Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ten Questions with C.S. Splitter

Today I have with me C.S. Splitter, author of the new crime/thriller series The Crayder Chronicles.  I read the first book in the series, The Reluctant (the ebook of which is free on Amazon, by the way), and was so impressed that I asked him if I might have the opportunity pick his brain sometime.  Even though I’m not one of the cool people like him (i.e. I don’t fly an airplane), he graciously agreed to entertain a few questions.  I think there’s even a rumor going around about a giveaway or something. 

But enough about that.  Right now it’s time to get cozy with the man himself.  Think of it like an Oprah interview but without all the production value. 

Welcome, Splitter (that’s what the bio says you like to be called, right?).  Thanks for stopping by.

CSS:  Hello, Jonathan!  An Oprah interview?  At least you didn't say Dr. Phil because whatever is wrong with me (and people have differing opinions about that), I am keeping to myself.  And the voices.  The voices know everything.

You hear them too?  Aw hell.  And here I thought I was special.  Oh well, want to answer a few questions?

CSS:  That's why I'm here, isn't it?  Fire away!

Q1)  So who is C.S. Splitter?  What is he about?  Rap with me, brother.

CSS:  C.S. Splitter does not exist.  Or, at least he didn't until last year.  I write under a pen name because, if the first book had sucked, I didn't want it following me around the rest of my life.  I couldn't deal with any more pointing and giggling from strangers than I already get.

What I am about is writing good stories with intriguing characters.  If a reader is looking for great literature with beautiful prose, they can keep looking.  I write good stories with kickass characters while I try to keep the writing from getting in the way.

What C.S. Splitter is NOT is a judge.  I ask a lot of questions with my writing, but I do not take stands.  My characters do some...umm...questionable things that I neither advocate nor oppose. 

Q2)  Are there any any autobiographical elements to the character of Tom Crayder?  How does he differ from you?  I mean, other than the fact that he metes out vigilante justice in his spare time.  Or is that not a difference at all?

CSS:  Tom is an “every man.”  He likes food and women and things that go boom.  The bigger the better (booms, not women...).  So while there are elements of me in Tom, there are elements of a lot of guys in him too.  He also dreams of bigger things and being more than he is.  I think that strikes a chord with a lot of people (men and women).

One of the most pleasant surprises I have gotten is that female readers really seem to like him despite his rough edges and glaring lack of bulging muscles or tendencies to rip bodices (maybe in my next series...).  90% of my readers are women and Tom (eventually) comes off as man with whom they are familiar.  From the emails I get, they see their father/husband/brother/boyfriend/friend in Tom.

Thank goodness they forgive so many of our baser qualities because if they were held those things against us, many of us would be very lonely...


Q3)  You can count on a big “amen” from me on that one.  Sometimes I don’t know why my wife puts up with me.  At any rate, I’ve read The Reluctant, but I haven’t yet had a chance to read the second in the series, The Willing, let alone the third book, which comes out in… June of this year, I think I read somewhere?  Can you tell us a little about what’s next in store for Tom?

CSS:  In The Reluctant, Tom is faced with a number of moral dilemmas.  In The Willing, trouble comes looking for him.  More precisely, trouble comes looking for his wife who finds herself unwittingly caught up in a money laundering scheme.  Tom, Lorena, and most of the cast from The Reluctant have to figure out how to save her from these thugs.

The first book was about Tom and his conscience.  The second book is about relationships.  Think of it as It's a Wonderful Life meets Deathwish.  I know, sounds impossible, but I made it happen! 

Q4)  You’re a pretty funny guy.  It’s obvious from your writing style (and I approve, for what it’s worth).  It reminds me a little of Donald E Westlake.  That being said, where does the inspiration come from for all that wit and sarcasm?

CSS:  I appreciate that!  The answer is: anger and self loathing.

Nah.  It really just comes from being a comedy junkie.  I can't tell you the number of times I have seen Richard Pryor's specials or Eddie Murphy's Delirious and Raw.  There are a whole host of comedians that I admire including Kinison, Cosby, and Rock.  I'll throw in Bob Hope too because he probably had the best timing of anyone ever born.

Everyone that knows me in real life says I remind them of Ron White without the accent or unholy wealth.  I went to see him in Vegas...I think he stole my act!

I think funny people just see the world a bit differently.  There is humor in nearly everything if you look hard enough or look at it in a different way.   

Plus, there is my beautiful wife who's tongue is sharper than a razor.  If you have read “The Reluctant,” you probably have some idea of the verbal beatings I took when she read the first half of the book... 
  
Q5)  Which authors do you think influenced you the most as a writer—both as a whole, and when it comes to The Crayder Chronicles?

