Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Getting Personal with Stan Hampton

Stan Hampton is in the hot seat today, answering questions about his writing process. Stan has also brought along an excerpt from his story The Samar Cafe, part of the Intimate Journeys Anthology.
Plotter or pantster?
Plotter. For short stories the plot is not overly detailed, but for novellas, there is more detail. I want to ensure the plot remains strong and there are no holes in it.

Tortured hero or tortured villain?
Interesting question. I have never thought of my characters as being tortured heroes or tortured villains. Regardless of who they are and/or their circumstances, they are just responding to situations they find themselves in. It does not matter if I am writing of Sergeant Jerry Stanton about to go out on a convoy security force escort mission after learning of the death of a fellow soldier on a similar mission (Better Than a Rabbit’s Foot, MuseItUpPublishing), or Sergeant Braddock Hollingwood at the end of the Iraq War facing demobilization and an uncertain future upon his return home to Las Vegas (Dawn at Khabari Crossing, Intimate Journeys collection, Melange Books), or Sharon Rogers seduced by a mysterious woman who offers a future with her, if she can accept a secret the woman has (Second Saturday, Musa Publishing), they are all ordinary people doing the best they can. It may be that I have never thought of such characterizations because I have never written a story where there is a clear cut division of opposing forces, of good and evil, at war with one another. Or it may be that I just do not think that way.

Easy on your characters or as hard as possible?
Again, I do not think that way. Each character has their challenge, whether small or great, in peace or at war, in this world or in deep space. Depending on the personality and life experiences of the character, what challenge may come close to breaking one character may barely affect another.

What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?
Key elements are plot, believable characters, believable situations, and the quality of the storytelling. A plot should not have holes so large that an Abrams tank can drive through without touching the sides. Believability is critical for both characters and situation; granted, some people will always rise to the challenge, but if a foundation is not built to where a clerk can plausibly stand against villainy, the story will be unbelievable. And granted, the author is not supposed to be intrusive, but show rather than tell and the author does not, the reader will not willingly suspend belief in order to enjoy a great story.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?
I recently made the shift from short stories to novellas. The hardest part to greater lengths of writing is to ensure a good plot can last the course and the characters remain believable. They remain true to themselves, or act accordingly, according to their personality traits regardless of what is thrown at them.

How do you develop your plots? Do you use any set formula?
I do not have a set formula. A subject interests me, I think of something to write utilizing that subject, and I tailor the plot in general. The plot details will work themselves out as I write.

Who has been your favorite character to write?
I cannot really say. In each story or novella that I write, I have a favorite character. Of course, I tend to like the major character before all others. For example, in Feeding the Ravens, Hearts of Tomorrow Anthology (Melange Books), I like SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Gerhard Schmidt; he is a member of the hated Waffen SS, half-frozen and half-starved outside of December 1941 Moscow, yet he tries to do the best he can for his men. The Mumbai Malaise, In Poe’s Shadow Anthology (Dark Opus Press), it turned out that I liked Dr. Matthew Peters, a secondary character, better than the primary character; he is an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances, and not quite sure what to do. I can understand that.

Favorite line/quote from current work?
So far my favorite line is from (WIP title) The Prepping of Rachel: “His wife was a tawdry Pied Piperette luring him down a mysterious path.”

If your book was made into a movie, who would you want to play the leads?
Which one? But, for The Gates of Moses, Melange Books, there are three principal characters. The first is Dr. Gregorio Romano, an engineer who oversaw an engineering project in an attempt to save Venice from the rising sea while a monstrous storm bears down on it from the Adriatic Sea. There is a succubus, Alessandra Lombardi, who claimed his heart years before, and who wants him to remain though the population of Venice and much of the art treasures have been evacuated. And Patrizia Celentano, the first and last female gondolier of Venice, who loves Romano and is determined to save him before the sea walls break. I suppose that for Romano a possible actor is Channing Tatum (The Eagle); for Lombardi, Virginia Madsen (Red Riding Hood; The Haunting in Connecticut) would be good, though Monica Bellucci (Sheitan; The Matrix Revolutions) might be better, and for Celentano, Katie Parker (Absentia).

Can you tell me a bit about your most recent release?
My most recent release is The Ferryman from Melange Books. Charon the Ferryman encounters the shades of three people, and each brings him a step closer to wanting to learn more about the upper world. Thus, he has to make a decision: continue to ferry the dead across the Styx to Hades, or abandon the role ordained for him by the gods.

From The Samar Cafe:

EXCERPT: Wayne Parkhurst stumbled quietly across the darkened, thickly-carpeted bedroom into the bathroom, slid the door shut, and flipped the light on. He groaned and staggered as if from a hard punch as he covered his aching eyes with shaky hands until he could brave the scorching light.

He stared in the mirror at his bloodshot eyes, noted the ragged tufts of short, sandy-brown hair sticking in all directions from his pounding head, then realized his stomach muscles ached, and his left shoulder was burning. His eyes widened a he saw a large, finely-detailed, multi-colored tattoo of a dragon-prowed ship with the sail unfurled on his upper left arm. Across the sail was a laughing skull with a pirate hat against a pair of crossed skeleton bones.

“My God, what have I done,” he whispered, though he had a pretty good idea of the night’s transgressions, as he stared at the tattoo and massaged his aching stomach muscles. What would his parents think? Or his fiancée, Missy? Or her parents? What would all of his relatives and future relatives-in-law think?

“You really don’t remember?” a soft, cheerful voice called. In the mirror, Wayne saw a small, well-formed nude woman with delicate features and long black hair leaning nonchalantly against the doorway. Her arms were folded below large tanned breasts and her dark eyes sparkled mischievously.

She wasn’t what he was used to, even for one-night stands, but as the old saying went, ‘any port in a storm.’ He definitely needed a port before the oncoming storm that loomed over his future, even his life.

“I remember,” Wayne answered slowly as he looked at the dark, damp triangle between her legs. “I was being rhetorical.”

“Good,” the woman replied as she stood on tip-toe and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I would have been insulted if you didn’t remember.”

“I remember everything,” he replied s he embraced her and buried his face in the side of her neck. He enjoyed the scent of her perfume and the warmth of her sweat moistened flesh against his. “My God, I’m corrupt,” he mumbled as he gently ran his hands cross the soft rounded cheeks of her rear.

“Not completely,” she said as she led him back to the bedroom, “but you will be.”
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