July 26, 2013
Vampires in the White House? Granted Cade isn’t the President but he works for him and protects him. My only question is why hasn’t this be written before. No place seems more apropos for a vampire than politics. Certainly few places create more bloodthirsty liaisons and perhaps only wall-street compares with the bloodthirsty ethics of Capitol Hill.
My interview with Chris Farnsworth was wonderful. His background led from a plan to become a defense lawyer for the rich and guilty to political aspirations that could have placed him on the wrong side of Nathaniel Cade to an awakening through the mentoring of a college professor who touched the creative side and to whom we all need to send thank you notes. He became a reporter which gave him a more realistic view of the world and he studied history which gave him access to the evolving mind of man. (Okay that is my assumption based on my love affair with the history of man. Chris I expect you to weigh in on that.)
As a result, I had an insightful interview with an intelligent, interesting, and entertaining author. Who could ask for more? If you haven’t read his books yet, go to a book store, order them online, buy the e-book version, or hit the library. They are enjoyable and a quick read because you want to finish them. The action pulls you along. Definitely not boring.
Here is the long awaited transcript. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.
This is Jeannie Musick with Christopher Farnsworth,
author of the Nathaniel Cade series.
“I think it is very important to remember that Cade is always dangerous and that he is always capable of doing more and worse things than the things he is supposed to hunt.”
~ Christopher Farnsworth
JEANNIE: Welcome and thank you for sharing your time with us.
CHRIS: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
JEANNIE: I was at an art’s fair and stopped by the Library’s tent book sale where I noticed your book Blood Oath among the wrong genre. Of course, when I glanced at the book leaf, I gave your book a brand new home. I thought we’ve got to get it out of there and get it read.
Care and Training of Pet Vampires
JEANNIE: You state that a vampire by nature is evil. That was one thing that caught my interest. Getting back to the basics I thought was great. How do you feel you accomplished that when you have written a series with a vampire protagonist?
CHRIS: I think it is very important to remember that Cade is always dangerous and that he is always capable of doing more and worse things than the things he is supposed to hunt. And that’s his job. He is capable of doing the unthinkable because by nature he’s a predator and he’s a hunter. I think it very important not to forget that as a writer, but also for the reader. I think that expecting him to have an attack of conscience, or nobility, or to be overly conflicted about what he is, is not going to happen. He is not particularly brooding and he’s not particularly conflicted. He’s mostly accepted what he is. He doesn’t like it and he’s not happy about it, but he doesn’t expect to be happy anymore. He’s had a long time to get used to what he is. There’s that great Joan Didion essay where it says Character is the ability to accept oneself for what one is. I think Cade is well on that way. He doesn’t like what he is but he knows it’s never going to change. And so I think that, even though he does heroic things, he never forgets his true nature, and he never forgets that he failed the very first time he was tested to stand up to that nature. He attacked and killed and drank from his best friends. So I don’t think he is ever going to forgive himself for that.
JEANNIE: You know I get really tired of brooding vampires.
CHRIS: Right, Right, I think that in order to make them more acceptable as heroes and as protagonists, they’ve had to be shifted to feeling bad about what they are. You see that a lot. I don’t think that would happen with an actual [vampire]. You try to bring something that hunts and kills for survival – it’s not going to feel necessarily bad about what it does.
JEANNIE: Although he is forced to protect by a blood oath, and claims himself that there is no such thing as a good vampire, he is definitely written as a moral protagonist – you have definitely done that – because he won’t take human blood even though he could (such as from an enemy of the nation), he is offended by the use of the Lord’s name in vain – which I love, and uses the cross to keep himself grounded – to keep himself anchored by his pain and his belief. As the author and ultimate authority, is he good or is he evil or are you conflicted?
