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Monday, September 9, 2013

Author Interview: Christopher Vera

Today I am pleased to present to you all the 92nd in a series of Author Interviews. Recently I sat down with the change or die, viral tree, ukulele-playing, Christopher Vera, and our conversation went something like this:

Paul:  I like to start my interviews by asking if you have any writing rituals?
Christopher:  I have found myself to be audio-driven. When I’m alone, especially driving, I like to play either instrumental music or music I don’t understand the words to. The music acts as a soundtrack that makes scenes play out in my head. I listen over and over until I’m compelled to write the scene down. Afterwards I link the scenes and make a story out of them. This is how I wrote The Left Hand Of Light.

Paul:  What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Christopher:  I am a huge fan of writers and their books that that can transport me to other worlds, real or fictional: Tolkien, Clavell, Niven, Herbert, Clancy. Each of these writers could create an entire world out of words: its environment, its characters, its politics, and its cultures, in such fine-grained detail that it becomes nearly impossible not to fall into that world and live there for a spell.

Paul:  If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Christopher:  If someone could step into my creative mind (and I would love to be surrounded by such people) they would find a multiverse in which science and magic coexist, in fact, are inseparable. They would find spaceships, strange worlds and other-dimensional beings alongside demons, faeries and dragons. They would find a place of vast green forests beneath a moonlit sky, everything touched by the natural, the unnatural and the supernatural. They would find tears and self-doubt. Fear, here and there. But above all they would find love and a passion for creating art.

Paul:  What is a typical day for you?
Christopher:  Like many writers, I maintain a day job. Each day begins with a little exercise, which is critical, especially for writers, but for any healthy person. I try to eat right. Then it’s off to work, advocating for and educating others about energy privacy. I come home exhausted most days. Many days I don’t write at all. My writing is very bursty and requires all kinds of complicated conditions to be met—almost superstitious in their nature—before I can do it successfully. I find myself envious of writers who can just sit down and make it happen!

Paul:  Do you have a favorite character in each of your series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why?
Christopher:  In my upcoming book, The Left Hand Of Light, I find myself drawn to Michael, a man who has been granted the ability to move between universes, like souls do when their bodies die. He’s a man out-of-place, out-of-time, and he’s lonely as hell, but determined to find the one person who makes him happy, complete. Aren’t we all just a little like that until we finally do find that person?

Paul:  In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it?
Christopher:  The biggest mistake an author can make is to never share their art with others. Sometimes I wonder if I waited too long, but really I believe I was just waiting for the universe to produce the conditions that have made sharing our content and reaching our audiences directly so easy (hello, Internet!). If we write, if we draw, if we paint, or we sing, I believe we have an obligation to share that art with others. Let them experience what makes us who we are and be touched by it. Make the connection and achieve enlightenment, great or small. It moves us all in a positive direction.

Paul:  How do you find the time to write?
Christopher:  I impose deadlines. My favorite is to take a creative writing class, or attend a workshop. This gives me a captive audience who is expecting something unique from me and expecting it now. When the class is over, I can edit at my leisure.

Paul:  What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Christopher:  Please don’t tell your readers that we writers are often a scared and lonely lot and that underneath all those words are uniquely vulnerable human beings that are merely seeking to be recognized, validated and have our voices heard. But do feel free to tell them that the reward for tolerating our passionate and sometimes incomprehensible mannerisms is that they will never be bored. That’s our promise to our readers.

Paul:  If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Christopher:  I am indeed self-published. Now more than any other time in our history, humans have some of the most massive and interconnected social networks at their disposal. Ideas traverse the entire globe faster than ever before…and will travel faster yet! The need for a middle-man, who dictates which ideas are “good” and which are “bad” are soon ending. Audiences want to experience new things. They want to talk about those experiences. Culture, counter-culture, counter-counter-culture, it’s like a viral tree whose roots connect us all. Now is the best possible time to be an artist of any kind and be heard.

Paul:  Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Christopher:  I see scenes like in a movie: A character suffering or triumphing; an unforgettable moment of beauty or terror. I am compelled to write these down and ask myself: “What happened before? What happens after?”

