Tuesday, May 22, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Chris Dolley

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketResonance by Chris Dolley

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
This is a bit like being asked to name your favourite child. So the answer is, of course, all of them. Until they misbehave.

I certainly loved writing for Graham Smith. I have my obsessive compulsive moments so it was easy to slip inside his head for 400 pages. And fun. He may be the least pro-active protagonist in literary history, but his quirky view on the ever-changing world around him was a joy to construct.

Annalise was even more fun. I could have written dialogue for her all day and had to employ several large internal editors to prevent her from taking over the entire book.

Nick Stubbs, my latest protag, is the opposite of Graham. He acts first and regrets it three pages later. Which is endearing - as long as you're the one doing the writing and not his sidekick.


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Back in my student days it was neither. My preferred beverage of that era was scrumpy or 'rough' as our local publican insisted on calling it. What's scrumpy? Imagine a fine dry cider brewed by HP Lovecraft. It's rough, it's primordial and so cloudy that if you can see any fingers through the glass - they're not yours.


4. What else can you do besides write?
A lot. In fact when the blank page stares at me and the words won't come, I find I can do an extraordinary amount of things. Every one of them preferable to writing. Prevarication, tearing out hair, solitaire, counting flies.

And I did work in the real world - programming, design, tech support, management - freelancing in the lucrative world of large mainframe computer projects until I earned enough money to buy a small farm and drop out into a self-sufficient lifestyle of animals, orchards, huge vegetable garden and writing.

And being a smallholder on an even smaller budget - retiring at 35 seriously diminishes your income! - I've learnt to be practical. I plumbed our house, wired it, built a roof or four, a staircase, converted a loft, a stable...

But the task I enjoy the most is building stone walls - we built a couple of huge buttresses for our gable wall. Building with irregular natural stone is very satisfying and when you have a medieval granite quarry on your land you have a lot of rock to play with.


5. Who are you reading right now?

6. Pop culture or academia?
Well, I'd rather be read widely than win prizes. And being a working class lad I was never exposed to anything remotely resembling academia growing up. But, as I age, I find myself cultivating a distaste for the lowest common denominator culture of reality TV and celebrity obsession that has seeped into popular culture during the past twenty years.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Chocolate, chips, puddings, chicken tikka massala... the list is not only endless but the combined mass of calories are sufficient to create a minor black hole.

If asked to cater for 'the food that would be partaken every day' I'd plump for an Indian (by far and away the best cuisine on the planet) followed by an English pudding (no one can design comfort food better than the English*) with an assortment of chocolates between each course. And then one of those convenient time loops to take you back to the start before the calories kick in.

* If you don't believe me try one of the English pudding restaurants. Yes, in England we have restaurants that cater for people who want to forget the main course and go straight for dessert. Treacle Sponge Pudding, Bread and Butter Pudding, Queen of Puddings...


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I used to have an organic approach to writing in that I'd plot the beginning and the end then let my characters work out the path in between. But characters have a worrying knack of getting sidetracked. And they talk too much.

So now I spend a lot more time outlining - mapping out the novel almost to scene level. I think it's essential if you're writing mystery driven fiction as you need to ensure that information is revealed and events take place in an order that both works and entertains. Having an outline allows you to juggle scenes, identify slow patches, and arrange your twists before you even begin your first draft.

But it does take willpower. The urge to slap those first words on the page and get on with it is strong.


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Chris Dolley is an author, a pioneer computer games designer, an amateur detective and the man who convinced the UK media that Cornwall had risen up and declared independence.

His first novel, Resonance, an SF mystery, was the first book to be plucked from Baen's electronic slush pile. It was also selected by the Science Fiction Book Club - which is rare for a first novel - and entered the US SF&F bestseller charts.

As novelist Keith Brooke wrote, "Resonance is a tremendously accomplished book ... and immediately raises Dolley into the ranks of writers to watch. It's a head-over-heels romp through ever-changing realities, crammed with great set-pieces, excellent hooks and some nice one-liners."

His second novel, Shift, comes out in July this year.

In 1981 he formed Randomberry Games and designed Necromancer, one of the first 3D first person perspective dungeon games. He also wrote the most aggressive chess program ever seen and created the most dangerous game ever played.

When chairman of Plymouth Rag Week he convinced the UK media that Cornwall had declared independence - a stunt so successful that the 1974 General Election result was pushed off the front page. The story was later written up in Punch.

Amateur Detective? Well in 1995 he was abandoned by the police forces of four countries when his identity and life savings were stolen. So he had to solve the case himself - which he did in one of the most bizarre investigations ever.

His Virtual Book Tour begins today. Check his LJ chrisdolley for more stops.

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