Another great interview today, with crime writer Chris Irvin.
One thing he doesn't mention here is that he works hard to help promote other authors at the local Noir at the Bar events. Here's a link to the one I read at.
And check out the offer at the end, with a chance to win!
This is his collection of short stories, which we'll be discussing here. But he's got more, so check it out.
Q: So how did this collection come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.
A: Since around the time I began writing short fiction (~2010) I wanted to eventually put together a collection. This was before I'd attempted anything longer, and so it was the first book I really envisioned with my name on the spine. It wasn't until sometime in 2014 that I put together a running list of stories that I wanted to include. There wasn't much of a theme at the time – more so my favorites or pieces I thought were good enough to make the cut. In the end I chose eleven stories, which were cut to nine after two were deemed to be published too recently elsewhere, and wrote four new stories last spring to round it out. I wrote the new stories in a period of about five weeks (deadlines!). Without a doubt it was my most exhausting time writing, but I think they are some of my best work.
Q: Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?
A: I'll do a rough outline (at best) for short stories. I more often think about a story a lot before putting pen to paper. I also almost always begin a story longhand. It helps me feel a story out and get down the tone, and – most importantly – stops me from editing. I have a tendency to heavily edit while typing, especially the first couple of paragraphs. I can spend/waste (depending on how you look at it) an entire morning this way. I've fully embraced this now, to the point where I'm writing the first draft of my WIP novel entirely long hand. I lose too much momentum if I switch to typing midway through a story.
Q: What do you feel is the main theme(s)?
A: I ended up building the collection around family when I realized so many stories centered on it in one form or another. When I finished writing the new stories, I noticed a strong sense of anxiety running throughout, as well. Readers also picked up on melancholia and regret, with the book straddling a bit of crime and literary fiction. It's been fun to see what readers take away from the book.
Q: Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?
A: Family is very important to me and my identity. I think that's why I keep returning to the well, so to speak. I was pretty anxious as a young kid, and those memories really stuck with me. I can't get enough of melancholia – I'm on a huge nostalgic kick right now. I hope readers see some of these aspects, but having a story or moment in the book stick with them after putting it down is the best compliment.
Q: What makes a good book or engaging story?
A: It has to make me care, and that, for me, comes down to characters. It can be the greatest plot in the world, but if I don't empathize with the character(s) and want to stick with them for the ride (likeable or not) it will be hard for me to continue.
Q: Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?
A: I don't know about similar themes, but I really admire writers who straddle literary and genre lines. That's not to knock "pure genre," but the focus on character in the former really has my attention as of late. Writers like Richard Lange, William Boyle and Megan Abbott on the crime side, or T.E. Grau, Nathan Ballingrud, and Paul Tremblay on the horror side. I could go on and on. I read someone compare the stories in SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE to Tom Perrotta's short fiction, so if you enjoy him take it for a spin.
Q: Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?
A: Storytellers should entertain, but stories can absolutely be more – from providing escape, to coping, to the ability to explore the world from other perspectives. They can help people learn about themselves and others, and grow from the experience. I want to tell a good story, but I hope there is something underneath that the reader can walk away with.
Q: Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?
A: I plan to write one novel a year, plus short stories and comics. I'd love to see some success on the comic side of things, and try my hand at a screenplay eventually. Baby steps. It's a marathon.
Q: Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?
A: I do a great deal of revision, adding more than taking away. I'm an underwriter as opposed to someone who writes 100k+ words and cuts to ~80k. Regarding my state when I hand off a project… it depends. I was exhausted with SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, but very happy with how it turned out. Maybe the best of both worlds with that one – believing you've done everything you can do and being happy with it.
Q: Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?
A: I've been very fortunate to have had excellent critique partners – and a wonderful wife who gives my first drafts the third degree. I honestly believe I'd be nowhere if it weren't for them. You need feedback – honest feedback – in order to grow as a writer.
Q: If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?
A: You need to love to write. Be honest with yourself because it takes a strong commitment with potentially years of little money or recognition. To that end – write, finish as much as you can. Proving to yourself you can finish a piece is very important. And read as much as possible – especially outside of your style/genre/comfort zone.
Q: What's the next step in your writing world?
A: Selling my first novel and/or finding an agent.
Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
A: I'm a huge fan of foreign films, especially those from Korea.
Q: Any other information you'd like to impart?
A: One of the most rewarding aspects of the release of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE is the wide audience it seems to have found. I'm not sure why – perhaps because it's my third release, or just the largest of the three. But I hope both crime and literary fans continue to give it a shot.
Web page: Christopherirvin.net
Where to buy: Your local bookstore! Or Amazon – where the paperback is currently 35% off.
Okay- here's the offer- review SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE by 3/31 on Amazon or Goodreads, and you'll
be in the running to win one of five copies of Chris' cool novella, BURN CARDS.
Here's a link with more
Hmmm- doesn't look like a hardened criminal type of guy...