Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Interview with Taylor Hohulin author of Alpha #interview #amreading #amwriting

My darling Abites, you just read my review of Alpha. Now come get to know Alpha's fabulously interesting creator and author Taylor Hohulin!

Taylor Hohulin

Taylor, it is so wonderful of you to join us today and answer some fairly in depth questions. Welcome! I have a lot of questions for you after reading Alpha so if it is all right with you, we'll jump right in.

1. What inspired Alpha
I couldn't tell you exactly. I know I was watching a movie with my family. I even know I was somewhat bored with the movie, but for the life of me, I can't remember what the movie actually was. Whatever the case, the plot ended up going a direction I didn't expect, and I asked myself what might happen if it went the way I expected. I ended up taking that thought and running with it the next few weeks. From there, I ended up with a kernel of a story that slowly but surely started to look like the book I finally published a couple months ago. 
At the time, though, I wasn't writing fiction. I was writing and recording some pretty bad synth-pop music and figured I'd turn the whole thing into a concept album. It was going to sound like this unholy mashup of Depeche Mode, Ke$ha, and Aqua. At the time, there were still ninjas and robotic pirates in the story, so in hindsight, it's probably for the best the album never came together.

2. In Alpha, Mars and Venus are at war. Does that mean you believe aliens exist?
That's not really something I think about. I haven't ruled them out, because it's a little hard to believe in a universe this big, we're the only living things out there. At the same time, I haven't seen anything that completely convinces me they exist, either. Who knows?

3. Meat is disgruntled with some pretty serious mental health issues. Is he inspired by anyone you know?
He really isn't. I drew on some of my own feelings of bitterness toward different things in my life and magnified those feelings quite a bit. I never thought of him as someone with mental health issues, but I can definitely see that in him. As I started thinking about what I wanted my antagonist needed to be like, I thought someone like Meat had potential to be a really effective villain. I truly felt bad for him through most of it, because he was dealt a pretty crappy hand. But at the same time, his personality and obsession with warfare make him a scary guy when he's got a vendetta.

4. How does a Christian radio DJ decide to write somewhat violent science fiction? Does it feel like a conflict of interest?
It didn't to me, though I can see how it would for other Christians. The place of sex, violence, and language in art is a big point of contention for a lot of Christians. Everyone has their own "limit" on what they can handle in art, and I think that's okay. A lot of Christians disagree with me on that one. A lot of guys think that everything has to be "safe and fun for the whole family," but when I look through the Bible, I see authors who tell it like it is. I see stuff that isn't totally family-friendly. These guys weren't afraid to use sex, violence, and language when the point they were making merited it. 
I felt like the story I was writing needed some violence. I tried to be as tasteful about it as I could, but I didn't want it to lose any of its punch. This is a bit of a spoiler, but one of the themes toward the end of the book is sacrifice. I wanted the sacrifice to feel like, well, a sacrifice. No one cares if you're willing to stub your toe for someone you love.

5. Other than the violence Alpha is a pretty clean book. I'm surprised, although pleased, that you left out any religious messages. Was that a difficult choice to make?
It was at times. I think a lot of Christian artists feel like they have to validate their art by coming out and making some really obvious spiritual points. You see that in a lot of Christian fiction, whether it's with a priest who's totally cool and wise and says all the right things, or if the protagonist falls to his knees and prays the sinner's prayer in the climax. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's not my thing, but it's not a bad thing. There are people who are genuinely touched by that kind of art. 

With Alpha, I realized if I was going to throw in an obvious spiritual message for the sake of being "more Christian," I'd end up writing a book that I wouldn't want to read. I've always been more a fan of books where you have to dig a bit to find something that'll benefit your faith. CS Lewis has a great quote that goes something like "The world doesn't need more Christian writers. The world needs more great writers who are Christians." I think he makes a great point. I don't think he's necessarily saying "Christian fiction" is somehow an inferior genre, but a lot of times, Christians feel like the only way we can do something that Jesus will value is by writing about heaven, and worship, and miracles. But that's only the most spiritual two percent of life. I believe Jesus is the God of everything, and I can honor him by writing a fun science fiction story that addresses themes like love and sacrifice in a way that coincides with his teaching.