CHRIS: I think yeah, sometimes I am conflicted, but I think that overall, he’s by nature an evil creature. He would say that he is by nature fallen and evil and that he can’t change that nature. All he can do is try to restrain it as best he can. So you can argue back and forth about does that make him good or does that make him [evil]. Does it change who you are to fundamentally struggle against your nature? Or will you always fall back into what you are? There’s a lot of questions about addiction and about what actually makes a person good or evil. But Cade isn’t a person anymore. He is a monster. So at the very basic core, by definition, yeah, his nature is evil.
JEANNIE: Now see, I have some interesting thoughts with that because my own writing focuses around the fact that it’s not necessarily what we are but what we do that determines us. Now you’re talking about he’s not human anymore but there is still that “not what we are but what we do that determines us” so he is sort of caught between the two. He is conflicted too.
CHRIS: Right, Right, this is where he was raised Calvinist, and Calvinist is a very deterministic strain of Christianity. Calvinism basically, which is another strain of puritanism that a lot of the founding settlers in the country subscribed to, [says] it’s already decided long before you are ever born – the doctrine of predestination – that you will either go to heaven or hell and no matter what you do in the world doesn’t change that one way or the other. It’s the old conflict between faith and works. Is it enough to just have faith in God or do you have to justify yourself through good works as well?
JEANNIE: Right, which was my next question. Is he evil or does he choose to believe he is evil. Which sort of goes with that whole concept – his belief system tells him he is damned no matter what.
CHRIS: Right, exactly, so yeah, he chooses to believe that he is evil. And he works against that absolutely. But he wouldn’t say that that makes him good.
JEANNIE: Why won’t he take human blood? Or do you swear on a stack of bibles that you are going to reveal that to me during my lifetime because I’m dying to know?
CHRIS: No, no, I think that actually for him it’s…. I don’t know how many spoilers we want to get into but for him it’s a moral stance. It’s part of denying the creature within. It’s part of denying the monster part of himself and elevating the human.
JEANNIE: Is there something that set that off that you are going to reveal at some point?
CHRIS: Oh, in the third book he talks…
JEANNIE: It doesn’t hit that, no.
CHRIS: But in the third book he does actually drink human blood.
JEANNIE: Right, he does, and he feels really like he has failed as a result. I don’t want to hit spoilers either. I’ve been trying to avoid any particular spoilers because I want your book to be read rather than be talked about.
CHRIS: Right, he did, yeah he fails in the third book, and he definitely views that as falling down in his own personal morality. You know, in the future books and future stories, whether that’s going to stay the same or not, I can’t really say right now.
JEANNIE: Okay, I won’t ask you to. I just want to make sure that I understand why he made the choice not to at some point.
CHRIS: Oh, also personally as an author, for me the reason I made the choice was because I don’t think he could be viewed in any way as heroic if he continued to prey on humans. I think that that is just… that was my beginning point with Cade is that for me that was the deal breaker with him.
JEANNIE: Okay. You know, I think your choice to have him wear that cross as the pain to control him is a brilliant, brilliant little choice.
CHRIS: Oh, thank you. Thank you. I wish I could take credit for it. Other authors have used the idea of the cross as a focus and I believe somebody stole that because I thought it was brilliant too. The author I first saw it from was Kurt Busiek in his comic book series Astro City. One of the characters is a vampire and uses the cross to keep from drinking blood.
JEANNIE: Wow. I love it. Just love it. Well, I love your choice to steal from that source. I love your term “Republicrat.” Now you may have stolen that too. I didn’t see it before though so I am giving it to you.
CHRIS: Oh thank you. Yeah, I wish I could take credit for that as well.
JEANNIE: I am assuming that you mean a politician of whichever party since you weren’t sure who would be elected when you started writing. I won’t ask your specific politics because as an author I feel you handled it beautifully in such a way that whichever party was in power, you were sympathetic while still seeing their weaknesses. However, even though your political powers were fictional, were you ever tempted to make changes as the real players fell into place?
