Greetings, Eyeballers. Yes, that’s what you’re called now. I am extremely happy to present an exclusive interview with published author Chris Davis, who released an awesome vampire novel called ‘Takers’ last year has a sequel to it coming very soon.
This interview is being released in three parts.
Starting Monday 5th March: Writing Process
Chris Davis resides in Memphis, Tennessee with her cat, Ramses. She has a Master of Science degree in Project Management and is a novelist, aspiring screenwriter and currently stretches her journalism muscle working for Hawaii Five-0 Online. Chris’s first published novel, a bloody twist on traditional vampires called “Takers,” is now available on Amazon and Smashwords and her personal blog can be found here.
Today, Chris shares her opinions about the creative process and explains what drives her to write:
H.E: Welcome to my Haunted Eyeball, Chris! So, when did you first start writing?
C.D. I’ve been writing since I was a pre-teen. I’ll go out on a limb and say I was maybe about ten years old when I first put pencil to notebook paper, back in the dinosaur days when we actually had to write longhand.
Do you have a writing routine? How do you fit it in with the day job, etc?
I can’t say I have a routine, per se. Unlike many writers, I don’t do the thing where I say, “Between the hours of X and Y I’m working on Project #1 and then I’m doing this and then I’m doing that.” My schedule in terms of day job doesn’t keep me from writing when inspiration hits, which is very lucky for me. Instead, I have enough writing projects going at any given time that if I open up one document and don’t feel it flowing; I simply go to another project until I find the thing that feels like I should be working on it. I very much let the Universe flow in, around and through me and guide me to what I should be working on, what’s the right thing to be doing in that moment, rather than trying to force square pegs into round holes.
How do you start writing? Do you listen to music?
Funny you should ask me this question, because it occurred to me a few weeks ago that when I really started hitting the ground running in terms of producing profusely (around a decade ago), I always had to have music playing, whether via headphones or stereo. These days, I find that sometimes it helps to be playing my music, but other times I write like gangbusters in complete silence. Still others, you’ll find me able to produce multiple chapters of a book with so much noise occurring around me you wonder how I can think. Again, I go back to the fact that I just allow things to happen as they’re meant to, and if that means I’m supposed to write four chapters of my next novel today, then a twister could be spiriting me off to Oz and I wouldn’t be aware of it until those chapters were complete!
Where’s your favourite place to write?
I find that I’m most productive sitting at a desk, whether it be in a corporate workplace type of environment or my own home office. I have successfully written sitting up in bed, but for the most part I guess me being seated at a desk tells my brain “time to work,” and so that’s usually how I do it.
Does Writer’s block ever hit? How do you deal with it?
Absolutely. But I always know it will pass. I’ll go back to how it is I work: if something isn’t flowing in that moment that I think I should be doing it, I close it and come back to it. Generally speaking it always works out so that I’m not missing deadlines or getting something done too late. If I planned to write something for a writing challenge, and it’s simply not coming and becomes clear it’s not going to happen, I take that as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be written and I either see about writing something else for that challenge, or simply don’t enter it. There have been times when I’ve tried to force myself through a block moment, but I find that when I do that, what I produce is crap, so it’s literally not worth it for me to do it. If it’s meant to be then it happens, is how I live, while at the same time doing everything in my power to keep up my end of the bargain – which is to keep writing, no matter what it is that’s getting written!
Is there anything you wouldn’t consider writing about, and why?
I have never been fond of politics in any way, shape or form. It’s simply a subject which holds no interest for me. Admittedly, my interests are skewed much more toward what you might term the supernatural, or fantasy worlds, but over the past year I’ve challenged myself to write in more “realistic” arenas as well, so that I have to practice abiding by the laws of what’s accepted as “real life,” instead of skirting around them by writing in arenas where I can make up my own laws and rules. Hence my screenplay “Fractured,” which I’m intending to enter into the Nicholl Fellowship competition. “Fractured” is about as far away from my ‘normal’ fare as you can get. It’s much more the real life independent film sort of thing, whereas my novel “Takers” (urban fantasy) and my first screenplay, “The Healer” (supernatural) are worlds where I made up my own rules. To get back to your original question, however, I think that other than not wanting to write something with too much political content, I’m pretty open to anything from G-rated fare all the way to stuff that would curl your grandmother’s hair, on any topic.