Paul:  Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Christopher:  The first draft is always ugly. It’s important to get the dang thing on paper, so to speak. Just get the ideas out there first. Editing must always happen, like the way pruning a rose bush helps to keep it healthy and alive and producing things of great beauty.

Paul:  Do you have to do much research for your stories?
Christopher:  Never! Although I enjoy research for purely academic purposes, when I write fiction or poetry, it’s all about creating new worlds that have never before existed. My imagination becomes my encyclopedia. All the rules required, I and my readers already understand. Everything else, we create together in our minds.

Paul:  What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it
Christopher:  The Left Hand Of Light is coming this Fall, 2013. It’s the story of an intuitive suicidal woman named Jaylina who meets a dark-souled man called Michael with the ability to cross over into the Spirit World while he searches for the soul of his lost love. With the help of Jaylina's powerful mind, they find their way into the Underworld as they are chased by the mysterious Shadow Queen and her minions. It’s a story about love, and loss and finding one’s purpose and place in the universe.

Paul:  What inspired you to write this book?
Christopher:  I found a song called “Sweet Lullaby” by Deep Forest and in my imagination all I could see was a blind woman singing to a man in the Spirit World as he battled demons and shadows. That scene is part of the climax of the book. There was no way I could NOT tell this story.

Paul:  Do you also write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Christopher:  Poetry is my first love. You’d think poetry would be a great medium in this day and age of tweeting and posting. I wrote a collection of poetry called TRANSMISSIONS TO THE MYSTIC NEBULA that tells the story of a cyber-poet in the not-to-distant future seeking to find his place in the universe by initiating several unauthorized communications to a mysterious cosmic phenomenon.

Paul:  Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
Christopher:  Not if I can help it, even if I have to publish it all for free on the Internet. As human beings, if we bother at all to create art, then our art is meant to be shared with other human beings. And so we must. As Seth Godin said, if people don’t respond to our art we need to find new audiences, or make better art. We all need to realize that we must be brave enough to create art and that there is no arrogance in sharing it. Create it and ship it.

Paul:  Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Christopher:  I enter random competitions I find via several sources. I never hear back from them. Time to make better art!

Paul:  How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
Christopher:  All my marketing is very low budget. Never before have we had such relatively inexpensive resources to reach so many people around the world. It’s an amazing time to be alive. We are our own brands and we are always building our platforms whether we actively seek to or not. May as well take some kind of control over what our brands say about us, right?

Paul:  What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Christopher:  I love the freedom writing represents. We can create ANYTHING we can imagine. And if we can imagine it, we can do it. Consider Lucas of Star Wars fame, or Roddenberry of Star Trek. The concepts these writers created are part of American culture now and kids speak to these concepts without even realizing they are referring to stories that have been told by these artists. Physicists are studying the possibility of making warp drive a reality! THAT is how to connect with an audience in a way that resonates.

Paul:  What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?

Christopher:  When I’m not writing, which is more often than it should be, I am cooking, writing music, playing the ukulele, or trying to navigate the muddy waters of being single again after 12 years of marriage. And learning, always learning something new. We must never stop being curious, or think we know enough. When we become overly complacent, we risk becoming cynical by losing the way we look at the world with a child’s eyes. When that happens, it’s time for personal, transformational change that takes us in a new, positive direction in our lives. We change, or we die. Change is good: Let’s live forever!

Paul:  That was most interesting, Christopher. Good luck with pushing your art!

About Christopher Vera: As the editor and publisher of the Mystic Nebula, Christopher Vera writes to document his world: the natural, the unnatural and the supernatural. He is the author of “Transmissions to the Mystic Nebula,” a collection of poetry. His self-published debut modern mythological novel, “The Left Hand of Light" will arrive Fall of 2013

Christopher's Blog: Christopher Vera
Christopher on Twitter: @christophervera
Christopher on Facebook: Christopher Vera
Christopher's latest book: The Left Hand Of Light (coming soon)

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