I happened on this gentleman when I came across his article, Designing Characters Using Mind Maps at SellingBooks.com. I very much liked the graphic organizer he used, commented on it and invited him to be a guest. So today, as part of Wednesday’s craft and/or author days, I present to you young adult author Christopher Wills, writing as C. R. Wills.
Welcome, Chris! Tell us a bit about yourself:
I wrote my first book, Call me Aphrodite, about a teenager who ran away from home and ends up in London having lost her memory. It has some uncomfortable scenes in it so although I say it’s YA it’s more A than Y. I used to be a teacher of 13 – 19 year olds in a good Roman Catholic school and I got the story from seeing a pupil disappear. I asked her friends where she was and was told she’s run away to London. l ended up reading a report on the Barnardo’s website (a British charity that looks after children who have had a tough time). The report was about child prostitution in London and my story was born. It was a story I felt I had to write.
I designed the cover myself because I wanted to do it all myself, probably more ego than sense… I’m going to get a professional to design my next cover.
My current book is much lighter, it’s a YA ghost story (Okay, it’s my Harry Potter genre attempt). It’s definitely Y and not so much A. I wrote it during 2009’s National Novel Writer’s Month (a.k.a., NaNoWriMo, which runs every November) in and I’m now editing it. I love NaNoWriMo.
I give you so much credit for NaNoWriMo, Chris. Never had the discipline to take that on. And you go on to prove that time very well spent, as all of the books you mention in this article appear to be products of NaNoWriMo. Tell us about other aspects of your life.
I have been a soldier in the ranks, a sailor as an officer and a teacher of Physics and Math. I have three degrees, A BS in Electronics, an MBA and an MA in Creative and Critical Writing. Currently I work for air traffic control in the UK as a technical author. I have just started my three year plan to become a full time fiction author. The ebook revolution may (hopefully) speed things up.
I am a positive person myself and I love the positivity I get from your blog. No negative karma there.
I so thank you! These are the moments one is so happy to be putting oneself out there to the world. J
What do love best about writing?
I am happy to be left alone, so I love the solitude of writing and being in the world I have created. (I can so relate; must be a writer-thing.) It’s as good as reading. Also I love problem solving because when I write I create problems for myself that I need to solve. Sometimes it would be easier to ignore the problem and write around it, but I can’t do that.
A good example is in the book I am writing at the moment. It’s a paranormal about a 15-year-old girl who becomes a ghost after a road accident. It’s an adventure about her looking for her dad who passed away when she was young. She believes he will also be a ghost so she sets off to find him.
Unfortunately one of my previous incarnations was as a Physics teacher and I am used to asking and answering silly questions. Of course I had to start asking myself questions like, “How can a ghost walk through a wall but not fall through the floor?” (Great question!) And, “If a ghost is invisible how come her clothes are invisible too?” (Why would a ghost wear clothes, lol?) When I was a teacher these are exactly the kind of questions I was faced with every day, not that ghost studies was on the curriculum. This was the part of teaching I loved: taking knowledge the pupil has and accepts, and using it to get them to understand something they don’t understand.
What do you like least?
Nothing. I am currently a technical author so I write engineering manuals all day and I enjoy that. If pushed I would say I get frustrated when I see a piece of writing that I think I could improve but the author thinks otherwise. I run a creative writing group and I often get to read and constructively advise others.
What keeps you writing?
The need to justify to myself that I am a writer. I have friends who paint and knit and take photographs in their spare time and they all have output to show as a result of their efforts. I want to have a shelf full of books and be able to say, ‘I wrote them’.
Where do you get story and character ideas?
I may have made myself creative by reading and writing a lot. Also I draw mind maps and other types of diagrams, which I think are amazing ways to stimulate you. There is no such thing as, I can’t draw; scribbling and doodling is drawing; just doodle to a theme or to a question and you will stimulate your brain. (I like that perspective.)
Ideas are floating all around us like word clouds. When I need an idea I pluck a cloud from the air, unravel it and copy down the words or phrases I find useful, then I scrunch them back together into a cloud and throw it up in the air so somebody else can use them. (Interesting image.)
Talk about current, past and future projects, upcoming releases, maybe your ‘dream novel’?
I have more ideas for novels than I could possibly write in a lifetime. My ghost book is my current project. It’s my Harry Potter replacement attempt. I’m sure everyone’s tried it, although, maybe I should be trying to emulate Amanda Hocking. I don’t think I could write in her field so her crown is safe. (She’s done amazingly well and now a full-time writer herself, proving, it can happen.)
Please tell our readers how you juggle work, time to write and all that goes along with it (i.e., promo, etc).
Although I have been writing for years it has been haphazard, and only this year have I started to treat it more formally in a business sense. I completed nanowrimo in 2003, 2008 and 2009. My recently self-published novel, ‘Call me Aphrodite’ was my 2003 NaNoWriMo project. The ghost novel I am currently working on is my 2009 NaNoWriMo. I plan to do it every year because it gives me 50,000+ words of editable text, which for me is about 2/3 of a novel.
I was inspired by reading J A Konrath’s blog, that now is the time of the independent self published e-book writer. I realized I had to get into a schedule if I wanted to join in. So this year I decided to get up at 0500 and do an hour’s writing Monday to Friday. It’s an hour earlier than I normally get up, so I try to go to bed an hour earlier and often it means I fall asleep in my chair in the evening for twenty minutes but that’s okay. I used to try and write in the evening but I was always mentally tired after work so it was difficult. It works. I love my hour of quiet in the morning. My mind is fresh and I can write uninterrupted. Wonderful. (I can so relate about the magic of that quiet time. That’s probably my biggest challenge these days: too much activity in my home for too many hours of the day.)
Please share the three ways you find most effective to promote your work!
This is my weak point. Everyone says one must blog and tweet, which I do, but I wonder how many book readers buy books on the strength of blogs and tweets. I have a feeling it’s a bit like selling lemonade from a table outside your house; it’s not exactly Walmart or Barnes and Noble. I am currently learning about tagging which I think can help.
Tagging has me a little confused but we’ll be exploring that topic next Wednesday, when the bloglight will again be all yours, Chris. Until then, please feel free to check out Chris’ very cool blog as well as his books. And, as per Chris’ request, should any of you happen on Call Me Aphrodite at Amazon he’d appreciate a tag or two. Here are the links:
Call me Aphrodite is available here.
Here’s a blurb (very intriguing!) Aged 13 and alone in London, Aphrodite has lost her memory. She desperately wants to know who she is, but the more she learns, the more she becomes afraid to learn.
Call me Aphrodite is the story of a 13 year old girl, dragged from the river Thames by Leon a young boy who lives with his prostitute sister. She calls herself Aphrodite because she can’t even remember her own name. What dark secrets are behind the locked doors inside her head? What is her mind trying to protect her from?
As she struggles to forge a new life for herself, she is forced into the dangerous world of under-aged prostitution by a collection of twisted characters that both terrify and fascinate her. Then one traumatic night a shocking event smashes through the barriers in her mind, and the real horror of what she has gone through in her past is revealed to her. Aphrodite has paid a terrible price to regain her memory. What can she do next?
She can’t change her past. Can she change her future? To read more, click here.
Chris’ post on using mindmaps for creating characters is here! (Worth a look, I promise!)
Thanks so much, Chris, for stopping by and giving us the opportunity to know you as well as sharing some of the knowledge you’ve gained on your writing journey to date. See you next Wednesday!
And thanks to all of you who stopped in today. Don’t forget to drop by on Friday. I’ve got a special post lined up in honor of my wedding anniversary. See you then!