet Coke on hand.
Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?
Darvell: I enjoy collecting meteorites, coins, and small handguns. Although I’ve never tried writing crime stories, I love reality-based crime shows. I love the insight these shows give into the human mind—and how some people are driven by selfishness and greed. These shows make great material for writing stories with compelling characters, whether based upon crime or not.
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Darvell: Stick with it—but don’t be afraid to quit. Really. If you’re truly a writer, you will be driven to take it back up again. It’s a hard business out there and being published takes a lot of perserverance. I’ve been published with newspapers and a short story that won a contest, but I don’t yet have a published novel. I’ve been seriously writing since 1989. You can do that math on that. I plan to break this trend THIS YEAR by getting an agent for my current middle-grade novel. If you’re meant to be a writer—whether you get published or not—you’ll not be able to stop doing it. Be positive and be persistent—and don't be afraid to take breaks from it.
Deirdra: What are you working on now?
Darvell: I’m currently shopping around my latest work to national agents. It’s a middle-grade novel called “There’s an Alien in my Head” that’s aimed at fifth and sixth graders and above. It has science fiction elements (duh, it’s about aliens!) but is also contemporary. The book has a gimmick to it, too, in that the main character is slowly learning an alien language by telepathy from an unknown alien—and it book is written more and more in this alien language as the main character—and the reader—learn the language. It’s kind of goofy, but is a fun read, as far as I can tell from kids who have read it.
Deirdra: Do you have a mailing list readers can join so they can be notified when your book comes out?
Darvell: I created one awhile back, but haven’t used it for a couple of years. I’ll probably pick it back up once I get a book deal.
Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Darvell: HAVE FUN. Don’t let the writing get in the way of telling a compelling story. Learn writing mechanics, but concentrate on the telling.
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