Today I am delighted to welcome another new face to my blog. An up and coming writer who has a fascinating mind and some ideas which will threaten to change the way we view everything. I can honestly say this interview blew me away when I was reading it last night, and I am sure you are all going to love it.
With that said, enough waffle from me. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you all, the talented Mr. Christopher Godsoe.
Can you remember the first time you realized that writing was what you wanted to do.
I had started writing screenplays and short stories in High School, and played around with them when I found time over the years after graduation. I never really made it very far with them. I don’t consider this when I understood my need to write seriously though-I know exactly when I made that decision.
(cue dreamlike time travel music)
It was early July, 2009. I was a little bit of a mess then, having just heard from my wife that she wanted a divorce.
I had come home from work the day after our sons 8th birthday party at a local bowling alley, and she had been acting distant ever since the party the night before. People always talk about moments where their lives change, and I had always considered it bullshit until it happened to me. I didn’t really subscribe to the idea that a person can suddenly become a different person with the snap of the fingers, but overnight she had changed into a person I no longer recognized. She wasn’t evil or anything like that, but I had to understand quickly that I was no longer what she wanted. It’s a tough pill to choke down if you haven’t had to go through it.
Up until that day, I had tried to do everything I could to make her happy. I started her car every morning when it was cold out. I cleaned the snow from it and even put gas in it when it was low. I did the dishes, I took the trash out. I left during my lunch break to put flowers in her car when she was having a bad day to try to cheer her up…….whatever I could think of. I’m not saying all this to pass myself off as a saint, I say it so that you’ll understand the emptiness that I was left with when she pushed me away.
I had put so much of myself into her happiness that when she left, she took a huge part of my identity with her. For logistical reasons we decided to stay in the same house and keep the separation a secret from everyone, even our families and son for a year. I needed something to do, something to throw myself into. I needed to build a cocoon for myself within the house that was itself a cocoon from the outside world that didn’t know what was going on (say that three times fast).
I was sitting in my study, moving boxes around, when I came across the plastic container that I kept my old screenplays in. My favorite screenplay from that stack was titled d.o.mai.n, and on a whim I pulled it out and started reading it for the first time in probably five years.
I remember thinking to myself how awful it was, laughing at how impressed I used to be with myself over it and how I thought I could do so much better now. I remember smiling as I read it, remembering how much fun I used to have coming up with ideas, and how I had given up on it because I hated the screenplay format. It felt dry and boring, and I thought I could give writing it out in prose a shot. I started writing, and I realized that the story was a lot bigger than I had originally thought, and should begin earlier. Now I have five novels planned in the series, and I’m editing the first one now.
I realize that is a long answer, but it’s the genesis of my journey as a writer, and probably the most important part of the story as well.
You work a day job, how do you fit writing into your day?
When I can, to be honest! Some days I can’t even stomach looking at the keyboard by the time I get home. Some days I sit down to write and end up watching special effects clips on YouTube until two in the morning.
I’m horribly inefficient, and in no way a role model in the ways of putting out word count. Life gets in the way sometimes, and there are writers that do an amazing job of pushing through that. I’m just not one of them. If I try to push through, to just start writing no matter if it sounds good or not, it’s usually more harmful to my story than if I had just waited until I felt I had something compelling to say. I might not touch it for days, then come back and bang out 5000 words in a single session. It’s funny how that works sometimes.
As I’m sure you know, a day job can suck a lot of creative energy out of you. The first thing to go once you get run down physically and mentally is that creative spark. That’s another thing that worries me about this recession, that people will have to burn so much time and energy just surviving on a daily basis that we will lose our drive to create. The Renaissance was born of leisure, the Dark Ages of economic and cultural oppression. Guess which era contributes more to museums?
You have a collection of short stories published already, but I know you are in the last stages of editing your first novel. Can you tell us a little about you current WIP?
Of course! The collection of short stories, COVINOUS, was basically a bunch of diversions I took from writing this novel. It was very much my therapy for the divorce process, exploring various ways in which to deceive because I felt at that time that I had been deceived. I built fantastic worlds around my deceptions because I felt that is what had been happening to me, albeit in a much more realistic sense. I wanted to trick people the way I had been tricked, play with their minds for a little while, and see how it felt to be on the other side of it for a change. The writing has been fairly well received, but I have learned a lot since then that has made me a better writer. I plan on going back once I’ve finished editing to put out a second edition and add another story to COVINOUS because it will always be a part of my story that I need to remember.