How long do you allow for research?
I have to make a confession here: the majority of the time I research as I write. Now, I know I have to have some modicum of understanding of my subject matter prior to coming up with a story outline or diagram, but more often than not I’ve already got that hammered out in my own mind because it’s just there. However, in a recent story I wrote, which focused on two men climbing Denali (Mt. McKinley) in Alaska, I had to do lots of research prior to even starting the story, because I haven’t got a clue about mountain climbing! By and large, though, as I’m going along writing, when I hit something where I say, “I don’t know this,” that’s when I stop and research for as long as I need to until I’m confident I’m writing with some authority, and then just keep going. It’s sort of a pay-as-you-go feel rather than spending weeks doing research and taking notes and then writing the story. For me, that’s far too mind-numbing. I need to be “Action, now, do, write!”
Whose writing advice do you really listen to?
My friend, editor and publisher, Jaimi Sorrell, who runs Plotfish Press. While I do listen to the opinions of a handful of others, for the most part she’s the one whose word I trust implicitly (though I’ve been known to fight her on stuff now and again). She’s been working with me for…holy cow, I think it’s been something like eight or nine years now? Over that period of time you develop a mutual trust and respect, and you see that when you put something into practice, it either does or doesn’t work for you. Nothing I write professionally gets out the door until she’s satisfied with it, whether novel or screenplay, because as she always says, “If you can get it by me, you can get it by anyone,” and I think that’s true!
Are there any books on writing and creativity that you’d recommend?
Okay, another confession for you: I don’t read about writing and being creative; I do it.
For me, the best way to learn and grow as a writer is to actually keep writing, keep putting your stuff out there, keep asking for feedback, and then incorporating what you get. The two hours I spend reading a book someone’s written telling me how to get characterization right, I could’ve produced two or three chapters of my own book, which I find much more productive than reading someone else’s opinion about how I can improve. I commend people who can quote “helpful” books left, right and center, really, I do. But for me, personally (and this is no judgment of anyone else), reading about being creative or reading about writing is a waste of my time, because it means I’m not actually writing.
The thing I think lots of people don’t quite get is that writing is very, very personal to each individual writer. What works for Joe Cool in his four hundred-page book about how to plot out your novel before you write it, may be more painful than being skewered and raked over hot coals for someone like me.
Can I tell other people how I do what I do? Not really, because I am blessed in that it just sort of…happens. It makes me think of all those books people write about how male/female relationships work and how to be successful at them. I’m sorry, but blanket statements drive me bananas. Telling me that “all men think this way” or “this is how all women feel” is such a load of you-know-what because it is empirically impossible for every single man in existence to think precisely the same way about Subject X. Similarly, if a writer has found something that’s made writing an easier or more fulfilling experience for him, that’s wonderful and I’m very happy for him! However, that doesn’t mean that what he talks about will necessarily have any bearing on what I do, will work for me even if I try it, or is going to be of any use to anyone other than him.
I find my own path, and if it’s not there I keep whacking at the undergrowth until I’ve made one.
Your golden rule of writing? Tips for new writers?
Write every day. I don’t care if it’s 100 words on what your water bottle looks like or the next bestseller. I don’t care if it’s fan fiction, biographical, a TV series script, a feature-length screenplay, a book, a short story, a poem or song lyrics. Write something every. Single. Day. Period.
For new writers, I’ll put it to you this way: anyone can read all the books they want about surfing. About how to catch a wave. How to stand on the board. How to balance. What to do when you wipe out in a barrel. They can learn what the backdoor is, how to carve and how to make a cutback. In theory.
But until that wannabe surfer picks up a board, paddles out into the ocean and takes the drop, do you think they’re going to actually be able to stay upright and mimic the lifelong surfers you see in almost every opening scene of Hawaii Five-0 just because they read a book? Of course not! Reading about it does not equate doing it. Actually writing is exercising your brain the same way lifting weights is exercising your biceps.
So I’ll say it again. My golden rule, my tip: Write every day.
Hope to see you Eyeballers here again tomorrow, when Chris discusses Inspiration and the challenges of Publicity for ebook authors