IndieView with Henry Hitz, author of Squirrels in the Wall

I live in Oakland, California
What would you like readers to know about you? I will keep trying. I wrote three other novels (two published) between then and when I finished Squirrels in 2019. They provide a menu of services in marketing. End of Interview:
For more from Henry, visit his website. What are you working on now? We all know how important it is for writers to read. The got me this and other interviews, two readings so far, and a high-quality review. Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know? Where do you live now? He blogs at HenryHitz.com. Sometimes I listen to meditation music on YouTube. I often meditate before writing something new (sometimes 420 enhanced). I read 1200 word sections to my writers’ group every week and then incorporate the feedback for that section that makes sense. Their catalogue is curated, and their staff is highly skilled, though I do have to pay for many of their services. I grew up on a lake in Wisconsin, the precise setting of Squirrels in the Wall. I don’t do outlines because I rarely know what will happen. To the people (not many) who strenuously object, I say you know, it’s an honor to be in my book. I don’t edit extensively until I’m finished with a draft. What kind depends on my mood. If yes, what gets the fingers tapping? Did you hire a professional editor? My first thought is all of it, but the places where I particularly struggled were in linking the stories, many of which were written independent of the idea that they would be part of a novel. Some people objected to how they were “portrayed” but I simply quoted to them what it says on the copyright page: “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”
What came easily? I don’t have a target reader when I’m writing except perhaps members of the writer’s group I’m working with. If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences? When did you start writing the book? I’m working on a novel called Thoth narrated by the Egyptian god of writing. Another challenge was dealing with family and others upon whom many of the characters are loosely based. I took out a line of credit on my house to pay for an in-house publicist for Squirrels. When I finish a book, as a part of marketing it, I do try to identify a target audience. As I said above, this has been somewhat of a challenge. In the case of Squirrels, animal lovers, people who live in the lake country region, readers of family drama. How long did it take you to write it? About the book
What is the book about? There’s other services like Bubblish that I hear good things about. In that novel and in the subsequently written stories that became Squirrels I turned the “scientific” aversion to anthropomorphism on its head, asking the question, what if animals were exactly like us in every way except those ways that they were self-evidently different, such as walking on two legs and writing novels [Who knows, maybe ants write novels on grains of sand with their pee]. So I guess you could say it took thirty-four years, but the concentrated efforts of compiling and integrating the stories into a narrative arc took about three years. About Writing
Do you have a writing process? I listen to Bill Evans or Nina Simone channels on Pandora. Imagining death was also fun. Sometimes I have to explain that writers are assholes: we steal the identities of people we know, and we twist them around to suit the narrative. Where did you get the idea from? The stories follow Barney from infancy to death, tracing the epic, ongoing conflict between him and Father—a bumbling tyrant guilty of shocking abuse but also capable of poignant redemption. Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished? Was it a particular event or a gradual process? Consider hybrid if you can afford it. The animal voices came easily. Richard Adams, especially Watership Down. He has published stories in Cube Literary Magazine, Magnolia Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, and Moonfish. Here’s my official bio: Henry Hitz taught preschool for thirty years. Squirrels in the Wall is about the humanity of animals and the animality of humans. Imagining the point of view of a toad, a bee, a dog, a ghost, a “country” mouse and a “city” mouse, a squirrel, a turtle colony was exciting to me. “They call me a dachshund, but in reality, I am just a dog. The stories provide a kaleidoscope of heartbreak among both human and animal characters as they confront abuse and death. Other stories reflect the points of view of Barney’s mother, sister, and older brother; together, they construct a collage of spectacular family dysfunction—and of healing love. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you? Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors? Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself? I went that route because I couldn’t get an agent, though I queried several hundred. For example, one of the stories, “Term Life,” was originally set in California, but I moved it to Wisconsin to make it fit with the other stories. I self-published my first novel, White Knight,   a midquel to Squirrels with many of the same characters (human, not animal). It’s a political satire similar to Animal Farm but with newly awakened indigenous gods rather than animals. His novel White Knight was published in January 2016 by Wordrunner Press and reissued last year for the fortieth anniversary of Jonestown. I do listen to music when writing. Get your copy of   Squirrels in the Wall from Amazon US or Amazon UK. His first novel, Tales of Monkeyman, won the Walter Van Tilburg Clark Prize. Henry Hitz – 7 November 2019
The Back Flap
Squirrels in the Wall—a novel told in stories by a collection of interspecies voices—presents a unique and darkly hilarious blend of human and animal perspectives in a single setting on a Wisconsin lake. When I get to the three-quarter point, I might outline the denouement. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) I live with my mother among a pack of wild humans in a big house on a lake.” In the second story, “Squirrels in the Wall,” Herzie’s “human,” Barney Blatz, experiences a fire in that house when he is just four. For White Knight, I had a graphically skilled friend do two different covers, both of which worked for me. For Squirrels, I had the publisher do it. Sometimes I have to explain that writers are assholes: we steal the identities of people we know, and we twist them around to suit the narrative. What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? I share a certain sensibility with Kurt Vonnegut, particularly around tragicomedy. I let the characters decide. Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it? The writer that has influenced me most has been Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis certainly but also Report to an Academy about an academic lecture by an ape. If so can you please describe it? For Squirrels, I did hire a professional developmental editor, and it was extremely helpful. They are still implementing the extensive marketing plan. Definitely go through Ingram and make sure your book is returnable if you want bookstores to stock it. It’s an autobiographical novel, so all the characters are loosely based on real world people. Do you have a target reader? It’s a novel told in stories by a collection of interspecies voices that presents a unique and
darkly hilarious blend of human and animal perspectives in a single setting on a Wisconsin lake. As messenger to the gods, he has become alarmed at the human trajectory and wakes up his hibernating colleagues from polytheistic cultures to try to undo the damage done by Jehovah and his 2000-year hegemony. Plan on spending a lot of time on marketing. For many years I was a weekend writer, but now that I’m retired, I try to write every day, or at least work on my writing – sometimes marketing, sometimes editing. For Squirrels, I went the hybrid route with SparkPress and I’m pleased with the process so far. About Publishing
Did you submit your work to Agents? “They call me Herziger, but my real name is Woof,” one of the stories opens. The first story was written in 1985. The stories provide a kaleidoscope of heartbreak among both human and animal characters as they confront abuse and death. I make up some characters and set them on a journey with a vague destination or plot and see what happens. About You
Where did you grow up? To the people (not many) who strenuously object, I say you know, it’s an honor to be in my book. Do you outline? He divides his time between Oakland, California―where he lives with his wife, son, two sisters, two dogs, and a cat―and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he first observed how the boattailed grackles and local teenagers all gather at the central jardin at sunset for precisely the same reason. Were there any parts of the book where you struggled? Do you listen to music while you write? On this rollicking journey, we meet a suicidal toad, a cat, two mice, a bee, Grandfather’s ghost, and a turtle who possesses Barney in a climactic tale of environmental activism gone awry. I do pitch to agents at writer’s conferences, but I haven’t found anyone interested in representing my work yet. My first novel was about a man raised by baboons in Kenya and I created a whole baboon universe with a language, culture, and philosophies.