CHRIS: I think yes. I think absolutely I did. Thank you that’s very kind. I think politics is more divisive than ever right now. At least more divisive than it’s been in my lifetime right now.
JEANNIE: In mine too and I am older than you.
CHRIS: And people become incredibly incensed and angry over stuff that to me doesn’t seem as important as it once did. I think that there are a lot of things that are… the level of rage that we are seeing today is frankly baffling to me sometimes. And it’s all over the place. You can find it anywhere. So I think that I try to reflect what’s going on in the actual political world because I think that rage, particularly in book three, plays a really important part in the plot. People are… there’s just so much unfocused anger – so much hatred. And our system doesn’t really run very well on hated. Our system runs better when people are willing to compromise and willing to say “Hey, you know what, you’re right. It’s not that big a deal.” Because it’s 90% of politics that is the actual real work of politics as opposed to posturing and the making speeches and the pitting of interest groups against one another. 90% of the real work of politics is just taking the trash out and making sure the fire engines have enough gasoline. That’s what politics should be about. It’s about maintaining the health of the people in the nation and in the states and in the city, and reserving that 10% for the really important stuff.
JEANNIE: Can we put you on the ticket for 2016?
CHRIS: No, I have way too many skeletons in my closet. I could never possibly be a politician. But that’s very sweet of you to ask.
JEANNIE: Oh, I am so tired of politics because it used to be we could discuss it. We could have an open discussion and now days it’s just too crazy.
CHRIS: Yeah. I think that is the problem. I think that the 10% that cannot be discussed, or that should not be discussed – where people can’t compromise, the issues where people in fact shouldn’t have to compromise, where they come to their beliefs and they say that this is the line in the sand and I’m not going past it. Everybody has those and everybody should have those. Our system is built to encompass those as well, but when it bleeds over into “this is the line in the sand and I’m not going to cross it AND you can’t have any money for school, and you can’t have any money for firefighters, and you can’t have any money for whatever it takes to make the system work – to make certain that everybody is generally protected and taken care of for the amount of… and that the investment that we put into the space is giving us a proper return…” When it breaks into that and it breaks that fundamental compact between citizens, then you’re just essentially just tearing down bricks in what makes a democracy work. If everybody digs in their heels on everything, if everybody screams and tries to drown everybody else out over everything, then it’s not going to work. That’s simply not how a republic or a democracy functions.
JEANNIE: And it is amazing now days that everybody is always right.
CHRIS: Yeah, yeah, it’s incredible. We’ve all become experts overnight. People who can’t find Iraq on a map can tell us how we’re going to get out of there.
CHRIS: It’s just… I think I’ve gotten old enough to recognize that I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. That’s why I get embarrassed when I get up on my soapbox like this. But I think we all have to take a moment and recognize the possibility that we could be very wrong about a lot of things.
JEANNIE: Yep. Do you find it hard to write politics into a book without making it a political book?
CHRIS: No, I don’t think so. I think that in the end it’s still about a vampire fighting monsters. I have followers and fans who are far opposite me on the political spectrum. They seem to still enjoy it. So I’m glad. I want as many people to read the book as possible.
JEANNIE: I think that goes back to your ability to see both sides – to be sympathetic and still see the weaknesses.
CHRIS: Oh, thank you. That’s very kind.
JEANNIE: I think that you have done such a lovely job of that, that you can’t take offense because you are not slamming one side or the other.
CHRIS: Well, I think that’s very kind. I think that it’s possible for everybody to take offense at anything.
JEANNIE: Okay, yeah. I can think of a few instances.
CHRIS: Uh, yeah, in the end though, politics is sort of funny and it is sort of hilarious. If you can’t find something to laugh at in Anthony Weiner running for the Mayor – being the frontrunner for Mayor of New York then your sense of humor needs serious adjustment.
JEANNIE: That’s one of those cases of you have to laugh or you are going to cry.
