Please welcome Author Christopher J Valin to THE KATY today! Read to the end for an AWESOME giveaway!
Christopher J. Valin is a writer, teacher, artist, and historian living in the Los Angeles area. He began writing as a child, starting with stories he could use to create his own comic books, eventually leading to short stories, songs, poems, screenplays, teleplays, and novels. He received his masters’ degree with honors in military history from American Military University and his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Christopher is the 5x-great-grandson of Sir Charles Douglas, the subject of his book, Fortune’s Favorite: Sir Charles and the Breaking of the Line.
In addition to writing and inking for independent comic book companies and writing screenplays for production companies, Christopher has had numerous short stories published in anthologies such as Capes & Clockwork: Superheroes in the Age of Steam (Parts 1 & 2) and Doomed: Tales of the Last Days. His screenplays, teleplays, and stories have won several awards and contests. His latest novel is Sidekick, the first book in the YA series The Red Raptor Files, about a teenage superhero.
Christopher never actually decided to become a writer, because he has been writing stories as far back as he can remember. “Watching reruns of the ‘60s Adam West Batman show when I was very young started me on my lifelong love of comic books and superheroes, and I started writing and drawing my own comic books when I was probably six or seven. Around the same time, I saw Star Trek and that became an obsession with me that I thought couldn’t be topped until a few years later when the original Star Wars came out. That movie pretty much blew my mind, and I’ve been such a big fan of that franchise that I appeared in a documentary about Star Wars fans called The People vs. George Lucas (which is on Netflix, unless they’ve taken it down recently).” From there Christopher devoured all the Science Fiction and Fantasy books, movies, and TV shows he could find. “I remember in middle school, I would ride my bike for miles to the nearest bookstore to spend my saved-up allowance and lawn-mowing money to buy the Lord of the Rings books, the John Carter of Mars books, and the Dune series. And the Frazetta art books were among my favorites also. In high school I really got into Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, and a bunch of other Sci-Fi authors.”
Christopher has written in many different forms, including screenplays and short stories. “But as far as actively getting published, I started writing short stories to submit to anthologies and magazines almost ten years ago after I was one of the winners of a Star Trek fan fiction contest that was officially sponsored by CBS. The contest itself was for a script in which Captain Kirk and Captain Picard met (both in their primes, not like in the movie Generations), and I had been concentrating on writing screenplays and teleplays for about ten years prior to that. But then I started submitting short stories to their other contests, and that really got the ball rolling for me as far as short stories. Shortly after that, I completed my master’s thesis for my degree, and I decided to expand it into a book and try to get it published.
The first several published stories of mine, as well as the history/biography book about my 5x-great-grandfather that began as my master’s thesis, were done traditionally by small presses. But when I wrote my first novel, Sidekick, I started hearing about the indie publishing revolution that was going on and looked into it. After reading a few books like Write, Publish, Repeat, I decided that was the way to go, because I became convinced that traditional publishing is on the way out (or at least going through a major evolution) and that if someone is willing to put the time and energy into self-publishing they can be successful and also call the shots. I started with a collection of short stories as a practice run, which became Tres Puercos and Other Dark Tales.
When I decided to self-publish, I asked a friend of a friend, Megg Jensen, for some advice, and she introduced me to a community of great indie authors and their readers who are all very supportive of one another. One of those readers, Aletia Meyers, connected me with the Future Chronicles group, which is run by the great and powerful Samuel Peralta. He’s a fantastic author and poet in his own right who has curated a series of anthologies that are always top sellers and have great stories. I posted a link to a story I had written, which is the first step in his process of choosing authors. Then, when he posted that he was going to publish a Chronicle Worlds anthology of stories set in Nick Webb’s Legacy Fleet universe, I asked if I could write a story since I love that universe and wanted to contribute to it. He signed me up, and then I had to write the story and make sure it was up to snuff. Because it’s also part of Kindle Worlds, Samuel is going to call it an Alt. Chronicles title instead of the usual Chronicle Worlds, which is his series of anthologies based in one author’s universe.”
Christopher, like many others, feel that people like escape when they read and watch stories, and Science Fiction helps them to do that. “The idea of traveling through space, walking on alien worlds, and interacting with technology we can only imagine is very powerful. But it also helps us to look at problems and solutions without getting into real-life politics and situations that might otherwise turn people off to the ideas presented.”
