Interview with Diane Hatz | Part Two
Diane talks her writing process, incorporating, inspirations and sequels
This is part two of the exciting discussion with Diane Hatz, author of Rock Gods and Messy Monsters. It also happens to be the second to last day you can pick up the ebook for only 99 cents. Enjoy the rest of the interview, and don’t miss out on this promotion while supporting an independent author. Click here to check out Part One!
Purchase the ebook for only 99 cents before it’s too late!
Can you talk about your process for writing and publishing "Rock Gods & Messy Monsters"? Was there a specific experience in your career that helped shape your perspective to write this book that you're willing to talk about?
In 1990, I decided to move to New York City and work in the music industry while I wrote books. I started at a small label that had just sold to a major (Island Records), then worked for an indie label, and finally ended up at a large corporate record company.
I felt like I had to take my brain out when I got to the corporate monolith - the main character in Rock Gods unzips her head and puts her brain in an urn on her desk every morning.
I worked for an insane narcissist who would yell at me all the time. He had a blood vessel in his forehead that would pound, and he’d turn purple with rage, so I took it a step further and one day imagined his blood vessels exploding on the sides of his neck. The main character, Alex, has to clean up her boss’s blood vessel explosions in the book - and sew her boss’s neck back up.
Rock Gods is a social commentary and humorous satire about working in a large company, specifically the corporate music industry. It’s surrealistic satire sprinkled with truth. The book came out of my completely insane experience working in the music industry in the 1990s. I actually wrote it in the late 90s / early 2000s after I’d gotten a master’s in creative writing.
(TIP- you do NOT need a degree in writing to write! You need to write to be a writer.)
I was so dejected and depressed from all the rejections I got from publishers that I threw the book (then called Rock Gods of Acht) up on Amazon in 2008 but did nothing to promote it. I did it to prove to myself I was a writer.
Fast forward to 2021. A friend from my early NYC days got in touch and said she’d found the book and read it. She was so inspired by the work that she quit her job the minute she finished it. And she’s now pursuing her creative dream.
She also informed me I had the book all wrong - it wasn’t about the demise of the corporate music industry. It was one woman’s search for meaning in a crazy world she’d put herself in. The record company was the setting for the novel but not the story.
Through her encouragement, I decided to republish it. I also wasn’t finding any consulting work (the pandemic shut down my nonprofit and my work), so I decided to go on a sabbatical and pursue fiction full-time for as long as possible.
At the beginning of 2022, I jumped into the indie publishing and marketing world. I should have bought stock in Kleenex before I started because I shed many tears over that year - but I did it. And I learned a ton.
Rock Gods was put out as a new edition (with a new ISBN) in September 2022. And I’m getting ready for my relaunch in October of this year. (I’m calling it a hard launch and am launching a hardcover edition to celebrate.)
If you want to know more about everything I learned building up to and after launching Rock Gods, that’ll have to be another article - this interview alone could become a book!
With regard to the process of writing Rock Gods, it was five and a half years of absolute dedication. I got up at five-thirty in the morning to work on it for a couple of hours, nearly every day, before going to my full-time job. I found a writing group that went through it line by line with me, and I did at least six major edits and rewrites.
When I started the book, the manuscript was depressing and woe-is-me and oh-my-god-my-life-is-over kind of writing. A real downer. And then, one day, in my fifth or sixth major edit, the characters took over. I’d gotten to know them and the story well enough that my writing voice danced onto the page. Brains came out, body parts dangled, and blood vessels exploded all over the place - I had found my voice.
Writing, rewriting, and editing make a writer. Writing alone doesn’t cut it. I read a long time ago that writing is rewriting - and I agree with that sentiment. Unfortunately, I’ve read too many books over the past year that are great stories but are only first or second drafts. Putting words on a page doesn’t make a reader want to read your work. Editing words into a compelling story does.
I’ve been worried that the sequel to Rock Gods, which I’m working on now, wouldn’t be in the same voice I had fifteen/twenty years ago, but she’s starting to come out. And I’m on my sixth rewrite. (The new book is Alex twenty years later.) I think my writing might have matured a bit, but there are still some grotesque bodily malfunctions and otherworldly goings on.
You founded an imprint called Whole Healthy Group, which you published your book through in 2022. I've heard prominent figures say that this is an important step for indie writers. What advice do you have for writers interested in incorporating? Is it necessary or only advantageous in specific cases?
I started Whole Healthy Group because of a job I was offered at a movie company in Hollywood, so the LLC began when I became an independent consultant. So, it was a bit easier for me because I already had the company set up.
No doubt about it - every indie author should set up their own LLC and be their own publisher. This is not my area of expertise, and I can now proudly say I did everything wrong and shed many tears of frustration, but there are benefits to having your own publishing company.
If you’re like me, find someone to help you set it up legally and file the paperwork - my accountant ended up being very kind and fixed all my errors, but I don’t recommend you try to do it all on your own if you’re not business-minded.
Try SCORE (Society of Retired Executives) - it’s a national organization that’s free. And it is what it says: a group of retired executives who offer their expertise for free. I’m sure if there isn’t an office near you, you can Zoom with a chapter in your state.
