Interview: Five Minutes With CHARLES CHRISTIAN
Today we have Charles Christian, Charles is a barrister & Reuters correspondent turned award-winning legal technology journalist, newsletter publisher, blogger, new media maven, science fiction author, keynote speaker
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m a former barrister and Reuters correspondent turned legal technology journalist, newsletter publisher, blogger, new media maven, sci-fi and fantasy author, who now spends a more time than I should travelling the globe giving keynote speeches about the day-job. I grew up in Yorkshire, lived in London and now live out in MR James country in East Anglia. I was also the founder of the popular Ink Sweat & Tears poetry webzine and now run the UrbanFantasist.com website. My wife Jane is not only my muse but also the most perceptive editor I’ve ever met, both from the point of view of story structure and proof reading, which is a good thing as I couldn’t tell a split infinitive from a hole in the road.
Do you prefer the term
To be honest I think too many writers spend far too long wondering which category they fall into when in reality many writers not only write in multiple genre but even a single story may cross genre boundaries. I guess Dark Fiction would be my choice though personally I categorise my work as sci-fi and urban fantasy.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I don’t have favourites as such though MR James is one writer I can always re-read, ditto although some of his stuff hasn’t aged well, Saki. I’ll also read the latest Iain M Banks ‘Culture’ novel when it comes out and anything by William Gibson, which is not surprising as I spend most of my time with the day-job immersed in cyberspace. Michael Moorcock and Neil Gaiman are also favourites, as it HP Lovecraft. Short stories interest me the most and I’m a great devourer of all the annual “Year’s Best Sci-Fi… Best Fantasy… Best Ghost Stories” anthologies. Among modern authors I particularly like Cory Doctorow as he covers a wide range of topics – anything from cyberpunk to steampunk – and has an admirable take on the realities of the digital world we all live in. Check out his day-job website at BoingBoing.net
What are you reading now?
How would you describe your writing style?
Cinematic. I see the story evolving in my mind’s eye and then my task is to transcribe that story onto the page. My stories are heavily narrative driven – usually from the first person, present tense point of view. Probably as a result of the day-job as a journalist, I try to be economic with words – not so much “show don’t tell” as “hint don’t tell”. I try to keep it modern – too much horror is written in a fake-Edwardian style – but without being so ‘trendy’ that the language will sound dated by next Tuesday. And I suppose the underlying theme is “life sucks” but the human spirit will ultimately win out.
Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Thanks to the day-job – which sees me sat in front of a computer screen writing from dawn till dusk – my creative writing tends to be reserved to evenings, rare days off (I run my own business and my boss is a slave driver) and weekends. I’m a firm believer that you have to be in the correct mental ‘zone’ to write – and when I am, I aim to get down at least 500 new words a day. I don’t edit as I go along, I rush to the finishing post and then edit the entire story.
No unusual “only write in purple ink on green paper” type writing habits. I type directly onto my computer (either an Apple MacBook Air or an iPad) and I store a copy of everything in Dropbox so I can access it anywhere, from any machine. I don’t go in for elaborate plot planning with whiteboards, flow charts and index cards – with the result that the end of the story is often as much as a surprise to me as it is to the reader.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I’m actually very proud of a short story I’ve just written (and out with a commissioning editor this moment) called “The Day the Music Died”, which is about the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly in 1959. I’m pleased with the way I’ve managed to weave the historical facts into a Cthulhu-lite tale. The story is written from the perspective of another artiste – the Big Bopper – who also died in the crash.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last book “This is the Quickest Way Down” (Salt/Proxima Books 2011) is a paperback collection of short stories, flash fiction plus a couple of novelettes covering the full SF&F + Horror gamut. The title story is pure horror, with the protagonist falling into the hands of a vengeful Eastern god. “Kastellorizon” and “Flight 505” are straight sci-fi. Others, such as “Waiting for my Mocha to Cool” are post-apocalyptical. A lot of people die in my stories but they often get to have interesting sex with ghosts and aliens before they die! Here’s the Amazon link
As to what I’m working on now… I’m a firm believer that we are on the tipping point of seeing conventional print books give way to ebooks as the norm for readers. And one thing ebooks lend themselves to – both pricewise and in terms of length – are shorter novels, novellas and short stories. Which suits me fine as that is my favourite length (although I do have a stalled mega-novel to get back to). So, back from my little digression, I’m currently working on a series of four separate novellas (two of the share the same protagonist) that I had hoped would be published by Christmas but I fear I’ve missed that window so it will be early next year now. Oh, and like a lot of authors, I’m still looking for an artist I can collaborate with on some graphic novels!