Chris: Writing fiction has enabled me to combine a quiet life with reaching out into the most momentous and world-shattering concepts that surround our societies. The author never need despair the disasters that our world tumbles into when he or she can create the world we believe in -- where all can be put to right – and possibly, just possibly, urge our readers into the frame of mind where they can become a force to mobilize against the real errors of our ways.
Novelspot: You write speculative fiction in several genres--what is it about speculative fiction that draws you to it? What is your favorite genre and why?
Chris: I guess, as an ex-materialist I find the most interesting topics to be those that chart the boundaries between materialism and both society and the limits of our knowledge. My contemporary novel “Appearance” has a young woman created from a Tibetan Buddhist ritual, my fantasy “Rast” pits a prince who must become a sorcerer king against a mechanistic invader, and even my Iskander series heroine uses Eastern meditation techniques to cope with her dangerous assignments. I'd have to say that my favorite is the cross genre that allows me to write in this boundary.
Novelspot: You have an interesting background--a former Brit living in Canada since 1975. How do you think those aspects of your unique history have affected the perspective by which you view your writing?
Chris: I've actually been here since 1967, but I became a Canadian Citizen in 1975. Before that, I worked in the oilfields in Libya for 4_ years, and was in the British Army in Germany for three, so I have looked upon myself as a World Citizen for many years. I know I do not have the same sense of place as do most writers, and could never write regional fiction. Other worlds, earlier worlds, and even no world, but just floating on the edge of space-time, are locations for my fictional scenes.
Novelspot: What is unique about your take on writing serial action adventure, and how does your writing demonstrate that quality?
Chris: My Iskander series is rooted in several topics. I was interested in placing modern people in company with those from an earlier time; I wanted to follow the career of a young woman who breaks all the societal norms; and I wanted to replay the Industrial Revolution under my control. All of these explorations must be seamlessly blended into the scenario and action in order to produce a readable novel – and I believe I've done it.
Novelspot: Tell me a little about your Iskander series...where did you get your initial concept? and how has it changed as you've been writing it?
Chris: An account of the genesis and evolution of the Iskander series could fill a novel of its own. The thoughts that started it were what-ifs in Tudor warship development – but they've long since disappeared. They did lead me to speculate on getting some technologically proficient people into a bygone age, and the first drafts resulted in the birth of my protagonist, Gisel Matah. From that point on, all my what-ifs developed around the doings of that forceful little devil. Actually, the first novel “Deadly Enterprise” is a complete reworking of something that began earlier under the title Devil Star. I wrote two novels after abandoning DS and they taught me how not to write and were, in their turns, abandoned. I made a major revision to the scenario and went back to finish the first novel in its present Deadly Enterprise form. The second novel, “The Wildcat's Victory” follows Gisel Matah into the year following her adventures in DE. I have a third novel in the series just submitted to my publisher – a prequel called “Arrival”. It covers exactly that period and I found it fascinating to 'write back' my protagonist from a security officer in her early twenties into a starship brat of sixteen.
Novelspot: How did you first start with Zumaya press?
Chris:I guess I started by critiquing two novels for Elizabeth Burton, the editor, who I'd first met online in a writing group called (then) NovelDoc. When I critted “Lord of the Everdark” which, by the way, is a terrific story closing her Everdark trilogy, that she's not yet published, she suggested I send her my fantasy “Rast” that was languishing at another publisher. I was supposed to let her know what that house decided but before then she found time to read Rast and offered me a contract for it. It is a high fantasy that pits a magical society against a materialist one, has religious fanatics, an amorphous monster, and a take-no-prisoners contest between the Prince's sweetheart and the princess sent by family to be his bride.
Novelspot: For that matter, what was the phone call when you sold your first piece of fiction--what was it, and how exactly did it happen?
