Man, I am enjoying these interviews. Today’s guest is my friend, Chris Stevenson, who has recently sold three different books to three different small press publishers. how is that for busy? Wow!
First off, Chris, thanks for agreeing to do this. The 13 Questions interviews have rapidly become my favorite segment of this blog. It’s especially nice when I get to interview a friend who is having a measure of success. As I noted earlier, Chris has recently sold three books to three separate small presses, almost at the same time. So at the moment he’s drowning in edits, contract talks, and rewrites, never mind trying to write. So it’s very generous of him to take time out to join us here in McAfee Land.
OK, down to business.
1) So tell us a little about yourself, Chris. Where are you from, what sort of books do you like to read, etc?
Thanks, Dave. I like McAfee Land! (NOTE: McAfee Land likes you, too Chris. :)) Can I be the 13th warrior? I’m originally from California, raised on the coast of Huntington Beach, the so-called surfing capital of the world. I spent some time in the lower Bay Area, and that’s where the writing bug hit me. I was an auto mechanic for twenty years, then fell into law enforcement, hired on as a federal police officer, then a guard for the U.S. Geological Survey. I now live in Hemet, California, better know as the dig site of the “Valley of the Mastodons.” It’s a quaint little retirement community.
2) How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing on and off for thirty years. Solidly for about eight years.
3) Have you always wanted to be a writer? Was there anything else you wanted to do before you started writing?
I never thought that I would be a writer. Even with my father’s success as a non-fiction author, it never occurred to me. I wanted to be an airline pilot, a paleontologist, and even a veterinarian at one point. I fell into writing—it was an accident.
4) You’ve sold three books recently: PLANET JANITOR, THE LUPUS STRAIN, and GATE WALKER. Can you give a quick summary of each?
PLANET JANITOR is a SF tale about a crew of misfit environmentalists who are enlisted to perform a cleanup operation in a distant star system. They’re unaware that the job entails disposing of millions of skeletons, in order to prep a settlement for habitation. They soon find out what killed the local inhabitants, and end up caught in a fever-pitched battle for their lives. Cross Starship Trooper with Robison Crusoe on Mars, and there you have it.
THE LUPUS STRAIN (thriller) is my dedication to Michael Crichton, plain and simple. It’s about a DNA experiment that goes terribly wrong. A geneticist attempts to cross the genes of a man-eating ice age dire wolf with a contemporary. But the genome soup is contaminated. Poof! We end up with a very strange litter, one of which is a Paleolithic female who carries the genes of her ancestors, but also has a good amount of wolf in her. Another littermate is a ferocious monster bent on mating with her, and will kill anyone who gets in his way. A lonely forest ranger finds her, and spends the entire time in the story trying to keep her out of the hands of law enforcement, the crazed monster, a warped cryptozoologist, and every nutso vigilante in state of Wyoming. It’s a total twist on the werewolf tale—a gender reversal of Beauty and the Beast, mixed with shades of The Island of Doctor Moreau.
GATE WALKER (paranormal) is about a woman on death row, who has a last-minute visitation by Janus, the God of doorways, gates, and new beginnings. He impregnates her, and she gives birth to herself (nine months later) right before her rescheduled execution. The child survives as a demigod, harboring some very special time-traveling skills. Her mission is to find out who really killed her mother’s husband, and bring the guilty party to justice.
5) Of the three, do you have a favorite? Why?
Everybody loves PLANET JANITOR. I landed my agent with it. He adored it. It has sold three times to three different publishers. Nine different editors have raved about it. Frankly, I don’t see all the hoopala, but then again, I’m the author of it. So I’m proud of that fan base, even though it hasn’t hit the shelves yet. My favorite is THE LUPUS STRAIN. God only knows why. It takes place in the expanse of the Wyoming wilderness—it’s rugged, it’s nail-biting. But most of all, I wanted desperately to tear the heart out of the reader. I wanted them to cry for the hybrid werewolf, Melina—a woman who has a lot more than just an identity crisis.
6) Personally, I can’t wait to finally read PLANET JANITOR in its entirety. It’s been an interesting road to publication for that particular title. Care to share that journey with us?
Oh woe was PLANET JANITOR! But it survived nicely. Well, it got me my agent. Then it sold to a publisher who gave me a nice little advance and a cool contract. The publisher later fell on its face, so I had to pull it. It sold again to another publisher, who offered, should I say, a pretty lousy contract. I declined. The third publisher, who I brought up-to-date on PJ’s history, said, “The hell with those others, I give you what you want within my limits.” So I finally settled.
7) Do you have any favorite authors? I know that’s a hard question because there are so many great ones out there, but who really inspires you?
Favorite authors would be Crichton, of course, with the addition of Joseph Wambaugh, Alan Dean Foster, Poul Anderson, Clive Cussler, Heinlein, and many more who are known for large SF epics and off-planet tales.
8) What has been your favorite aspect of being a published writer to date? Is there a downside?
Imagination that leads to pure creation is the driving force. I’m the God of my worlds, dictating every facet of the environment, adventures, and outcome. The downside can be the glacial movement of the publishing industry. There’s no instant gratification here. The process is slow, and so competitive, you wonder why you ever put fingers to keyboard sometimes. For me, my most elusive prize has been the big ticket sale. Small press seems to love me. But I can’t go on forever selling to the smaller markets.
9) What is a typical day for Chris Stevenson?
Editing like crazy, answering emails, submissions, more editing, trying to squeeze in time on the WIP, following my agent’s directions, and a hell of a lot of waiting combined with hundreds of rejections.
10) Do you have any hobbies? How do you relax after a long day?
I’m a DVD movie buff. I love to study plot and structure. I play video games to relieve tension and dejection—killing all the beasties, who I envision are heartless editors. I’m an amateur astronomer—love the stars.
11) So what’s next for Chris Stevenson? What can we expect to see from you in the coming years?
Probably more spec fiction, unless I try to play it straight with thrillers and more mainstream stuff. My ultimate goal is to have one of my books made into a movie or special of the week. That means my task is really cut out for me.
12) What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there who might be reading this?
If somebody asked me what it’s like to be a writer because they were thinking about doing it, I would tell them to take a few aspirin, go lay down in a dark room and waiting for the feeling to pass. Seriously, this is not for the meek or faint of heart. You have to gird your loins and prepare to slug it out, possibly for years. The never give up, never surrender motto applies here more than with any other vocation.
13) OK, last question: give us one line from your book. Don’t put it in context, just give us the line.
Yet something of purity and innocence had snuck through the gate with the grandfather wolf. The pure spirit carried the blood of the old human beings. Broken Feather clearly saw the visage of this spirit as a female. He believed she needed guidance—she required the services of a pathfinder.
He called her daughter of the wolf.
And there you have it, folks, Chris Stevenson. No worries, Chris, that big ticket deal is only one book away. The rest of you can learn more about Chris and his books by checking out His Website. He’s a real great guy and a gifted writer, and I know he’d love to have you visit.
For now, stay tuned for more exciting announcements in the near future. I’m on vacation next week, but when I get back I am (finally!) going to have my first ever contest here at McAfee Land! Yay! You’re all going to have an opportunity to win free stuff! Like a signed author copy of CREATURE FEATURE and my chapbook, THE SPIDER AND THE FLY. It’s all coming soon, so stay tuned!