Heather Huffman is an author and activist who has written tons of books that get lots of acclaim: Throwaway, Suddenly A Spy, Ties That Bind, Jailbird, Ring Of Fire, and now, Tumbleweed.
My favorite title is Suddenly A Spy, because it sounds like a Choose Your Own Adventure book – Heather says that it’s not one of those books and that you have to read it all the way through – which was confusing for me at first when I tried to read some of it. Where’s the part where it goes: “If you wanna be a spy (suddenly) turn to page 37″ “If you don’t wanna be a spy and keep working at The Gap turn to page 44″?
I didn’t know Heather that well at first – but I keep hearing her name said in quiet whispers around the Booktrope Fortress Lair (which is located underneath that Space-Needlepoint thing in Seattle) – so I was like – Who is this writer lady? Look’it all the books she wrote. How come she’s written more books than me? Why don’t I write more books? Why am I craving cupcakes? Am I pregnant?
I asked KSears if I could interview her and she said, “We’d rather you not contact Heather – she’s busy writing. Nobody told you to talk. Finish making those copies. I have to go to a meeting. Go get me cupcakes.”
Luckily, Heather Huffman has a blog (*blog plug*) called Heather Huffman. It was pretty easy to Google it and find her email address. I did get a little distracted because I kept finding pictures of llamas dressed up in Halloween costumes. Okay, that search was totally unrelated – but still…
So I sent Heather an email with my questions – and then her lawyers called me – but then she sent the answers back. So – without further French-words, here’s Author Heather Huffman, classing the joint up!
1. So, you write books about badass chicks and love and stuff like that. Please break some cinder blocks of knowledge over our skulls about what the make-up is of the perfect female protagonist in this modern age.
I can’t answer without first saying thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. I’m really excited to have my turn at badassary.
I don’t know that there is a perfect female protagonist – as different as the heroines in my story are, there’s always someone who loves them and someone who hates them – but I do think a modern-day leading lady should be strong, intelligent, and just as likely to save the hero of the story as he is to save her.
2. Tons of people have downloaded your novels, like big numbers which takes one of those fancy calculators that multiples and divides Pi to compute.
Statistically, they can’t all be females reading these books, even though there are tons more females on the Earth – the ladies live longer because guys tend to die from drinking too much beer and eating chicken wings or the occasional pretending to be Batman and trying to jump off a roof.
My hypothesis is that dudes are digging these books of yours too – what sort of feedback have you gotten from men who are still alive and reading your books?
While I question your math on this one, I do have quite a few male readers. My favorite was the reviewer who described himself as a “grizzled old guy.” Usually they say they feel like they shouldn’t like my books but do. Throwaway and Jailbird seem to be the most popular among my male readers, but not always. My husband says they would all make good date night movies.
3. You’ve said you hope to point a spotlight on the despicable practice of human trafficking with your work – a deplorable practice which is very un-badass. What can the general citizen of the planet do to help raise awareness and do their part in the fight against this crime against humanity?
Don a cape and mask and go knock down doors… no, wait… In truth, I think the number one thing the average person can do is to be aware of the products they buy. The website www.slaveryfootprint.org does a pretty good job of opening our eyes to what kinds of products are made by slaves and how we can avoid using them. For my family, we have reduced our consumerism so we can afford to buy Fair Trade products when possible – those are products certified to be made in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible. I can’t necessarily afford to buy everything fair trade, and some things just aren’t available fair trade yet, but I try – and I make what I can for myself as another way to reduce our “slave footprint.”
Anyone from pretty much any walk of life can donate money to organizations that fight human trafficking. I’ve created a couple of online campaigns to give my readers an easy way to donate as little as $10 to the cause. You can find my campaigns at http://www.crowdrise.com/heatherhuffmanbooks. As I forge new relationships with organizations on the front lines, I’ll be adding more campaigns. (There are a couple in the works at the moment that I’m really excited about, so check back soon!) I’m always thrilled to get donations to these groups, and I’m always looking for help spreading the word. If you have a Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest account, share one of my Crowdrise campaigns with the world. You’ll fight evil and put a smile on my face at the same time.
