Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! It's time for another Thursday Thirteen, and this week I have a special treat for everyone. You see, back in 2008-9, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of good writers on the Harper-Collins Authonomy website. I read many great books while they were still in their development stage, but there was one book in particular which stood out in my estimation. One, a psychological thriller (which is not a genre I normally read), was so good, I read all of the available sample and asked for more of it. I was generously given the still-incomplete manuscript to read at my leisure. To this day, it is the only book I've managed to read while sitting at my computer.Well, now, that book - called Affinities - is available for purchase, along with another thriller, Subculture.
Both are well worth a read, but you might also want to get to know the author a little better, first.
So please sit back, relax and enjoy this interview with the lovely and talented (and former Authonomite), Chris Hollis
Thirteen Questions for Chris Hollis, Author
1) So, Chris - tell me something about yourself.
Well, I’m a mid-thirties writer, fighting off life while I try to make my mark. Writing is the one job in entertainment where you can still be considered at the start of your career in your thirties. Many of the greats didn’t reach their stride until their kids were all grown up (not that I have any).
2) When did you first get bitten by the writing bug?
That’s not so easy to pin down. Winding back the clock, I was originally an aspiring (failed) cartoonist, then a director-without-a-camera, which turned into a screenwriter. Book writing evolved some point in my early twenties. I dabble. It’s always been one of my problems – disciplined, but rarely focussed.
3) Tell me about your books.
I have two available as of 2013 – Subculture
. Both are thrillers, and fast, but the similarity ends there. Subculture
is an action-packed, breakneck, A-to-B kind of affair, whereas Affinities
is a good deal more complex. Even I can’t remember all the different threads I wove into it. Every inanimate object has a specific pathway through the novel, developing in the reader’s eye, something like a character.4) Which book was the greater challenge to write?
. That kind of detail takes time to get right. After six years of putting it together, I just wanted to write a nice linear plot, something you could read on a sun lounger in a couple of days. That’s Subculture
. Still, both are child’s play compared to a couple I have on my desktop. Ten years hasn’t been enough to call them finished...5) How much research do you do when you're writing?
Copious and endless. Google images helps me to write descriptions, then I look up sunset times, weather forecasts, road names, people names. You can’t afford not to research every last little detail. It also helps to write Q&As as you go along, to remind yourself what the overriding point of the novel is. Then you can research your own research!6) What genre do you prefer to read? What are your favorite books in that genre?
I’m into soft sci-fi and paranormal. Different genres, but they boil down to the same thing – an ordinary protagonist versus a strange adversary. Giant monsters and spooks. Think Triffids, Martians, vampires in a 1990s sense. Vampires are a bit different now, I feel. Less edgy, less fun.
You can’t afford not to research every last little detail.
7) What made you decide to be an Indie author?
I would have baulked at the concept ten years ago, determined to follow in the footsteps of the people who inspired me. Then one day I realised it should be the readers who decide what they like, and nobody else. So now I’m out there, along with two billion other authors, walking the fine line between shameless self-promotion, and blindly hoping to get noticed.8) When you're writing, do you need noise or silence?
Great question. Silence, and it’s a bone of contention. When I’m doing a first draft, ambient noise is acceptable, but when it comes to doing that perfect paragraph – I mean the one where every word just flows poetically – it has to be silent like the grave for miles around. Hence why my output isn’t higher. One book a year is hard enough as it is when you struggle to concentrate like I do.9) What's your typical writing day like?
Few and far between, really. Sometimes, I stay late in the office and pace up and down, proof reading, lapping up the solitude. But those rare pajama days amount to maybe seven hours of writing, and five of procrastination. They’re fantastic for getting the house clean!10) Where did the ideas for your books come from/what inspired them?
Someone once said to me “think of a terrorist”, and I had the image I think most people would – a Middle-Eastern bearded man, with a vendetta that many Westerners perhaps wouldn’t understand. I didn’t like the stereotype, and so I decided to make terrorists who were homegrown, but still organised en-masse. The other ground, I felt, had been over trodden. [note: that book became Subculture
, at conception, was a one-man play. Every chapter was supposed be a different night in the same location, with just one character. Turns out that would be boring as hell, so I scrapped the idea as I learned how much a story needs both dialogue, and autonomy. You can still see the roots in the first five chapters, though.
11) Say your books take off and you start earning Stephen King money: What is the first thing you purchase?
Remember the speedboat David Beckham rode along the Thames, holding the Olympic torch? I heard they couldn’t sell it. I’d have that. There were lights shining into the water jets that made it look all futuristic.
12) Give me a completely random fact about yourself.
I was the one who left the office window open overnight. Feels good to clear the air.
13) Any final words of advice or declarations to make?
It seems to me that every writer around is part of a gold rush for the ebook market right now, with many struggling to get as many books out there as quickly as they can. My advice is relax. Better to have three great books than six that are merely okay, right? You’ll be tagged with those books for the rest of your life (and then beyond). The other tip is go sit in a sauna. Quiet thinking time, and also nice and warm.
No eye candy today (well, unless you count Chris himself) but drop by tomorrow for a tasty treat!
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Welcome back for another Thursday Thirteen! This week, I'm featuring an interview with another friend and former member of the Authonomy elite, Cameron Chapman. Cameron is one of those multi-talented types you hear about, an honest-to-goodness triple-threat: Writer, Blogger and Filmmaker/Director. She's got some interesting projects on the go right now, and I thought you might enjoy meeting her, too.