My current WIP is titled pre://d.o.mai.n, and it is the first book in my d.o.mai.n series. That screenplay that I set aside all those years ago will become the second story in the larger arc of the novels, but in writing it first I realized that I had been doing the thing I hate most about science fiction sometimes. We jump right to the far-flung, futuristic space opera or dystopia tale of survival without taking the time to do the story that got you there. I realized there is a tale that comes before that book, which sets the stage and introduces characters that you need to care about for that story to have any meaning. I wanted the story, as it unfolds over five or so novels, to go from an intimate character piece about one person’s struggle to save his mother, and bring it full circle by the last page of the final book to bring about the existential dilemma brought on by the singularity. I needed to get us from today to the point where most modern science fiction takes over, because it’s the story I have to contribute right now. It’s the story I’ve been waiting to read for years, and finally decided that I had to do it myself.
Do you know how you intend to publish it – Self publishing, small press, etc.?
I am going to try out the traditional publishing route first. I have a plan to seek an agent and traditional publishing because I tested the self-publishing waters with COVINOUS, and it’s time to try out the other side of the fence. If none of the 5 or six agents I have in mind pick it up, I’ve decided to try out smaller presses that are accepting submissions. If neither of these work out, I will self-publish. I have a lot of love for the self-publishing community, and this will probably be a one shot deal with traditional publishing. If it doesn’t pan out then I don’t see myself offering the series at a later date. I would want to go home with the girl I brought to the dance, so to speak, though I would consider offering individual books in the future to agents.
Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
I’ve always been incredibly interested in the concept of Brain Computer Interfaces, and the idea that one day we will be able to uplink our consciousnesses to a programmable dream world. The Matrix started off there before devolving into just another dystopian space opera, but the premise behind supplanting our faltering reality with a world that can be anything we want it to be is something I hope to live long enough to see. I’m only 33, but there are already places from my youth that are gone forever, places I would love to visit again. With a computer generated world, I could visit them again. You could know what it is to fly unaided by any sort of engine or wing, you could live out any fantasy you want or become anyone you want, all from the safety of your own home. I don’t want to get into it too deeply because the greater implications of the technology are explored in later books in my series, but I think it’s inevitable that we will want to hide inside a CGI heaven while we are destroying our own world.
It’s sad, but I really see it happening sooner than we think. Kids can’t play outside in many areas without fear of being kidnapped or worse. People don’t meet in coin-op arcades anymore; they meet on Facebook or in Xbox live lobbies. Before too long, if we want to recapture that wonder and innocence we once took for granted in the 80’s as children, we will have to carve it out of cyberspace for ourselves. It really is too bad, but if there’s anything that can overcome human depravity and fear, it’s our imaginations. It’s a theme that I explore in this book, and I hope it encourages debate, and opens a few more eyes as to what we are giving up along our path.
When I first sat down to write my debut novel, I must have written a good 200,000 words (no lie) before I actually wrote the first thing that made it into the final draft. How long has it taken you to make it to this stage?
This series, with this first novel being just the start, has taken more than ten years from first coming up with the title for a screenplay, to putting it aside as I moved from Maine to Florida, getting pregnant with our son and moving back to Maine, and finally getting back to writing it during my divorce. I have a few partially completed screenplays, but I’ve never been an especially prolific writer.
This story is older than my son, and will be dedicated to him. It’s my hope that if the bad things in this story come to pass, the good things will as well. If pollution makes large portions of the wilderness uninhabitable, I want him, to get at least some idea of what it’s like to go for a hike without needing a filtration mask for smog like they do in China. I want to be able to show him the world that I remember as a child, how great things were. I suppose every generation says that, but ours is perhaps the first that could have the chance to make it happen.
Another problem with the first novel most of all is that you develop so much as a writer when you first set out that by the time you reach the end, the beginning reads like something written by someone else. What is the biggest thing you have learned so far?
To trust the reader. When I started this book, I still felt so much damn smarter than everyone else, and my writing was lousy with it. The first chapter of pre://d.o.mai.n read like a condescending thesaurus, with a bunch of three and four syllable words in every paragraph. I forgot that however much hard work writing can be, that reading is supposed to be enjoyable. I started reading out loud, and also listening to a lot of audiobooks, and both have helped my writing in hundreds of subtle ways. I discovered that if I couldn’t read a sentence out loud in a single breath, then I should probably cut some from it. I learned that listening to audiobooks teaches a writer more about writing good dialog than years of practice. Hearing someone read your words back to you makes bad dialog obvious immediately.
Do you have many other books planned out at all?
I have the remaining four stories in this series, a science fiction romance novel planned, a horror novel, and a serial killer mystery novel……And not nearly enough hours in the day to write them all, lol. My dream is to be able to write full-time in the near future, because I’m coming up with good story ideas faster than I can put them down on paper.