We can also fight human trafficking by being more aware of how our children are behaving online. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the largest demographic of newly trafficked people in the United States is American-born girls between the ages of 12 and 14. Most parents and teenagers don’t realize that human traffickers can and do use Facebook and other online sites to hunt for victims. I’m on Facebook myself, but it makes sense to be aware how much information you put out there and to realize that anything put online isn’t private, regardless of any privacy settings you might think are in place.
If you want to learn more about human trafficking, Polaris Project is a great place to start your research.
4. You write about love, so you must believe it’s a real thing – I mean, it’s not like those fantasy guys that look like Santa Clause who write about dragons and unicorns and stuff?
You’re buying into what you’re selling right? Why do you think that true love can be so hard to attain, and sometimes so hard to keep a handle on?
Or do you believe any of that at all?
Anything worth having takes work, right? I do believe in love, but I think we tend to discount the amount of work that goes into it. I met my husband, Adam, when I was 19 – we were married when I was 20. That was just over 14 years ago. We have had more than our fair share of ups and downs, many of those because we had no clue how much work it would be! Of course, every time we think we’ve got it figured out, something new throws us for a loop.
One of the reasons love is so hard to attain is that we’re all looking for that perfect person, and he (or she) doesn’t exist – because he (or she) is human and flawed, just like we are. I also think we head into relationships completely unprepared for the moment we’ll fall out of love. That’s when we have to choose to stick with the person and ride out the storm. That’s easier said than done, and I’ve come very close to jumping ship a time or two myself!
There are times I’m still not sure I’ll keep him – or I think it would be so much easier to stay married if we could have his and hers houses – but in the end, Adam is my best friend. That’s what keeps us together when things get ugly. And life will get ugly.
5. Do you have a ‘writing process’ and does it involve magic? What about technology? Do you think witches and or robots are lying in wait for us to let our guard down so they can take over the planet?
I’m so glad you brought that up: It’s only a matter of time before control of the planet shifts to the robot witches, and people need to be made aware of this pending crisis.
As for the writing process, the finer details change from novel to novel. In general, an idea starts when I dream a scene from the book. The next morning, I jot the scene down so I don’t forget it. Sometimes a scene can wait on my computer for years before it gets its turn to become a book. Sometimes it only takes a few weeks.
When it is a particular novel’s turn, I stew over it while I research the settings and underlying issues, come up with character names, and spend some time just thinking about the story. During this time, I put together a soundtrack that captures the feel of the book and I think of what actors would play the leading roles if it was ever made into a movie – they might seem silly, but those two steps are really important for me to get the feel for a book.
I start writing when the first sentence comes to me. I might know how I want the entire book to go at this point, or I might not even know what the second sentence will be. Once I start writing, I write. Some scenes I can see as clearly as a movie going through my mind, sometimes I have no idea what I want to say when I sit down; my fingers completely surprise me. During this time, I force myself to write at least 250 words a day, even if I think it’s horrible. Otherwise, I might get stuck on a scene and never finish the book. I also guard the book closely at this point – I don’t let anyone even peek at it until it’s finished and I’ve done at least one edit on it because I don’t want anyone’s opinion to sway the story that’s telling itself.
I’m currently co-writing a book with a respected colleague, and it’s an entirely new experience for me. It’s fun and terrifying at the same time; I’m curious to see how it turns out!
6. What sort of music do you listen to when you write? Or is it mostly silent, like those monks that sing those ‘ooooooh oooooooh ahhhhhhhhhh ohhhhhhhhhhh’ songs – those might not be songs – maybe it’s chanting? Do you chant?
I make Adam and the boys stand around me and chant while fanning me with palm fronds. Okay, no I don’t do that, but the idea holds merit… I usually put in my earbuds and try to ignore the chaos going on around me. What pipes through those earbuds depends on the book and the mood I’m trying to create – it could be an 80s hair band, Irish Punk, Golden Oldies, Country, or anything in between. There will always be at least a few Springsteen songs on the playlist, though!
7. Is it true that you used to ride horses in a wild west show and that you can do all kinds of horseback tricks like they do in the Olympics? Well, cause I heard that you don’t use reigns and can do rodeo stuff by hooking a bra strap to a saddle? Talking about rodeo stuff is inappropriate, huh? I should have listened to my therapist.
