Chris’s debut novel, Scars on the Face of God becomes available in trade paperback (Drollerie Press) from 12/1/2009.
JON: Congratulations on your recent Puddle Award. Which came first, the title or the story?
CHRIS: The story. Where did the story come from? Huge admission here: Originally conceived, Scars on the Face of God (SOTFOG) was a mainstream novel. Blame it on my wife for turning it into a paranormal/horror thriller by passing a comment about a few of the characters before I’d written a single word; something she saw in them that I hadn’t. The comment would be a plot spoiler here so I’ll stay quiet about it, but it totally changed the novel’s complexion.
JON: How did you decide upon the title?
CHRIS: During a coffee-fueled epiphany on my long drive to my day job. Catholics and other Christians (I was raised Catholic) are taught that God has a perfect, beatified face. Throw together some conflict caused by discarded orphans raised by nuns, a monsignor with an insatiable carnal appetite, and a mystery surrounding a cache of bones discovered in a storm sewer. Then introduce as a catalyst the real-life 13th century religious manuscript known as The Devil’s Bible. Add an antagonist who decides the time is ripe to “rough up the Almighty” and “scar that beautiful face of his” and viola, a title was born.
JON: Tell us a little about the story/stories ie: finished/published?
CHRIS: The novel, my debut, is published by Drollerie Press, a little-engine-that-could small press. The eBook is out now; the trade paperback will be available 12/1/2009. It was recognized with a first place finish in an annual contest run by the Maryland Writers Association, also garnered a first place finish in a contest run by the now defunct Writers Room of Bucks County (PA) writers organization.
JON: As a reader, does a good title make a difference to you?
CHRIS:A backhanded yes in that a bad title will make me select something else to read. I suppose also that a great title will make me more interested than a mediocre title. Two short story titles I’m partial to, both my own, are “You’re A Moron” and “Zombie Chimps from Mars.” “Moron” was published by Thuglit in January 2009; Well Told Tales turned it into a podcast in September 2009. I’m currently shopping “Zombie Chimps,” which is actually not so much a zombie story as it is a mainstream contemporary literary masterpiece. (Fine, there’s some bias here; go figure.)
JON: What are your long term goals as a writer?
CHRIS:I can’t think too long term at this point. I’m thinking ahead only as far as my next few hurdles: complete a WIP paranormal novel with the working title of Hop Skip Jump, sign with an agent who recognizes its genius, close a deal with a major publisher. Optioning SOTFOG for film would be nice, too. Little things like that. That’s plenty for now.
JON: Tell us about your very first sale.
CHRIS: SOTFOG was it. Pinky swear. I recognize it’s a little unusual for a writer to close a deal on a novel before he’s earned other significant writing credits (other than a few first place finishes/honorable mentions in some smaller-venued contests). Regardless, publisher Deena Fisher at Drollerie Press liked it well enough to give it a go, so here we are.
JON: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever had?
CHRIS: Read the work aloud. My work can be literary at times but it generally reads as conversational, and there’s no better way I know to catch incorrect inflections, difficult transitions, awkward dialogue and poorly constructed prose than to hear the prose spoken, even if only by the author. The same is true regarding my need to see the narrative on a printed page vs. reading it on a screen. I compose on the screen but I do my best editing from the printed page.
JON: Do you belong to a writing/critique group? Why/why not?
CHRIS:Yes. Two, in fact: The Bucks County Writers Workshop, a large group run by published novelist and former CBS (radio) Book Beat’s Don Swaim, and a smaller group we call The Rebel Writers of Bucks County. The Rebel Writers boasts two published novelists (Damian McNicholl, Marie Lamba), one writer with a memoir due out next year (Jeanne Denault), three other talented writers yet to be discovered, and me. The Whys for me are simple.
One: Feedback. Other writers with successes large or small and with eyes more critical than my own
should see my work and let me know what works and what doesn’t.
Two: Validation. When I get something right—voice, a scene, some dialogue—it’s incredibly gratifying to hear someone else tell me I did.
JON: Where can readers find your work?
CHRIS: The novel: From publisher Drollerie Press and the other usual outlets such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or better yet ask your local independent bookstore to order the trade paperback in preparation for its 12/1 release. It’s also available online at Fictionwise and other eBook venues. Short story exposure: Thuglit (crime pulp), Well Told Tales (horror, crime pulp). And if the writing does (or does not) connect for a reader, this debut author much appreciates comments, reviews, ratings, etc. to that effect wherever the reader was exposed to the writing.
JON: Aside from Live Journal, where else on the web can you be found?
CHRIS:My website, Facebook, MySpace. Additional interviews: Horror Bound Online magazine, where the editor mentioned that my June 2009 interview had more hits than their interview with horror novelist legend Ramsey Campbell, a freak occurrence for sure; Book Talk with J&J, April 2009. Book reviews for SOTFOG have been posted at Horror Bound, SF Crowsnest, Small Press Reviews, AmberKatz’s Book Blog. My publisher and I eagerly await reviews from the bigger guns such as Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.
Editor’s note: A portion of the sale of each copy of Chris’s debut novel, Scars on the Face of God: The Devil’s Bible (Drollerie Press) will go to St. Vincent’s Home, in the Tacony section of Philadelphia, at one time an orphanage and now an emergency shelter for children.