An Interview with Chris Stocking
Chris Stocking is pretty determined. He is going to make a living as a writer and he is going to get there soon in my opinion. Chris blogs over at: Write to Perfect where he discusses writing, shares excerpts of his work and generally hangs out. He is generous with his time, sharing advice with others and is very adept at writing. Recently he offered anyone the opportunity to swap interviews with him.
Having read enough of his work and bits of information from his About page, Google Plus and Facebook I was interested in asking him some questions. Stay tuned after the interview for some links to a couple of Chris’s written works (which are excellent by the way.)
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. We would like to start with some not so literary questions if we may.
How are things going for you presently?
Things are busy, but overall not too bad. I’m finishing up the college semester this week, then I’ll be working all summer to–hopefully–pay for my wedding. Also, hopefully my book will be published at the end of this month, or the beginning of next month, and I would love some book sales to help pay some of those bills!
Are you a native of NY and what is your favorite location in NY?
I am indeed a native of NY. As for my favorite location, I don’t really have one. I’ve always lived in small towns. So, the most exciting thing I’ve seen in NY is a small state park in the town where I currently reside. It’s the things outside of NY I’ve seen. I’ve been to Jamaica, Haiti (before the disaster), Mexico, The Cayman Islands, and Hawaii. All fantastic, amazing places.
What are some of the ways you spend your time when not working, studying or writing (we concede that very little time is probably left over after those three).
Generally I’m either reading, or watching That ’70s show or Family guy, haha.
The writer’s process fascinates us in a similar fashion to that of an illustrator’s. Can you describe your writing process please?
My writing process is pretty simple. When I come up with a story idea, I plan out the main characters, the setting, and a general problem. After that, I just write. The only planning I do is when I think up ideas at work or wherever I happen to be, and write them down in my notebook.
Do you keep a physical notebook/journal? As a sort-of follow-up, is there a particular piece of software you find very useful to write with or are you hard-core (old school pen and paper)?
I always have a small notebook in my back pocket at all times. After all, who knows just when an idea will pop into my head or inspiration will strike? I always write in Microsoft Word. Because I don’t do a lot of planning, I don’t need a program to help organize parts of my story.
Is there a particular person(s) who either inspires you creatively or simply as a human being interested in self-actualization?
To be honest, no. I’m inspired by the fact that I know I want to be a full-time novelist. Determination fuels my creativity.
Do you have a favorite genre to work in? What attracts you to this one over others?
I always write science-fiction/fantasy. It allows me to be as creative as I want, and I generally don’t have to follow many rules. Also, Just a few months ago I fell in love with the steampunk genre, which is a combination of science-fiction and fantasy taking place in either the Old West, Victorian London, or the future where many things, if not every thing is steam-powered.
You have published several novels in the past. Tell us about your first publishing experience. Was it a traditional one? Traditional meaning that an agent, publisher and a physical book at the end were involved. Perhaps you went the electronic route. In which case did you go through a site like Smashwords.com or one of the Kindle services? Final option: Independent (small) press.
My first publishing experience was… rough. After getting my edits back from my editor I was so excited to publish it I jumped right on Lulu.com and self-published it. The biggest mistake of my life. The draft still contained some editing marks and typos. Luckily, there weren’t really any story flaws, but the stylistic portion of it was atrocious. This led to a rushed edit and re-publishing which still wasn’t good enough. I then self-published my second book, Bloodcrest, which was better than my first, but still needed some work. I was still discovering my voice, and I had some things to learn about storytelling, along with some style things. So, I’ve retired both of those and have been receiving some great feedback on my third book, London Darkness: Infernal Inventions.
I would like to someday be represented by an agent and go through a big publishing house, but for now self-publishing allows me to get my name and work out there, while making a little bit of money on the side.
Did you learn any valuable lessons from the experience?
Never, ever, EVER, rush ANY part of the writing process.
Do you feel it was a success and if so, how were you measuring that success?
I’m actually waiting to see how my third book turns out. I have a feeling it’s going to sell pretty well, which will hopefully launch my fan base.
Which do you prefer artistically: Performing music or writing?
I’m much better at writing, so I prefer to write. However, I really want to get a saxophone and start playing again. And drums. I miss playing my drums.
You seem perfectly capable and at ease shifting between genres, for example ‘Blood on my Hands’ and its western theme versus ‘London Darkness: Infernal Inventions’ which is Steampunk. How do you feel changing between genres, are there issues ‘shifting gears’ from one to another?
To be completely honest, I had been playing Red Dead Redemption for quite some time, so it kind of gave me a feel for the Old West dialect. But other than that, I really don’t know how I do it. I don’t mean to sound arrogant or anything like that. I just sit down and write, and that’s what comes out. I do a little fixing up, of course, but I don’t really notice any issues. In my short story collection I’m working on, I go from western, to straight other-world science-fiction, to fantasy. I’m just really comfortable in those genres so I think they come to me really well.
One of the tasks a writer faces is creating characters. Is there a special way you go about creating the main characters? Is it different from minor ones?
When I plan out my main characters, the first thing I come up with is their name. However, I’m terrible with names so I use a random name generator. Often times I’ll search through names for nearly an hour before I find one I really like. After that, I plan out their physical characteristics; their eye color, hair color/length, weapons used (if any).
As for minor characters, I really don’t plan them out until they decide to show up in the story. And yes, they pretty much always show up whenever they want, haha. I also use the same name generator as I do for the main characters. Sometimes, though, as the characters develop, I find that their name no longer suits them, so I’m forced to change it to a more appropriate one.
What is your current goal for your writing? We know via social networking sites that you would like to make an independent living by writing, what is your plan to achieve that?
My plan is this: Write good, fully-developed stories that readers will love. Eventually, that will sell itself.
Let us suppose, hypothetically of course, that you cannot solely rely on writing for a living. What alternative career would you most like to pursue?
I’m currently majoring in journalism, so I’d like to write for a newspaper or magazine.
Last, what is one of the best pieces of advice that you have received so far? From who, and did you take it?
From my favorite author, Margaret Weis: “Make sure your characters have a solid reason for doing what they are doing.”
Readers love strong, fully-developed, flawed characters. Sure, that is fantastic. But if these amazing characters aren’t moving the story, they’re useless. So I always try and follow this advice in everything I write. While I write I’m always thinking, “So what? Who cares? Why are they doing this?”
We would like to thank you again for taking time out of your day to answer these questions. It is greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much! I had a ton of fun with this!
End of Interview.
I enjoyed coming up with the questions and appreciate just how accessible Chris has been. A big thanks to Chris! Do yourself a favor, head over to his blog and if you enjoy well written fiction check out these excerpts and short stories:
From → Writing