Saturday, May 23, 2009
One of my fellow bloggers whom I most admire is Claudia Hall Christian of On a Limb with Claudia. She has kept me in riveting bedtime stories for over a year with two (count 'em - TWO!!!) serial novels, Denver Cereal and The Fey. She is currently doing a blog tour with The Fey, a thinking woman's thriller-adventure story, and today is MY turn to host her and her fascinating characters.
1. Contest: Claudia is offering one free book to the reader of my choice. I will determine the winner in a drawing of all who ask for a copy, and announce it one week from today on May 31st.
2. Discounts: There is a special discount code, 2YSB5GPG, which gives my readers 10% off books when they purchase from Claudia's Create Space store. The discount does not work at Amazon.com, however.
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR CLAUDIA HALL CHRISTIAN
1.) In your serialized novels, how many chapters ahead do you generally write before you publish them?
Denver Cereal is a true serial fiction. We publish on chapter a week. I have no real idea where it’s going or when it will end. Every time I worry that it’s ending, something else happens and story line is off and running again. I try to keep a month ahead of schedule. That said, life has kept me right on top of the deadlines. Sometimes the chapter goes up Sunday night just before publication. I don’t particularly like doing that because I miss major edits. But a chapter a week is a tough schedule.
The Fey is a novel with a finite beginning, a middle, and an end. In fact, there’s two sequels (Learning to Stand and Who I Am) waiting in the wings to be published. The Fey is completed and available for sale. Learning to Stand is in final revisions based on the last editorial review. Who I Am runs in the same time frame as Denver Cereal. (For example, the event that recently happened to Paddie Hargreaves is a part of Who I Am.) Who I Am is in first draft form.
2.) (a.) How many hours a day do you work?
I’ve never thought of work as different from play or living or relating. Thus, since I’ve been writing, I’ve never kept track of the hours. I get to my desk around eight in the morning and leave it around seven at night. In the time, I handle marketing, writing, manage the art work, care for the websites and also write. I try to get words on a page for at least four hours a day. Of course, some of my best story ideas happen in the hours I’m not at my desk.
(b.) How do you divide your time between the two projects?
I’ve done different things at different times. Write now, I start the week with Denver Cereal. Midweek, I transition to working on Learning to Stand (the second in the Fey series)
3.) I know the characters in both your books are somewhat related, and several of them even appear in both. Are any based on actual people?
No. In my mind, they are beings in their own right. They exist somewhere in some place that I’ve never been. I strive to be clear enough to tell their stories well. I met them when they appear on the page.
4.) It is a truly amazing feat to write two novels at the same time when most of us can't even manage one.
(a.) How do you navigate between Denver Cereal and The Fey without favoring one over the other?
Have you ever been in the mood for chocolate? You eat chocolate for a few days, then aren’t interested anymore. That’s what it’s like for me. I have a Denver Cereal mood then a Fey mood. The pressure to keep up with the weekly chapters keeps Denver Cereal in the forefront. And still I’ve devoted weeks to polishing a chapter or scene in the Fey series.
I’ve also been working on two other serial fictions – a real time serial set in Philadelphia and another post-apocalyptic set in New Mexico. My mentor would like me to have more serial fiction in more cities. I’ve held him at bay for a while. When Denver Cereal reached it’s year anniversary this June, I may start another. We’ll see.
(b.) Do you have a secret favorite child between the two?
I don’t think I favor one character over another. Some days, I like one character or the other as I work on telling their stories.
The character I admire the most is Alexandra Hargreaves. I’ve learned the most from her. She is tough and funny and loving all in the same moment. She has a kind of self confidence that comes from being really tested.
(c.) Also, who is the character you most enjoy writing about in each book, and why?
To me, they are unique, perfect in their own imperfections, valuable, and I’m merely their scribe.
5.) Do you work from outlines, or do you let your characters lead you where they need to go?
I let the characters lead me. I’m frequently stunned by what happens. For example, I had no idea Jacob would be injured or that Trevor would be killed. These things just happened.
I generally have a sense of where things are going. Sometimes, I have the specific stories written out already. And still, I’m regularly stunned at what’s revealed.
6.) I've noticed that Jill has become more confident and is no longer the timid, meek woman we first knew, traumatized by her mysterious disappearance when her parents died and her abusive marriage. In fact, she becomes more like Alex, the heroine of your other book, all the time while Alex has become more vulnerable. Do you believe that every downtrodden woman has an inner Alex, and every strong, confident one an inner Jill? Please discuss.
Jill and Alex represent two separate archetypes of women.
