So the time is here, the complete shift of our usual routine here on the blog.
No talk about daily stuff; whining about edits, discussions about grammar and whether or not a scene fits in the plot or not, (big brother and I got into a heated one again the other day. Seriously it was bad, I wanted to conk him on the head with a blunt instrument again…okay, I won’t spill the beans now, but save it for later) but a fun interview with Christine S. Marks, who recently signed on with Sea Lion Books and will have her book “Elfhunter” coming out sometime this spring. Yay.
I’ll be doing a review at that time, thank you very much, and will be looking forward to see what changes have been made.
I hear you wonder, who the heck is Chris Marks? (although, if you’ve been following for a bit you will have at some point read the way-too-long review I did for her) No worries, the questions down here are going to satisfy at least a bit of your curiosity. And who knows, you might be so wowed that you’ll end up buying the book. Hah.
Right. Is that enough yapping from me, or shall I set the scene a little? Hmmm...
Let’s pretend I actually traveled to the States for this little chat, okay. (a girl can dream, right?) I met with Marks…Chris at a nice little pub where a cozy fire burned high in an old hearth. There’s a faint scent of peat in the air, and my Whiskey is golden while her ale…or shall we say mead? (she has a thing with honey...but you'll have to read the book to figure out what it is, hah) is warm.
There’s snow outside, there are a couple of dogs under the table that we occupy, and there’s a burr of other patrons enjoying a quiet evening out. Polished wood galore, and my chair is just a tad wobbly. Let's just say it added to the atmosphere. Hah.
Pen poised, recorder taping, and a secret camera set in the corner…this is what I got for my efforts...
(Aren’t the ears fun?)
We share a toast (gotta lull them with a false sense of safety *chortle*) and then I hit her with the first question...no, no, no actual hitting. Jeez! Have a little faith. *sigh*
Well anyway, plied with liquor, the atmosphere relaxed we got started. Just to be nice, I decided to go with an easy question: “Christine S. Marks: Renaissance woman, educator, writer, competitive horse rider and so on and on. This is how your bio describes you. Deep down, if you had to describe yourself in a single sentence, what would you say? Don’t think about it, just say the first thing that pops up. Who is Chris in one sentence?”
CHRIS: You know that guy, Voldemort? I’m who he runs from.
ME: “Alterra: The world that is”, in your biography you state that the Elfhunter trilogy is dedicated to your father, whose roots in literature clearly left a strong imprint on you. Can you tell us something about how the idea of Elfhunter came into existence?
CHRIS: Welll...it started as a short story involving four protagonists and a really cool villain. The really cool villain forced me to continue until I had told the entire story to his satisfaction (three volumes later). Trust me...I had to do it! Seriously, though, a guy like Gorgon gets into your head and you just have to keep going. Alterra is merely a setting for his story. Elfhunter is much more about characters than it is about world-building.
ME: One cannot help being reminded of Lord of the Rings while reading about Alterra, the world you have created. Do you mind the comparison?
CHRIS: Not at all. I’ve never denied the profound influence Tolkien had on my perception of fantasy. Readers will notice both Middle Earth and Alterra are earth-like, pre-industrialized worlds, and that Alterra is populated with some of the beloved fantasy ‘tropes‘ (elves, trolls, and so on) that Tolkien established. However, the story and characters are quite different. There are many unique aspects of Alterra with respect to magic, cosmology, and ecology (after all--Alterra was imagined by a biologist), but it’s the story and the characters who carry it out that are most important.
ME: Have you always wanted to be a writer, or is it something that just happened over the years?
CHRIS: Honestly, I’ve always loved reading and have appreciated the gifts a good storyteller can provide. I also have always enjoyed writing, but I never really imagined myself as a ‘writer’ until recently. My Dad was the writer; I was the scientist. I have written quite a lot of stuff over the years (mostly fantasy and some nonfiction, but also romance...I even tried my hand at erotica once on a dare). I’ve never had anything published until Elfhunter.
ME: Through the years, who has been your staunchest supporter?
CHRIS: Without a doubt, my husband, Jeff. He deserves a great deal of credit, as I’m probably not the easiest person to live with (especially when I’m really stuck into writing). He’s been there through every nail-biting moment, every bad review, and every major edit. Second place might have to go to Wally, the corgi, whose support has been unwavering for the past decade.
ME: Your characters are very detailed and specifically defined. Are any of them based on people in real life?
