Amanda Hocking ventures into a new (old) world

  • Article by: LAURIE HERTZEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 6, 2012 - 11:47 AM

As she embarks on a national book tour, the queen of self-publishing talks about the joys of working with a traditional publisher.

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In this 2011 photo, Amanda Hocking wrote from at a coffee shop in Austin, Minn.

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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The name Amanda Hocking has come to symbolize the success of the self-published writer. While in her early 20s, Hocking, of Austin, Minn., wrote a bunch of fantasy/romance/adventure books, uploaded them to the Web, priced them low, and the next thing she knew, she was a millionaire.

It all looked so easy to her legions of fans, who saw her as something of a folk hero, bypassing those elite New York publishers and keeping all of her own profits. But Hocking was working hard, serving as writer, editor, publisher and marketer.

Last year, when St. Martin's Press offered her a $2 million contract, she said yes.

"It's great knowing that I can just focus on writing, and I have a whole team of people helping out with everything else," she said last week.

Last fall St. Martin's began publishing her Trylle trilogy, which had been a best-seller as a self-published e-book, and on Tuesday it launches her brand-new "Watersong" series with "Wake" (hear a clip from the audiobook), the first of four planned books.

Hocking, 27, will be in the Twin Cities area this week for two events before heading out on a cross-country book tour to New York, California and places in between.

Q This is your first book tour -- what most excites you? What most terrifies you?

A I did do a small tour in the U.K. and Italy earlier this year, but this is my first U.S. tour. I'm excited to meet readers and to see more of the country. I haven't traveled much in my life, so it'll be fun to see places like Seattle and Dallas and all the other cities I haven't been to before.

I'm probably most terrified about talking to people. While I get excited to meet readers and hear what people think, I also have social anxiety, and I'm always afraid I'm going to fumble or say something stupid.

Q "Wake" is the first of your books to be commercially published only. What has the experience been like?

A In the most important ways, the experience has been the same. I sit and write books, I edit books with an editor [she used to hire copy editors herself] and I interact with readers. But I've felt much less pressure working with St. Martin's and much less stress without worrying about the entire publishing process.

Q Describe your writing room.

A Right now, it's an absolute disaster. There's built-in-shelves on three of the walls, and I'm always adding more books and collectibles, then rearranging them. Right now, I have Batman action figures and a stack of Puffins classics on my desk, but eventually they should find their place on a shelf.

Q What is your writing strategy? Do you have rituals?

A I wait until everyone goes to bed, make a playlist on my iPod and hit "play," unplug the Internet, drink lots of Red Bull, and then write until I get so tired that I can't write anymore.

Q How do you get past writers' block?

A I outline extensively before I write, so when I actually do sit at the keyboard, I know where everything is going. It makes it much easier to write. I remove distractions, and sit in front of the computer until things get going.

Q Do you have a favorite book from childhood?

A I loved "Maniac Magee" by Jerry Spinelli and pretty much anything by Judy Blume. I read "Jaws" by Peter Benchley when I was 8, and that was my first "adult" novel I'd read, and I still love it.

Q What books do you re-read?

A Many of my favorite books. I find myself re-reading Kurt Vonnegut a lot. I've probably read "Cat's Cradle" 15 times. I also re-read Chuck Palahniuk, especially "Choke" or "Invisible Monsters," and I have read "Maniac Magee" more times than I can count.

Q What's on your desk?

A Other than the action figures and books that aren't supposed to be there, I have lots of pens, paper clips, basic office supplies. I have an autographed picture of Peter Mayhew (he played Chewbacca in Star Wars), and a bank I got when I was in England. I also have some Lego figurines and nail polish, in case I get a hankering to paint my nails in the middle of writing (which I never do).

Q Where are you right now? Describe what you see.

A I'm in my living room right now. My fish tank is in front of me. I have a 40-gallon tank with two goldfish -- Figaro is small and gold, Delaney is really fat and white. My roommate is watching "Pinky & the Brain" DVDs on the television.

Q What are you reading?

A Right now, I'm between books. I just finished up "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman and loved it. I was pretty excited about "The Dark Knight Rises" and didn't want to read anything that wasn't about Batman lately, so I've been skimming some old comics.

Q What authors have inspired you?

A Many authors have inspired me, but I think that Judy Blume and Stephen King have probably been the biggest influences on my writing.

Q Rumor has it you've been spotted in a certain south Minneapolis coffee shop, writing away. What are you working on next?

A I'm currently working on the last book in the Watersong quartet, and it's always bittersweet wrapping up a series. I've also got a few ideas for a new book, and I'm working on the outline now with the hopes of getting started on it fairly soon.

Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302

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    Tuesday: 7 p.m. at the Bookcase, 607 E. Lake St., Wayzata.

    Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Woodbury's Central Park Amphitheater, near the intersection of Valley Creek Rd. and Radio Dr.

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