Either way, I will continue writing as long as my mind will allow me to. As far as I am concerned, it’s the perfect career. Your body is largely removed from the equation as far as longevity is concerned, so while athletes may make more money, we will be able to work for far longer. I also want to have the flexibility of schedule to spend more time with my son, my current schedule makes it difficult to get to as many of his activities as I would like, and he has had to miss out on things simply because transportation has been difficult to come by.
You are no stranger to the world of graphic design, so will you be creating your own cover art?
If I am able to, certainly. If my novel is bought by a publisher, I may not have a lot of control over that, but I would like to. I enjoy graphic design a great deal, and I try to work using exclusively Free and Open Source software, or FOSS. Blender is a personal favorite of mine, and I also have a video production project I am going to be working on this summer with my son, an interactive film that will be a great learning experience. Sort of a “Choose Your own Adventure” style film with real life consequences. I’ve already laid the ground work for some of the special effects needed and have created a trailer for it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVPvBKew3yU
I also want to see what I can do about elevating the art of the book trailer. I’m no Coppola, Cameron or Whedon, but I think we can all do a little better than slide shows with word overlays. Authors complain that book trailers aren’t effective, but I think that if they put the effort in to bump up the production values a little, we can move the needle. I’ve seen a few that are starting to push that way, and it’s encouraging. I think that if the book trailer is enough of a spectacle to attract its own audience, it will be successful in broadening the audience for the novel as well.
The change in the writing world has coincided with the rise of social media. Surely two unrelated parallels; there can be no doubting the influence that one now has upon the other. Would you agree?
I agree that social media and the rise in self-publishing access have been transcendent. They are changing nearly everything in regards to how authors go about getting their work in front of potential readers and promoting them once they are published. It’s a chaotic, revolutionary period in publishing and nobody really understands where things are going. There are traditional publishers going out of business, traditional publishers going all digital in the form of eBooks. There are now unprecedented self-publishing channels for authors to explore, at the same time that traditional brick and mortar stores are dwindling by the day. If anyone tries to tell you they know how it is all going to play out, they are either from the future or a fool.
Some popular self-published authors are even cutting publishing deals to get their previously self-published works in front of larger markets. I personally don’t think that book stores will go away in the traditional sense. There’s an inherent novelty of sitting down with a physical book and turning pages that will exist in one form or another for the foreseeable future. Maybe all bookstores will incorporate large lounges, complete with a Starbucks, and become intellectual gathering places. Maybe they will become niche, expensive novelties. Who knows? Things will continue to evolve, and wherever we end up won’t have long to enjoy its success before the next progression in the business of storytelling comes along.
Whatever the form, be it Facebook, Twitter, the corner bookstore, readers are getting more access to their favorite writers than ever before. Most authors have their own blog and/or website, and most enjoy conversing with their readers through social media because the greatest gift authors can receive is for someone to tell them how much they enjoyed something they wrote. That sort of interaction used to require tickets to a book signing or reading, or even a written letter that may or may not get read by the actual author in their lifetime.
Again, that may or may not be a good thing. We writers are generally a solitary bunch, and there’s a fine balance between letting our readers know how much we appreciate them and screwing off on Facebook when we really should be writing that emotionally draining scene we’ve been procrastinating on. Time will tell how it all works out.
Writing is a solitary affair, for the most part, but never have I been part of a more social circle of friends. Who has been your biggest influence on your writing?
I have a group of friends that I speak with online through social media, and some of them are fellow readers that I have met through my day job. Just a few weeks ago I had dinner with two other self-published authors, and we had a great time over buffalo wings and craft beer discussing all of the hardships and insecurities that we thought were our burdens alone to bear. It’s incredibly liberating to know that others out there are going through the same things you are.
We’ve also exchanged chapters from time to time when we are looking for feedback on something specific. Sometimes vocalizing ideas helps, and sometimes another writer can look at your dilemma with a fresh perspective. Social media has helped make it easier to find like-minded people, and writers are perhaps a greater beneficiary than most when it comes to being able to exchange ideas.
Are you a big reader of craft books, or do you more rely on the sharing of experiences and internet searches on an as required basis?
I’ve never read a craft book on writing before. Well, maybe in High School/College, but if I did I can’t remember it. I find the best help is to read, then discuss what you’ve liked and disliked about what you’ve read with other readers/writers. A big, unmentioned part of the social media revolution as it pertains to writers is how much more often we are sharing ideas and concepts.
I’m not sure if that will end up being a good thing or a bad thing, but I’m willing to bet a little of both. The work will probably become more well-rounded, researched, and classically well written, but more uniform as well. If you put a couple of drops of chocolate syrup in milk and start stirring it slowly, eventually everything becomes the same color. I worry that literature will eventually become that with the advent of the internet and social media.
