24 July 2019 – CHRIS STEVENSON – GUEST AUTHOR
CHRIS STEVENSON – GUEST AUTHOR –
Today, I interview an author who makes a lot of sense in this day and age.
Welcome, Chris …
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY. My early writing accomplishment were multiple hits within a few years: In my first year of publication back in 1987, I wrote three SF short stories that were accepted by major slick magazines which qualified me for the Science Fiction Writers of America, and at the same time achieved a Finalist award in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. This recognition garnered me a top gun SF agent at the time, Richard Curtis Associates. My first novel went to John Badham (Director) and the Producers, the Cohen Brothers. It was only an option, but an extreme honour. The writer who beat me out of contention for a feature movie, was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. My book was called Dinothon, and has long sense vanished.
A year after that I published two best-selling non-fiction books and landed on radio, TV, in every library in the U.S. and in hundreds of newspapers.
I have been trying to catch that lightning in a bottle ever since. My YA dystopian novel, The Girl They Sold to the Moon won the grand prize in a publisher’s YA novel writing contest, went to a small auction and got tagged for a small film option. So, I’m getting there.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER? I became a writer very early on in about 1974 when I wrote about five SF novels longhand in spiral note books. But it wasn’t until 1986 when I read a short story in Twilight Zone Magazine that the writing bug really hit me. I was so impressed with the structure of the story, I thought I could duplicate the feat, and started writing short stories right away.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP? Except for drawing out character personalities, backgrounds, and physical features, I shoot straight from the hit, non-stop. I might make notes along the way, but the story (somehow) has a life of its own. Sometimes I think the characters dictate to me and actually order me around.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER? The freedom to create my own worlds in minute detail. I love to craft visual images that use all of the senses to describe a scene. Spec fiction allows me that creativity. I feel I’m the master of my own universe. Ya know, God-like powers and all that?
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER? I’ve never had problems writing out pure text, attracting agents, selling books whether by myself or my agent and bulk editing. No writing blocks to speak of. The most difficult chore is promotion and marketing. It is time-consuming, tedious and very hard to get right. The competition today is so fierce writers are using extreme measures to get noticed, get reviews and make sales. Many authors are spending significant amounts of money advertising. I love meeting people, but I am shy about asking them to check out my books.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER? I must have been a story teller or a scribe. In spite of some shyness, I feel very comfortable in front of an audience. I like to coach and teach on just about any subject that I know well. Since I’m good with my hands, I must have been a blacksmith or some type of an engineer.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT? My limelight days were from 1988 to 1991. My two non-fiction books did very well. I was so very proud to attend the American Booksellers Association twice, wearing an authors’ badge. I landed on the evening news cast at 6:00 PM. I have never had so many radio interviews as I did at that time. I was swarmed by the media.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT? I am working on the editing on my YA fantasy books, the Screamcatcher Series. As of this interview, the first book, Screamcatcher: Web World has just gone on sale for pre-order. As far as new material, I am revising a 400-page werewolf thriller for reprint. Aside from that, I’m half way through a Middle Grade fantasy book.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU? I’m inspired by great voice/style in writing. I’m a stickler for a unique premise or idea. They say that “Everything under the sun has been done.” I fool myself into believing that this is not true, and I can come up with something totally outside of the box. It is an obsession with me. For example: A Jurassic Park werewolf, a society that permits parents to pawn their children, an ancient dream catcher that imprisons four teenagers….
WHAT GENRE DO YOU
I’ve written in the genres of science fiction, thriller,
paranormal romance, young adult, urban and portal fantasy and contemporary
romance. I first thought I was a good science fiction writer until readers told
me I had a flare and great voice for young adult.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS? If a budding writer ask me if they should make authorship a vocation, I would tell them to take a couple of aspirin, go into a dark room, lie down and wait for the feeling to pass. Seriously, this is a rewarding but very tough profession to be in. It takes dogged determination and a steady stream of written material to last in this business. Set writing goals every day and meet them as best you can.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK? I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. I’ve learned from Anne Rice, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, to just plough right through it and worry about major editing later. The trick is to get the first draft completed. That takes discipline. If I hit a snag, I’ll walk away from it for awhile and then come back with a refreshed mind and attitude.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE? For some reason or other, some of my best writing has been at night and the wee hours of the morning. There are no distractions then and I have a sense of freedom. Yet, I can be struck by the urge at any hour or any place. I try and knock out at least 3,000 words at a setting, with intermittent breaks.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE? I have a writing desk and a huge, older, Acer PC. I can’t write well on a laptop and change my location. I’ve tried that. Nor do I use a tablet or other device. It is always at my work station, using my dinosaur equipement.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST
JOY IN WRITING?