So now, without further ado, please allow me to share
13 Questions for Cameron Chapman!
1) First, the usual sort of thing: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an author, blogger, and aspiring filmmaker from northern New England. I’ve been writing professionally for more than five years now (it’s my primary source of income), and really got into filmmaking a couple years ago. I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember, though. 2) Since you live in a somewhat rural area, do you find this affects your creativity? Is your work influenced by your surroundings, or do you create solely from a universe in your head?
A little of both, actually. I take a lot of inspiration from my environment, so I need to live somewhere interesting, whether that’s a rural area or the city (the suburbs and I do not get along). The slower pace of life where I live makes it easier to find time to create. And I also live in an area with a ton of creative people, which is nice. There’s a real sense of support and community. People don’t look at you like you’re an alien when you tell them you write or you make films. Okay, some do, but they’re the minority. 3) What was your first creative effort you shared with others?
The first thing I shared with people outside of immediate family was a novel that eventually became the inspiration for The Steam and Steel Chronicles
, my steampunk novella series. That was shared on Authonomy, at the behest of a couple of other writers (who I’m still friends with even though I’m no longer active on the site). (note: The Steam and Steel Chronicles include the novellas Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris, The Great Healion Race, and The Quest for the Demon Disconcerter. They are also available on BarnesandNoble.com.)4) What are you focusing on more, now? Articles? Novels? Films?
All of the above! I can’t just have one project going. I’m currently working on edits for the final novella in The Steam and Steel Chronicles
. After that I have another novel I wrote a couple years ago that’s in desperate need of some editing. I just signed a book deal for another non-fiction design book, so that’s going to be taking up a chunk of my time for the next few months. I’m working on a music video for a friend’s band, as well as a script for a no-budget feature film. And I’m writing articles and blogging full-time, still.
...regardless of the medium, I’m going to keep telling stories.
5) What project are you most proud of, today?
That’s a tough one! I’m pretty proud of the short film I just released, This is all you left me
. I’m also really proud of the women’s fiction novel I wrote a couple years ago, Hold My Hand
. But really, I’m proud of pretty much everything I’ve put out there. 6) Do you listen to music when you're working?
Always. I create playlists for different projects (you can find some of them on my YouTube channel). It’s been interesting working on this music video, because it means I’m listening to that one song sometimes ten or fifteen (or more) times a day when I’m brainstorming. I think my ability to listen to songs on repeat for hours is just a sign that I’m meant to make music videos! For other projects, I find songs that fit the mood of the story and listen to them when I want to get into the right mood. 7) Who do you consider your influences in each field?
Neil Gaiman is probably the biggest inspiration to me in terms of writing. He’s done a little of everything: novels, comics, children’s books, TV and movies, etc. I’d love a career that has that kind of breadth. His novel Neverwhere
was a huge influence on me as a teenager. I’m also a big Stephen King fan, and I love Jeffrey Lent, too. In terms of filmmaking, I have a ton of influences. I love Rob Zombie’s directing, particular The Devil’s Rejects
, which is funny since I have no interest in directing horror. I love Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Sophia Coppola, Christopher Nolan, Peter Jackson, and plenty of others. 8) Do you ever try to "shut down" to recharge your creative batteries, so to speak? Or do you just keep going 24/7?
Very, very rarely I have to take a break from doing creative things and unplug. But that’s only every few months. Otherwise, I’m creating every day. It’s just how I operate. I’m not happy if I’m not doing something productive. 9) Which of your projects was the most difficult to produce? Why? The Steam and Steel Chronicles
has been challenging, mostly because of the time commitment. I’d never done a series before, so taking on a project that is literally taking years to complete has been a little daunting. But I try to push the envelope and challenge myself with each new thing I take on, so each new project is more difficult than the last (at least in theory).
10) How valuable is peer evaluation to you?
It’s a bell curve for me. When I first start out with a new creative endeavor or project, I tend to keep it hidden from everyone. Once I get more comfortable with it, then I embrace feedback from peers. I rarely get my feelings hurt by constructive criticism (okay, there was a person on Authonomy who once made me cry, but not intentionally). Once I get toward the end of a particular project, or once I get more confident in my own abilities in a particular field, then I don’t seek out peer review as much. I have a few key people I value feedback from, but other than that, I go with my own instincts about whether something is good or not.
11) If you could do any project over again, which one would it be, and how would you change it?
I’m not big on revisiting old projects. Once it’s done, it’s done in my mind. I release it into the world and honestly try to forget about it as much as possible. I do have some unreleased manuscripts sitting on my hard-drive that I’d like to rewrite and publish at some point, but other than that, there aren’t really any projects I’d like a do-over on.
12) What is your dream project?
I would love to do a feature film with recognizable talent. I would love to work with someone like Johnny Depp or Jennifer Lawrence or Rachel Weisz or Hugh Jackman. On a slightly more realistic level, I have a script I would love to produce and direct that could be done on a very small budget, and there’s a particular person (Shannon Leto) I would love to star in it. Not sure if that one’s ever going to happen either, but a girl can dream!
13) What's on the horizon for you?
I’ve got a ton of projects coming up. Filmmaking has really become my passion. But I love writing, too. I’m a storyteller at heart, and regardless of the medium, I’m going to keep telling stories.
I hope you enjoyed this interview with this very talented lady.
And I know you're expecting something else special here, too,
And I reckon Cameron won't mind too much, either.
Doesn't just about everyone love a little Johnny Depp?
Ciao for now!
Or, rather, I will
- on Blog Talk Radio
! This Thursday, February 16th, at 5:00 PM EST (that's 23:00 in Italy, 22:00 in the UK), I'll be interviewed on the Blog Talk Radio network
by David Cleinman, for Book Junkies. I invite you to tune in and if you can, why not give us a call so you can ask a question? The number will be (949) 943-1627.