I’m Sonja Hutchinson. I’ve written seventeen books in the genres of fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, mystery, paranormal suspense, and LitRPG, but currently, only three of the Bond-Wolf Series (epic fantasy) are available on Amazon. I’m working on book four of that series, and it should be available at the end of summer 2022. I once tried to write a romance, but after copious amounts of chocolate and coffee, the urge to finish that piece blew away.
From Planning to Published
When did you start writing and why?
Author: I began writing in 2000 after my first son was born. I had an idea for a story and ran with it while he slept. Then two more boys came along, and I had to take a break from writing to keep them all alive. That was my full-time endeavor. When they were big enough to be moderately unsupervised, I returned to writing.
How long did it take you to finish your first book?
Author: It took ages LOL. I finished the first draft in nine months, then began editing. I hired a professional to help me with that process and ended up re-writing the entire book. I moved on to other projects, but between them I went back and re-wrote that first book several more times. The final version is now published as Voice of the Just.
Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?
Author: I’m an indie author through Amazon.
How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?
Author: I have a team of three amazing critique partners. When I reach chapter ten, I send them all chapter one. They push me to stay ahead of them and help with things like pacing, typos, character motivations, and general cheerleading functions. Once the book is finished, polished, and ready for publication, I have another team of betas who give me general feedback (did they like it, is the ending satisfying, is it truly ready for publication, etc.).
Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?
Author: Marketing is the area I struggle with the most. It’s one thing to identify my target audience and another to reach them (plus the whole idea of “I made something, please buy it!” grates against something within me). But it’s a necessary evil if I want people to enjoy my books, so I’ve given it a minimal shot. I use the basic Amazon tools (key words), Twitter, and Facebook to advertise, and I’ve had good success with Kindle Unlimited.
How do you get reviews for your books?
Author: My beta readers review my books. I’ve found a few book review sites but haven’t used them yet.
About Your Work
What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?
Author: My favorite genre to read and write is fantasy, but I enjoy too many others to stick with just one. I’ve got a paranormal suspense series I’ll be self-publishing soon, and I’m currently querying agents with a sci-fi piece and an urban fantasy to try the traditional publishing route.
What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?
Author: For the past year I’ve been working on mastering Deep POV, a method of limiting narrative voice to funnel readers directly into a character’s heart and mind. I’m still working on the technique, but I love the outcome so far. I should devote more time to marketing, but I don’t want to LOL.
What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?
Author: I love creating new characters, plotting their adventures, and writing that first rough draft. I also love brainstorming sessions with my writer friends, either on my work or theirs. Sometimes a ten-minute collaboration with a friend can stir the creativity to new heights and fuel a marathon writing session, and nothing beats that rush.
Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?
Author: I’m a voracious reader in multiple genres, but fantasy and mystery are my favorites. Goodreads informs me when my go-to authors have a new book out, and I’ve usually got 12-15 books in my to-be-read pile–usually e-books, but sometimes I bring home real library books. As far as creating new stories, I’ve never had a problem coming up with ideas. I’ve got a notebook for jotting down promising bits of dialogue or what-if questions that could someday resemble a plot, and my series characters could continue having adventures as long as I keep writing.
What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?
Author: I’m a plotter, but I don’t have the same method for each book. Some begin with the idea of a character in crisis, and the plot springs from that. Once I came up with a fantastic first line and plotted an entire book around that sentence. Most of my books begin with an ending (like a murder mystery), and I plot around that climax, creating all the characters needed to make it happen. One time, I tried pantsing. It was a disaster LOL. I ended up stopping before the end of Act I and planning the rest of the structure before continuing—and quite a bit of the beginning was trashed.
Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?
Author: Twitter and Facebook are my go-to for networking now, but before the pandemic, I also attended a writer’s conference once a year. I found my first critique partner at one. I’ve also met several of my favorite authors in person at conferences and connected with a man who later became a good friend and co-wrote a book with me. I’m hoping that book (a LitRPG) will be self-published this year. He’s much better at marketing than I am, so fingers crossed!
Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?
Author: I usually write six days a week, sometimes seven, for 4-6 hours per day. Sundays I only get in 1 or 2 hours before church. Occasionally I need a break and take a day or two off, but I’ve got a weekly word count goal that I don’t like to miss.
I’ll admit, I’ve been known to procrastinate J It happens to us all. Sometimes I get bogged down and don’t know how I’m going to get to the next plot point, and that’s when I brainstorm with an author friend. Video conferencing is a fabulous tool! And sometimes, I worry that my story is boring, and readers won’t like it, and the only way out of that vortex of depression is to call my best author friend and let her talk me out of it.
How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?
Author: I actively queried eight books over a span of 16 years and have over 450 rejections, some of them on paper from back in the days before e-queries. Who else remembers SASEs? LOL. Every one of those rejections hurt like an icepick to the chest. I’d allow myself a few minutes to grieve, have a chocolate, then spend some time playing with my children before moving on to the next project, book, or agent. All these years later, the rejections don’t sting quite so much as they used to, and the kids are grown so there’s no need for play breaks unless I want them J
This process can be So Depressing! It’s long and difficult with incredibly low odds of nailing a traditional publishing house contract. But I’m too stubborn to ever give up, and I couldn’t quit writing if I tried, so I keep pressing forward. I still query sometimes, even though I’ve decided to self-publish most of my works.
Tips for budding writers: Don’t give up! You can’t do anything with a half-finished product, so finish the book. Then find critique partners or a professional editor to help with the edits. Study craft books to improve your techniques. Reach out to other authors for assistance–you’ll never find a helper if you don’t advertise your need for one. Get involved in writing communities on social media to make connections. Lastly, READ. A lot. Mostly in your genre, but also in others. Read new stuff that comes out so you can follow the market, and study how that author moved you with the prose.
How do you combat writer’s block?
Author: I have a couple of methods. The first is to back up in the story, maybe just a few pages, or maybe a few chapters, and do something different with the characters. Make different choices for their forward progress—or even opposite choices. Do something unexpected, or dangerous, or ridiculously silly. It might not work, but then again, it might spur a fabulous idea.
My second method is to reach out to my author friend and ask for a brainstorming session. She’s fabulous at coming up with things I’d have never dreamed of. *Spoiler alert, don’t read this next bit if you want to read my books* Once I told her, “I don’t know what happens next. Alex killed
redacted”—and Writer Friend said, “Did he? Are you sure he’s dead?” That little comment spurred a sub-plot that now stretches across multiple books.
What do you listen to while you write?
Author: Nothing. I need silence. Though the washer and dryer are usually running, but they don’t count.
Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?
Author: I have a basement office with a huge wrap-around desk for spreading out all my notes, reference books, charts, maps, tablets, and coffee. I’ve been making an effort to go paperless to get rid of these thousands of sticky notes, sheets of paper, and 3×5 cards, but I haven’t succeeded yet. I’ve tried writing in other places (like a coffee shop), but it doesn’t work. A crowded place is too noisy, and I don’t have all my notes and references.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Author: I just finished Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly. Up next on the to-be-read pile is The Match by Harlan Coben and Blue Moon (Jack Reacher #24) by Lee Child.
Do you have a writing companion?
Author: I have a best friend who’s an author. We chat every day, edit each other’s work, brainstorm problems, and push each other to stop procrastinating LOL. I have another friend I co-wrote a book with, and we’re trying to work on a sequel.