Author Spotlight: Chris Sharp
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Chris Sharp!
Chris Sharp is the author of The Elementalists and Cold Counsel. He grew up in the suburban wonderland of Alexandria, VA, where he cut his nerd teeth playing role-playing games and making gore movies with his friends. After learning some stuff, he spent sixteen years in Brooklyn, NY, where he worked in film and commercial production by day, and was yet another wannabe novelist by night.
His first book was a 900-page epic fantasy novel that waits in the depths of a dark box.
Today’s spotlight takes place in a forest. Not just any forest; no. Here, all the trees are made of bones. A foul-smelling breeze sets the branches to rattling, and they twist and clunk hollowly like macabre windchimes. Every time you turn your back on one, they seem to inch closer. And closer. And closer. Only by answering our questions will Chris get access to the magical Hiveguffin Scenario Randomiser™, and possible escape.
Will he survive? Keep reading to find out!
Chris! Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I finished Skullsworn, by Brian Staveley, not too long ago, and I loved it. It was the first of his books I read, which I know is an off-kilter entry into that world. I have since also enjoyed the Unhewn Throne trilogy as well, but something about Skullsworn has stuck with me. Phenomenal world building, compelling mysterious characters, and thoughtful ruminations on love, death, humanity, gods, Zen, truth, wisdom and more. It all felt fresh, alive, and true in the way that fantasy strives for, but often fails to reach.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I vacillate on who/what I’d WANT to be, but if I were pseudo-accurately represented by who I am, I’d probably be a Chaotic Good, level 2, 2nd Edition Ranger. I’d be fascinated by magic, but too lazy and distractible to ever get good at it. Skilled with weapons, but not a master at any one, like a strict warrior class. Good at being sneaky, but lacking the moral predilections for outright thievery. Instead, I’d use a short sword, an array of knives, and I’d carry a bow, and I’d be at least marginally proficient with all of them, though scared to use any of them. A Sword of Sharpness would be cool, ‘cause of my last name, but I’d be too low level to find one.
Also, I’d want to join lots of different parties, but be too infused with imposter syndrome to approach any of them. So, I’d go it alone, pushing myself into more and more dangerous adventures, until I was finally killed, at Level 6, by a war band of gnolls that stumble upon me while I’m asleep.
That’s quite specific, Chris. When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
I type on a computer while taking handwritten notes in a notebook at the same time—for when my brain gets ahead of the scene at hand.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
Silence, but with a window cracked to hear a bit of the world outside. Occasionally a hooting owl, tittering raccoon, or yipping coyote will make me feel at one with…something.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I’m a gardener/pantser with an overview and arc in mind. I tend to let the characters dictate how the story unfolds, infusing a sense of surprise to the writing. For me, the occasional serendipity that arises in the storytelling lends a feeling of truth/verisimilitude that otherwise wouldn’t be there if it was all mapped out in refined detail.
In the good/best moments, it almost seems like I’m taking dictation from an unseen director. In the bad moments, it all seems to go to shit, and a monumental waste of time.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
As a kid, and then into adulthood, I was a freak for the movie Time Bandits. Something about that movie’s combination of irreverence, innovation, and twisted vision marked me.
I was also an early and dedicated devotee of role-playing games and making movies with my friends. The role-playing games morphed into writing, and the moviemaking bug never abated.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Alias Grace on Netflix. Random discovery, but I binged it in two days once I started. I wasn’t familiar with the Atwood book prior to watching, and the writing, directing and acting are all phenomenal. Sarah Gadon in the lead is freakishly good at riding the ambiguous line of her role’s motivations.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Spending time outside, hiking, biking, rowing on a river, followed by aggressive pursuit of inebriation with friends amid a bucolic setting with music and Christmas lights.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
I have no issues with particular punctuation. I am a firm believer in both the oxford comma and the M-dash, I can see the beauty of a good semi-colon, and I have been known to slap an ellipse in here and there for impact…
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
I have a few works in progress. I’m writing a TV show for a producer about immigrant soccer in 1960’s New York, a story outline for a film producer about 1800’s Appalachia, and a novel about the Eastern Coyote in the vein of Watership Down.
Due to inadequate sales, SLUD’s story from Cold Counsel is on hold – though the sequel is already half written (AND GOOD) and the sequel to that is primed and ready to go. I need some luck and some more fans to bring the rest of SLUD’s story into being. In SLUD we trust!
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I grew up making movies with my friends from grade school and a couple of them have gone on to establish bonafide careers in that business. If the stars aligned, and the funding gods came calling, I’d develop something of my own with some of them beside me.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Once a creative writing professor in college had the audacity to say to me “not everyone needs to be a writer”. This could not be further from the truth, and this human should never be allowed around young want-to-be writers again—though I have no idea what happened to her. Her “advice” was both the least and most helpful I have received, as it pissed me off so much that I have devoted a fair portion of my life to proving her wrong.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Assuming I could read any of the texts, I’d like to go to the Royal Library of Alexandria Egypt, prior to the Roman conquest, and soak up as much knowledge as I could. With all the radical philosophers, artists, writers, and thinkers of the ancient world collected in the halls and gardens of the Musaeum of Alexandria to ponder their insights, I could pick up on enough esoteric wisdom to become some sort of living wizard—and then use it to save the world from the forces of malignant ignorance.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I have long since stopped relying on motivation, having habitualized the process of writing to the point that I’ll feel guilty, anxious, and a bit empty if I’m not actively working to produce something. Not sure it’s the healthiest approach, but it seems to get my ass in the chair.
Also, exercise or some gentle manner of inebriation can help to reboot the mind to a more open and productive place.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Some of my favourite books are not as widely cherished as I think they deserve. Boy Wonder by James Robert Baker is an out of print, gonzo, fictional life-story of a sociopathic film producer that was an early favourite; Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist has always been a huge inspiration; and the Caine Black Knife series by Matthew Woodring Stover is damn cool and deserves more love.
Finally, would you be would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
Cold Counsel is a hard-boiled, post-Ragnarok, pitch-dark fantasy faerie tale with no sugar on top. It’s the simple story of a boy, his aunt, and his ax—where the boy is the last troll in a dying dreamland, his aunt is the withered vestige of an ancient goddess, and the ax is the haunted relic of a long dead giant king. They are bound together by the drive for revenge against those who wrought genocide on the troll race, and joined by a legendary outlaw warrior, an adept goblin witch-doctor, and a talking demon wolf along the way. It’s nightmare fuel and ferocious fun for the whole family.
Also, if teen angst, climactic weather events, and godlike dragons from world mythology are your thing, my Tipping Point Prophecy series is not one to miss!
We can certainly vouch for Cold Counsel‘s excellence (in fact, we reviewed it here)! But Chris. . . it’s getting dark, and the trees are closing in. The forest echoes dully with the clattering of bony branches, and you could swear one of them even just waved at you threateningly. Thankfully, having now answered our questions, you may activate the magical Hiveguffin Scenario Randomiser™!
. . . Your clothes transform into the finest harness of steel plate armour and riveted maille. Perhaps not the most practical getup for a forest bivouac, and you’ve still no weapons, but man oh man do you shine in the setting sun. Best of all, no bone-tree is going to be able to break through THAT! Well done!
Chris Sharp is the author of THE ELEMENTALISTS and COLD COUNSEL, both of which are available NOW.