Chris: I guess this excludes the contemporary fiction that was accepted by a small publisher in the eighties – who could then never raise the cash to publish it . . . and then the first version of “Appearances” that was accepted by an e-publisher in 2001 – but who then went broke after 9-11. So my first piece of published fiction is the short story “Ticket” in the Double Dragon anthology “Twisted Tales II”. When Deron at Double Dragon accepted my two Iskander series novels, J. Richard Jacobs who edits the anthologies invited me to submit something for the latest edition of collected stories from the Double Dragon authors. I hadn't written a short for years, but J. liked it and it's the closing story of volume two, called “Twisted Tales II, Out of Time”.
Novelspot: Have you come face to face on a sticking point with one of your editors? You don't have to name names here--but have you ever felt too strongly about something in your work to change to accommodate whatever your editor was directing you to do?
Chris: Not yet. I'm waiting for the proofs of Deadly Enterprise now, so we shall see. Actually, I completed the novels with a great deal of input from the members of NovelPro. We put our novels through successive month-long full novel critiques until the bugs are all worked out, so I very much doubt that another fresh eye can find something that really needs revising.
Novelspot: Any upcoming projects?
Chris: I have a new project that combines the abbot of a Buddhist monastery with a NASA convention, a female astronaut, a cross-gender monk, and aliens who travel through the Mind Continuum. It's a humorous thriller that has the working title “And the Cow Jumped . . .”.
Novelspot: In addition to your writing blogs, I see you have a very political blog that you maintain. You are certainly not one to keep your opinions to yourself. Have you ever considered journalism as a career choice?
Chris: Yes, trailowner.blogspot.com is my rant site. I am active politically, being secretary of my local Liberal Constituency Association. I've been asked several times to consider running for election to the Alberta Legislature but I have no wish to take on a job with 30,000 bosses. I rather feel about journalism the same way, but if some paper wanted to pay me well to write a column I would seriously consider it. I do have articles accepted for the Fiction Flyer (actually June) and Mike's Newsletter.
Novelspot: Where do you see your writing going from here?
Chris: After wasting several years banging my head against the conventional publishing world wall I decided to take the agent Donald Maas's advice to heart and publish with author-friendlier companies. I believe he says on his website that an author needs to have had four or five novels published before making the best-seller list with one. Since the corporate publishing industry only wants best-sellers, that doesn't leave much room for the new author to get in.
When my current acceptances are published I will have four novels, and hopefully the beginnings of a loyal readership. While I would hope that I can stay loyal to my present e-publishers, I would like to have the cash and confidence to take on the paper publishing myself. I'd really love to have my own best seller – and have all the agents and publishers who've turned me down over the years crying in their beer.
Novelspot: You are a retired surveyor. How has your day job affected your perspective? What have you taken from that aspect of your life that especially helps you in writing?
Chris: There are two things that you commonly find in surveyors; firstly that they tend to be loners, and secondly they are never abashed at learning that the people who they are working for don't know Monday from sideways and need strong guidance. The protagonists I'm most comfortable with tend to have the same personalities. Gisel Matah doesn't hesitate to jump in to command a military formation whose commander has been disabled, and she hardly blinks an eye at transitioning from undercover agent to holding talks with enemy leaders about changing sides.
I guess it boils down to a philosophy that seeks the freedom for individuality within a well structured social fabric.
I may get back to rewriting “Appearances” one day. Blending a modern civil engineer with a female tulpa, a creature brought into existence from a Tibetan Buddhist ritual, has resulted in a large disconnect between the materialist and realistic modern world and the supernatural side of the story. I've never been able to bridge it in a way that satisfies me. Hopefully I will figure out a way to blend the two aspects in such a way that the mischievous Becky and the staid and controlling Willard can both shine.
I would very much like to offer you a .pdf copy of Deadly Enterprise for review on Novelspot. . . . And The Wildcat's Victory . . . and Arrival after that. If I were to become a burden thereby, I would certainly like to lighten it by offering any assistance to Novelspot that might prove valuable.
Novelspot: We will surely take you up on that! So now we wait to see who of our many reviewers is going to be the lucky reviewer.
Chris: Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you and your readers. I have seen other interviewed authors say similar things and now understand how having someone like yourself taking the trouble to ask thoughtful questions prompts a writer into clarifying issues that previously might have floated undisciplined in the mind.