2007 Snapshot Archive: Simon Haynes

Interviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

First published at ASiF!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock comic SF novel series, published by Fremantle Arts Centre Press. Simon is also a longtime member of the co-op that produces Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM). He blogs over at http://halspacejock.livejournal.com/

Q1 Hal Spacejock has become a real self-publishing-makes-good success story. How has your life changed since Hal was picked up by a ‘real’ publisher?

When I was hawking a self-published book I was self-conscious about it, and unwilling to mention Hal in polite company. I knew all about the stigma attached to self-publishing, but I never pretended to be anything other than someone who had gone ahead and printed his own books. One of the reasons I got them into several Dymocks stores was because Stefen Brazulaitis of the Carousel branch was happy to answer my questions about cover layout, order forms, buying discounts and so on. He also talked me out of some of my marketing ideas, like the wholesale ‘buy 2 copies get another free’.

However, marketing efforts take on a certain legitimacy once you have a real publisher behind you. You can walk into a bookstore and, sometimes, the staff have heard of the books or they know your name. (It helps if you wear a T-shirt with a bloody great Hal Spacejock cover on it. And carry bookmarks.)

Aside from marketing there’s this great feeling of teamwork. Scott Eathorne (the Fremantle Press publicist) is always seeking out potential interviewers or spots which might review the books. I have an editor, Janet Blagg, who has really made a difference to the three Hal books published to date, each of which was extensively rewritten. I get emails from Ray Coffey and Clive Newman, head honchos, asking about the next book and discussing various matters relating to the earlier ones. I get press clippings in the mail, boxes of books for giveaways … loads of support. It’s all teamwork instead of all my work.

Q2 You’re one of the most public faces of the ASIM collective. It’s been six years for you now – what is it that you still love about the ASIM experience? And why do you think that ASIM has carved such a successful niche for itself in the local and international scene, when other small press projects struggle to gain a handful of subscribers?

I love the fact we’re offering spots to 60+ short stories a year. It’s not quantity over quality, though – there’s competition between editors to make THEIR issue special, different, funnier, darker, whatever-er. Each co-op member has to wait 2-3 years for another shot at editing an issue, which gives them oodles of time to find fiction and work with their sub-editor. (I’m editing issue 42, having put my hand up for it some months ago.)

I’d love to see a few more subscribers, but we’re doing okay on the financial front. It’s just that more subs would allow us to increase the pay scale to submitters. Hey, think of it as a lottery! Subscribe and you could earn more for your fiction.

We would REALLY like to pay semi-pro or pro rates, but for that we need more subscribers.

The PDF version has been a real success, and the recent Best-ofs (PDF-only) have gained some attention and topped up the old coffers a bit.

Q3 What’s next for Simon Haynes, writer? Is it Spacejock all the way, or do you have writing plans beyond Hal and Clunk?

Well, I’m now finishing the draft of Hal 4, and it’s my third shot at this novel. The first two attempts were written during NanoWrimo 2005 and 2006 – and it’s not that they’re unusable, it’s just that when I sat down to turn them into completed novels they morphed into something different. It’s a bit like grandad’s axe – the one which has had two new handles and a new head.

So, this Hal 4 is all new, but the old head & handle are ready for Hal 5 and 6. I’ve already plotted both books, and I’m quite excited about the pair of them. In fact, because I don’t know which to write next I’m seriously considering doing them both at once.

Q4 Do you read much in the Aus spec fic scene? What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

Any and all time I have available for the spec fic scene is spent updating the ASIM subs list, doing the website, participating in the mailing list, stuffing hundreds of magazines into envelopes and queuing at the post office. And I’ve now spent 3 years worth of spare time writing and rewriting Hal books, which is my fill of SF.

I’m on a literature bent at the moment. Because I grew up in Spain I missed a lot of the classics kids are forced to read – Lord of the Flies, for example. So, I got on ebay and picked up 30-40 classics across a range of genres because, like, I really needed a load more books. And I’ve been working my way through them.

(When I lived in Spain I read whatever I could get my hands on – a wildly diverse bunch of reading material, from kids books to Agatha Christie to Shakespeare and Dickens. I suddenly realised I was stacking my shelves with SF books purchased from conventions, and that diversity had been lost.)

The other reason I like to read widely is because it gives me things to send up in the Hal books. I usually slip the shiv into pop culture, movies, songs and so on, although many of the gags are so obscure I don’t even spot them myself when I’m re-reading the books. But I’d like to broaden that a bit more and sling a bit of mud at some classics.

Q5 and finally, if you had the chance to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most, who would it be?

I’ve been married 17 years, and by not answering this question I’m demonstrating why that is so.

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