Today’s author spotlight is shining on the one and only Patrick Hodges. Patrick is a prize-winning indie author and is having the last laugh on the bullies of the world, with his award-winning prose. Giving a black eye to those who would pick on this underdog, his middle grade books are burning up the charts. Without further ado, here’s…Patrick!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Phoenix, and currently reside in Glendale, Arizona. I have been married to my lovely wife Vaneza for fifteen years, and she is my biggest supporter. We have no children (unless you count fur kids, in which case we have three, two that bark and one that meows). By day, I work as a medical biller, and am a staunch fan of the Diamondbacks and Cardinals. I love to read, mostly Young Adult, and I ONLY read indie authors, because they need my support, and because some of them are awesome!
How did you get started on your writing journey?
It wasn’t a lifelong goal of mine, that’s for sure. In early 2014, I started to get nostalgic about my middle-school years (which, apart from the bullying, weren’t all that bad), and I started to think about how I might have changed things if I could go back. So then I started to write a story in my head about a bullied boy – who looked a LOT like me – who triumphed over his tormentors, won the respect of his peers and earned the love of a beautiful girl. A classic underdog story. After nine months, the story had a beginning, a middle and an end, and I said to myself, “Maybe I should write this down.” And three months later, Joshua’s Island was on Amazon. And then, other stories started rolling around my head, and I had to write those too!
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
Douglas Adams, for his wit and snarkiness, which I try to incorporate into all my stories. My writing style has been influenced by authors Timothy Zahn and Terrance Dicks, who have written novels in the Star Wars and Doctor Who universe. I love the way their stories are told in a fast-paced way without depending on tons of flowery prose.
Let’s talk about your novel! What is it about?
I actually have a three-book series, known collectively as the “James Madison Series”, and while there is some overlap, each story can stand on its own as it focuses on different characters. The first book, “Joshua’s Island,” tells the story of two eighth graders, Joshua and Eve. Joshua has been bullied horribly since fifth grade, and is a friendless outcast amongst his peers. His life changes in Science class when he gets paired with Eve, a pretty girl who has just joined the popular girls’ clique. Because of his status and reputation (which is based on false rumors), she wants nothing to do with him, but she soon discovers that Joshua is a very smart, gentle, sensitive boy who has been victimized by the bullies of the school – including her new best friend, the most popular girl in her class. What happens after that will end up changing both of their lives, and the lives of those around them, forever. The second story, “Ethan’s Secret,” takes place three years later and focuses on an important supporting character from “Joshua’s Island,” a girl named Kelsey. The third, “Sophie’s Different,” takes place three years after that, the main character being Sophie, Eve’s youngest sister.
How is the title significant?
The one place that Joshua has at his school to call his own a set of bleachers on the farthest side of the playground. He goes there to get away from everyone, including the bullies, during his recess period. He calls it his “island,” his own little sanctuary.
Where did inspiration for this come from?
I was bullied badly as a preteen, and in high school, it only got worse. I was never popular or athletic, and I went from short and scrawny to overweight in no time flat. I was so lonely and depressed, and all I could do to make myself happy was eat. For thirty years, I suffered from low self-esteem and a lack of ambition, despite having a wonderful, supportive family. Writing this book allowed me to purse myself of those demons that I’d been holding inside, and I hoped that by writing it, it might encourage others to avoid making the same mistakes that I did.
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
Nearly every single character in “Joshua’s Island” is based on someone who I went to middle school with. Some of them, especially the bullies, I had to change their names, but many of Joshua’s classmates have the same names as the kids I used to go to school with. I did have to embellish or alter their characters in several ways, but many of them are just as I remember them. The rest of the characters, I just made up because they fit the story. My favorite, though, is Kelsey, the main character in “Ethan’s Secret”. She’s smart, feisty, fearless, and loyal, the kind of best friend everyone should have. It was a joy to write her character.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
I would think middle-school students, between the ages of ten and thirteen, would be the most receptive, as most of the characters are in that same age range. I would also hope that older teens would enjoy them as well, not to mention parents and teachers. Though my characters are young, I deal with some very important social issues that are not restricted merely to kids of middle-school age. Honestly, I think anyone who enjoys coming-of-age contemporary novels would enjoy it.
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
I actually have several messages. Everyone knows that bullying is wrong, but the truth is, not every kid has to deal with it. There are many signs of bullying that are not readily apparent, and these signs are often missed by kids and adults. I’m hoping my books will educate others on some of those signs. More importantly, I try to get the message across that solving someone’s bullying problem is not nearly as difficult as it might seem. Because at their core, my books are about friendship. All kids have issues to deal with, and sometimes it can seem hopeless. But sometimes, all it takes is one person to turn all that around. If a person going through hell can be shown to not only survive but find happiness, maybe everyone can.
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
I had an idea for my first cover, and I didn’t have a ton of money to spend on an artist, so I went to an outsourcing website and asked if anyone would like to do my cover for a reasonable price. I received 20 responses from artists in 12 different countries over the next two weeks. And in a terrific touch of irony, I ended up choosing a lady who lived only 20 minutes away from me. She was a joy to work with, and I ended up having her do the covers for my other books as well.
What was your self-publishing experience like?
It got off to a rocky start, as my initial choice was to go with a vanity press to do my distribution and printing. I knew nothing about this going in, which was a big mistake on my part. I ended up spending too much while getting almost nothing in return. I’ve learned a lot since then, most notably that you can turn out a quality product without having it cost an arm and a leg.
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
For my next series, I will be delving into the epic sci-fi/fantasy genre. My title for the series is “The Wielders of Arantha.” I think it’s going to be awesome.
What are you social accounts if people want to connect with you?
I am on Facebook at “Patrick Hodges, Author”, as well as on Twitter at @Shrykespeare. If anyone would like to contact me via email, I can be reached at email@example.com.
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