Author Zachary Hagen’s In My Office!

My Interview with Zachary Hagen!

Another native Minnesotan – SKOL!  😉  I am excited to get to know you and to introduce you to my readers.

  • I always kick off my interviews with the same question, but I want to do something a little different this time.  Something personal… Would you share some pictures of your fur baby, Flynn, with us? 🐶
    Did you name him after Flynn Rider from Tangled or perhaps Hollywood’s foremost swashbuckler, Errol Flynn?
    Flynn is named after Flynn Rider from Tangled. I absolutely love that movie and the series that came after it. In fact, the wedding ring my wife bought for me is the men’s Disney band inspired by the movie. I will say that the movie Flynn and the Labrador Flynn do not match in personality at all. Flynn is the typical lab and is very clingy and lovey all the time.
  • Now for my standard opening question – please, tell us how you’d describe yourself?
    That really depends on the situation. I’m neurodivergent, I’m a scholar, I love to learn, I’m tenacious, I generally get what I want when I set my mind to it. I prioritize people over myself, I’m creative. I try and get closer to the me I want to be every day.
  • I read you’ve always been an avid reader and fascinated by storytelling.  I’d like to discuss this since it, clearly, influenced who you became as a person and a writer.
    • At bedtime, your parents read to you, which is one of the most vital factors for building literacy.  How do you feel this impacted you as a young reader?  Do you think this was what sparked your love for books?
      •  I absolutely think it had an impact by showing how important words and literature were to my family. My mother is a literacy expert, my great uncle Loron is also a writer, and more than a couple people in my family teach English.
      • Story is also a vital part of my faith (though some don’t see it that way), so it’s a natural extension for me to tell stories as a way to feel closer to the world, spiritually fed, and whole as a person. Those bedtime stories were foundational in making story a safe and comforting place for me.
    • I know The Chronicles of Narnia and A Series of Unfortunate Events were two of the first book series you ever read.  What drew you to these titles?
      • Quite honestly, they were chosen by my mother. No one knew I had ADHD until I got my first teaching job (never diagnosed through my entire educational career with the exception of my Masters). Because of that, most books didn’t hold my attention at first.
      • Narnia was my first real read. C.S. Lewis created a world that kept me hooked from the first page of The Magicians Nephew until the last page of the Last Battle.  I think I finished them, as a second grader, in a little more than two months. From then on, I was hooked. I needed a new series to sink deep into, and since I was getting faster, my mother wanted something that would keep me busy for a while, and the thirteen volumes of Lemony Snicket’s books did keep me busy for a good long time.
        • Do you feel this is where you developed your love for fantasy, or what might have inspired you to become a fantasy writer?
          • Yes. I’ll go on record and say that I felt that not enough people were reading Narnia anymore because the style doesn’t fit with the modern tastes of some readers. Is this a bad thing? I’m not going to say that, but it did make me sad. A lot of the students that I taught when I taught middle and high school just didn’t know about the books I loved and put me on the path to study and teach English.
          • I wanted to create something of an homage to Narnia in Eternal Chronicles. I believe my books take what C.S. Lewis did so well and adapts his vision, symbolism, and heart in a package that readers will identify with now. Beyond that, I feel like fantasy has the power to help us analyze Truth in a context that makes us more open to listen to our hearts and the world around us.
          • Reality can be harsh, but a fantastical story with magic and intrigue can soften that blow and help us learn about our world by experiencing another.
        • The Hardy Boys are mystery and the Little House books are historical fiction.  You’ve named J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis as having a huge influence on you as both a reader and writer…  Have you always migrated toward fantasy over any other genre?  If so, what appeals to you about it?
          • The characters in fantasy are often the victims of tropes that just hit me where it hurts. Being chosen, royal, thrust into adventure. As a lonely kid with no friends, and as an adult with few friends scattered across the country, fantasy makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger and makes me feel connected to a world that’s bigger than our understanding of the universe.
          • I have read and enjoyed other genres. Science fiction, dystopian, historical fiction, and even some romance creep onto my bookshelf. I couldn’t put down The Hunger Games when I read them.
    • Were there other books or authors that made an impact on you as a young reader?
      • So thanks to my hyper fixation, it was hard to get into other books besides the ones I’ve already mentioned here or in other interviews until I was older. One of the best series I’ve read recently was the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Science fiction retelling of classic fairytales is an absolute stroke of genius.
  • How did the reader become a writer?
    It’s actually the other way around. I wanted to write before I wanted to read. I have, as proof, little staple bound books that I “wrote” before I was truly a fluent reader. I wanted to tell stories before I ever experienced others’ stories for myself. Writing is who I am, and it always has been.
  • Minnesota has a great history of writers – from Garrison Keiller to F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Let’s talk about the next great writer to emerge from “the land of 10,000 lakes” – you!