CHRIS: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And again because 90% of politics should be about making sure that the garbage trucks are running every Friday, most of that stuff should be funny. You should be able to laugh about it. In the end, I think I did say some things… I did look at and try to talk about what we’re willing to do – the ways in which we’re willing to be monstrous for our country and for our ideas of patriotism and our ideas of what it takes to be safe. I think that I managed to smuggle some somewhat serious ideas about the war on terror in there but mostly it’s still about a vampire killing monsters. And that hopefully should be fun enough for anybody who likes that kind of thing.
JEANNIE: I think you’ve got some great allegorical things in there. In the second book, The President’s Vampire… I don’t know if you have been to my webpage at all – please tell me you have – but I do book reviews on books as well, particularly the ones of people like you that I am going to interview. And on The President’s Vampire one of the things that I comment about is the fact that you are literally showing people turning themselves into monsters both metaphorically and physically – like the ones that turn themselves into lizard people in order to commit…
CHRIS: Right. No I did see that and I thought that was again very kind and very right on the nose with what the allegory was talking about. We’re trying to dehumanize our enemies and in so doing we tend to dehumanize ourselves. Like I said, there are serious things in politics that I disagree with. I think that the use of torture dehumanizes us and makes us less than what we are supposed to be. What do you call it? Enhanced interrogation or whatever. And I’ve tried to show that in… Here’s Nathaniel Cade who says he’s a vampire and he’s a monster and he says [that] there are some things that are just distasteful. Here’s the guy who is supposed to drink blood to survive and there are things that leave a bad taste in his mouth.
JEANNIE: I’m sorry. I have to laugh. One of my favorite scenes is in the first book when he is just out with his new handler and he says “am I supposed to go get you food now” or something and he grabs the rat and he says “no I take care of myself.”
CHRIS: Right, “I can get my own meal, thanks.” Yeah.
JEANNIE: “I can get my own meal.”
CHRIS: Yeah, yeah he’s not above bullying Zach a little.
JEANNIE: Well Zach needed it, back then particularly.
CHRIS: Yeah. Zach is the exact kind of arrogant D-bag I used to be when I was into politics and trying to prove that I was smarter than everybody else, I think. But there is always somebody there who’s going to tell you that you’re not quite that smart.
JEANNIE: Yeah, don’t be so full of yourself. Now I have to ask this, and I’m not trying to get into future… necessarily, but if the president commits treason, what part of the blood oath will enforce itself on Cade: Protecting the president or protecting the United States?
CHRIS: That’s actually always, that’s actually a really easy thing to answer, it’s always the President first.
JEANNIE: Oh sad!
CHRIS: The oath is very, very specific: first the president and then his duty. But the president is his duty. And the President can pardon himself for anything. The President has that power. The President, you know, the presidents in the past have used the pardon power to excuse any manner of crimes. And the pardon is unilateral. It doesn’t go away. There’s nothing that can stop it.
JEANNIE: What if we impeach him?
CHRIS: If he’s impeached? Yeah, I don’t know how it would work for a former president like that.
JEANNIE: I’m just looking at the end of Book Three of course.
CHRIS: Yes, yeah. No, it’s definitely a question that’s going to come up. And yeah, Cade has definitely been painted into a corner.
JEANNIE: He wasn’t happy at the end of Book Three. I loved the way you ended it as a matter of fact.
CHRIS: Yeah, I don’t think it’s going wildly out of bounds to say that there have been men in the presidency who are not necessarily good men, so… it’s gonna be tough.
JEANNIE: In one interview – and you have alluded to this already – but in one interview, you seemed to say you understood your villains because you used to be like them, and I quote: “I fully intended to make millions of dollars defending the scum of the Earth and then die of an early coronary. Fortunately, it didn’t work out that way. I had a lot of friends that stayed with politics, and they’re nowhere near as amoral as I was.…” What changed you?
CHRIS: I think it was in college, I had a really great professor who was mentor to me in my writing and he… I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney, and I thought that was the life I was going to live – that I cared more about the idea of winning and playing games than I did about necessarily the consequences of that.
