J.C. Hutchins interview
November 10, 2009 by Beatweek
iProng Magazine talks with podiobook author and novelist J.C. Hutchins about his new hardcover 7th Son: Descent and more in the cover story interview for our November 10th issue.
interview by Christine Cavalier
Podcast novels, transmedia, and when good fans go bad. An interview with J.C. Hutchins…
Don’t know J.C. Hutchins yet? You will; he’s everywhere these days. J.C. is the creator of the technothriller 7th Son, a podcast novel trilogy. Last month, major print-publishing house St. Martin’s Press released the first book of the trilogy, 7th Son:Descent. J.C. is also the author of a new interactive supernatural thriller co-designed by Jordan Weisman called Personal Effects: Dark Art, released by St. Martin’s in June. Along with writing and enthusiastically promoting his books, J.C. podcasts his “UltraCreatives Interview Series” where he interviews the various artist types he finds in his travels. His website, jchutchins.net, is a veritable smorgasbord of podcasts, new fiction and rabid fan participation. Recently iProng magazine sat down with J.C., a funny, self-described “blabbermouth,” to talk about 7th Son, fans, and the new multi-platform storytelling.
Welcome, J.C. Thanks for coming.
Thanks for having me. I’m like a superfan! I’m doing everything I can not to do the Snoopy dance while I’m on the phone with you.
Great! So your novel, 7th Son, is now in print, starting with the first book of the trilogy, 7th Son: Descent. But 7th Son started out as a podcast novel. Did you get a reaction right away to your podcast of the 7th Son trilogy?
A little bit. It came in trickles. I remember posting the first episode via LibSyn. You post the episode and then you watch the LibSyn statistics. And there was 1 download and that was from me, and then [another] and that was my girlfriend, and then a third download was from —
No! The third download was someone else!
A stranger! And I’m like ‘Bless you, man in Kansas.’ I can recount it with such clarity because it was such a vivid memory. It was like, ‘O.M.G., this is really in the wild!’ And I received some feedback probably within the first week but it was a dribble. But by the 5th or 6th week, when the audience had grown to hundreds instead of dozens… it was revelatory. It was life-changing.
Is it a serious commitment to do a serial novel podcast?
Yeah, it is. And I’m not disrespecting any other form of podcasting when I say [that]. (clears throat). For instance, you may be doing an interview podcast, you may be permitted some flexibility in your release schedule… in the audio quality. For instance, if it is a bad Skype connection in your interview or a bad phone connection, well, there is only so much you can do to fix that audio, and what you do is, you say in the beginning of the episode ‘I’m really sorry guys, but —’ … But you are permitted some flexibility in quality and in release schedule and a you know, a great other many things.
But not with the novel [7th Son]?
Right. Particularly when you’re releasing a thriller. Where, if you are a thriller writer, you are morally obligated to put cliff-hangers in you work, at the end of nearly every chapter.
So that could cause a problem if you’re a little late on the delivery of an episode.
I tell you! And I was consistent in my release of Books 1 and 2. Book 3, because I was actually writing another novel during that time, my release schedule slipped. I missed a week. (pause) Like, once.
(Pause) It was as if the gates of hell had opened! (laughs) … The choir of angelic fans who had been singing hymns about me for years turned into demons and just raked me over the coals! And deservedly.
(Laughing) It’s like the end of Indiana Jones with the angel of the covenant, she’s so pretty and –
(Laughing) “Marion! Just keep your eyes shut!”
Don’t look at it Marion! So yeah! And there I was, my face melting on the other side of the computer, going, ‘Oh God, what have I done?’ And of course, there were other fans who stepped up and said, “Dude, you know, the guy’s writing another book, and he’s giving this away, and you know, we trust he’ll deliver,” and all this stuff. I remember this one blog post specifically where it was like 50 comments. And there was like a war going on, it was like the Sharks and the Jets. And I’m popping in every once in a while saying ‘Guys! Guys! It’s OK! I’m going to get the episode out in a couple of days!’ …
Explain a little bit about Personal Effects: Dark Art. It’s an interactive novel.
Right. The tagline I’ve always [used is]: ‘It’s not a book, an experience.’ … [I co-wrote it with] a legendary game designer named Jordan Weisman, who in the early 2000’s helped create a new, disruptive form of story-telling called the alternate reality game… it’s puzzle-fueled, community-powered fiction. It’s amazing! … And the most interesting thing about it is that mainstream media companies and studios use it, often these days, to promote their work. The Dark Knight had an alternate reality game. Trent Reznor’s release of Year Zero had an alternate reality game associated with it. The list goes on and on and on and on and there’s a growing subculture of people who love to play these games.
The opportunity to work with someone who is a game designer for a living must have been fun for you.
And not only fun, but challenging, and also very illuminating. Jordan Weisman had kind of pioneered this form of storytelling… I’m really keen to continue to explore what Jordan Weisman calls “transmedia” storytelling. I would love to work with him, and frankly work with other creators too, to blur the lines between fiction and reality. I have since done some of this in my own work. When I was gearing up to release 7th Son: Descent in print, I released the prequel anthology of short stories that take place two weeks before the events seen in Descent. And what I did was, there were specific website addresses mentioned in those short stories, that, if a listener was curious, could visit those websites, and download folk music, written and recorded by the folk musician that was starring in that specific story.
Sounds fun! So, what’s next for J.C. Hutchins?
I have a very aggressive, or very ambitious, kind of promotion … engine in place for 7th Son that will last all the way up until December. And then, after I take a very long nap. … I will begin working on the next big thing. And there are a couple of ‘next big things’ that I’ve got simmering in the background. And I can’t wait to dive in and start telling new stories myself.
And we can’t wait to listen! Where can we find you on the ‘net?
At www.jchutchins.net and on Twitter: @jchutchins. Also, people can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/jchutchins.
J.C., thanks for coming!
Thank you so much for having me. I’m honored and completely stoked to be mentioned in iProng!