CHRIS: Some are, yes. I will say no more, lest my friends start trying to ‘find themselves’ and worry about whether I based Gorgon on them. ;-)
ME: Gaelen Taldin: Your main character is a temperamental, loyal and quite outspoken little spitfire. Any similarities between her and yourself?
CHRIS: At the college where I teach, I am known for being outspoken, independent, and non-political. I have always gone my own way as a pragmatic non-conformist who isn’t afraid to dream and be creative. Those are all Gaelen-like characteristics. I also know when I’m right, dangit! There’s a lot of me in Fima, the Dwarf, as well. I tend to express my world view through those two characters. I will say, though, that Gaelen sings better than I do. Physically, I’m a lot more like Fima (except for the beard, though at my age I won’t always be able to rule that out, either).
ME: Who is your favorite author?
CHRIS: I love Tolkien. For me, his writing is the essence of what high fantasy should be. I have always enjoyed Stephen King, too. The Stand and The Talisman are brilliant. On the gentler side, I love James Herriot and Richard Adams.
ME: Your passion for fantasy is apparent in your work. Any other genres that you might try your hand at in the future?
CHRIS: I have always wanted to write a light-hearted collection of essays dealing with graduate school, endurance riding, and college teaching . I have lived through some hilarious experiences--and some are quite unusual, such as riding the Australian National Championship hundred-mile race. One of these days, maybe.
ME: As a formerly self-published author, you’ve been at the helm (basically) on your own for years. How does it feel to have a full-fledged publishing house backing you up now? Are you enjoying the process?
CHRIS: Oh, my, yes! It’s wonderful to be a part of a team of professionals. I have a top-notch agent ‘watching my back’, an illustrator to die for, a savvy marketing team, and a creative publisher who’s committed to our mutual success. What’s not to like? And, have I mentioned that I love my new editor? She’s one of the best around, she is unbelievably perceptive, and I know we can take Elfhunter to a whole new level. The learning opportunity alone is invaluable to me as a writer.
I will say that I have not regretted my choice to self-publish, and that being ‘at the helm’ was not a bad place to be. I had no one to blame (or credit) for my failure or success. That said, I could only go so far with the project on my own--now there are doors opening that were closed before.
ME: So much has been changing in the publishing world. How do you, one of the success stories of self-publishing, think it’s going to go? Self-publishing: A fad, or here to stay?
CHRIS: Here to stay, but in a state of flux right now. Self-publishing is a more viable choice than it has ever been before, and I believe it will gain even more respect as a legitimate publishing path in the future. However, those authors who are unwilling to make the investment in the quality of their work will soon fall by the wayside. Quality ‘indies’ will be able to vie with the traditionally-published--some are doing so already--and those authors will draw the attention of not only the readers, but the industry as a whole. That’s a major shift, imo.
ME: How did your transfer to Sea Lion Publishing come about?
CHRIS: This is such a cool question, because it illustrates the idea that ‘you just never know’ what chain of events will lead to something wonderful. The short version: Two bloggers happened to be blogging (as bloggers are wont to do) about Elfhunter at the same time. One of the execs at SLB (their marketing chief, actually) happens to follow those blogs. Because he saw the same book on both of them (fortunately, both bloggers were very positive about the book) he checked into it. He went to Amazon, read the reviews from readers, and read the sample. The rest, as they say, is history. I owe my good fortune to those two bloggers, whoever they may be. You just never know.
ME: You’ve always been an avid, albeit modest and tasteful promoter of your work. Is that going to change now, or will you be as passionate about it as ever?
CHRIS: I am passionate about everything I care for. I intend to remain modest and tasteful (thanks for that), but I stand ready for SLB whenever and wherever they need me.
ME: You’re a busy woman. You teach, write, do book tours, have horses, dogs, cats and a significant other: How do you find time for it all?
CHRIS: I can blame several of my grey hairs on this. Thankfully, both my husband and employer are understanding and supportive. I write at all hours--late nights, early mornings--whenever I can (it’s 3 a.m. here at the moment). I have simply resolved to make time for everything that’s important to me, as I’m not willing to give anything up. I’ll retire from the College one of these days, and that will free up some time, hopefully for writing! :-)
ME: Two choices: spending a day out on your favorite horse, riding across sunny, long stretching meadows. Or a day a day inside behind your computer, finally writing down that scene that has been bugging you for ages. What would you do?