JEANNIE: We’re glad you walked away from the Dark Side.
CHRIS: Yeah, I mean, he sat me down and he basically said, “You know the world has enough lawyers.” And he said that he thought that I would be a much better… not in so many words, but he said that he thought I would be a much better person if I looked at the world a lot more honestly and that I would be happier, for lack of a better word, dealing with the world as honestly as possible. And I think that that’s the writer’s job is to try to see the world as clearly as you can. And one thing that this teacher, his name was John Rember – he was my professor in college, says that writing is the process of naming the things we love, and writing is our way of preserving and protecting and saving those things that we think are worth saving. It’s a way to be more full human beings.
JEANNIE: Well someone needs to send him a Thank-you note.
CHRIS: I’m sure he’d appreciate that.
JEANNIE: Now I’m a history buff. I don’t have a degree in history. My degrees are in Theatre actually, but like you I love to find obscure things and my book is full
of obscure historical things that I have wound into my story. So I went and found the actual newspaper article about the vampire sailor and his name was James Brown or at least that’s what he called himself. So what was your inspiration for the name Nathaniel Cade.
CHRIS: Actually I was just looking for a name that… James Brown seemed a very generic name and I didn’t want people confusing him with the Godfather of soul. Nathaniel Cade sounds like a James Bond name, it sounds like it’s got that right rhythm. And Cade is actually a word for a calf or another pet or livestock that has been raise by hand – by humans instead of by its own kind. And that’s what Cade is. He’s a pet that’s been raised by… a vampire that’s been raised by people instead of his own kind. So he’s a Cade calf. He’s not exactly normal.
JEANNIE: Oh, very interesting. Kinda broke my heart when we first saw him in chains at the beginning… not at the beginning… which book was it? Book Three? When we first see him being brought out and treated almost normal.
CHRIS: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s why Ulysses S. Grant becomes somewhat of a mentor to him for that reason. Because Grant is a person who contained massive contradictions. I read a biography before writing him down in just those few cameo scenes he has. He’s a man who was responsible for the deaths of literally thousands and thousands of people, and was very conscious of it which may be the reason he drank so much when he was a general, but who was also a very moral and, by most accounts, incredibly kind man. So it seemed to me that the best and worst parts of humanity can be mixed into one human being and Grant, I think, epitomized that. And then it’s no accident that he then went on to become a president…. One of our presidents.
JEANNIE: You have left us in a terrible spot. Now, please tell me you’re working on another Nathaniel Cade book right now amidst all your other projects?
CHRIS: I am, I am. I’m just finishing a book called Bimini which is about the Fountain of Youth. And I just finished the draft that is going to my editor next week. And then yeah, there are other projects, but I do intend to get back to Cade right away.
JEANNIE: Good. Cause we’d hate to have to come get you.
CHRIS: No, that would be bad. Yeah, I don’t think Cade is going to allow me to leave him alone in the dark for that long. So…
JEANNIE: Oh, I like that. That’s how I feel about Lilith. She gets after me if I leave her alone. What is the status on the development of the first two books into movies? I have checked and checked and I don’t see any progress being made and I’m not happy.
CHRIS: Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. No, the producer who has options, Lucas Foster, is a great guy, an incredibly talented produced. He produced Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Man on Fire and has a huge list of credits but the thing is, you know, he’s a very busy guy. And, you know, he does everything himself, and so it takes time to raise the finances and it takes time for him to get it right. And I absolutely trust Lucas to do the right thing with it. But, yeah, it’s going to take time.
CHRIS: Yeah, no, yeah, no believe me, I would prefer that they were in theatres next week also, but, you know, we’ll see. We’ll just see.