6. Since you are a DJ I just have to ask - do you still love music when you are at home, or are you oversaturated by it?
Oh, I love music. Sometimes, while I'm driving home from work I have to turn off the radio to take a quick break, but that's less because I'm tired of the music and more because I'm tired of the sound. Silence is undervalued these days, if you ask me. Anyway, my love for music is the whole reason I got into radio. I try to listen to as much new music as I can, especially if it's a band who could potentially appear on my station's playlist. There's so much great stuff out there, and sometimes I feel like I don't have the time to listen to it all!

7. Who are your favorite musical performers or bands?
Of the guys we play on my station, House of Heroes are probably my favorite...and I'd put them in my top five bands, period. They just write solid, blue-collar rock and roll. Future of Forestry does some great atmospheric, ambient rock. And so far, my album of the year as been The Almost's Fear Inside Our Bones. Nice and gritty southern rock. I'm trying not to gush and list dozens of bands here, so I'll cut off there.

8. I have family in Arlington. What are you favorite things to do there?
That's so cool! Small world. Arlington is a fun town if you're in the right places. I like to do the usual things, like going to movies and walking in parks (though not right now that it doesn't get cooler than 90 until long after dark), but for things unique to Arlington, I'm all about the little local restaurants. Mr. B's Burger pub is a family-owned burger place with some of the best burgers I've ever had, and some really nice and personable servers. Old School Pizza and Suds has a cool environment and really tasty pizza. And then Bethany's is a great place for boba tea and way more Chinese food than you can eat in one sitting.
No mention of Six Flags? Shocking! 

AND - I love James Lipton's questions from Inside the Actors Studio, so...
What is your favorite word?
I've always been a fan of city names that combine a bunch of locations - Texarkana, Texoma, Arkadelphia...those are just fun to me.

What is your least favorite word?
Secular. It carries so much baggage, and it's usually used in such a derogatory fashion - at least in the circles I run in.

What sound or noise do you love?
Ghost notes on a snare drum - that's when the drummer just barely taps the snare and you get this nice, soft whisper of a beat. Love it.

What sound or noise do you hate?
The sound of people scratching their own fingernails. Especially when someone is chipping nail polish off their nails. Just writing that sentence, I'm cringing.

What is your favorite curse word?
I know this is totally dodging the question, but I try keep curse words out of my vocabulary as much as possible. If I got into the habit and one slipped out while I was on air, our station could be in for a hefty fine from the FCC, and I'd rather not be the source of that!

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I've always thought it would be interesting to be a studio drummer. I play a little right now, mostly in live settings. The idea of coming in every day to play for different musicians with different styles sounds like a really fun creative challenge. I'd have to get a lot better, though, and I'd have to learn different styles than pop and rock.

What profession would you not like to do?
President. I don't think I could handle that much pressure and criticism.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Every time I read Jesus' parable of the talents and the master says "Well done, my good and faithful servant," I can't help but think that would just be perfect. To have the most powerful being in existence tell me "well done" would be pretty incredible.

Taylor you have been an absolutely delightful guest on the blog today.  Thank you.

Don't you think so Abites?  What are your feelings on Christian Fiction? Do you like Christian writers who don't put religious messages in their books or do you think Christian writers should always put their religious beliefs into their stories?

Be sure to read my review of Alpha. You can get Alpha at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

About the author:
Taylor Hohulin is a DJ at a Christian rock radio station in Dallas, Texas. He lives in Arlington with his wife, two cats, and a dog. He wrote Alpha as a novel after realizing that it wasn't such a good idea for a Ke$ha/Depeche Mode-influenced concept album after all.

Want to connect with Taylor? You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or his website.

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