TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Chris: You know, I was so stumped on this one, I asked my wife. She claimed to come up blank as well, though I can't rule out the possibility she was just being polite. I mean, everybody wears a feather boa while writing, right? It's great for de-linting laptop screens.
In all seriousness, if I had to come up with one, it's that when I write myself into a corner, I have to move around to get myself back out of it. As a consequence, many a long walk or run wind up with me right back at the keyboard, trying desperately to get a few miles' worth of thoughts down before they disappear.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Chris: Oh, boy. This could take a while.
First off, I'd imagine it's pretty obvious to anyone who picks up DEAD HARVEST I'm quite fond of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Ditto James Cain, Ross Macdonald, Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, and Charles Ardai. On the fantasy end of the spectrum, I'm wild about Tim Powers, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. I'm a lifelong devotee to the works of Poe, Wells, and Doyle. Michael McDowell's written some of the most wonderfully creepy stuff I've ever read. Frank Herbert's DUNE is
one of my all-time favorite books. Folks like Aaron Sorkin, Steven Moffat, and Joss Whedon have probably taught me as much about dialogue and structure as any author. I'm on a pretty serious Le Carré kick right now. And I could happily spend a decade reading nothing but P.G. Wodehouse.
If I'm very lucky, my list of likes and influences hew closely to one another. But there's an even chance I'm just as influenced by crappy late-night horror movies, cheesy punk rock songs, and the occasional obscure commercial jingle I can't get out of my head.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Chris: Both. Neither. Is there something in between? (TQ: Plotser?)
The truth is, for me, every project's different. Some, like DEAD HARVEST, I wing. Others, like my current work in progress, I outline. I'm not sure why. I guess the story tells me what I need to do to get it right.
TQ: Describe Dead Harvest in 140 characters or less.
Chris: DEAD HARVEST is the first in a series of supernatural thrillers that recast the battle between heaven and hell as Golden Era crime pulp. (Ha! Four characters to spare.)
TQ: What inspired you to write Dead Harvest?
Chris: A lifelong love of crime fic, fantasy, and horror. A fascination with the darker aspects of the faith in which I was raised. And most of all, a scene that popped unbidden into my head as I was dozing off one night and wouldn't leave. A scene in which a man of some renown stumbles out of a pub late one night, unaware he's being followed. As he staggers toward home, he realizes he has to pee, so he ducks into
an alley to relieve himself. His pursuer rather politely gives him a minute, and then ducks in after him. When they meet, that pursuer plunges his hand into the drunk man's chest and tears free his soul. As the man's wide-eyed, twitching corpse hits the pavement, his pursuer says to it, not unkindly, "Sorry -- it's nothing personal."
I'll tell you, I had no idea at the time what that scene was all about, or where it came from, but I knew I had to use it somehow. And I did: it's the opening to DEAD HARVEST.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Dead Harvest?
Chris: The bulk of my research for DEAD HARVEST was focused on crafting my mythology. I had this notion of all the world's religions essentially being the result of a grand game of telephone, stories passed down the millennia by folks trying desperately to make sense of this vast half-glimpsed and largely inscrutable world that existed all around them. We're wired for survival, after all, not understanding. So I drew as much of my mythology and as many of my characters as possible from a wide variety of religious texts. I borrowed elements not just from the canonical texts of Judaism and Christianity with which I was already somewhat familiar, but also from Eastern and Middle-Eastern religions as well as folk tales, Mesoamerican mythology, and the Apocrypha.
Of course, research-wise, those are just the broad strokes. I'm also constantly peppering my mom, a nurse, with medical questions that I wouldn't dare ask of a stranger for fear of getting the cops called on me. And I research obsessively as I write, constantly checking facts online or tracing the path of my story's action on Google Maps. And there's a scene in DEAD HARVEST involving a helicopter that was one of the most research-intensive things I've ever written. I can't claim I for-sure nailed it, but I will say this: if I didn't, it wasn't for lack of trying.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
Chris: The easiest was by far my main character, Sam. His voice rang loud and clear in my head right from the start. Sam's not me by any means -- he's a little coarser than I, less educated, and decidedly more badass -- but we're enough alike that writing from his perspective is second nature.
The hardest for me was Anders. Anders is a diagnosed schizophrenic, though in reality he simply lacks the filter most folks have that allows them to tune out the crazy shit that happens all around them every day. Writing Anders was all about finding the sweet spot where he read off-kilter enough for his character to work, yet not so off-kilter that it was distracting within the broader narrative. Lucky
for me, I got some good advice early on from my agent, Jennifer Jackson, that set me on the right path.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Dead Harvest?
Chris: The aforementioned helicopter scene was a blast to write, because it was pure action-movie cotton candy. Hopefully it reads that way as well. And there's a scene that takes place in the subway in which Sam finds an unlikely ally I quite like, largely because when I was writing it, I had no idea that was going to happen. There's something thrilling about your characters going off the reservation.
TQ: What's next?
Chris: Well, the second book in the Collector series, THE WRONG GOODBYE, will be out in November. (You can read the first chapter of it at the end of DEAD HARVEST.) I've been fortunate enough to get some decent press for DEAD HARVEST, but truth be told, I think THE WRONG GOODBYE is even better.
Also, I'm planning on hitting as many cons as I can manage this year to promote DEAD HARVEST, so if any of your readers would like to stalk me, they can pop by my website for the whens and wheres. Aside of that, my day job, and working on my new as-yet-super-secret work-in-progress, I expect I'll mostly just be finding an odd hour or two to get some sleep.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Chris: Thanks so much for having me!
About Dead Harvest
The Collector 1
Angry Robot (February 28, 2012 US/Canada; March 1, 2012 UK/RoW)
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls.
Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before.
File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Souled Out | Damned If You Don't | Collector Mania | On The Run ]
Read an excerpt
He’s been a Derringer Award finalist and a Spinetingler Award winner, and he’s also written a novel or two. He lives on the coast of Maine with his lovely wife and a noisy, noisy cat.
What: Two commenters will each win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Dead Harvest (The Collector 1) generously provided by Angry Robot!
How: Leave a comment answering the following question:
Favorite mystery writer? or Favorite myth?
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