    • I always find this question interesting because you can be a writer without publishing.  Of course, publishing makes you an author.  What motivated you to publish your work?  Why was this important to you?
      • My mother motivated me. She’s been one of the most vocally supportive people of my work. It’s why my first piece of published work for my series, Lux Terra: an Origin Story, is dedicated to her. She told me that my first book, Eternity’s Well, was too good not to polish and publish.
      • Plus I love the idea of people I’ve never met reading my words and loving them they way I’ve loved the words of so many other books.
        • What was your journey to publication – did you pursue a literary agent?  Why, or why not?
          • I chose to self-publish Eternal Chronicles because I wanted them to be exactly what I pictured without any creative input from anyone other than my editor. I wanted to make all the decisions and put out something I could be proud of and be the sole owner of. However, I will be seeking a literary agent for a current project when it is finished.
        • Where did you finally land – traditional, small press, indie, or self-pubbed – and why?  What made this the right fit for you, personally?
          • Hybrid. I am self-publishing my first series, but beyond that, I’d like to pursue traditional publishing. I love the control I’ve had over my first series so far, but I think I’d like to focus more on the writing itself in the future, so having an agent and a publisher would be great.
        • Is there anything you wish you had known BEFORE you decided to publish, and if you had known it, how do you think it would’ve changed your experiences?
          • I wish I’d known that ProWriting Aid doesn’t know everything. I blindly accepted every suggestion when proofing my first book and published it without another read through. I’ve since gone back and fixed that manuscript and republished it with a new cover, but it was up for eight months in a state I wish it had not been up in. I would have been more careful if I’d known that.
    • What’s the writing process like for you (i.e. do you have a routine… a favorite place…  inspirational beverage or location…)?
      • So I have written most of my work at a dining room table of some kind. I have written some at a desk in my old classroom, but it’s the dining room table. Now, I’ve gotten in the habit of lighting a candle and having a tea or a lemonade there to sip on while I write. I set a word goal for the day and will write it all in 2-5 sprints depending on how easily it flows.
        • What do you feel is the most difficult part of the writing process, and why?
          • I feel like the most difficult part of the writing process is the proofreading process. I love getting to know the story as I plot and write, and even edit, but proofreading is a long tedious process.
        • Do you ever get writer’s block, and if so, how do you deal with it?
          • I get writer’s block when I don’t plot. If I don’t have a clear vision of a story’s trajectory, I will get lost. I envy people who can just sit down and write a book because they get to experience it fresh as they write, but I can’t do that. I need to know the major points of the story in order to write it. If I plot, I don’t have blocks.
        • Do you use a professional editor or beta readers?  How do you address quality control in your work and acquire the vital feedback authors need prior to publication?
          • I work with an incredible editor and a carefully curated team of beta readers. My editor gives me the most feedback. She helps me to highlight the story I’m telling by seeing the nuances I intend to be there but don’t always make it into the draft she receives. We go 2-3 rounds, and then I finalize my choices, proofread it with ProWriting Aid and my first full read through of the book.
    • How do you deal with marketing and promotion?
      • This is a great question. I’m still learning how to do this part of being an author. Right now I’m reading a great series by Bethany Atazadeh and Mandi Lynn on marketing. I’m taking a lot of time to build a platform and do things like this interview! At the end of the day, I look at it as building a relationship with my audience and reaching them where they are.
        • You are very active on TikTok and Goodreads.  Do you find these to be useful for reaching readers – why, and how?
          • I think they can be. It’s kind of a luck thing because you have to appeal to readers and hope that they are moved to talk positively about your work.
          • Word of mouth is the best advertising, and it’s the best way to build a reputation among readers.
  • You offer professional editing services for writers and students.  I’d like to address this before we say goodbye today.
    • How does your editing services differ for students and writers?
      • For students, I charge by the hour rather than by the word because the individual student’s needs can vary so much. For writers and authors, I charge by the word because that’s the industry standard.
  • What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?
    I’m planning on releasing two books this year. Both book 2 (Eternity’s Mirror) and book 3 (Eternity’s Refuge) will be coming out this year. Eternity’s Mirror) comes out March 22, and I’m super excited for that!
  • What is your current WIP?
    • I’m currently drafting two books. Of course, one of them is Eternity’s Refuge, the third book in Eternal Chronicles. The other book I’m drafting is called Aisha’s Secret, an Aladdin retelling from the heroine’s perspective.
  • What’s the best way for readers to connect with you and your books?
    • My website and my newsletter!
      zacharyhagenwrites.com is where readers can sign up for my newsletter and get a free short story, request to be part of my arc team in the contact section and get to know my books as soon as they’re officially announced.

Thank you for taking time to meet with me today.  I enjoyed our chat and wish you much success!

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