Pod Shots

A Deerfield pod-novelist may be close to striking literary gold

Hutchins saw 7th Son as a thriller. But once his story hit the airwaves -- mostly in 30-minute spurts, like a radio series circa 1940 -- fans labeled it science fiction.

¨A lot of the books that are written every year, the reason they´re not published is because they suck,¨ Terra says. He feels strongly, though, that 7th Son will make it.

The book is a complex thriller. Hutchins can go overboard with descriptive detail, but he knows how to keep a story moving. He begins with the kidnapping of the Beta clones. They´re hoisted away to a secret government facility, where they discover that they´re carbon copies of a man named John Michael Smith, or John Alpha. There´s John, a college dropout who pours drinks at a Miami nightclub. Michael is a gay Marine. Jack is a geneticist. Father Thomas is a Catholic priest. Jonathan works for the United Nations. Dr. Mike is a criminal profiler. And Kilroy 2.0 is a mentally ill computer hacker.

Hutchins behind the mic
Hutchins behind the mic

Hutchins sees himself in all of them. ¨They´re all little facets,¨ he says. ¨It was my hope that the reader/listener would connect with those different facets too. A lot of my listeners are very tech-savvy, so Kilroy 2.0 is by far the favorite character -- they love him.¨

So far, he has recorded and released more than 50 installments, which can be found on www.jchutchins.net. The first episode of the third book goes live July 7. An ominous day. Get it? 07/07/07. Hutchins maintains a tight schedule. He´s behind the microphone most Sundays and downloading audio to the web on Tuesdays. He has a full-time job as a graphic designer. And he always answers fan mail, sometimes more than a dozen letters or e-mails a day. Not surprisingly, Hutchins often doesn´t get to bed before 2 o´clock in the morning. Brown describes herself as a ¨podcast widow.¨

¨He could be a jerk and ignore his fan e-mail and not respond to people individually, but he doesn´t,¨ Brown says from the couple´s open-plan kitchen. ¨He genuinely cares about people. He´s just constantly tending to his listeners, so it takes a lot of his time. But you know what? It makes him happy.¨

Brown suspects it will all pay off. ¨Honestly, if they released a printed version of 7th Son tomorrow, at least 15,000 of them would go out and buy it because they believe in it and they want to support him. And partly that´s because he´s nice.¨

His fan base covers many age groups, but on the whole, they´re educated people who aren´t satisfied with the usual television fare.

Robert Hulson, a Hutchins fan who lives in Pembroke Pines, stumbled onto 7th Son in March 2006 while looking for music to download. Before Hulson and his wife started a family three years ago, he was an avid reader. But with two toddler boys at home, it´s difficult for him to get his fiction fix from paperbacks. ¨My books are just sitting on the nightstand, not moving at all,¨ he says. ¨I´ve got three or four that have been there probably since my first son was born.¨

Audiobooks were a good compromise, especially since Hulson commutes 30 minutes in his car each way to an administrative job at the Broward County School Board. Now that he´s discovered podcasts, he downloads more than a dozen a day.

What hooked Hulson on 7th Son is the humor, he says. Hutchins´ radio-announcer voice also helped. ¨Chris has a good story and good delivery -- that´s part of why he´s on top of the podcast world,¨ Hulson says.

Hulson and Hutchins are now on a first-name basis. After listening to a dozen chapters of 7th Son, Hulson wrote a fan letter. Turns out the two live within miles of each other, so they got together for lunch. Meeting the man behind the podcast hasn´t dampened Hulson´s enjoyment of 7th Son. ¨It´s weird for me because I´ve sat across a table from him, and yet I still see other faces in my head when I listen to the story,¨ Hulson says.

Hutchins tries to give each character a distinctive voice. He toys with accents -- British, Southern, Brooklyn -- and even goes high-pitch for female dialogue. He turns beet-red just thinking about how silly he might sound.

But the voices help listeners keep track of the characters.

Some listeners are so psyched about 7th Son that they volunteer their time and talents to spread the word. Hutchins has dubbed 185 fans agents of his ¨Ministry of Propaganda¨ because their plugs infiltrate blogs, e-mail inboxes, and MySpace pages. The true fanatics are members of the ¨Beta Clone Army.¨ More than 40 have sent Hutchins pictures of themselves sporting T-shirts they purchased from the official 7th Son store at GeekLabel.com. There´s Robin riding the metro in Seoul, Andy Dudley hoisting a pint from a U.K. pub, and Jocelyn on a Hong Kong balcony.

Martin Parrot, a 49-year-old technology buff from Dallas, is an extreme example of a 7th Son cyber fan turned collaborator. After hearing his first 7th Son podcast, Parrot decided that very night to make a screensaver for the author. ¨The creative juices just started flowing,¨ Parrot says. ¨I decided to do a mock-up of the 7th Son logo as a thank you to J.C. for such an enjoyable podcast.¨

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