A Long Journey Writing With Brent Hartinger

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About Brent Hartinger

Oh, man, I’ve been writing for a LONG time! My first published book was GEOGRAPHY CLUB, which has become sort of a gay teen classic, way back in 2003. But I was writing even before then. Now I write novels (including more LGBTQ stuff), and also screenplays for movies. I’m also a “digital nomad,” which means I don’t have a permanent home. I left the United States four years ago, and I’ve since lived in twelve different countries, writing as I go.

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How And When Did You Get Started Writing?

I knew I wanted to do something creative for as long as I remember, even as a little kid. I tried a bunch of different things — acting, music, directing movies. But I wasn’t very good at any of that! Then I realized that what I’d been doing all my life was telling stories. I absolutely love a good story, and trying to figure out what makes a story “good” and “bad.” So I officially became a writer! I was born to write novels and screenplays.

What Does Literary Success Look Like To You?

Well, I’ve been making a living from my writing for about twenty years! I think that’s fairly successful. But I wouldn’t mind making more money — I’m definitely not “rich.” More than anything, I want my work to be seen by as large an audience as possible. I love my existing fans, but one of the things I most love about writing movies is that if and when they get made, they have a really large audience, a lot bigger than books. The problem is, it’s really really hard to get movies made! They cost millions of dollars, and it pays the writer well too, so there is a LOT of competition. I’ve had one movie in development for eleven years! The good news is that it may actually be filmed this year. And I have a couple of others in the works too.

What Actionable Tips And Tricks Do You Have For New Writers That They Can Apply Now On Their Journey As Budding Writers?

All the “standard” advice is really true: read everything you can in your genre or medium. Get to know other writers. Practice your craft, because almost no one is as good as they think they are, and you really do need to learn the rules before you can break them. I also think it’s really, really important to learn the BUSINESS of publishing or movie-making. You really really need to know the official and unofficial “rules” of the business. So get a job at a bookstore, or a publishing house, or a movie studio, or an agent’s office. That’s almost more important that learning the craft.

What Are Common Traps For Aspiring Writers?

Well, if you’ll indulge me for invoking gender stereotypes, I’ve taught a lot of writers, and men and women tend to have different weaknesses. Obviously there are exceptions! But men tend to be OVER confident — they have TOO high an opinion of themselves. And women tend to be UNDER confident — they’re too self-critical. Men are usually worse than they think, and women are usually better than they think. The good news is that the solution to both problems is the same: meet lots of other writers, and join a writer’s group. Share your work! Let other people give you feedback on what you’ve written. They can criticize the men and encourage the women. Because almost none of us are all that good when we’re starting out. If people are anything like I was, they might even really suck at first!

If You Could Tell Your Younger Writing Self Anything, What Would It Be?

Honestly? It’s a really, really hard life. There’s a lot of frustration and rejection and humiliation and criticism, and most people who try to be professional writers will fail. That said, it is also a fascinating life, and there’s a lot of pride that comes with finding some kind of success. It’s really hard and also deeply satisfying at the same time. And it’s okay to get discouraged along the way.

What Are Your Favorite Books? Fiction And/ Or Non-Fiction?

Ha! I read the newspaper, but I never read non-fiction books. Only novels! But I read every genre, except not much literary fiction, which I rarely enjoy. I especially like fantasy, thrillers, sci fi, and mysteries.

Anything You’d Like To Plug?

I just started a newsletter that has regular updates on my weird and wonderful “digital nomad” lifestyle, insights and observations about travel in general, and details on my career as a screenwriter and novelist. It’s free for now!

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