Author Interview: Chris J. BreedloveI asked Author Chris Breedlove what his motto for being a writer was. He answered:
A Writer is… A humble, receptive student and negotiator But the heart that beats within his/her breast Is a determined savage Unfamiliar with surrender
Please welcome this savvy science fiction author to No Wasted Ink.
My name is Chris Harold Stevenson and I’m 67 years young. I go by the pen name Christy J. Breedlove for my YA books and stories. Yes, I changed gender entirely. That’s another story.
My early writing accomplishment were multiple hits within a few years: In my first year of writing back in 1987, I wrote three SF short stories that were accepted by major slick magazines which qualified me for the Science Fiction Writers of America, and at the same time achieved a Finalist award in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. This recognition garnered me a top gun SF agent at the time, Richard Curtis Associates. My first novel went to John Badham (Director) and the producers, the Cohen Brothers. Only an option, but an extreme honor. The writer who beat me out of contention for a feature movie was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. My book was called Dinothon.
A year after that I published two best-selling non-fiction books and landed on radio, TV, in every library in the U.S. and in hundreds of newspapers.
I have been trying to catch that lightning in a bottle ever since. My YA dystopian novel, The Girl They Sold to the Moon won the grand prize in a publisher’s YA novel writing contest, went to a small auction and got tagged for a film option. So, My latest release is Sceamcatcher: Web World, and it’s showing some promise. I’m getting there, I hope!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer when I published the two shorts in Amazing Stories magazine. I actually considered myself an author after my first non-fiction book was published and hit the media. It seems I had to have legitimate credits in order to claim such status.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
I can give you the basic summary, or the extended blurb:
When seventeen-year-old Jory Pike cannot shake the hellish nightmares of her parent’s deaths, she turns to an old family heirloom, a dream catcher. Even though she’s half-blood Chippewa, Jory thinks old Native American lore is so yesterday, but she’s willing to give it a try. However, the dream catcher has had its fill of nightmares from an ancient and violent past. After a sleepover party, and during one of Jory’s most horrific dream episodes, the dream catcher implodes, sucking Jory and her three friends into its own world of trapped nightmares. They’re in an alternate universe—locked inside of an insane web world filled with murders, beasts, and thieves. How can they find the center of the web where all good things are allowed to pass? Where is the light of salvation? Are they in hell?
What inspired you to write this book?
It all started with a dream catcher. This iconic item, which is rightfully ingrained in Indian lore, is a dream symbol respected by the culture that created it. It is mystifying, an enigma that that prods the imagination. Legends about the dream catcher are passed down from multiple tribes. There are variations, but the one fact that can be agreed upon is that it is a nightmare entrapment device, designed to sift through evil thoughts and images and only allow pleasant and peaceful dreams to enter into the consciousness of the sleeper.
I wondered what would happen to a very ancient dream catcher that was topped off with dreams and nightmares. What if the nightmares became too sick or deathly? What if the web strings could not hold any more visions? Would the dream catcher melt, burst, vanish, implode? I reasoned that something would have to give if too much evil was allowed to congregate inside of its structure. I found nothing on the Internet that offered a solution to this problem—I might have missed a relevant story, but nothing stood out to me. Stephen King had a story called Dream Catcher, but I found nothing in it that was similar to what I had in mind. So I took it upon myself to answer such a burning question. Like too much death on a battlefield could inundate the immediate location with lost and angry spirits, so could a dream catcher hold no more of its fill of sheer terror without morphing into something else, or opening up a lost and forbidden existence. What would it be like to be caught up in another world inside the webs of a dream catcher, and how would you get out? What would this world look like? How could it be navigated? What was the source of the exit, and what was inside of it that threatened your existence? Screamcatcher: Web World, the first in the series, was my answer. I can only hope that I have done it justice.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m a fruit salad of other known writer’s influences. Oh, like what I consider stylists: Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet, Peter Benchley, The Island and Jaws, Joseph Wambaugh, The Onion Field and Black Marble, Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park, Alan Dean Foster, Icerigger trilogy, and some Stephen King. Anne Rice impresses with just about anything she has written. I think it’s the humor and irony that attracts me the most–and it’s all character-related
How did you come up with the title of this book?
After I had the idea/premise for the book, having researched similar works, if any, I found that I had something very unique. It dawned on me to name the book Screamcatcher since it was a play on words and it sounded impactful. Again, I researched that word and only found that it was used in a short story about a kid having a tooth extraction. I knew then that I was home free. I was continuously complimented by all of the publishers and editors who saw the title. It’s the first book in the series, and I have sub-titles for the other two as well, which are sold and just about ready for editing.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’m not very heavy-handed when it comes to delivering messages in my books. I want to avoid any preaching at all costs. I do include the basic/standard survival, loyalty, courage and persistence themes in my young characters, as well as emotional growth and cooperation. I did hide, or rather include, a very deep and subtle message in the story that I think most will gloss over or not recognize altogether. And that is my belief that sometimes the nice guy finishes first and gets the gal. I wanted something that swerved away from the controlling, domineering alpha male that is so often seen in other works of YA and romance. I wanted a slow burn sweet romance that was touching. Quite a few reviewers recognized this message and I got kudos for it. That was a RELIEF.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The main character Jorlene (Jory) is named after my sister. Although she does not resemble the FMC physically, she does so in an emotional sense. Her boyfriend, Choice Daniels, is named after my great-nephew. All of my books contain the names of my extended family members. And there are parts of them that show through in the personalities of the fictional characters.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
Other than those stylists mentioned above, I had direct contact with members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Alan Dean Foster, Richard Curtis, Robert Bloch, Bob Heinlein, Clive Barker, and others. From their Youtube instruction videos and articles, JK Rowling, Anne Rice, and Stephen King have inspired me tremendously with their no-nonsense attitude about hammering those keys in spite of depression, lack of motivation or pure laziness.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
That honor would go to Poul Anderson who wrote back to me habitually and gave me guidance in the industry when I needed it the most. He took out his valuable time to befriend me and answer so many questions. Can you tell I’m a dinosaur yet?
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Carlone Andrus of Melange Books, Fire & Ice YA division rendered the cover after reading the book. I had a different idea in mind, but she absolutely nailed it. The compliments have never stopped coming. Most of the plot is revealed on the cover but you would have to search very hard to put it all together.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Watch your spending on ads–they can be grossly ineffective. Use social media and generously interact with fellow writers and readers. Don’t abuse FB and Twitter solely for the purpose of “Buy My Book.” Join writing groups and learn from the pros. Ask politely for reviews–don’t pressure, harass or intimidate. Be creative. Target your genre readers. Offer incentives and freebies. Craft a newsletter and send it out bi-monthly. Don’t take critiques as personal attacks–learn from honest opinions. Don’t despair. Never give up. Revenge query. I run a writer’s advocate blog and I pull no punches.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
If you think that you’ve had it tough, I recommend you watch Magic Beyond Words, the life story of Joanne Kathleen Rowling. Books just don’t happen. They are nurtured and raised from infancy, just like a budding writer is. This business might quit you, but you cannot quit the business. Stay active and attentively writing.
Chris J. Breedlove
Screamcatcher: Web World