CSS:  You know, I don't read books in the genre in which I write.  I read fantasy and non-fiction, but I write contemporary action/adventure/thriller type stuff.

I fully admit that I stole the way I developed the Tom Crayder character from Glen Cook's Black Company books.  Those were classics.  Some people say my writing style reminds them of Jim Butcher, but I had never read his books before I finished “The Reluctant.”  That comparison made me so mad that I ran out and bought his whole Dresden Files series.  Now, I am a huge fan.  By the way, I am not comparing myself to Butcher.  I don't see the similarities and can only aspire to be that good.

I also like Stephan King, Micheal J. Sullivan, George R.R. Martin (first three books are best, beautiful prose), Eddings, Zelazny (Amber),  and countless others.

If you ask me who (whom?  I need my editor!) I write like, I am sure there are comparisons but I just don't know them. 

Q6)  The Black Company rocks my socks off.  You have good taste, Mr. Splitter.  But what about your creative process?.  What circumstances best help you put a boot up that muse’s ass and get your write on?

CSS:  Alcohol helps.  Glad I got off the pipe, though.

The bad news, for me, is that I spent more than a decade trying to find a good idea for a fantasy story and stumped myself that entire time.  I wrote, but not fiction.  When the idea for The Crayder Chronicles hit me like a train and I sat down and starting typing, ideas for stories flooded my brain.  I could keep Tom Crayder going for many years and even have that elusive fantasy story lined up in my sights.  I won't live long enough to write all of the stories.

Lesson:  Just freakin' write!  (why didn't someone tell me that  a dozen years ago?)

Nowadays, I do a lot of thinking and a little writing.  I go over scenes and dialogue in my head constantly.  I AM that guy you see in the car next to you at the traffic light talking to himself.

Q7)  O.K., now it’s time for the heady literary critic stuff.  I’ll even put on my pince-nez for this part.  So, the events of The Crayder Chronicles series deal heavily with the idea of vigilante justice, punishing those bad people who haven’t gotten what’s coming to them from lawful means.  What are your thoughts on the matter?  Vigilantism makes for a really cool premise for a novel, but do you think it is a practical method of dispensing justice in the real world?

CSS:  Cool spectacles!

I am not saying that a secret organization that delivers justice outside of a broken system would be a good thing to have around, I'm just saying that we all get a little chuckle when bad people get what's coming to them.

If laughing at OJ when he finally went to prison is wrong, I don't want to be right.  On a smaller scale, that's why we laugh when the idiot on his cell phone that is driving 15mph below the speed limit finally gets pulled over by the police.

Tom and Lorena actually go about delivering justice, I just write about it no matter what the FBI file says.

In reality, my writing asks a lot of questions, but I take few stands in the books.  Is vigilantism wrong?  Sure.  Is it great to see people get what's coming to them?  Sure.  Just don't be the one doing it.

I also do not want my writing to reflect badly on police.  They do a largely thankless job for little pay and get to deal with the worst elements of society on a daily basis.  There are a bunch of bad guys and only a few that protect and serve.  Even when they catch the bad guys (almost always after the crime...), many slip through the system.  We thank soldiers for their service, we should thank the police, too.  

Q8)  That’s something we could all stand to hear a little more often.  Now, the story in The Reluctant and subsequent books is told from the first person point of view (I’m a real geek when it comes to POV, so bear with me).  Each type of POV has its own benefits and challenges.  Why did you choose to use first person, and how did you overcome the challenges inherent in that style of narrative?

CSS:  At least you didn't get into “first person omniscient” and the like, that makes my head spin.

I say this without trying to be funny:  My high school English teacher was the first to tell me that only hacks and amateurs wrote in first person.  So, since I considered myself an amateur that could only aspire to being a hack where fiction was concerned, I decided to write in first person.

My teacher had been partially correct.  It is easy to keep track of the story in first person.  The reader can only know what the character knows.  There is no chance of switching viewpoints in the middle of a paragraph (a lot of writers make this mistake and it makes for difficult reading).

Plus, in thinking back to some of the books I have loved, many were written in first person.  I felt, and it is only a personal opinion, that first person drew me into the character and story more.  I found those stories made me feel like I was there experiencing events with my own eyes and ears.

The most difficult thing about first person is that you have to figure out a way to communicate things that happen off-screen to the character.  And you have to do it in a way that is not obvious.

The other problematic aspect is that the character has to be interesting enough internally to carry the whole story.  If you are going to write in first person, you need to have REALLY well developed characters or the reader will punch holes in them.

Tom is a complete character with an entire backstory.  He has mannerisms, speech habits, and ticks that I spelled out for him before I ever set hands to keyboard.  By now, I know him so well that I don't need those detailed lists any longer, but they were integral in making him “real.”

