Interview with historical fiction author J.A. Hunsinger on books and the writing life

J. A. Hunsinger lives in Colorado, USA, with his wife Phyllis. The first novel of his character-driven, historical fiction series, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, represents his first serious effort to craft the story of a lifelong interest in the Viking Age—especially as it pertains to Norse exploration west of Iceland—and extensive research and archaeological site visitations as an amateur historian. He has tied the discovery of many of the Norse artifacts found on this continent to places and events portrayed in his novels.

Much of his adult life has been associated with commercial aviation, both in and out of the cockpit. As an Engineering Technical Writer for Honeywell Commercial Flight Systems Group, Phoenix, AZ, he authored two comprehensive pilots’ manuals on aircraft computer guidance systems and several supplemental aircraft radar manuals. His manuals were published and distributed worldwide to airline operators by Honeywell Engineering, Phoenix, AZ. He also published an article, Flight Into Danger, in Flying Magazine, (August 2002).

Historical Novel Society, American Institute of Archaeology, Canadian Archaeology Association, and IBPA-Independent Book Publishers Association, are among the fraternal and trade organizations in which he holds membership.

You can visit his website at www.vinlandpublishing.com.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Jerry. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?


I am a retired commercial pilot who has written full time over the last seven years. I no longer fly myself, nor am I actively engaged in aviation. I write every day and I began writing seriously in 1989 as an engineering technical writer for Honeywell Air Transport Systems Engineering. I have published several aviation trade papers, pilot’s aircraft computer, and flight system operating manuals, and aviation oriented magazine articles.


Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?


Axe of Iron: The Settlers is my first novel. It is a character-driven, historical fiction book. The story is told by my characters and the reader sees the events through their eyes. I have had a lifelong interest in the medieval Norse people. That interest is focused on the five hundred year history of the Norse Greenland settlements. The mystery surrounding the abandonment of the two known settlements and the disappearance of every single person living therein has captured my imagination. Years of research has led me to believe that they did not disappear, rather they assimilated with the natives of North America. My series of books tell a plausible tale in support of that contention. No other author has ever treated the subject the way I have.


What kind of research was involved in writing Axe of Iron: The Settlers?


I have an extensive library of university papers, textbooks, DVD’s, and archaeological journals on the subject of the Vikings and everything known about their culture and accomplishments. I have been traveling to Viking sites in northern Europe since 1982, beginning with the discovery of the old Viking town buried under modern York, England. After twenty-seven years, I have seen many of the sites as well as artifacts displayed in museums throughout Scandinavia. Much of my research could not have been done without the Internet. The alternative to online research is travel and that is expensive and time consuming.


How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?


The book cover was painted from my pencil sketch of a scene from The Settlers, by a local artist and friend, Glenda Scheuerman, CO. She will paint all of the book cover images for the Axe of Iron series.


Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?


It has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbie’s, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Do your homework, believe nobody, and get everything in writing, research, research, and research. Even then, you will have picked the worst time in the world’s economy to enter the business.


For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?


Eight months to release via my distributor, AtlasBooks, and eleven months to the official publication date for the book trade. The two dates are seldom the same.


Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?


I do not have an agent and I think that they are unnecessary and costly. That said, an author cannot deal directly with a traditional publisher. That is not an accidental accommodation. Infer whatever you wish from that statement. Unless you already have name recognition, or your book is controversial insofar as its subject and content, you can forget finding an agent.


Do you plan subsequent books?


There will be at least six books in my continuing Axe of Iron series. Each subsequent book will begin where the previous book ended. And there are many more, of differing subjects, that I want to write given the time.


Are you a morning writer or a night writer?


Both, but I have also written from first light to toddy time in the evening.


If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?


I would hire someone to do all the promotion, as I do not have time to do it correctly. The Internet is key. Traditional book signings, road shows, and print ads will produce minimal sales when you factor in the cost, and you must do that. The Internet is cheap by comparison, the exposure is mind-boggling, and the results will eventually show it to be the best way to market any product.


How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?


I have gotten my name out there in every way possible for me to do personally and the effort is vital to success. Google my byline, J. A. Hunsinger, or the name of my book, Axe of Iron: The Settlers and the first five or six windows that pop up will all be different sites who are advertising my book. I am proud of that, but one can always do more. Amazon is very important, sign up for everything that they have for authors. I also have a website (vital to success) http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/.

And a blog http://www.vinlandpublishing.blogspot.com/


Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?


Do your homework on the submission guidelines for any query. All will have their own guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested. Hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. An English teacher is not an editor and you cannot edit your own work, so hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow the submission guidelines.


Thank you for coming, Jerry! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?


E-mail: jahunsinger@vinlandpublishing.com

Website: http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/

Book Order Link (Distr): http://www.atlasbooks.com/marktplc/02175.htm

Book Order Link (Website): http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/index.php?page_id=278. From the website, there are options for both print and e-Books from several different vendors, including Amazon, B & N, etc.

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