As a writer, reading plays almost as big of a role as writing itself. Do you make the distinction between reading fiction to learn, as opposed to reading for pleasure?
Here’s a cop out answer, but it’s the truth-I enjoy picking up different ideas from genres unrelated to my own writing, so I guess both.
I read everything from horror to fantasy to YA supernatural romance to science fiction. I even read that book, “He’s just not that into you,” because I was researching relationship hang-ups for one of my scenes. I don’t think you can read without it influencing you as a writer, and I don’t think you can read something and really enjoy it unless you are invested in it, which brings everything full circle. I don’t see any way to avoid one and keep the other. I also don’t think it matters, as long as you continue to read things you enjoy, it will inevitably make you a better writer. At least it has in regards to myself.
In the indie age, marketing is now a way of life. Are you already planning your marketing system for when your books is released?
Good question! I have a few ideas in mind, but there are a couple of potential pitfalls in my sharing them so I will try to both answer your question and keep some things close to the vest so as not to ruin the surprise. Also, everything kind of hinges on the publication path that it takes, and what a potential publisher has in mind. I have ideas, but I’m sure that they would as well. Hopefully we can both get what we want.
Pre://d.o.mai.n is a very different kind of novel, and I have a few ideas that are also a little different in promoting it. I’ve already discussed the book trailer, but that is going to be indicative of a slant towards multimedia in promotion.
I have this idea of producing very special effects driven video clips for YouTube under a fictional brand from the book, presented like a “proof of concept” demonstration to drum up investor funding for some of the technology that I describe in the book. This book is very much about technology that is currently available and that will be coming out within the next five to ten years.
Augmented Reality exists now, and there is hardware in development that stretches the boundaries of the word, “mobile” -allowing you to experience mobile augmented reality while wearing a heavy backpack full of gear. The glasses that are a large part of this book are a couple of generations beyond what Google is currently developing with Project Glass. Project Glass is essentially a heads up display for a Bluetooth connected smartphone, with sensors built-in to let you keep your phone see and hear what it needs to pull the data you want. It’s not augmented reality in the traditional sense, but it’s closer to what I describe in the book than anything approaching its profile.
There are inventions that cover everything from baseball safety equipment to video games, and if I can shoot limited demonstration videos to capture the essence of those advancements, drop the company name, and walk away while people argue over whether or not the company/invention is real, perhaps I can generate a little viral buzz.
I had a plan to create an alternate reality game that would allow people to become a part of the story, but the plot device that this centered around was revised out of the story somewhere between outline to first draft. It was probably a little ambitious anyways, but if the novel ends up taking off I might have the resources and time on my hands to make it happen as part of the promotion for book two.
I also have toyed around with the idea of including augmented reality QR codes directly onto the page with digital print by layar. It’s a fascinating technology that would allow me to include three-dimensional objects from the story directly onto the page via augmented reality, or AR. AR is a huge part of this book, and I think working it into the narrative like that would go even further in connecting the near-future events of the novel to today’s technology. I’ve done a ton of research for this book, and everything you will read about is already in existence in concept form today. I think a well-designed fusion of that promise of tomorrows technological future with what’s currently in development will peak the interested of science fiction fans. I mean, that’s the entire point of science fiction, to explore stories made possible by advancements in science and technology, right?
Being a writer is tough, not just for us, but for those that share their lives with us. Long hours, irritability, conversations even arguments with our muse at the rarest of moments. Do you family support your writing?
They support it, but don’t fully understand it, lol. Some of them have read some of my work and enjoyed it, but it’s a huge philosophical leap from enjoying a short story that someone spent a few hours writing to appreciating a novel that you’ve either invested or wasted a year of your life writing (depending on if it’s successful). My son enjoys the idea of me as a writer, and is always willing to play financial “what if” my writing suddenly makes me the next Stephen King, JK Rowling, or EL James. He’s eleven, and I have to remember that, even if he sometimes reads Neal Stephenson novels (and understands the underlying themes). I’m sure he would love the movie that might one day get made from it though 😉
People are always quick to compare writers to one another, to compare the new pretenders to the current champion. Who would you say people are most likely to compare you work to?
I would hope someone along the lines of early Richard K Morgan, Daniel Suarez, maybe early Neal Stephenson.
If you could summarize your writing in three words, what would they be?
Hopeful, Elaborate…….Cynical. In order of importance.
To find out more about Chris, or just to get to know him better, you can find him on Facebook, Twitter or via his blog.
You can also grab his short story collection Covinous from Amazon.