I am a high school theatre teacher and a fantasy author. A typical school day for me involves 6 classes of teaching drama, followed by six hours of after-school rehearsal for an upcoming production. Most of my first drafts are devised during summers, when I only teach part-time, and then are edited during my “free time” during the school year. I live with my wife, who is a romance author and a fundraiser, outside of Washington DC.
I first seriously attempted writing in college. As an undergraduate, I wrote a young adult novel that took me ten years, tons of rewrites, and ended up being “shelved” in a file on my computer. It’s never been published.
In 2011, I finished my graduate degree with a semester abroad at Oxford. As part of my time overseas, I decided to travel somewhere completely different at least once a week. On one of those trips, I found myself stranded in Tintagel, Cornwall, the supposed birthplace of King Arthur.
I’d slept little, searching for a pub that’d let me spend the night. Before dawn, I crept out onto a promontory overlooking the area. There were no people, and I was alone on a fifty-foot cliff, attacked on every side by fierce winds. I clung to the rocks, struggling to stay on, feeling completely alone. I imagined a character totally alone, attacked from every direction. In the earliest draft, the character was a boy, but I soon changed it to a girl, alone in a world where she was the only girl.
I love this story and how it relates to the birthplace of King Arthur. I’d love to visit Tintagel some day! I’ve always been a big fan of the Arthurian legends.
You work as a drama teacher at a high school. What is your favorite part about being a teacher?
I like encouraging kids through the subjects I’m most passionate about. Theatre and writing are my two greatest passions, and I’m fortunate to pursue both professionally. Seeing kids grow is the most rewarding part- for example watching a shy kid who won’t talk to anyone appear onstage or take such as an interest in tech that they decide to pursue it professionally- those are moments you feel truly proud.
In addition to writing, you spend your summers singing. Please tell us more! Do you ever sing in the shower or while driving in your car?
I sing a LOT. I’ve sung in choirs, solo performances, and yes in the shower and the car. One of my favorite singing experiences was when a local group was involved with performing live music to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, at Wolftrap Park for the Performing Arts. The movies were shown on an enormous outdoor screen, in a version with all the music taken out. We had a full orchestra, 50 voice children’s choir, and a 150 voice adult choir, which I was a member of. It was difficult music, but tons of fun.
Ah! Lord of the Rings, one of my favorites. This sounds like it was fabulous!
When you are working on a book, what does your writing process look like?
I start with what I call a “developed idea.” This is usually a scenario involving a loose concept and some form of characters and plot. I keep a journal with developed book ideas- and currently have over twenty, spanning many genres. Then I gather a loose collection of images. These are concrete pictures, scenes that I can see, like tableaux, in my mind. I don’t yet know how they’ll connect. After that, I do an extremely loose outline, sometimes a single handwritten scrawled page. Then I just draft, connecting the images together, moving from beginning to end. After the first draft is done, I wait a while, re-read everything, and start to edit.
If you could pick one song to bring you inspiration, what would you choose?
“Transcendence” by Lindsey Stirling.
Please tell us about your new release.
“Sword of Deaths” is the second novel in The Scythe Wielder’s Secret trilogy. I expanded the writing a lot, by switching from one point of view to three, something I ended up continuing through the third novel as well. Many new characters are introduced, and the series takes a darker, and more epic fantasy feel.
THE SCYTHE WIELDER'S SECRET CONTINUES
Susan Sarnio made a choice, and will spend the rest of her life as the only female Death. Last year she was bullied and ostracized. Now, to her complete bewilderment, four Deaths vie for her affection. Yet, something is terribly wrong at the College of Deaths. When a ship carrying scythe metal is attacked, many blame the newly-freed Elementals, but Susan knows the Elementals are innocent.
Shadows from the distant past come to light. Dragons circle the horizon, blood spills, and nothing is what it seems. Susan and her friends struggle to stop a war. They search for the fabled First Scythe, hoping to sway the balance, but who is the true enemy?
“What’s going on over there?” asked Billy.
The throng grew, moving toward the Sea with raised voices.
“Let’s find out,” said Frank.
Suzie, Billy, and Frank joined the crowd. They lost sight of Eshue, then saw him behind them. The city poured toward the Port.
“Never seen anything like it,” said a voice.
“Just there on the water?”
“You can see it now.”
“How could this happen?”
So many shouts, so much noise. Frank could hardly make out the sentences, but sensed the anxiety.
Fire and blood. With a pang, the image returned to his mind. The jumbles dissolved into a single image of fire on water. Past and future collided to form a single warning for the present.
They rounded a bend and the endless sea emerged before them.
It was on fire.
No, not the sea. A massive plume of smoke billowed toward Mors. Beneath it, a large boat floated toward the Port. Flames soared up from the sides of the ship. It limped through the waters, listing violently to one side. Enormous tongues of red and gold flame licked the sky. Frank’s eyes watered from blowing smoke.
“That’s a mortamant ship,” said a Death near him.
“How could this happen?” said another.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“It must be the ’Mentals,” said another.
Smaller vessels circled the massive craft, but the Deaths seemed unable to do anything. The large ship hit the side of a long pier. With a crash louder than thunder, half of the burning ship fell into the sea.
The Deaths around him surged forward.
“Fire!” shouted a voice. “’Mentals did this. ’Mentals!”
Even if ’Mentals had done this, the Deaths deserved it. Yet, the fire seemed wrong. Why would his people target a boat?
The angry chants grew louder. A hand grabbed Frank and spun him around.
“You see what happens when you touch the Lethe,” said Eshue. He glared with wild eyes, then spun away and darted into the throng of Deaths.
“We should get back to the College,” said Billy.
“How,” replied Frank. “If Eshue blames us for touching the water, will the other captains give us passage?”
Billy, Suzie, and Frank ran through the crowds. They halted at the large globe on the beach.
“What’s happening?” asked Suzie. “Why is everyone panicking? I know the boat was attacked, but shouldn’t people be trying to help?”
“That ship was carrying mortamant,” said Billy. “The metal for scythes. If they’ve lost a shipment that large, the entire World of the Dead will be affected.”
“Maybe it was an accident,” said Frank.
“Accident or not, they seem to think it was a ’Mental attack. This city’s going to turn ugly fast,” said Billy. “If they were using ’Mentals to stop bullets before this happened, I don’t want to see what they’ll do now.”
The implication hit home. They blamed the ’Mentals. Whether justified or not, if the Deaths learned he was a ’Mental in disguise there’d be problems.
“Let’s get our stuff and get out of here,” said Billy.
“Eshue said we can’t use the boat,” said Suzie.
“We’ll find something else.”
* * * *
Frank let the beautiful creature do the work. The sleek, white horses were calm and graceful. He’d never ridden before. Turning in the saddle, he saw Suzie clutching Billy’s waist. Of course they’d ride together, while Frank rode alone.
“Hurry up!” shouted a horseman in front of them. They’d spent the rest of their money to secure the two horses, and rode with a larger group.
The land route to the College would take an extra two days. None of the other Deaths said a word to them.
Behind him, against the sinking sun, the city of Mors seemed calm. Yet, the Deaths buzzed with anger.
None had survived the ship’s attack. A huge amount of mortamant was lost. Everyone blamed the ’Mentals. In every street, he’d heard whispers of war.
Whatever progress they’d made by defeating Sindril, seemed lost now.
The visions were true; they always were. This was just the beginning.
Woo hoo! This book sounds so good, it gives me the chills. Where can readers find you? Website, Facebook, etc?
Thanks so much for visiting the blog today, Christopher! I can’t wait to get a copy of your new book. Readers, please feel free to leave questions and comments for Christopher below!