The third book, which will be about Lorena and how she came into the organization, will be done in third person!  That fits her because she is so mysterious, but we will definitely get to know her better in that book.

It is easier to tell the story from third person, but it is much more difficult on the technical side.

 Q9)  You start out the novel with a plane crash—err, I mean, a forced landing.  After four chapters the narrative briefly goes into a flashback, and then returns to the events after the crash.  Why’d you decide to structure the novel this way?

CSS:  I almost didn't.  That first chapter, as you see it, was the first scene that came to me.  It was a grabber and I wanted it up front even though it threw the first few chapters out of chronological order.

I thought long and hard about flipping the first and fifth chapters to put everything into chronological order and even had a few beta readers read it that way.  The feedback I got told me to leave it as it was.

People who normally read fantasy (many of my first readers) wanted the “flip.”  They were used to long, slow build-ups before anything actually happened in the books they were used to.  Action/Adventure readers demand fast starts so they liked the structure as it was (and still stands).

Which decision was correct?  I have no idea, but no one has complained about it in reviews...yet.  I will say that I do not intend to deviate from chronological order in the future because it is fraught with peril.   

Q10)  For all that peril you didn’t come out too worse for wear, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.  Now last but not least, writing is often times a hard and thankless job.  What keeps you at it?

CSS:  Desperate need for affirmation?

It's the readers and fans that keep me going.  I LOVE hearing from and interacting with them.  Reviews are like crack.  Emails are fun because I can say things that I cannot just come out and say in public.  I go to great lengths to not give away spoilers.

For anyone that reads my books:  Feel free to shoot me an email.  Better yet, do that after posting a review!  Even if the email is to tell me that I should never have ventured into fiction, I want to hear from you.  If you wish to shower me with praise, that helps me write faster so your email will actually get the next book to you sooner.

Well that about does it.  Thanks again for letting me chew the fat with you, Splitter.  It’s been a lot of fun.

CSS:  Jonathan, THANK YOU for having me.  I really like the tone of your blog and have become a follower.  I felt at home here...able to let my hair down, as it were.  Keep up the good work!  Writers need bloggers like you. 

You're too way too kind, but I appreciate all of it.  Flattery will get you everywhere!  You’ve won over a long time reader, here.  I hope to have the opportunity to chat with you again in the future.

If you would like to learn more about C.S. Splitter or his work, you can find him at the following locations:


And in case you forgot, The Reluctant is free on Amazon.  So what are you waiting for?  Go download the damn thing!

15 comments:

  1. "I need my editor!" - Your editor can be found waiting anxiously for your next installment so that she doesn't have to wait like the other masses to find out what happens with Tom, Lorena, et al. And if you need a lesson in “first person omniscient,” she can help you with that also.

    That was a great interview. For the record, I like this Jonathan dude.

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    1. And happen to like this gal Tricia. If I ever self-publish a novel, I know who I'm going to for editing. ;)

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  2. Jon, you are seriously so awesome!
    This was a fantastic and fresh interview!
    Loved it!

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    1. Thanks, Jenn! And I also can't thank you enough for facilitating the whole thing. It was a lot of fun, and Splitter was a hoot. Oh yeah, and that book of his was pretty good too. All told, a kick-ass experience.

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  3. Tricia: I know! Does this blog fit me or what? And, ummm, yeah, it's coming...

    Jenn: Totally. A little fun, a little serious, a little informative. And you should see the form he sent me with the questions: very organized.

    Splitter

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    1. Just keep the compliments coming. I like to bask in them like Uncle Scrooge McDuck in his water tower o' coinage.

      *crickets chirping*

      Oh come on! I can't be the only one that remembers that cartoon.

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  4. Jonathan really knows what he's doing--this is one of the best interviews I've ever read! When is Lorena's book coming out?

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    1. Lorena's book is due out in June, Fishducky. Working on it!

      Splitter

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    2. See, that's the thing, fishducky. I only pretend to know what I'm doing. You know what they say--fake it 'til you make it!

      Though in all seriousness, thank you. What you said means a lot!

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  5. Loved the interview.
    Will be checking this site out more over time.
    It's a win-win for everyone!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, grrouchie. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  6. Amen for real men. "My characters do some...umm...questionable things that I neither advocate nor oppose." I like that too. Great interview!

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  7. Pen name? C.S. Splitter is a good one! Fantastic interview, and I'm happy to hear Lorena has her day in the sun too. I'm looking forward to The Willing!

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  8. I've technically got another copy left over from the giveaway. If you're interested, it's yours. Just let me know.

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