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Interview

Readersvoice.com interviews author Michael Hoeye about his writing and reading.

The plot thickens....

RV: How did you learn plotting?
MH: Some people would argue that I never have. My traditional method is to write myself into a corner and then try to get myself (and Hermux) out of it. I don’t recommend this method. The side effects include nausea and extreme headaches. For myself. My wife. All my friends who get sick of hearing about it. And unfortunately my editors. If there is a book to study to learn plotting, would someone please send me a copy?
RV: How did the plot for Time Stops develop?
MH: When I reached Chapter 10 in writing Time Stops I began to flirt with the idea that what I was doing might possibly, just maybe, if-I-didn’t-seize-up-and-panic, turn out to be a book. And if that was the case, I was going to need a plot. By that time I had Hermux, the mysterious Linka Perflinger, the cranky and unpredictable Tucka Mertslin, the dapper and smart Pup Schoonagliffen, and the elegant and rich Ortolina Perriflot. We all sat down together and had a chat and tried to figure out how we might all be mixed up together in an adventure of some sort. Several votes were taken. Tucka loves votes. She always makes a big speech before each vote. Naturally she ended up with a big role. And the next day I started writing with a goal in mind. A big scary goal. The day that I typed THE END was one of the happiest days of my life. I couldn’t believe I had done it.

RV: Looking at Time Stops For No Mouse there are a lot of nice old world touches. Is the passing of things of beauty like these a major concern for you?
MH: I think that beauty and goodness are always passing away. As Joni Mitchell put it, “Nothing lasts for long.” Or as Tolkien paints it, the elves are always leaving Middle Earth. I’m not a sentimentalist. Just take a walk with me through an antiques mall. It’s time for most of that stuff to take a hike. But the loss of truly beautiful things, for example the loss of the colossal Buddhas in Afghanistan because of religious intolerance or the proposed destruction of the Arctic wilderness just because we don’t have the design skill and will to create and drive better cars, is cause for genuine sadness.
There is always a sense of loss. And a sense of gain. I try to touch on that when Hermux sits down in his den to read the Weekly Squeak: “As usual the news was mixed. Good things had happened to bad people. Bad things had happened to good people. Several surprising new things had been discovered. Quite a few old things had been damaged. Trouble was brewing on one horizon. And peace had been reached on another. The short-term forecast was growth. The long-term forecast was shrinkage. The days were getting colder. But temperatures in general were rising.”
RV: Have you been surprised by anything kids have written to you about your books?
MH: One of the biggest surprises for me has been how young some of my readers are and how little difficulty they seem to have with the text.

When I first wrote Time Stops I was warned by several editors and librarians that my writing is all wrong for children. The vocabulary is too hard. The subject matter is too weirdly adult. And the pacing is boring. It may all be true. But luckily most kids don’t seem to mind.
RV: What influence did copywriting have on your writing style?
MH: The primary influence was confidence. When I was forty-five years old I needed a new career in a hurry. I announced that I was going to be a copywriter. Some innocent bystanders were foolish enough to believe that I knew what I was doing. They hired me and told me things like “Write me a headline!” “Write me a catalog!” “Write me a brochure!” I even wrote fortune cookies. I had no idea what I was doing. I just faked it. I made it all up as I went along. I was always having to write things I had never written before. One of the hardest things I ever had to write was a letter from the president of a big corporation. To his customers. You think they write those things themselves? Think again. Anyway I had never even met this guy. How was I supposed to know how he would write a letter? What did he sound like? What did he want to say? I didn’t know his business. I didn’t know his customers. I wanted to cry. But I had a deadline. After that I thought I could write anything. I was wrong about that. But sometimes it’s better to be ignorant.

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