Ad Hudler is a stay-at-home dad and novelist who lives with his family in southwest Florida, where he frets over impending hurricanes. He says, “fiction writing and housework complement each other well; one is brain-intensive, the other is brain-dead, and after struggling on a paragraph for twenty minutes, folding the white load provides a welcome respite.” His controversial, comic novels, printed in multiple languages, include “Househusband,” “Southern Living,” “All This Belongs to Me,” and, most recently, “Man of the House.” He can be reached through his website.
What is your current project? Tell us about it.
I’m writing a collection of humorous essays. (Think David Sedaris but from a different perspective: WASP-y, straight, stay-at-home dad/dude who can hang a door and make a mean lasagna.) My agent and I both feel that my best fiction comes from real-life situations, so we wondered: Why not present it all without the bothersome filter of a protagonist. It’ll all be REAL. My friends and family now watch me taking notes with great fear in their eyes.
What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?
I wish I wouldn’t have signed a multiple-book deal. You never know how well or poorly a publishing house will handle your books, and if you’ve already signed the rights away to future titles you are just plain screwed.
What’s the best or worst advice (or both) you’ve heard on writing/publication?
Best advice: “You’re the person driving this rig.” (For whenever you doubt that you have the voice or expertise to write whatever it is you’re writing. This came from writer Nancy Zafris)
Worst advice: Wear black to your readings. (Heck no. Where whatever you want to. We all don’t live in black-loving NYC. I usually wear boots and blue jeans.
What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?
Newspaper headlines by far. Here are a few of my faves: “Bomb scare caused by penis-like plastic device.” “Sahara dust invading Florida.” “Cat predicts deaths at hospice.” And, of course: “Dirty underwear could lead to space fuel.”
Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.
I was in my veterinarian’s office, waiting for an appointment for my cat, and I asked the head nurse, “How much poison would it take to kill a large dog? And what would you use to do it? Would rat poison work?” When I saw her look of shock I realized I needed to put it in perspective, and I raced to do so, stumbling in the process: “Oh, no, I’m a writer, see … and I have this character that doesn’t like the neighborhood dogs peeing on her yard … and she tries to ill them. Oh … Oh! … I would NEVER do such a thing. It’s my character who’s doing it. See?! Understand?” I left, realizing she still did not believe me. She was cool to me from that day on.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?
I really hate the anxiety after a book release … that window of time when you worry if anyone is going to buy your book. And you log onto amazon.com almost hourly to see where your sales ranking is … and then you order two or three books real quick to see what happens to that ranking. Yikes, I hate that part.
Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?
I force myself to write at least one single-spaced computer-screen page a day. It may not sound like much, but in less than a year you will have a complete novel.
Plot, seat of pants or combination?
Definitely a combo. Some things pop up as your characters are running wild. At other times you have to sit down and analyze a section of the book and say, for example, “I need some more conflict in these 100 pages … there’s too much happiness in this spot. What can I dream up?”
What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?
The last 30 pages are a real trouble spot for me every time. As a caregiver (stay-at-home dad) I’ve learned an infatuation of wanting to keep everyone happy, and in doing so I sometimes feel I drop the ball in the end. I stop listening to my own voice and instead try to devise an ending that will please the most people.
With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?
Don’t be averse to editing from friends and peers. EVERY manuscript can be improved, so shove that Prima Donna side of you in the closet, and put on your big-girl/big-boy underwear and REVISE, REVISE, REVISE.
What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?
Parenthood, definitely. When you become a parent you start to see everyone in this world not as adults but as “someone’s little boy or little girl … someone’s son or daughter,” and this mindset makes even the meanest, most awful person humane to you and readers.
Any concerns or passion where books and society intersect? Spout a bit…
The book-publishing business is functioning in the Dark Ages. They are so out of touch with business-world realities that it shocks me. I am surprised at how fluid and inconsistent the sales numbers are, and how difficult it is for an author to know how his books are selling in certain markets. I mean, if I knew that my novels were a hit in Salt Lake City then I would go there myself and pimp the heck out of them. But publishers refuse to share this information with their authors. Also, they don’t even use focus groups. If you as a publisher spent six-figures on a title and you were unsure of a cover, wouldn’t you use a focus group to determine the best cover?
Have you received a particularly memorable reader response? Please share.
I once had a reader come up to me at a signing. I think she was drunk. She said to me, “I love your writing.” And then she leaned into me, as if to whisper a secret, and she licked the length of my face, from top to bottom, as if my bald head were an all-day lollipop.
How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?
For the release of my latest books, “Man of the House,” I spent my last check from Random House entirely on publicity, hiring two different firms to help get the World and Word of Ad out there. The traditional PR company that I hired was worthless … unprofessional and ineffective. Fortunately, however, the people at bookreporter.com did a bang-up job getting me noticed on the blogosphere. My advice: Don’t ignore the blogs. Find those that have the highest membership, and court them by asking if they’d like a free copy to review. Also, NEVER say no to a book club who asks you to talk with them, either in person or via speakerphone. Book clubs are an integral part of the viral-marketing model.