I love to
be read by the multitudes, if I’m lucky enough to strike gold. I’ve had people
tell me that my ideas and imagination is what gives me such popularity and
strength. When I hit on a unique idea, I come alive, filled with a white-hot
passion. I feel any award for my work gives me great satisfaction and fortifies
my resolve to continue on and better myself.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY? My favourite authors are rather obscure: Joseph Wambaugh, Poul Anderson, Alan Dean Foster, Peter Benchley. These writers struck with marvellous styles and senses of irony and great humour. They touched me, brought me into the pages and made me feel like I was living in their stories. J.K. Rowling’s world building is just astonishing.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER? There’s been a few comments that really surprised me: “This guy can certainly bend one word against another.” My agent: “For the life of me, I can’t believe you haven’t been discovered by the world.” And another: “He’s got golden age SF down pat—I put him right up there with Heinlein and Farmer.”
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER? The one that really left me baffled was a comment that condemned a scene of mine where I had two older teenagers retire to a room to have romance. This was a “behind the door” sweet and passionate scene, and in no way supported underage sex in any fashion. This goes into creepy territory, and with my background as a federal protection officer, it hurt and insulted me.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU? No, not really. I know that J.K. Rowling was traumatically influenced by the death of her mother, and that incident became a major part of her storyline in the Harry Potter series. But nothing like that, or close to it, has influenced me. I can take a ride or hike in the country and be struck by a wonderful idea—that happens all the time.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE? Oh, gosh. When I’m not writing, I’m watching every YouTube documentary or movie about UFOs, Bigfoot, astronomy, Ancient Aliens, palaeontology, archaeology, hauntings, paranormal investigations, ancient megaliths. I’m also hooked on the old Laurel and Hardy and W.C. Fields movies. Anything non-fiction/biographic instantly gets my attention. Coast-to-Coast is a favourite radio program.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK
/ BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Sense all of my books were trade published, I would say
yes. With all things subjective, sometimes they were edited well and sometimes
lacking in certain areas. There is no such thing as a perfect manuscript. I do
the best I can before the editor see it.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY. A perfect day would be getting a wonderful phone call or letter from my agent, whom I adore and have a special relationship with. Then fan mail, or mail from friends. I feel great when I’m watching my diet and getting the proper amount of exercise—authors MUST watch their health—their profession leaves them horribly static.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY? It would be Stephen King. I would like him to explain to me (again) the hardships he went through in becoming a writer. I share those many toils and hardships with him. He makes me feel that I’m not alone and that this whole crazy business in worth it in the long run. Next would be Anne Rice for the same reason. I constantly need inspiration and drive like a fix of dope. I can’t fall into depression—no writer can. We are the Champions of the world (so we think).
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS? I would tell them that you’d better all get this UFO stuff out there in the open and tell the absolute truth about our origins and what secrets are being kept from us. NASA needs to really fess up about anti-gravity, and a solution to using fossil fuels that destroy our environment.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE? I have seven more polished books with my agent. During the years, I over-wrote and stacked up the novels. I need to sell them all (if possible), making sure I have enough longevity to see those projects through to completion. We have sold four books in the last year. We have a ways to go!
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY
I’ve had one major book trailer. It was not an overwhelming
success. I’m sure if I had more of them my thoughts might be different. I’m
waiting for someone to ask me again. I would go hell bent and horseshoes for
it! A writer needs any and all types of extra exposure. I’m so shy, that I
don’t ask for such opportunities. I wish I was approached more. I think my
blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers is a valuable resource into the publishing
industry—what to do and what not to do, from years of experience.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS? I see myself in all of my characters, male or female. No matter the gender, they are human beings, with the same thoughts, loves, hardships, and happy times. My male MCs are typically shy but very strong in subtle ways. Clint Eastwood is a prime example of what I call an “Alpheta”, which is the best parts of an Alpha male, minus the controlling, harsh, dominating, loud-mouthed characteristics. So I guess I’m an AlphaBeta male. Gak!