JEANNIE: You know, you said you’d like to see Christian Bale do that, and you know that he is so busy and all that. But, it’s odd, but while I was reading it, I kept having the picture of a particular actor that I had seen in something over and over again and I hate to admit that I couldn’t figure his name out. I finally went and looked it up on IMDB and I thought “oh no, I couldn’t possibly.” But I kept getting a picture of Adam Baldwin.
CHRIS: Oh, Adam Baldwin is great. I loved him on Firefly, and he’s been…. I think he’s very funny, very talented actor.
JEANNIE: And I think he has this drollness about him that can….
CHRIS: Yes, his deadpan wit is really… whether he’s playing somebody like Jayne or he’s playing bad guys and heavies, I think he’s….
JEANNIE: I had seen him in Chuck.
CHRIS: Yeah, he’s great. I think he’s great.
JEANNIE: And I just… he was the person I kept seeing. And I thought, “Oh.”
CHRIS: I think that’s a high compliment thing.
JEANNIE: What is the status of the comic book? Are you still working on doing it as a comic book? You know I am so used to the term “graphic novel,” I was very refreshed when you said comic book.
CHRIS: No, I love comics. I love comics. I’m pitching. Yeah, I’m continually pitching it and hoping to find a home for it. So, there’s a guy who’s expressed some interest in doing some Cade one-shot graphic novels. So, again we’ll see. The one thing I think I’ve learned is that everything takes a long time until it doesn’t anymore and then it goes very fast.
JEANNIE: And then it just happens? Cool.
Especially for Authors
JEANNIE: Okay, so, you’ve told me about Bimini. Now, what about the crime novel that you were doing and the new character one that you were doing?
CHRIS: The crime novel has gone by the wayside. There was nobody who was terribly interested in it so I just put it aside. I try to throw as many things as I can at the wall to see what will stick and if it doesn’t stick then I try to move on pretty fast, just because I am trying to get as much done as I can done in the amount of time that I do have…. And yeah
JEANNIE: What about the new character that you were telling me about that was grounded in science.
CHRIS: Oh, Sage, yeah, Sage, the guy who is the smartest man in the world. Unfortunately yeah, I haven’t found a home for him yet either. I would like to. I would really like to.
JEANNIE: He sounded very interesting to me. Bimini is kind of on its way so we are going back to Nathaniel Cade now.
CHRIS: Yes, and then there’s also some other projects I’m going to start hopefully working on pretty quick. So.
JEANNIE: Okay. How do you work on more than one novel at a time?
CHRIS: Whenever I get stuck on one thing, I try to move on to the other.
JEANNIE: And then go back to the first?
CHRIS: Yeah, and I’ve learned… I was a reporter for a long time so I learned that you can’t really afford any such thing as writer’s block. You should always be writing something sometime.
JEANNIE: Oo. I like that. So have at least two things there and when you get blocked on one, go to the other.
CHRIS: Right, right. And sometimes I’ve found that that actually… that enables me to break through the wall on whatever I’m working on, on the other piece.
JEANNIE: Cool. Okay, here comes the big one. How did you find your agent?
CHRIS: I was in the slush pile. I had screenwriting agents at the time but they didn’t have any contacts with any literary agents. So I was just sending out stuff cold. I sent Blood Oath to an agent, Luke Janklow of Janklow and Nesbit and his assistant really liked it and she had a friend named Alexandra Machinist and she said “I think Alexandra would really like this.” And so on her recommendation I sent it to Alexandra and Alexandra picked it up and really enjoyed it. And I got really, really lucky because Alexandra is magnificent. She’s a fantastic agent. She’s just amazing and is able to accomplish things that I never thought would be possible with my weird stories. So, I’ve been very lucky to have her.
JEANNIE: I keep running into the problem that I’m always talking to the wrong type of agent. They always say “Oh, it’s…”
CHRIS: Right. No, it’s incredibly hard to get an agent. It’s easier to get published than it is to get an agent. Yeah, I was sending stuff in cold and unfortunately that’s the way it’s got to be for a lot of people.
