Get to Know…Hugh B. Long

hugh_typewriter_portraitA science fiction and fantasy author joins us this week, and he’s also an accomplished martial artist! So let’s get to know Hugh B. Long. Welcome, Hugh!

Tell us about your latest work.

I’m actually working on a couple of things at the moment. My big project is the second book in my Tribes of Yggdrasil series, called “Fury of the Northmen”. The first book is titled “Dawning of the Wolf Age”. The Tribes of Yggdrasil series takes place 115 years after mankind makes contact with an advanced alien race called the Alfar. The Alfar, and many of the races in the series, are taken straight form Norse Mythology. The premise of the series is that the Norse Gods ‘seeded’ the Earth, and other planets in the Galaxy, including the Alfar.

The series follows mankind as he steps off his proverbial doorstep, and into the dangerous reaches of space. Which he soon discovers is filled with mythic enemies. The first novel follows the protagonist, Haldor Olsen, as Earth’s first colony is attacked by a vicious race of slavers – the Hrymar. They see humanity as ripe for the picking, and an excellent source of slaves.

This parallels our own history after the Romans left Britain, and the Anglo Saxons came to fill the void, taking over much of the country. Then, centuries later, the raiding was continued by the Scandinavians. (Next to Science Fiction and Fantasy, History is my next love.)

In the second novel, Fury of the Northmen, Haldor Olsen is pursuing a traitor and trying to exact revenge for the death of his family at the hands of the Hrymar. All of this is set against the backdrop of alien mysteries, and political intrigue with galactic consequences.

Facebook Page for “Fury of the Northmen”: https://www.facebook.com/FuryOfTheNorthmen

Amazon link for Dawning of the Wolf Age: http://www.amazon.com/Dawning-Wolf-Tribes-Yggdrasil-ebook/dp/B00AKIF65Q

Where did the idea come from?

My inspiration, like much of Science Fiction, began with the question – what if? What if there really were Norse Gods and Goddesses? And, what if they did somehow have a hand in our development (as the Norse myths tell us)?

Of course those questions could be answered in a Fantasy framework, but since I have a passion for science, I asked another question: What if I answered the first questions, and then advanced the timeframe a century or so? What might that look like? What Technology might these advanced being have?

So really, I’m blending my favorite things: Science Fiction and Norse Mythology. Of course this has been done before, to some extent. But not recently, and not on the scale I have planned. (The Tribes of Yggdrasil is planned to be a nine book series.).

Why do you gravitate toward science fiction and fantasy?

I suppose I enjoy those genres because they do away with pesky limits to my reality. And further, depending on my mood, the plot can be achieved by magic, or by pseudoscience.

Another draw for me, is that both of those genres allow the reader to explore new worlds. I suppose, had I been born a couple of centuries ago, I would have wanted to be an explorer. I could see myself tagging along with Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle. But since we’ve explored almost every square inch of the planet, that leaves little for us restless souls to satisfy our curiosity. So I content myself with exploration through the worlds of literature, both as a reader and a writer.

What do you most enjoy about writing?

Writing allows me to explore, not only fictional worlds, but also boundaries. I can stretch my imagination and do things that I would never do in real life: I can explore new science, I can plan a murder, visit an alien city, or establish an empire.

Writing also allows the author to bring things to life. I can create people, even entire cultures. People joke about writers playing God, but in all honesty, it’s certainly flirting with the idea. How cool is that?

Please share a writing tip you’ve found helpful.

Give yourself permission to suck. You WILL get better. But only if you keep writing every day.

Write a bad First Draft, and don’t worry about it. Let your fingers scream across the key board and get it on paper, or on the screen. Then, and only then, do you go back and edit.

How does your Masters of Science degree influence your writing?

My Masters of Science Degree is in Management, so it was all about numbers, charts, trends, equations, etc. The Science of Business. This has certainly lead to me being a much more organized writer! Sorting, parsing and categorizing is just in my nature. I want to organize and describe the world around me.

That education comes out in my planning. When you read my work, you’d never know there were half a dozen spreadsheets behind the prose. My academic career prepared me to create a framework, but when I actually sit down to write, that part is completely organic. So I think all in all, it’s made me a better writer; it’s put structure around what natural talent I had, and made it that much better.

I also taught Graduate students for 5 years, so I’ve edited countless papers, and corrected a dizzying number of assignments – that’s made me a much keener self-editor. I still don’t edit my own final work (nor should anyone try), but it’s helpful to clean up the first draft.

Tell us about your martial arts experiences.

Martial Arts have been one of my driving passions in life since I was very young. Of course like most young boys of my generation, I grew up with Bruce Lee movies. And this is back when Chuck Norris was world Karate Champion. When I was fourteen I started studying Shotokan Karate, which is a traditional Okinawan form. It’s not very flashy, but it makes up for that in its brutal efficiency.

I continued to study Karate and Ju-Jitsu (the martial-art with all the nasty joint locks), finally getting a Black Belt in Shito-Ryu (another Okinawan form). I then moved to Washington DC, and took up Ju-Jitsu with a 6‘th Degree Black Belt instructor who taught Special Forces, FBI, Police Task Forces etc. This was amazing stuff! I got my Brown Belt in Budoshin Ju-Jitsu before work had me traveling around the globe and unable to continue taking classes.