For the record, the bra strap trick should only be attempted by professionals on a closed course. In case someone hasn’t heard about that particular feat, I was attempting to mount a horse when I learned the hard way to always double check the stirrups first. Whoever used the saddle last hadn’t put the stirrup back together correctly, so when I went to swing up on the horse, it gave.
I’m certain I’ll never be able to replicate what happened next, but somehow when I fell, I did so in just such a way that the saddle horn slid up my shirt and I found myself hanging by my bra. Thank God the horse was a calm one or the story could have been very different. He just looked back at me and I looked at him, both of us wearing an expression that read, “Now what?”
Since then, I can promise that I have been very careful to always check my saddle before hopping on!
The short answer is that I do ride horses, but no Wild West shows in my past or foreseeable future. For me, one of the greatest pleasures in life is to trail ride on a horse I know and love. (Not the canned trail ride on a horse trained to follow the one in front of it – a real ride on a horse with some spunk!)
8. Can you tell us something about your new book Tumbleweed that you haven’t told like 500 other book bloggers yet. Not that I’m bored with your answers, but I’m pretty sure you’re sick of saying the same crap over and over.
Nonsense. I love saying the same crap over and over again. It brings me joy. If you insist on new content, then I suppose I can think of something. Of course, the only problem with coming up with new content: I can’t remember what I’ve said already. I’m kind of flaky like that.
Okay, I think I’ve got one. I’ve said several times that many of the antics in the book are my own. Yes, I did have a landlord once who shot a hole in my roof on moving day. (If that statement doesn’t make sense to you, then you haven’t read the book. Why haven’t you read the book yet?)
In one scene of Tumbleweed, Hailey protects herself from an intruder with a broadsword. I once launched myself at my husband while wielding a broadsword because I thought he was an intruder. The real-life version was much less exciting than the book version, though. The true tale ended with both of us screaming bloody-murder then reassuring our neighbors that all was well. You’ll have to read Tumbleweed to find out how the fiction version turned out!
9. What is the greatest chick-flick of all time? You can’t say Princess Bride because everyone does – that Andre The Giant was sexy in his day.
Though Andre the Giant was quite a hottie, I wasn’t going to say Princess Bride. I’m crazy about a good girly movie, and there are a lot of good ones out there, but I have to say Lost in Austen is an absolutely hilarious and swoon-worthy chick-flick – especially for those of us who love Pride and Prejudice to begin with. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I highly recommend you do.
10. What would you say your greatest victory has been so far? What is your greatest victory yet unfulfilled?
Aside from making it through 10 out of 11 questions? So far, I’d have to say it’s a tie between having three of the most incredible sons in the world and being on my current journey with the books. Both are amazing adventures that truly bring me joy.
Greatest victory yet unfulfilled? Question 11. And walking the red carpet with book manager extraordinaire Heather Ludviksson when one of the books gets made into a movie. And having my own little homestead, with goats and chickens and horses.
What can I say? I’m a girl of varied interests.
11. If you were trapped on an island and it was overrun with zombies would you kick all the zombie’s asses and show them that the fire of your human spirit will not be overtaken by the undead – leaving you all alone on the island when they were finished off? Or, you know, maybe zombies are misunderstood, and they’re not all bad zombies, maybe some of them are nice zombies – would you try to make friends with the zombies, so you’d have someone around to hang out with? Nobody wants to be alone on their birthday you know.
I’m afraid the truth will be a terrible let-down. I like the way the fire of the human spirit thing sounded, but I’ve always thought that if I was in a horror flick, I’d be the first to die. I’d sacrifice myself to the zombies just to get it over with because I hate being scared. It just seems like a lot of effort and unnecessary pants-wetting just to watch your friends drop like flies.
Wow, what a horrible way for me to end the interview. Maybe I should go with the fire of the human spirit answer…
Check out Heather Huffman’s new book, Tumbleweed!
Fans of Nora Roberts will enjoy the characters and stories that Heather creates.
Heather was born and spent her early childhood in Florida, but now calls the beautiful state of Missouri home. Her greatest joy, aside from writing, is to hit the road with her three boys for adventures unknown.
Billy Purgatory is Jesse James Freeman’s first novel. He’s also studied psychology and film and scripted comics. When he’s not writing books, Jesse James trains falcons to kill Leprechaun Robots, and will continue to do so until the world is relatively safe.
Jesse James is also the author of the upcoming Witches VS Robots!