CHRIS: Probably get up extra early so I could do BOTH. Riding relaxes me and prepares me for writing. I used to try to get a morning ride in before an exhaustive day of final exams, too. My grades were much better for it.
ME: Your writing process, what’s it like? One big exhausting marathon right until the end. A steady clip that will get you to the end in due time. Or none of the above.
CHRIS: I write according to the time I have available. When I’m ‘on it’, I write for long hours and work really hard. Sometimes my schedule will not permit me to write for several days, but I’ve been known to basically den up in my ‘writer cave’ for several days afterward. The end of Ravenshade was written in two days and nights of almost solid writing--I could not get the story down on paper fast enough! When I’m working on a deadline, I try to write steadily as time permits. Now I’m going through a major structural edit, and I have to work steadily or I won’t meet my deadline.
ME: What about your surroundings. Do you need absolute silence to concentrate on the world your are describing, or do you prefer a more chaotic atmosphere?
CHRIS: Don’t like chaos. I have a pair of noise-canceling headphones for those noisy days at home. I play the same five cds as background...the music automatically gets me into ‘writing mode’.
ME: You’ve had a heck of a week, not a moment to spare. All your obligations are taken care of, those you love are content, and you have one blissful hour of free time to do with what you will. What do you do?
CHRIS: Since I only have an hour, I will probably cosy up on the couch, having built a fire in the fireplace, and cuddle a dog or two.
ME: Any advice for the writers out there with “the dream”? Some words of divine wisdom?
CHRIS: I don’t have any divine wisdom, but if I had to dispense advice to aspiring authors it would be this:
--Write because you love it.
--Work hard at your craft, and strive always to become a better writer.
--Set realistic goals.
--Realize that publishing a quality work takes investment, both in the quality of the writing and in the presentation and promotion of the work.
--Be prepared to enlist the aid of cover artists/designers and editors to help you make your book as professional as it can be.
--Try not to compare yourself with other authors. Learn from them, but understand that your work is unique, your experience will be different, and ‘your mileage may vary’.
--Keep writing because you love it!
ME: A last one about Alterra: What’s next?
CHRIS: A new, exciting Alterran series is in the works! The first book has been written, the second is in process. It takes the characters in a whole new direction, exploring the world of Alterra as never before. Early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’m really anxious to get on with the writing.
I’ve recently finished a novella that is going in the back of the new Elfhunter--a special treat for my readers.
Naturally, I am looking forward to the comic book and graphic novel series with eager anticipation. We should see the first stirrings in 2012.
(I snuck in a few extra, in case I needed to rearrange stuff…but then of course, Chris gave fun answers so I can’t leave them out, grrr. I had wanted to do "20 questions", darn it!)
ME: For your first publication you created the cover art yourself, and did a fine job of it. What do you think of the cover art done by Ms Hoover?
CHRIS: Well, thanks for that. Ms Hoover is a real pro, she has read the book (and loves it), and she quite obviously ‘gets’ the character. I could not ask for a better cover artist! I will admit that I am a bit wistful to see my interior illustrations go, though. I know the new ones will be on a whole new level, consistent with the upcoming graphic novel adaptations, and so I understand why I must bid farewell to the ‘old’.
ME: Rumors are you’re an expert filk performer. How did that come about?
CHRIS: Ha! I taught myself the guitar when I was eight. I have always loved writing silly songs, I have a decent voice, I love to sing...those are the characteristics of a filker, even though I didn’t know it at the time.
ME: For those who don’t know what a filk is, would you explain?
CHRIS: ‘Filk’ is a musical genre that often includes parody/humorous songs, but also serious ones, with a fantasy/scifi theme. Filkers are most often found at conventions, ‘holed up’ in a room together, playing and singing until sunrise. They will then drag their guitars back to their rooms and not emerge until noon. It’s tough to work an author table and filk all night, but sleep is for the weak and sickly. I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.
That’s it. That’s all she wrote. I turn off the recorder, tuck away pen and paper, and slip the camera back into my purse. It was a wonderfully casual chat, I assured her, and as we exit the pub to head for our respective cars we give a cheery wave of goodbye.
Dontcha just love fantasy. Hah.
I am definitely looking forward to the new publication (I’ll keep you informed about that one) and was much appreciative of this opportunity to interview C.S. Marks, with what I hoped were at least some “genius” questions.
As or the normal routine of the blog…don’t worry, I’ll go all out and bring you all up to date next time ‘round. *snort*