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU? Ha! The publishing industry flat-out murders me! I write about it often. So many of the current self-published authors have taken such a horrible beating for decades that it’s refreshing to see their accomplishments and dreams finally fulfilled. I can speak for them since I’m a hybrid author. Promotion and marketing is the toughest mountain to climb, IMO.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING? I’ve never thought of quitting, but I’ve been precariously close to throwing in the towel. Yet, I’ve spent too much in labour and dedication to toss it all away. I’ll die at the computer screen—I’m convinced of that. Just listen to Missy Higgin’s song “Light me on Fire” and you’ll understand the brutality of losing faith and then rebounding.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY? My idea for The Girl They Sold to the Moon was truly groundbreaking for me. But my latest YA fantasy series uses a dream catcher that I have never seen used before, and I always wondered why. So I jumped on that. The third book in the series, Screamcatcher: The Shimmering Eye, was modelled after the haunting story about the Skinwalker ranch. The investigative reporter out of Las Vegas, George Knapp, gave me the thumbs up on the idea. It was his story. I only wrote my version of it in a fictional sense.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER. Let’s be honest about this: I believe a great reader fan base and great book sales is a great indicator of success. In a more realistic sense, just having written books that I enjoy crafting is a gold medal for me.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL? I want them to feel entertained, with lasting thoughts and memories. I want to also educate them about things and places they have never seen or heard of before. I strive for major impact, in a shockingly good sense. I’m after the effect that Harry Potter and The Hunger Games had on the reading and viewing public. I’m after “I’ve never read anything like this before!”
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY? I have had two small film options that never materialized. From book to film has been my ultimate dream. Every one of my books have been written with special visuals in mind. I can think of several of my books that would make great films (all authors think this way). I have published horror radio plays which are similar to screenplays, but they don’t have camera-shot instructions. I must say though, my stories would require quite a bit of CGI.
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER? A lot of thought should go into designing a book cover, because it can say so much with just a flash of the eyes. I had an original oil canvas painting for one of my books that was extraordinary. That was a hardback edition. Nowadays, Photo Shop and clipart can suffice, and if done well, can really grab attention and curiosity.
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
Oh, by far the movie
deal. That is the end of the road for an author. At least for this one. The
only thing that could top it would be a movie series or more movie contracts.
That goes for foreign rights also.
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS? Yep, marketing is that other thing. That diabolical other thing. My thoughts are pretty much standard: Join and participate in large writing groups and display sites. Use FB and Twitter as a tool to get the message out, but don’t overdue it. Book trailers, interviews like this one, guest blogs, give-aways, up-to-date and active blogs and websites, targeted ads, such as banner, FB and Twitter boosters, all of these can help. Join genre groups. Investigate BookBub for precision advertisements. All social media can help. Signings and newspaper interviews are also valuable
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED? No, they were all trade published except for one, which was a reprint of an older book. So I had to go through that Kindle process.
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS. I will never give up
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST? The fact that we have lost Borders and countless independent book stores. Right now Barnes & Nobel is in trouble. The Big 5 and its imprints have cut back on debut authors, staff, categories and genres. I don’t like this downhill slide. I want to desperately resurrect literature and reading to new and better heights. We have a glut of books—supply has eclipsed demand. I feel we need blockbusters and breakaway novels that restore us to our glory days. I aim to see to it that nothing but the best comes out of me. I want authors to unite and focus on the importance of literature. Encourage our youth to read.
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE? Believe it or not, it was The Hunger Games. I was absolutely floored, and I still am. The movie did it justice. I wrote a YA dystopian novel called Sky High, and it is a direct reflection on how inspired I was to try such a genre with a somewhat similar plot. I’ll never forget it.
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE? He had the most profound look on his face.
42. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE? I’m ugly enough to make a freight train take a dirt road, older than Triassic rock and have more baggage than a Carnival cruise. I can’t help that, ha! But I do know that I want to be loved and understood by people, in general. In addition, I am a nervous wreck with the release of Screamcatcher: Web World. I want so much for it to be a loved tome. I pray to God for such gifts.
43. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD? Clancy, what you are doing is such an unselfish gesture for us scribblers, it goes without saying that it is people like you who sustain and promote literature. I want to thank you on behalf of all of us who appear in your pages. I think someone ought to pin a medal on you for service above and beyond the call of duty. Also, I’ve never participated in an interview that was so thorough and mind-provoking. I’ll red-shift outta here now.
Clancy’s comment: Thank you, Chris, for your kind words. Well done on your success. I agree with many of your comments. We all should be working together to promote our books. Love ya work!