JEANNIE: Yeah, well I always you know get compliments back they say but unfortunately this isn’t the type of book we publish. I go, “Tell me where to go then.”
CHRIS: Right, right, right. It’s very hard because it’s very subjective and you have to find somebody who really gets your own particular weird sensibility. And I was really lucky with Alexandra that she really liked Blood Oath and she really liked Cade and got the weird sensibility of it.
JEANNIE: Which is wonderful.
CHRIS: And yeah, a lot of people said, “This is good but it’s weird and I don’t know what to do with it.” And she did know what to do with it.
JEANNIE: It’s called “publish it!”
CHRIS: And you want to hold out, you want to hold out for that agent. You want to hold out for a person…. You don’t want somebody representing you just sort of half-heartedly. You want somebody who believes it in as much as you do.
JEANNIE: Are you ever tempted to go back to the three novels you wrote before Blood Oath and rework them or have you decided they had their chance?
CHRIS: I rewrote the crime novel. Yeah, that was the crime novel. I rewrote that, and as it turned out, that had its chance. It just didn’t work anymore. It was good for what it was at the time, but it taught me that, no, once it’s done you leave it in the drawer.
JEANNIE: Okay, so they’ve had their chance and they’ve lived their…
CHRIS: They didn’t, and if they don’t work, they don’t work. And that’s really hard after all the time and effort you put into them. But again, that’s part of writing. Sometimes you have to write stuff just to learn that it doesn’t work.
JEANNIE: Umm, so hard.
CHRIS: That’s the really hard part. I’m sounding really blasé about it right now but no, it stings a lot. It still stings.
JEANNIE: It seems that each of your books has ramped up the profanity and the sex. I’m curious if there is a particular reason behind that such as feedback from readers, agents, publishers, personal desire, if it is predetermined by your plot lines, if Nathaniel told you to, etc.?
CHRIS: A little from column ‘A’ and a little from column ‘B.’ Part of it is feedback. I was signing books in Bakersfield at Russo’s Books. There’s a great…
JEANNIE: Oh stop. Stop right there. Bakersfield? As in California?
JEANNIE: As in my hometown?
JEANNIE: Funny. Okay, keep going.
CHRIS: Yeah, well then you probably know Russo’s and you know Jason Frost. He’s the manager there. He’s a really great guy. He had me come up and sign books. And there was this wonderful little old grandmotherly lady. I was signing a book for her, this was the second book, and she said “Oh I liked the first one okay.” And I said “Oh, okay. How could it have been better? What would you have liked to see?” She said, “I really wanted to see more violence.” Oh, okay. “Yeah, more sex and violence definitely.” This just sweet grandmotherly old lady but no, definitely more sex and violence. So I have ramped it up somewhat. Partially because of that. Partially because readers have asked to see more of that. But partially for the third book it’s because it’s a slasher film. It’s basically about the bad guy, the boogie-man in all of those slasher movies on the campaign trail. And those movies are all about sex and violence. Sex is the anti-death. Sex infuriates the slasher because he believes in death and sex is about life. And so there was a lot more sex in the third book. The future stuff with Cade will probably not have as much because I’ve already written my slasher movie so I don’t think I need to do it again.
JEANNIE: Oh good. I noticed none of it had to do with Cade other than Cade showing…well I don’t want to do spoilers but… let’s stop our mouth before we do a spoiler. As an author, I get so much conflicting feedback from so many people that I’m beginning to drown. I’ve been told by an editor and some other people that publishers and agents hate prologues, so I took my prologue out but that requires almost a complete rewrite and it throws everything off. Then my beta readers tell me I need to put that prologue back in cause it’s so important. How do I know who to listen to if I really want to get published?