Jill is very Athena-like. We meet her when she’s doing an incredibly courageous act – attending her ex-husband’s engagement party to set the record straight. She survived the situation with her parents and the poverty that it brought. She has a lot of secrets – one of which is her own power.
Alex has traits of Artemis. Everything is play to her. She greets every event and challenge person as if it was placed in front of her to toy with. She’s capable of great loyalty and deep love.
I believe that every downtrodden woman is incredibly strong. How else would they survive? They stay in difficult situation because they are so strong, not because they are weak. In the end, it’s this strength that can lead them to happiness.
7.) If Jacob is psychic, how is it that he didn't know Jill was his mystery lover and Katy his child, especially since Delphie knew?
Psychic’s aren’t any good at predicting things for themselves. Things get very muddy when it’s about them. Some people say it’s against universal law for them to know their own future. Jacob has a sense of what will happen, but not the details. He knew that Katy would be his daughter, for example, but not that she was his biological daughter. That’s pretty realistic for psychics.
8.) Is there a castle in Denver like the one in Denver Cereal?
There is a home in which the Castle is based upon. I’d tell you where it is but I keep forgetting to tell the occupants! I also officed in the Crooke Patterson Mansion for three years. The scope and size of Crooke Patterson is more similar to the Castle than the original house.
9.) Writers are always cautioned to write what they know. Are there other reasons why these books had to take place in Denver?
One of the beauties of serial fiction is it’s capacity to interact with the real world. Dickens used real characters to help make his fictional characters come alive. In Tales of the City, a serial fiction set in San Francisco, Armstead Maupin was able to change the way people thought and felt about AIDS. Cupcakes are a big deal because they were highlighted in Sex in the City.
My hope with Denver Cereal was to include real streets, stores and locations. Various readers have told me that they get the feeling they could walk down a street in Denver and see Jacob, Jill or any of the Denver Cereal characters. That sense of realism brings a wonderful grounding.
I’m not sure why the Fey thriller novels take place in Denver. I only know that the story is better, deeper and more consistent when it takes place here. Part of the current rewrite of Learning to Stand is bringing it back to Denver. And it’s better here.
10.) The Fey is a multi-book series while, if I'm not mistaken, Denver Cereal is intended to be only one book. What were your reasons for expanding one but not the other?
There are at least eight books planned for the Alex the Fey series. We’re just getting started there.
As a serial fiction, Denver Cereal can continue… forever potentially. I believe the longest running serial fiction, the Diary of V in Redbook, ran for nine years.
I don’t have a specific timeline or number of books for either project. I will continue to write as long as these characters have something to say. So far, they haven’t stopped talking.
11.) Honey and Brianna have names but Trevor's second wife, their sister, does not. I've theorized that you didn't want to ruin any name by giving it to someone so evil, but Lucretia Borgia, Regan in The Exorcist, Carrie, and Cruella de Ville all have names so I'm probably spinning my head in the wrong direction. Would you explain why you didn't give her one?
I chose not to give Trevor’s wife a name because everyone knows someone like her. Everyone has a person in their life that treats the world as if it owes them things. The hope was that the reader could project their own evil name onto her.
Denver Cereal is inhabited with flawed people who, at the end of the day, try to do their best. Sometimes they succeed. Many times they fail. Positive, hopeful characters get too little time in our modern imagination. Characters like Trevor’s wife (the step-whore) have dominated fiction for the last twenty years. She doesn’t need a name. Because she, like all people like her, are just wasps that get in the way of the positive, hopeful, doing their best people of the world.
12.) I'm confused about the fact that Alex and Max have been referred to as "identical twins" often enough that it seems like a biological description rather than just a statement that they strongly resemble each other. How is this possible when they are not same-sex twins?
Opposite sex identical or monozygotic twins are possible, but incredibly rare. There are three documented cases in the world right now. And even then, technically they are not identical because one has two X chromosomes and the other has an XY chromosome.
Alexandra and Maxwell Hargreaves are monozygotic twins. A few of our early readers are monozygotic twins. They have agree that beyond the way they look, Alex and Max act like monozygotic twins.
13.) Do you speak fluent Gaelic? My great nephew from County Wicklow taught me to say "kiss my ass" which sounds like "pog mah hog" ( with hard "o's") but I couldn't spell it to save my hog.
I don’t speak Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic or Ulster Gaelic. The Fey team learned Irish Gaelic because it’s not spoken in the Middle East and only rarely spoken in Europe. Knowing Irish Gaelic gave them a chance to speak to each other with ease without fear of being overheard or easily understood even if they were monitored.
14.) When you come to San Francisco for an author signing, can we do dinner?
I am thrilled to come and spend time with you – dinner, a walk, a cup of tea. Name the place and time and I will engender to be there.