inAuthors: Dallas Hudgens
November 27, 2012 by Jada.Bradley
Novelist Dallas Hudgens’ first novel, Drive Like Hell was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection and his second, Season of Gene, was a Book Sense Notable. However, Hudgens returns to the format he finds most compelling with his latest work Wake Up, We’re Here, a collection of short stories. The collection, published by his own Relegation Books, has been described as “America, down on her luck, read for redemption.”
The word redemption is a fitting one for Hudgens’ career arc. As cliche as it is to turn to dictionary definitions, a secondary meaning for redemption is that of gaining or regaining possession and an outdated meaning of it is the act of buying one’s freedom, and in starting his own press for himself and other previously published authors, he’s doing just that. I got the chance to sit down and ask him some questions.
Why did you make the transition from novels to short stories?
I’ve always been drawn to stories more than novels. And once I started writing, stories were the only type of fiction I wrote for about twenty years. The earliest version of Drive Like Hell was actually a collection of stories. The advice I got was to rewrite the book as a novel. I did that, and then I wrote a second novel, Season of Gene. But after the second novel came out, I realized I missed writing stories. So, I went back to it. I tried to make the stories work together as a whole, and they eventually became Wake Up, We’re Here.
My publisher passed on their option to buy the story collection. I understood their decision and was grateful for the opportunity they’d given me to publish two novels. I also realized I’d spent years asking publishers and editors to take a chance on my writing, but I’d never really taken a risk myself. So, I started thinking about publishing the collection myself.
How long have you lived in Virginia?
I moved to Virginia in 1989 to attend George Mason University’s MFA program. So, the Washington area has felt like home for a long time. After GMU, I worked for a while as an assistant on NPR’s “The Sound of Writing,” a program that broadcasted short stories by both well-known and newer writers. The stories were read by professional actors, and the show was hosted by Alan Cheuse, who was my writing professor at George Mason. Being exposed to so many great stories during those few years made me appreciate the short form even more.
Can you tell us something about the stories in Wake Up, We’re Here that are set in the DC area?
‘Stella’ is set in Arlington, Virginia. It’s about a lonely florist named Nance who goes to a bar on the night of her 48th birthday. At the bar, she runs into her somewhat dishonest auto mechanic, who turns out to be pretty good company. They end up buying a six pack and driving through the streets of Arlington in Nance’s Alfa Romeo, looking for the house where she used to live with her ex-husband and the daughter she no longer sees.
Once you decided to publish this short story collection on your own, how long did you spend researching the publication process?
I was lucky to have a good friend who taught me many of the important things, including print on demand, distribution, e-books, and how to buy an ISBN number. I researched some other areas on my own. I rushed forward before I knew everything I needed to know. But if I’d waited longer and been more patient, I might have talked myself out of doing it.
Now that you’ve had the experience of publishing your own work, what would you do differently (if anything)?
With print on demand and e-books, it was easy to make the book available through online retailers. But I regretted that I would not be working with independent bookstores to the same degree as when my novels were published. Independent booksellers are so great about supporting books and authors, and they were very generous to me when my novels were published. The path that I took in publishing the story collection made distribution to independent stores more difficult, but the stores that I’ve reached out to regarding the book have been very supportive and helpful.
In an article published in The Millions, you discussed the idea of making Relegation Books into a small press and publishing other writers. Do you still plan to do this?
I’m working closely with publicist Lauren Cerand to make Relegation a small press. Our plan is to publish one new title in 2013. Instead of looking for a certain type of book or voice, the goal is to work with an author who has been through the traditional publishing process but is now without a publisher; someone who hasn’t yet found the audience they deserve. The hope is that Relegation might be a stepping stone back to a larger publisher or toward the success the author is meant to have.
LISTEN: Largehearted Boy asked Dallas Hudgens to connect the short stories in Wake Up, We’re Here to music.
About The Author:
Jada Bradley (jadabradley.com) is a Washington DC-based writer and educator who enjoys telling stories in formal and informal ways. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and online. She holds Masters in Spanish Translation and is a great supporter of creative expression in the various forms it takes. She also writes about local cultural events as D.C. Cultural Events Examiner for Examiner.com. Her blog, In Other Words, can be found at inotherwordz.blogspot.com.