CHRIS: Yes, that’s a very tough question, and this is not a particularly satisfying answer, and I’ll cop to that right away, but you have to listen to yourself. If you want the prologue in and you love it, then keep it in. If you like something in and your Beta readers don’t like it and the professional readers don’t like it but you still like it, keep it in. Because the person who will eventually get your book to the right people, who will eventually get it published, the editor or the agent who understands you, is going to like it for the same reasons. The only caveat to that is: sometimes everybody tells you that it’s bad because it’s bad. Sometimes everybody’s wrong but then sometimes everybody’s right. Then the trick is figuring out what’s really important to you.
JEANNIE: I think the prologue is so important but it causes the whole book to be… she’s today looking in the past and the editor is saying well, you want to put it in the immediate moment and I’m going “Anne Rice didn’t.”
CHRIS: And that’s hard. I can understand the editor’s point though because if you start with the prologue where everybody says this is what happened, you automatically know that the narrator survived to tell you the story.
JEANNIE: Well, there is never a question. She is a vampire. Anyway, I just, yeah. I like listening to myself. I like listening to Lilith. I just want it published.
CHRIS: No, I know that’s really hard. And yeah, there are things that sometimes you have to do to get it published. For me what happened was I wrote a bunch of books and none of them got published. And then I wrote the one I wanted to read and that got it published.
JEANNIE: I like that. How do you make connections in this business without using people?
CHRIS: You know. I honestly don’t know. I mean, I think of it as actually you try to be decent to everybody and you just don’t use people in general. You try to treat them as an ends unto themselves instead of a means to an ends and then you don’t have to worry about using them. Just don’t do it. Treat people with respect and with some dignity and then if you do that, if you treat people like that and you ask them for a favor, they’re a lot more likely to treat you with some dignity and respect as well. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a lot of people offer their time and their expertise and their name to the stuff I’ve done. And I’ve been really lucky in that regard and they’ve all been incredibly class act all the way. So I think that you just try to act that way yourself and you try to pay it forward in the future.
JEANNIE: I like that. I just feel so often people push you to do things. They say go to this, and sit by them, and talk to them…. It just seems so fake.
CHRIS: Right. Absolutely, yeah. And I don’t honestly do a lot of that. I’m not good at networking. I’m not particularly good at being sociable. I’ve gone to some conventions and conferences and I’ve done book tours, but I don’t really know how to network. I don’t really know how to exploit a connection. And so when I ask somebody, if I ask somebody for help, I hope it’s going to be genuine. And I hope when somebody asks me for help, if I can do it, I try to do it. If I can’t, I want to be as honest with them as I can, and say, “No, I’m sorry, that’s just not something I’m going to be able to do.
JEANNIE: What is your advice to new authors regarding agents vs. self-publishing?
CHRIS: Like I said, it’s easier right now to get published than it is to get an agent. I would still recommend getting an agent right now. There is a lot of stuff in the self-publishing market and I know I have friends and I have colleagues who have done very well with it, and who have done better with it than through traditional publishing. But I think an agent and an editor are vital because they will tell you where you would best be putting your time. I think that those things are necessary to make your work better, to make it more polished. And they’ll help you stop wasting your time on stuff that isn’t going to go anywhere. They’ll tell you where you should be focusing your efforts. That said, there are some things that will only survive in self-publishing and there are some things that will only be effectively pushed by the traditional publishing houses. I think that actually divides up fairly neatly right now. It’s gonna change.
JEANNIE: Do you do your Kindle through your agent too?
CHRIS: I don’t actually have any independently Kindle published stuff right now. I’ve given away a short story that you can access through my website but I am working on a Cade short story that hopefully we’re going to have that on Kindle and that will be through my agent as well, yes.
JEANNIE: Well, I’ve got your books on Kindle so…
CHRIS: Right. No, I mean, but the publisher publishes the E-book version. But I am working on a short story that we’re going to try to publish to the Kindle Singles program.
JEANNIE: Well Chris, thank you so much for being with me today.
CHRIS: No, I loved it. Thank you so much for taking the time. It was really very kind of you.