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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Interview: Christopher Nelson

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?

A: From start to finish, it can take over a year, depending on how much time I can actually spend working on it. I’ll take a break from looking at the manuscript and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes and see stuff that I missed when I was going over it the first time. Half the effort is fixing errors in context, spelling, and grammar.

Q: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

A: I read a lot, so I get inspiration from all over the place. I follow current events in the news, scientific developments, and such. Sometimes ideas will just come to me and I’ll develop them over time.

Q: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

A: I like to include as much factual information as possible and to make the story seem as real as possible. Some people call this ‘hard’ science fiction, but that, to me, is more of taking a scientific theory and creating a scenario on which to base a story. That’s not what I like to do;  I prefer to tell a story and make it as believable as possible. I also like to be clear in what I write. Some writers prefer eloquence, but I like to be direct. You should get lost in the story and not necessarily the words.

Q: What do you like to do when you're not writing?

A: I’m also an independent musician and I have recorded several albums, also available at various music outlets. I like reading—you may have guessed this from my earlier answers—and I like to hike the nature trails around our area and relax outside.

Q: What do you think makes a good story?

A: Conflict. What I mean by that is someone’s decision has an impact on another person or group of persons. Each side thinks that they’re right, but in the end, there can be only one course of action. Getting to that point can be very dramatic and exciting, especially when you look at each character’s motivation. In some cases, a character is willing to stake their life on a particular course of action. It’s that dedication to principles that makes a good story, in my opinion.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I was born in New York City, grew up in a small town called Towanda in Northeastern Pennsylvania, travelled around the world while I served in the US. Air Force, and finally settled in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, which is in the central part of the state near Harrisburg.

Q: When and why did you begin writing?

A: My mom tells me that I was a storyteller even when I was very young. I watched a lot of television and read a lot of books and I was able to shape my own ideas into comprehensible stories. I didn’t seriously pursue writing until about sixteen years ago when I took a break from my music and began writing short stories. As a matter of fact, this particular novel was essentially a short story that grew into a book over time. I started it around the time I was writing those short stories and kept refining it until it was the way I wanted it to be. I have recently reached a plateau with my music and I decided to start working on my writing again. I have a lot of stories that I want to tell.

Q: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

A: For this book, yes. There are a lot of things in the book that were drawn from my own early experiences in the military. Some of the more extreme parts of the book were not, but a lot of the characters were molded on people whom I had known at the time. Other parts were based on experiences I’d had and I just changed the circumstances around a little and the characters reacted in a similar way. I think that element of realism is enough to make you empathize with the characters and keep you on the edge of your seat.

Q: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

A: First there’s taking the time to sit down and compose a long document from start to finish. I don’t have a whole lot of spare time and what I do have I have to steal from other projects. In fact, I have even less time now than I did when I was writing the short stories! Then there’s the continuity issue. Sometimes, I’ll change a part of the back story or the storyline then I have to go back and make sure that everything I changes stays in agreement with the rest of the book. This can be troublesome and not even be fixed until there have been several revisions. For example, you change a character’s name or you add a sub-plot. You have to make sure that the rest of the story flows with the changes that you’ve made and it’s easy to miss things.

Q: What book are you reading now?

A: I haven’t read anything in a while (reading my book through four times for errors doesn’t count, in my opinion!) but the last book I read was Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” which I thought was his best work to date. Very solid concept and each point was based in some sort of factual information.

Q: Can you share a little of your current work with us?

A: Sure! I said earlier that I wrote short stories about eighteen years ago, some of which had been published in various e-zines around the cyberworld. I have collected those, as well as some that were never published, into an anthology called “Above and Beyond” which I hope to have ready sometime this fall. I’d like to develop a little more interest in my current novel before I release anything else. I’ll need time to go over all the text, look for errors, that sort of thing. I am also planning another novel, in fact, it’s one I had started a while back and I am going to re-work it a little. It’s called “The Shadow Team” and it’s about a secret mission to mars to rescue missing members of a previous mission to mars. I have no idea when that will be finished, however!

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

A: Not the content, just the way the book is laid out, but it’s all good.

Q: What are your current projects?

A: Right now, the projects I’m working on are more music-related.  I’m coordinating a fundraising concert featuring local musicians in the Central Pennsylvania area to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project called “Sound Off for Vets.” The show will be on May 19th on Harrisburg’s City Island. Last year, we raised almost $500 for this organization which helps our combat-wounded veterans from our most recent conflict deal with their new disabilities through counseling, therapy, and vocational rehabilitation. Our goal this year is to raise $1000 and we’re already $200 toward that goal. If you want to know more, please visit the event web site at I’m also working on remixing and re-engineering a collection of recordings I’ve made over the years that I hope to have completed in September of this year.

Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?

A: A quote from Calvin Coolidge: “Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not, there are many unsuccessful men with talent; Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts; Genius will not, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Q: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

A: If you’ve read my work, thanks for reading it. If not, I hope you’ll take the time to read my book!

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