Interview with novelist Craig Hart, author of BECOMING MOON

Today’s interview is with writer Craig A. Hart who has released his debut novel, BECOMING MOON, a coming-of-age story about a boy struggling to become a writer.  Craig also edits THE RUSTY NAIL.    

First, here’s some background:

Craig A. Hart is the stay-at-home father of twin boys, a writer, editor, Amazon bestselling author, lover of the arts, and only human. He has served as editor-in-chief of THE RUSTY NAIL literary magazine, manager of Sweatshoppe Media, and director of Northern Illinois Radio Information Service. He lives and writes in northern Illinois with his wife, sons, and two cats.

SARETT:  BECOMING MOON  is about a boy struggling against a repressive childhood to become a writer.  In any coming-of-age novel like yours, the reader suspects (often accurately) that the story is part autobiography.  How true was this in your case?
HART: There is certainly an element of that. It isn’t a memoir, but I did draw from my own experience of being raised in a highly conservative, largely withdrawn environment. While it was acceptable to write in my church, you were only supposed to write certain things. BECOMING MOON, while it does touch on religion, is certainly not a religious book. It is my hope to get the book banned by at least one or two conservative groups. As far as the rest goes, the book took up so much of my life over the past three years and went through so many different manifestations that even I sometimes have trouble separating fact from fiction. But I suppose that’s par for a fiction writer. There is one area I’d like to distance myself from, but to do so would be something of a spoiler, so I guess I’ll take my chances.

SARETT:  You’ve edited and now, you’re written a novel.  I imagine there’s a side of your that’s an “editor” still.   Were there aspects of editing that you had to throw away?
HART: Absolutely. I have a tendency to edit while I write. That slows down the creative process and can sometimes halt it altogether. Additionally, I often over analyze what I’m writing, which is okay in editing but deadly when trying to get words on paper.

SARETT: Novelist Jonathan Franzen (confession: haven't read him) said that fiction is a messy business -- and that it's dangerous for a writer to be too perfectionist.  I'm wondering how you respond.
HART: I suppose he could mean a couple of different things, but if I know what he intends then I agree (mostly). Art can only achieve perfection according to standards it devises for itself. To apply extraneous standards on any art form is dangerous. Look at various artists who are now viewed as masters of their form, but in their day faced resistance. Picasso, Kerouac, Ginsberg...the list would go on for a long time. Trying to achieve perfection in a work of art is dangerous because it is impossible to see it clearly as perfection prior to it being finished, which means it will never be finished if perfection is the goal. (And now I have a headache.)

SARETT:  When you’re developing material, which comes first -- story or character?
HART: I get scenes in my head and the ones that stick around are usually the ones I end up writing down. During those scenes, I discover the character and make his/her acquaintance. And then they begin telling me their story.

SARETT:  Did you have any literary muses that influenced the way you approached this novel?
HART: Hemingway’s THE SUN ALSO RISES and Capote’s SUMMER CROSSING were huge influences on me during the writing of BECOMING MOON. It’s interesting, because the Capote book wasn’t even supposed to be published (a whole different story), but I’m glad it was because it helped me connect with something deep inside myself.

SARETT:  BECOMING MOON won a contract with Kindle Press, through the Kindle Scout Program.  Congratulations!  Tell us how this process worked.   
HART: The idea behind Kindle Scout is to get readers to tell the publisher, in this case Kindle Press, whom they want to read. To this end, each book goes through a nomination process. Books that receive good support are then looked over by the Kindle Press editorial board and a few are chosen for publication. It was a fun, stressful, and educational experience. I’m glad I did it and I’m also glad it’s over. My fingernails are short enough already.

SARETT:  BECOMING MOON is a slender novel -- 155 pages.   Do you think traditional publishers shy away from shorter books?
HART: Without a doubt. Most traditional publishers don’t consider something a novel until it’s over 50,000 words. That is the minimum. BECOMING MOON just barely reaches that threshold. And they don’t often publish novellas because the market is smaller. One of the issues with traditional publishing is that it is first and foremost (most often exclusively) a money game. And longer novels are selling right now. Partly because of a trend and partly because people want to feel like they are getting more for their money. I understand that, but as in most other areas of life, quantity doesn’t mean quality. I would rather read a shorter book that had something real to say rather than 400 pages of high-octane text that I forgot the minute I was finished. Give me something to walk away with.

SARETT:  What’s next for you?  
HART: I am currently working on another novel. While it isn’t a sequel to BECOMING MOON, it is a variation on the same themes of self-discovery, rebellion against the status quo, and personal redemption.

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