Hannah Alazhar is a British Writer/ Producer/ Director, and joint CEO of Smoking Guns Productions, a UK/ USA based production company with major ties to Hollywood and the music industry. Led by two ballsy women, producing and writing team Hannah Alazhar and Shande Niemann, who co-founded Smoking Guns Productions in 2008.
Smoking Guns Productions have many varied writing projects on their slate, running the gamut of feature film genres, through to TV series and novels. The companies ambition is to take on Hollywood to produce highly commercial cinema, reaching the widest possible audience without compromising on great quality, writing and storytelling.
What inspires you to write?
Inspiration comes from many places, I find – a line of music that gets your wheels spinning, a piece of art, a particularly stormy sunset, the stories of friends… they meld with other influences; favorite movies, TV shows… and there’s the soup which begins to stew into a new story.
An event in life always prefaces the journey; be it feeling trapped by work, disrespected by friends or family, losing a loved one – they provide the literal bounce board into the emotional headspace, and then its just a case of diving in head first to ‘escape’ reality and kick around the new world you’re busy creating!
Tell us about your writing process.
Personally I’m a night owl – I spend the day catching up on things, then at nine at night I clear off a space at my desk and crack open my battered old laptop and see what’s going on. An extra large mug of coffee, an e-cigarette (recently quit chain smoking American Spirits at my laptop, god help me) and an ipod of tunes at the ready, I’ll spend the first half hour reading over last nights pages, get into the music, and slowly the characters start jabbering at me. Once that starts, we’re away. Bit by bit, I build up to steam throughout the night. I usually crawl into bed around five in the morning for a couple hours, before the daily grind starts over again.
I never believed in outling before I came to Hollywood; I was the epitome of an author who couldn’t bear the idea of ‘killing my flow’ or ‘penning myself in’ with a structure of any depth. It took me a long time, and a lot of failed drafts to finally listen to my editor, agent and circle of peers when they advocated the many different structures; I’m now a believer that Joseph Campell’s Myth Structure, and also Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat are very valuable in pacing a second or third draft out, once you’ve gotten all the fire and brimstone out of your system on the first badass draft.
When it comes to characters, I usually have a gut feeling what kind of ‘damage’ has been done to them, which guides me to wrte a simple character diamond. That’s about it, other than a quick sketch of their ‘ghost events’. The exception to the rule is the lead character I created in ‘City of Paradise’, in Kelly-Lee – I became so engrossed by this character that had planted his bags at my door, that I wanted to know everything about him. He became an amalgamation of an ex-boyfriend I once knew, and the many sordid stories of my friends and musicians of the Sunset Strip.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
It’s a crazy phenomenon, but the characters that I tend to write literally ‘appear’ on the doorstep of my mind, cowboy boots clacking, tired from their journey and gasping for a beer or a joint. This job therefore tends to be a conduit to those personalities – you’re simply the pen which tells their stories. And when it comes to writing compelling dialogue, you’d better get used to having shouting matches in an empty room — how else are you gonna tell if it rings true without throwing yourself in there? Get creative and get screaming!
What advice would you give other writers?
Persistence is God in this game. When everything seems lost, the world beyond the page will never fail you if you keep believing and keep building on it. Finish what you start. Never take no for an answer. There are no overnight successes, but years of toil and hard work which go unnoticed until you ‘break out’. Trust me, as someone who has seen all kinds of friends make it and break it in the City of Angels, they never got there by giving up at the first — or fiftieth — hurdle.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
My agent recommended that due to the ‘risque’ nature of the book, debuting on Amazon Kindle would be a realistic route to gaining a foothold on the market, gauging interest with an ultimate view to petition the publishing houses with good sales on the Kindle.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
The e-book trade is the future of publishing – even with a well respected agent, if you’re writing outside of the genre conventions of crime, romance or thrillers, there is barely any interest from the big publishing houses. If you’re writing as I am, to connect with an audience, your best bet s to forgo the lengthy process of publishing houses and agents, and start building your own following, your way.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Literary Fiction, Music, Paranormal
What formats are your books in?
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