I’m set up as an LLC S Corporation. No, I don’t know what that means, but I recommend it. Take advantage of all the tax benefits you get. In addition, you’ll be seen as much more professional in the writing world if you’re publishing through a publisher, even if it’s your own company. (TIP - when you indie publish your book, make sure to put your LLC in as your publisher, not your name!)
Oh, and if you aren’t good with numbers, get an accountant. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief. Happy to share who I use if you don’t know anyone.
I also recommend you join IBPA - the Independent Book Publishers Association. (You can join as an author without your own publishing company.) They have great resources to help you on your indie publishing path - and they’re great people to boot.
I highly recommend their conference if you’re just starting out and you can afford it. I was able to sit with Amazon and Ingram experts for three hours and ask any questions I wanted. I met with book marketing experts (which is why I’m relaunching and have a new book cover), branding experts, and many other professionals in the publishing world.
Your work with your non-profit Change Food focused on promoting sustainable and equitable food systems. Do you approach writing in much the same way, in that you would like to promote and affect change in the world through your stories? What are the stories that most profoundly affected you and why?
Yes! My hope is that I’ll be able to touch and motivate people with my writing. To help them discover their own truth and their own authentic self. I believe that’s how we’ll change the world.
So far, one person has quit their job to pursue her dreams because of the book, another was inspired to take up writing herself, and a third said the book got her off her tush to pursue her passion. I feel like I’ve already achieved what I set out to do.
I hope now to reach more people with humor and satire - and inspire them to pursue their dreams and discover their authentic selves - without bashing them over the head with a message.
Probably the two books that most profoundly affected me are To Kill A Mockingbird and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I know! They are totally different books. TKAM showed me how words could open hearts and bring serious issues to light without beating anyone over the head. It showed me how words could create drama, truth, and beauty. It is an absolute must-read for everyone.
THGTG showed me how words on a page could build worlds and create absolute freedom in a person’s mind. The crazed absurdity and utter wackiness of the novel freed me to be the writer I am today. Another must-read!
You moved to New Mexico and went on to publish your first book not long after. Do you attribute the creative drive to the shift in environment, or was it a coincidence? How important of a role do you think a person's environment plays in their creative capacity?
I don’t think our external environment is nearly as important as our internal environment. So I don’t think it matters where a person physically is, but I do believe what’s inside makes all the difference. We were in the height of lockdown; I was alone in New York City (and it was not fun); I’d been there thirty years; I’d hit a wall with my career and was fighting both menopause and ageism - and, frankly, I was broken.
I moved to New Mexico to heal. I needed to change my outer environment, but I don’t think everyone has to. The writing came about because I was getting better. I believe the healthier we are on the inside, the more creative we can be. How we find inner health is different for everyone.
Is there anything you can share about your next work in progress? What else can we expect to see from Diane Discovers that you're most excited to publish?
I’m happy to say that I’m in my sixth rewrite of the next novel, which is a sequel to Rock Gods & Messy Monsters. It’s Alex twenty years later when her life falls apart. Again. The novel includes fallen spirits from another dimension, car chases, kidnappings, and a multi-billionaire with farting issues who’s trying to take over the world and suck the energy out of spirit guides.
Overlaying it all, Alex is still searching for happiness. In book two, she still thinks happiness is outside of herself, in things she can own, a man she can marry, power, and money. When everything falls apart, she’s left with herself. Book three will be her journey inside.
I’ve just hired a developmental editor, so the book is coming along. I don’t have a release date yet, but would love to see it in print first quarter of 2024. (Though that might be pushing it.)
I also might do a couple of online events to celebrate the hard launch of Rock Gods - if anyone’s interested in joining, just leave a comment, and I can send you a signup link.
Regarding my Substack, I’m not able to post as frequently as I’d like right now because of the book relaunch and second book, but I've decided on my focus. I have a private email list that will cover themes in my books, such as personal transformation, spirituality, and finding our authentic selves. My Substack Diane Discovers is going to focus on the life of an indie author - writing, publishing, and marketing one's writing, as well as updates on my work. It'll be a mix of thought opinion pieces as well as how to navigate the indie author world. And it might even get a new name! I'll figure it all out toward the end of this year.
Do you have any advice for early or independent writers?
This is a tough one for a debut novelist, and I was so angry when I first heard it, but I understand now. Odds are you will sell your first book when you publish your third.
So - if you have a limited budget, spend more time writing your second, third, and fourth book. And writing a series has a bigger impact today than one-off books. If you’re serious about becoming a writer, get into it for the long game.
Focus on building your audience with your first book. I know! I wanted royalties and people who liked my work. I’ve spent what I consider a lot of money promoting my work, and I’m nowhere near a decent readership. When you have more work published, you have more marketing options. So - don’t give up! Just keep writing.
Thank you so much for speaking with us, Diane! We wish you the best of luck on your re-launch of Rock Gods and Messy Monsters and for the sequels. Can’t wait to read the book and follow up with you in the future!
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