Interview: The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger (The Otto Digmore Series Book 1)

“Road trip!”

Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success.

Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time.

It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie.

There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he still might have romantic feelings for his best friend.

Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams?

Author Brent Hartinger first introduced the character of Otto Digmore in 2005, in his Lambda Award-winning books about Russel Middlebrook. Back then, Otto was something pretty unusual for YA literature: a disabled gay character.

Now, more than a decade later, Otto is grown up and finally stepping into the spotlight on his own. The Otto Digmore Difference, the first book in a new stand-alone series featuring Otto, is about much more than the challenges of being “different.” It’s also about the unexpected nature of all of life’s journeys, and the heavy price that must be paid for Hollywood fame.

But more than anything, it’s a different kind of love story, about the frustrating and fantastic power of the love between two friends.

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Molly: What music, if any do you listen to when you write?
Brent: You know, I’m one of those people who can focus and tune out almost anything — I’m the opposite of those highly-tuned-sensory types who can’t handle labels in clothing.

But I can NOT abide music playing while I’m writing! That’s the one part of my life where I need complete silence in order to focus. It’s hard for me to even imagine being able to write with music playing in the background.

For me, writing is hard, hard work. Every now and then, it flows magically. But for the most part, it’s a grueling slog. But the longer I sit in my chair, the more it flows. Needless to say, afternoons are much better for me than mornings.
Molly: Are you a full time writer, or part time writer?
Brent: I’ve been a full-time writer of fiction for over twenty years. I haven’t always made a lot of money, but I’ve made enough to live off of — almost entirely from writing novels and screenplays. I’m not kidding when I say that this is the accomplishment that I am most proud of in my life so far, because it has not been easy!
Molly: What was the transition like between part time and full time writer?
Brent: Making a living as a full-time writer is a real challenge, since this, almost by definition, is a business of ups and downs, booms and busts.

If you’re talented and/or lucky enough to have a spectacular success at the start of your career, that’s great. But here’s a tip: save your money! Unless your name is Stephen King, your career won’t stay “hot” forever.

As such, most of us have to find our security through planning.

For me, the key has been to be prolific, and to be diversified. I’ve always been driven to produce–motivation isn’t my number one problem. And I also outline beforehand, which I think means less rewriting down the line, though I recognize that other authors have a different process. Basically, I can finish four projects a year — typically two novels and two screenplays, including revisions. Then I also find time to do book promotion, travel, and speaking gigs. But keep in mind, my books tend to be on the shorter end — 50,000 to 80,000 words, max.

I also write in different genres and different mediums. There’s one school of thought that says you should pick a clear brand and focus on that. I can see the benefit to that, honestly. But for whatever reason, I’ve always liked to try different things, and I have really diverse reading and viewing interests. So one book of mine will be a thriller, and the next one will be contemporary humor. I also split my time 50/50 between novels and screenplays.

I think that hurt my career at first, because I was all over the place, and my editors and agents never quite knew what to do with me. But over the years, I’ve been pleased to discover that when I’m not having much success in one medium or genre, I can just jump over to another one. And since I tend to have a lot of irons in the fire, even when my career is at a low ebb, something I have always seems to connect somewhere eventually.

Plus, I don’t get bored, because I’m never repeating myself.

I will say that lately I have become more focused on LGBT projects, whatever the medium or genre. But that’s because the market is waaaaay more accepting of them now.
Molly: Do you have a word count per day you try to hit?
Brent: Yup, 2000 words. That’s hard at the beginning of a project, but it gets much easier as the writing goes on, as the story takes clearer and clearer shape.

Oh, and there is no “try” for me. I hit that goal no matter what, even if it means writing the same sentence over and over for four hundred words. That’s the deal I’ve make with myself: I can’t stop until I write those 2000 words.  And in thirty business days (give or take), I have a very rough first draft.

Of course I’m very aware I can only do stuff like this because I write full-time, and I don’t have kids. And sometimes I stay up until two a.m. in order to wrote those 2000 damn words.
Molly: When you finish writing a book, how long before you begin writing the next one?
Brent: I try to take a couple of weeks off, but I usually end up spending those weeks answering email and doing book promotion. Then I’ll brainstorm my next project for a week, outline for at least two weeks, and the whole process repeats itself.

I don’t work weekends though. Ever. That was the other deal I made with myself. The computer goes off on Friday night, and it stays off until Monday morning. I also take lots of vacations away from home.

About Brent:
BRENT HARTINGER is an author and screenwriter. His first novel, Geography Club (2003), was adapted as a 2013 feature film co-starring Scott Bakula and is currently being developed as a television series. His latest book is The Otto Digmore Difference, about some of the characters from Geography Club in their mid-twenties.

Author Contact:
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