Simon Haynes is the author of, amongst a wide selection other books, the popular and successful Space Jock series.
Hal Space Jock is a sometimes accident-prone but always likeable freelance space pilot trying to make a living, aided, and sometimes saved by his trusty and trusting robotic assistant Klunk.
Simon has been published frequently and won numerous contests, of which achievements I’m incredibly jealous. However he has graciously permitted me to ask him some questions, to which I shall be taking many notes.
Did the character of Hal spring from your own imagination, or is he a
composite of people you know?
Hal started out as a name, nothing more, but as I fleshed him out he took on a
few mannerisms and characteristics of people I know. I was careful not to turn
him into a caricature though - my intention wasn't to satirise friends or
Will he finally realise that he's a bit of a fool at times, and ever try to
get his act together?
No, he has a huge blind spot where his abilities and shortcomings are concerned.
I think a few readers have gone into the first book not quite knowing what to
expect, and they've ended up getting irritated by Hal's stubborn idiocy. I guess
it depends on your sense of humour. I only watched The Office recently (UK
version), and from time to time you can tell David Brent suspects he's an idiot,
or realises he's gone too far. I don't want that muddiness with Hal Spacejock -
he absolutely never admits he was in the wrong. He doesn't whine though - just
apportions blame and carries on.
You say that you want to write fifteen novels before someone carries you
away. How many more are already percolating in your brain?
Books five through twenty-one exist in various degrees of readiness. (From
'nearly' to 'vague idea') I always cram too much into my first drafts, then rip
most of it out again. Waste not, want not...
I write novels in a similar genre to yours and I know that comedy SF is not
the easiest nut to crack. Do you ever wish that you had begun, or stuck with
something a little more mainstream?
My new Hal Junior books are the closest I'll come to admitting that writing
science fiction comedy is a lousy career move. Of course, the new Hal Junior
books are also science fiction comedy, but apparently kids are allowed to laugh.
As your books are written in colloquial English, do you sometimes find it difficult to choose
words and expressions which will be understood by readers in every country without lessening
the impact upon those in you own, who might have no idea what some buzz words mean?
No, I write for myself and I don't believe in making concessions to the reader.
Learn to deduce meaning from the context! For example, when I was growing up I
loved the Just William books with their shillings and crowns and sixpences. I'd
never seen any of the coins they were talking about, but I picked up the idea as
I went along. Changing the currency to dollars and cents for a US market would
have been crazy.
I read a wide range of books from different eras as a kid, and half the charm
was working everything out.
If circumstances dictated, which of your occupations would have to go, the computer
software programming or the writing?
The writing. I'm a programmer through-and-through, and I'm in a happy place
when I'm designing and coding software. On the other hand, nobody can do the
same thing day after day, and writing gives me something else to do. (The
downside to publishing software is that you need to offer help and support. I
don't begrudge this, but it's time consuming. With a book you publish it, and
there's no after-market support.)
Your biography details your relentless battle with agents, publishers and
others. Do you ever wish that you'd chosen another profession?
No, I relish the challenges. The only problem is, I lose interest once I've
achieved whatever the goal might be. Eg. getting published, getting an agent,
getting a second/third/fourth book into print ... believe it or not, the initial
euphoria doesn't last, and you have to find a bigger mountain to climb.
Returning to self-publishing -- with a middle-grade novel, no less -- is just me
finding a new challenge. It's like restarting your favourite computer game on
Finally, do you think that the admittedly huge increase in electronic publishing
and the immense choices it offers to both readers and writers, ever really render the
large publishing houses a thing of the past?
I think fiction publishing will evolve from submission/rejection into
cherry-picking self-published ebook authors. The onus will be on the author to
hire an editor, get a cover artist, etc, and prove themselves in electronic
format. Sell up a storm and publishers will come knocking.
It's a win-win really, because publishers still don't seem to understand ebooks,
particularly when it comes to DRM and pricing. Let the authors do it themselves
(or hire companies to do it for them), then sell the print rights to a major
down the track. Just make sure you don't sign your rights away if you hire a
company to publish your ebook.
I would like to thank Simon for his time and wish him continuing success for the future.
Author & Programmer
Spacejock Software: FCharts, yWriter and more (www.spacejock.com)
Hal Spacejock: Think Spinal Tap, not Benny Hill (www.spacejock.com.au)
Hal Junior: My new series for kids (www.haljunior.com)