Thursday, October 16, 2014

Meet Chris Jane! A Spotty Blog Interview


Chris Jane is a mystery meat stew wrapped in enigmatic bacon covered in conundrum chocolate.... Wait. What was I talking about?

Clearly, I need to eat something.

Let's try this again.


Chris Jane is a writer whose debut novel, The Year of Dan Palace, is at turns funny, smart, painful and most of all, honest as it follows one man's choices in the face of the possibility that the world will end. I don't know Chris well, but the writing is more than solid. This is a writer that doesn't pull punches, that shows us sides of character it might be easier to turn away from. Of course, if Chris did that, we'd have a very different sort of story. This is good stuff.

The book is out on November 22, but it is available for pre-order on Kindle, now.

It is an honor and a privilege to present to you...

The Interview

Q) Where did you draw inspiration for the story of The Year of Dan Palace?

A) It was probably a combination of a fear of dying and a fear of not appropriately living, and added to that a desire to take a real, hard look at what a person might do with the end of the world as a possibility. Not only that, but how that person's actions might impact others.

I also wanted to have fun with the writing. While The Year of Dan Palace isn't, at its heart, a "fun" book (there is a serious theme or two), there is certainly fun stuff in it. It isn't oppressively heavy or "Oh, woe," and the characters themselves are pretty entertaining. They were certainly entertaining to write.

Q) Winnipeg or Winnebago?
A) Tough question. When Dan leaves home, he buys a Pace Arrow made by Fleetwood, a Winnebago competitor. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience choose Winnebago.

I did just learn on a "what to do in Winnipeg" search that a tourist attraction called "Lower Fort Scary" is just half an hour away in Selkirk, which I think makes the choice that much easier.

Q) In the Year of Dan Palace, you address how one person deals with End of the World anxieties which in turn causes the protagonist to second guess everything about the life he has. When 2012 rolled around did you or anyone you know experience anxiety over the much-discussed Mayan doomsday?
A) No. But we did have the standard "What would you do if?" conversation, at which point we listed the things we would do if we were going to die, none of which any of us ended up doing - even though we are all obviously, unquestionably, inevitably dying. Someday. Even so, most of us don't believe it, even if we know it's going to happen. One of the challenges Dan has is holding tight to that belief.

Q) Quinoa or purple rice?
A) I recently had quinoa for the first time. It was a little like tasty wet sand pasta-rice pellets. Pretty good!

I haven't had purple rice. What I'd like to try is risotto at a very high-end restaurant. Any time I catch Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsey is going on about risotto. It's safe to assume it's the best food on the planet when done correctly.

Q) Is this your first novel? If so, when did you begin writing fiction?
A) I've been writing fiction since my pre-teens but didn't get serious about it until my early twenties. I was one of those readers, particularly in middle and high school, who always had to have a book. If I forgot one, my day would be ruined. What was I supposed to do while I was waiting, walking, or sitting in class without a good novel?
All of that reading somehow led to wanting to write. (I say "somehow" because I could just as easily have become a lifelong, passionate reader.)

This is not the first novel I've written. The very first, when I was 19, was a series of interconnected stories: X driving a car hits the brakes to avoid hitting Y. Their eyes meet, and the story lurches forward into the life and story of Y. And so on. I like to pretend it was an original idea at the time.

Q) When it comes to salsa, do you prefer black bean chipotle or mango peach?
A) They're both a little chunky, aren't they? Restaurant style is my daily addiction, with Tostitos lime chips.

Q) What advice would you offer to anyone setting out to write fiction?
A) Don't get hung up on perfection while writing the first draft, because you'll probably never finish (as far as novels are concerned). Write through, get to the end, get to know your story and characters, and then go back and make it better.

If short stories (and this is true for longer fiction, too), be honest, and don't be afraid to be honest. There's little you've felt that someone else hasn't felt at one time or another. Your task is to present that feeling in your unique way.

Q) Artists tend to have pretty interesting job histories. What's the strangest paid gig you ever had?
A) I willingly and knowingly improved the writing of a once-successful charlatan spiritual leader whose books' sole goal was to milk money from people wanting a better life. I'd try to find subtle ways to slip digs into the material.

