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People Who Inspire Me: J.C. Hutchins

July 7, 2009

Personal Effects: Dark ArtI first heard about J.C. Hutchins when he was podcasting the first book of his 7th Son Trillogy. I started listening when he was only a few episodes into it. Most of us were new to podcasting at that time, and I was blown away by the quality of what he was producing even at that early stage. The podcast started with this great line, “The President of the United States is dead. He was murdered in the morning sunlight by a four-year-old boy…” How could I not get sucked into it? Not only was the story well written, but J.C. did a fantastic job with the narration. Which was no small feat. He had created this story about seven people who were all clones of another man, John Alpha. Each character had to sound different, yet there had to be that similarity between them. It also helped that the story was a thrill-ride from beginning to end.

Now we have the novel, “Personal Effects: Dark Art,” written by J.C. Hutchins and created by Jordan Weisman, published by St. Martin’s Press. First, there is the packaging of this book. It is more than a novel. “Personal Effects: Dark Art” is something that has to be experienced. The cover, designed by Rob Grom, is fantastic. You open the book and inside the front cover is all of this stuff. There’s ID and credit cards, photos, and much more. All of these items are clues so that the reader can feel like they are part of the novel. There are many more clues online, Brinkvale Psychiatry, Zach Taylor’s MySpace page. The list goes on.

But what about the story? This book is a dark scary place. The story follows the dtailed notes of art therapist Zach Taylor’s investigation into the life and madness of Martin Grace, an accused serial killer who claims to have foreseen, but not caused, his victims’ deaths.

Zach uses his investigations with interviews and art sessions to delve into the strange and frightening world of Martin Grace. The items among Grace’s personal effects are the keys to understanding his haunted past, and finding the terrifying truth Grace hoped to keep buried…

  • Call the phone numbers: You’ll get a character’s voicemail.
  • Google the characters and institutions in the text: You’ll find real websites.
  • Examine the art and other printed artifacts included inside the cover: If you pay attention, you’ll find more information than the characters themselves discover.

Personal Effects: Dark Art is a game changer. I’m certain we will see other’s copying this interactive experience.

So, why does J.C. Hutchins inspire me?

I’m in awe of his drive and innovation when it comes to self promotion. It started with “7th Son.” Hutchins built an online community that is very engaging and powerful. He created the Ministry of Propaganda for connecting with his audience by giving them street team-style missions to perform. Hundreds of people volunteered their time to help promote his work. He embraces all forms of new media, Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and more. And to top it off, he is a damned good writer.

A short talk with “Hutch”

Rick: Anyone can go to your web site and find out the things that are there about  you. Can you tell me one thing about J.C. Hutchins that has not appeared on the web before?

Hutch: That’s an awesome question, and the answer might explain at least one reason why I’m hungry to succeed as a career storyteller.

While my family had a solid middle-class income in my early youth, a series of circumstances (including my parents’ divorce, which divided our stable income) sent us to the poorhouse in the course of a few years. By high school, I was working a part-time job, helping contribute to the bottom line. Some of our indoor plumbing was shot to hell — the sinks’ drain pipes were rusted through so badly, we used buckets under the cabinets to collect and pitch the dirty water — and it was an occasional struggle to keep the phone on.

Through all of this, my father was an absolute hero, working three jobs to provide for my sister and I. I did what I could to help, when he’d let me. The drive, focus and love my father showed during those years was nothing short of miraculous, and made a major impact on me. He never gave up, never stopped working, never took a break … and he did it because he loved his kids. He’s my hero.

I remember that vividly, and remember that — despite the fact that we knew we were poor — it didn’t feel like we were poor, because we had each other, and we found time to laugh and love. It brought our little family together in a way that’s hard to express, but the bonds were — and remain — unbreakable.

I’m driven to tell great stories because I believe the universe rewards hard work and great storytellers. My dream is to make a frickin’ mint, to ensure that my father wants for nothing in his golden years. The odds of making a mint in the writing business are ultra-slim — but then again, those have always been my kind of odds.

Rick: How did you get connected with Jordan Weisman?

Hutch: David Moldawer, a fellow podcaster who was an editor at St. Martin’s Press, gave me a ring in 2007. He and I were friendly, had traveled in the same pod-circles, and admired each others’ work. (I loved his “Moldawer In the Morning” and “Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas” shows; he dug 7th Son). He presented an incredible opportunity by explaining the concept fueling Personal Effects: Dark Art and Jordan’s involvement as creator of the concept. As a fan of role playing games and Alternate Reality Games, I knew Jordan’s reputation, and was honored by David’s call.

David explained the concept — an art therapist who uses his patients’ personal effects to unlock their psychoses … and those personal effects would actually come with the book — and I was smitten. Soon, I was on the phone with Jordan, and chatting about storytelling and Personal Effects. I submitted a writing sample, was given the thumb’s up by Jordan and St. Martin’s Press, and got to working with Jordan on a plot for the book that would not only work well as a novel, but would organically accommodate the “out of book” experiences those tangible personal effects would create. It was a blast.

Rick: One of the big things that I want to do on this blog is talk about people who inspire me. Who inspires you?

Hutch: I’ve got a lot of admiration for zero-bullshit folks who are as driven as they are creative. In the podcasting space, our mutual friends Scott Sigler, Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace are some of my best friends, and folks I’m inspired by. Their hunger to make it as pro storytellers, and the innovations they bring to their work, are second-to-none. I’m also inspired by ultra-successful podcasters Keith and the Girl (Keith Malley and Chemda Khalili) and the “Ask A Ninja” team (Douglas Sarine and Kent Nichols). Those are tremendously talented, zero-compromise folk whose work has attracted hundreds of thousands of fans, and created some excellent professional opportunities for them, to boot. I’m in awe of these new media creators.

Going beyond the fishbowl of podcasting, I’m endlessly inspired and impressed by creators such as Stephen King (I’m gobsmacked by the quality of his work and his output), Jeffery Deaver (a thriller writer whose novels sport plot twists so slick, you just gotta study them), James Cameron (great writer, and a visionary visual storyteller) and Steven Spielberg (because he’s … the master).

I also look to past heroes for inspiration. One of them who often comes to mind is Malcolm X. The man was willing to die for his beliefs. That takes a breed of courage and honor that I pray to one day have, myself.

Rick: Your life has changed in the past five years. If you got out your crystal ball and looked. Where would you see J.C. Hutchins in the next five years?

Hutch: Unless lightning strikes my writing career — and that’s not out of the question; I love ultra-slim odds, remember? — I reckon I’ll still be cranking out books, podcasting, and keeping down a day gig, much like I am now. However, I do hope those books will be rolling out to bookshelves, reaching folks well beyond the sound of my podcasting mic. The quote is true: It does take at least a decade of hard work to become an overnight success.

Am I complaining? No, and I never will. It’s a blessed life … and I’m blessed to have so many amazing, generous people in it.

Well, that’s it. I hope you have enjoyed this first in my series, “People Who Inspire Me.”

Thanks for reading.

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