Not content without Martial Arts in my life, I stumbled onto Historic European Martial Arts (HEMA). I had no idea that my European ancestors had such codified martial traditions. Sure, I knew there were Knights and all that, but people still practiced this kind of stuff? Yes they do!

So I began training with the German Longsword – two handed sword. It was a dream come true, truly. The cool thing about Historical Fencing (yep, they call playing with the big swords fencing too!) is that they practice with several kinds of weapons. First there are wasters – essentially wooden weapons that are used in day to day training. The Romans used these to train legionaries – although they were the single handed Gladius type swords. They also train with blunt steel swords, and also padded weapons for sparring. But the really cool part, is getting to cut with sharp swords. Commonly called test cutting, we used working replica swords to cut objects. It was surprising how hard it could be if your technique was off. If your cuts weren’t straight, you could bounce off the target.

There’s a great organization called the HEMA Alliance that can direct people to schools and like minded people to study with: http://hemaalliance.com

Needless to say, all this personal experience with Hand to Hand combat and weapons, has allowed me to portray combat scenes in my novels with uncanny realism. That said, I still try to balance that realism with my goal of presenting the reader with an exciting and dramatic experience. Alfred Hitchcock said: “Drama is life with the dull parts left out.” That’s my goal.

So you’ve written both fiction and non-fiction. How do the experiences compare? Why do you write non-fiction under a pen name?

Writing non-fiction versus fiction, is like being a moped mechanic versus a jet mechanic. I initially thought, “Hey this should be easy! I’ve written four non-fiction books, three of which are best sellers, and one of which is an aware winner.” Oh my! Was I in for a shock. My education and experience had all prepared me for non-fiction, which is really just organizing and presenting facts in an interesting and cogent way. Fiction, well, that’s a whole other ball of wax.

They really are completely different skill sets, and I didn’t appreciate that until I sat down and tried to create something. Every word has to come from your mind. With non-fiction, much of the time, you’re organizing extant information, re-wording, annotating, etc. Based on my success with non-fiction, I decided to make the leap into writing full time, and pursuing fiction. I realize now how naive that was.

But, if I’m anything it’s persistent and dogged. I wanted to do this. So what does a writer do when he needs to know something? Well, he reads, of course! And so I began studying the craft of writing. I read dozens of books on the craft, and even took a University Course in creative writing. I’m used to self-study, and that process worked well for me, but if you can, I highly recommend you take classes. Why? If only to have someone who can critique your work. It’s very hard to find good feedback.

I decided to write my non-fiction under a pen name, because I wanted to separate my business identity with my personal one. I had already published many technical articles (I wrote for a magazine for several years). My non-fiction work was all about Norse Mythology and related topics, which is a personal passion of mine. So really, it was all about branding. I had already established a business / corporate brand, and I wanted that to be distinct from my personal interests.

When I decided to write fiction full time, I decided to keep my non-fiction brand in place (Eoghan Odinsson), and to write my fiction under my given name (Hugh B. Long). So, I still have two brands.

The idea behind branding is that fans know what to expect when they read a book by Eoghan Odinsson, versus Hugh B. Long. Many authors do it.

What’s your favorite book?

My favorite book is “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau. For those who haven’t read it, it’s: “personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and manual for self-reliance.” per Wikipedia.

Thoreau wrote it while living in the woods for two years in a cabin he built. The book talks about many of the societal ills that we’d find familiar today, as well as detailing everything that Thoreau observed over those two years.

I re-read Walden every year. It’s like therapy for my soul.

Who is your favorite fictional character? (Any medium)

Wow! Did I ever have to think about this one!

George R.R. Martin’s character Tyrion Lanister, from Game of Thrones. The wit and intellect Martin imbues the little fellow with, is absolutely charming and unforgettable. I really enjoy Martin’s prose, but I find the series ambles a bit too much for my taste, but his writing style – wow!

If you could have one super-power, what would it be and why?

Time Travel: I’d really get to play God! That would be fun. I’d see if I could re-engineer history to create a global utopia. In the end I’d likely make a mess of things and destroy the planet. That’s why people shouldn’t have super-powers!

What’s next for you?

It’s going to be full steam ahead! I’m working on Book 2 of a 9 book series, so that’s a big chunk of my writing time over the next few years. I’m also working on a monthly serial about Zombies in the Viking Era, called Draugr’s Saga. http://www.amazon.com/Draugrs-Saga-1-ebook/dp/B009Z1XQJW

And to keep things fresh, I’m developing a brand new series of genre bending short stories. If it goes well, I may turn them into another series of books. That’s all I can say for now – cant give too much away. Stay tuned to my website for updates. I think they’re going to be crazy exciting!

Where can people learn more about your work?

Fiction:

• Website: www.hughblong.com

• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HughBLong.Author

• Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/hughblong

• Twitter: https://twitter.com/@hughblong

Non-Fiction:

• Website: www.eoghanodinsson.com

• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EoghanOdinsson

• Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/eoghan

• Twitter: https://twitter.com/@eoghanodinsson

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.

I’ve worked in countries spanning the entire globe: All over North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

Thank you, Hugh!