Q) What's next for Chris Jane in terms of projects?
A) I have two in mind, one of which I hope to write with a partner. One tackles a social issue, and the other is a revenge plot. In real life, I'm probably more of a passive-aggressive revenge seeker - the kind who fantasizes about saying "No" when the wrong-doer needs a favor - so I think I'll enjoy writing a character who is a more active revenge participant.

Q) Binge-watching or binge-drinking?
A) Binge-watching on my smart days. Binge-drinking on my less smart days, and to a lesser degree than in my twenties. I think I can handle about three glasses of whatever is put in front of me. I am a middle-age cliche.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meet Che Gilson! A Spotty Blog Interview


Che Gilson is an author and a graphic artist who recently released a novel called Carmine Rojas: Dogfight with Black Opal Books. When you take a look at her bio, you'll see a ton of credits for work in comics as well as fiction. I interviewed her over the summer about Carmine Rojas, an action-packed story about an werewolf in an illegal pit-fighting ring, a werewolf who is as tough as,,, well... a werewolf, with a big heart. The story of Carmine, in this first book, is told in "rounds" which I think is a particularly clever way of indicating a change in the narrative.

I was privileged enough to interview her on the air at WRKC over the summer, but had yet to figure out how to create a video of that discussion. I am doubly blessed to get to interview her for a second time on Ye Olde Spotty Blog.

Without further preamble...

The Interview

Q) What inspired Carmine Rojas: Dogfight?

A) I was writing another book called Tea Times Three, and it's a sweet book about a town, and tea, and witches, and food, and there is only mild swearing and nothing explodes. After working on Tea Times Three for something like three years I needed a break. I needed to write a book with action, violence, swearing and explosions! That's how Carmine came to be. I don't remember exactly HOW I created her or her world. She might have been one of those characters that just spring instantly to life. I don't remember writing Carmine to be very hard. I spent a lot of time editing it though with great suggestions from Suzanne McLeod.

Q) If you could be a shapeshifter, what kind of shapeshifter would you be?

A) I'd like to turn into something that could fly. So maybe an owl or an eagle.

Q) You are also a graphic artist. Do you think that your sense of the visual influences your writing? If so, how?

A) Maybe. I tend to visualize my books as movies and then try to describe what's happening. I like to describe things like clothing and weather. I don't know if it's a help or a hindrance though.

Q) Cows or crows?

A) CROWS! I love crows! I watched a documentary about them and they actually call on other crows for help, then other crows come and help the one in trouble, they're amazing! I'm also a fan of all things avian :)

Q) When did you first know that you wanted to be a fiction writer?

A) I came to writing from a slightly different direction than other authors. I always made up stories, as a kid, but I would draw them out, not as a comic, but as a series of illustrations. Then I discovered graphic novels (ElfQuest) in third grade and that became my calling. I wanted to write and draw comic books.

The comics didn't work out as I planned and I decided that I would have a better chance of getting my stories to the world if I wrote them as prose. So, while I was always writing SOMETHING, stories, comic book scripts, and bad attempts at novels, I wasn't 100% dedicated to writing prose until I had to drop out of art school because of damage to my arm. I wrote three (terrible) children's books, then got sucked back into comics off and on for years before I FINALLY quit trying and just started prose.

Q) Harmonica or Harmonium?

A) Hang on while I Google harmonium.... Harmonium! For sure!

Q) I get the sense from Carmine Rojas: Dogfight, that we'll be seeing more of her in the future. What's next for her?

A) Next up is her mid-life crisis! LOL! I'm about halfway done with her next adventure. I'm worried it's a bit too much of a departure, there's only one fight scene so far (but lots of swearing!). It ends with a massive fight scene, so maybe that will make up for it. I'll have to do better in the third one...

Q) Courier or Times New Roman?

A) Both actually. I like to uses Times for the manuscript, then to edit I change the font to courier, then switch it back when I've got the major edits done. Switching fonts helps me see the book differently and catch mistakes I wouldn't normally see.

Q) Is there a particular form of writing that you haven't tried yet that you'd like to?

A) Epistolic- does that count? I'm actually trying out a novel written in e-mails right now. I don't know how it's going...

Q) When your creative batteries are drained, what do you do to recharge?

A) I watch TV and work on art usually. I haven't had a lot of time art lately. Art is actually what I THOUGHT I'd be doing with my life. It's still really important to me and I love to draw! I also just take time off writing. I'll stop for a week or two at times. Though I feel terribly guilty that I'm not the sort of author who can turn out 5000 words a day.