Are you a plotter or a panster? Or a planster?
I’d say I’m a planster, because I try to have an outline, but I’m not very good about it. I definitely prefer the panster method, but I also understand that having an outline is like going to the dentist: It may not be enjoyable, but if you don’t do it, you’re probably going to end up with a bunch of holes that need to be filled. I usually have at least a basic outline, and often I’ll even write the ending first so that I know where I’m headed. But I don’t get too detailed, because that takes the spontaneity out of it for me, and doesn’t allow me to be at my best creatively. Also, if I box myself in too much, then a lot of times I’ll either have to ignore a great idea that doesn’t fit, or completely change my outline anyway to fit in a new idea that I can’t resist.
I see you’re into comic books! If you could become any superhero for a week, who would you choose and why?
I have to say Batman. I’ve been a huge Batman fan for as long as I can remember, so I feel like if I had the choice, it would have to be him. But, since some people claim he isn’t really a “superhero” because he doesn’t have any powers, if I had to choose a superpower, it would be to fly. Like most people, I’ve dreamt of flying my whole life, so it would definitely be cool to be able to do that.
Why do comic books (and movies) hold such a draw for people?
I think it helps people to imagine that they can do things that they can’t do in real life. That’s something that begins when we’re kids, and (for many of us, anyway) it continues into adulthood. Humans have always had their heroes, legends, and gods, and comic book superheroes have struck that same chord over the past century. When we see the Avengers or the Justice League up on the screen, we’re getting the same enjoyment as people did hundreds of years ago when they heard stories about their own mythologies. In some cases, they’re even the same heroes, such as Thor.
What type of writing do you prefer (short stories, novels, screenplays, comic books, it seems you’ve done it all!)
Wow, that’s a tough question. Partially, it depends on my mood. I have the most experience writing screenplays and teleplays, so they tend to be easier for me. But I feel like I have more freedom with short stories and novels. With a screenplay and (especially) a teleplay, you have to follow a pretty strict structure as far as page counts and when certain things have to happen. But a novel can go on for pretty much as long as you want.
What scientific advancement do you feel is right around the corner?
From what I’ve read, scientists seem to be getting pretty close to unlocking the secrets to aging and figuring out ways to slow it down, which I find fascinating. It will be so strange in the future if it starts to be like the Justin Timberlake film In Time, where an adult’s parents look like they’re the same age as them.
Do any of your characters represent you as a whole or someone you know? Or are they qualities you admire in others?
I have to admit I use parts of myself and people I know because I think it makes the characters more realistic. Usually I take personality traits or even things that have happened to them and mix and match, although I did write a story once where the character is based pretty closely on my brother Tim, who is a great guy and a very interesting person. The personality of Sawyer, the main character in Sidekick, is a lot like me when I was a teenager, although his life and circumstances are completely different.
Are there any genres of literature or movies that you won’t read or watch? What’s your favorite genre to read/watch?
There’s no doubt that my favorite things to read/watch all fall under the broad category of sci-fi/fantasy, which usually includes superheroes and comic books (although I’m aware that some people put them in a separate category). What I can’t stand to watch are reality shows (even though my family actually appeared on one) and daytime talk shows (although I’ve always enjoyed the late night ones), because I watch TV and movies to escape, not to be a voyeur into the lives and problems of other people. I’ve also gotten tired of most of the procedurals that are always on the networks. As far as reading goes, I’m not a big fan of the romance genre, although I do think it’s almost always a necessary part of most stories. I have nothing against the genre, it just doesn’t interest me much personally.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
It gets repeated a lot, but there’s a reason for it (that reason being that it’s the best advice an author can give): Keep writing! Stop making excuses for not writing, and don’t stop just because you’ve finished something and you’re waiting to hear back on it. Something may or may not happen with it, but, in the meantime, you need to move on to something new.
Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
Yes! This week (August 18) the Alt. Chronicles: Legacy Fleet anthology is released by Samuel Peralta, and next week (August 24) Beyond the Stars: At Galaxy’s Edge is coming out from Patrice Fitzgerald, and both of these have my stories in them. Next up is the sequel to Sidekick, which will be called Super-Team: The Red Raptor Files – Part 2 and then my Legacy Fleet novel for Kindle Worlds, tentatively titled Formidable.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just thank you so much for having me on your blog! It was a pleasure.
Thank you for joining me on THE KATY today, Christopher!