Guest Post: Q and A with Invictus Author, Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly, author of Invictus

I’ve got a Q&A today with Chris Kelly, aka @indiechris of Scathach Publishing. And I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut this intro short to jump into the burning question on everyone’s mind…

Q: Chris, info on your blog says you reside in Edinburgh, GB. Do you have an incredibly sexy accent?

A: Technically, the blog info is wrong. I live about 20 miles from Edinburgh, beside a town called Falkirk. Falkirk’s not so very big, and I was sure no one would ever have heard of it, so I put Edinburgh in. I actually live in a tiny village called Laurieston which is about a mile from Falkirk. No one will have heard of Laurieston, either.

If you were to draw a triangle with the points at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling, I’d pretty much live in the middle.

Right, that’s the geography dealt with. Now for your question. I have a fantastically sexy accent, and I’m sure you would love it. The only downside to having such a fantastically sexy accent is that it doesn’t impress my wife at all; being Scottish, she’s too used to it… She’d probably rather I was Irish.

Q: Ok, so there’s probably more to you than that. You’re on a blog tour to promote the release of your new book, Invictus. What is the book about?

A: It’s a cross genre book combining steampunk with sword and sorcery set in an alternate 1912. Matilda Raleigh is the 72 year old Duchess of Lancashire, and a retired adventuress. When the British Empire comes under threat from magic contained in ancient Incan crystal skulls, she is called in as an advisor to the newly formed secret service, because she went up against someone wielding the skulls once before. She realises that the Secret Service lied to her, and are betraying the country. It falls on her to stop the magic of the skulls and save the empire and the king, but with all her allies turning against her she has to accept help from her greatest enemies.

Q: Is this the first in a series? Should we expect more Matilda Raleigh stories in the future?

A: It’s the last in the series. At the very beginning of Invictus the reader is introduced to the idea that Matilda has consumption (tuberculosis). It is never a case of “can she defeat the evil and survive,” but rather “can she survive long enough to defeat the evil?” Having said that, I will be returning to Matilda’s life next year, going back to do a planned series of prequels. The first one will involve a plot by a necromancer to have an army of zombies take over London. At the moment, the best way to sum it up would be as a steampunk sword and sorcery urban fantasy broth.

Q: Is there a story behind the story? Is this something you’ve been working on or wanted to tell for a long time, or a more sudden inspiration?

A: I’ve had a love of steampunk for a long time. I used to run a blog called Steampunk World, but sadly I don’t have the time to update it now. But the idea for the story was fairly recent, just last year. I had it, planned it and wrote it. I originally wrote it as a 90 thousand word book for traditional publishing, but then changed it into a 50k word novella.

Q: Tell us about Scathach Publishing. Where did the name come from? What are you plans for that imprint?

A: I wanted a name that summed up my Scottishness and a sense of magic… I write different types of stories but they pretty much all fall under the umbrella of speculative fiction. I went for Kelpie first, but there was already a Kelpie publishing. After a long time considering, I finally chose Scathach because I felt it embodied my writing and my pride at being indie.

Scathach was the name of a warrior queen who lived on the Isle of Skye back in Scotland’s Mythic Age. My blog is named after her home, Dun Scaith. She taught the heroes of the day about passion; she taught them how to fight and how to love. The greatest Irish hero of all-time, Setanta (also called CuChulainn) learned how to use his magical spear from her. Shortly before each student finished his training, she would seduce him.

The themes of love and war will be evident in everything I write (although sometimes it will be familial love, or the internal war someone might have with the darkness inside them). But there’s more to it than that – sex and violence are the physical manifestations of passion, and I am very passionate about being indie. I love that I’m Indie, and I see myself as fighting for my reader’s rights to read things that aren’t safe, that aren’t mass-marketable, that essentially aren’t the thing traditional publishers would traditionally publish.

I see my fiction as being edgy, of existing just on the fringe of what is “marketable,” of being in the shadows, as it were. Which is kind of fitting, since Scathach means Shadowy, and Dun Scaith is the Fortress of Shadows…

Q: Besides this epic blog tour and marketing Invictus, what other projects are you working on right now?

A: I’m currently working on several new novels. I wrote a zombie novel in 2004. It had a lot of plot holes and problems, but the basic idea was great. I’ve went back to the idea that sparked the novel, and will soon be writing that up. The Working Title on my zombie novel is Chicks.

I’m about halfway through a cyberpunk/hardboiled novella set in a future where the sea levels rose to cover the land and people live in floating cities. Mega-corporations have taken the place of governments and the hero, Ethan, is the chief of security for the galaxies biggest cybernetics company. Its book one in a series, and Ethan has to juggle trying to solve a series of cyborg murders with becoming the sole parent of a cocky 14 year old girl that he’s had no contact with for 13 years. Right now it’s called Cyborg Killer, and I hate that title.

I’ve written a novel about two people who end up in another world where the characters of fictional books exist. They end up in a Victorian London based world, peopled by such characters as Sherlock Holmes, the Time Traveller, Dracula, the Lilliputlians, Professor Challenger and hundreds more. It’s the first book in a trilogy, but before it can come out I have to find ways to resolve copyright issues with it.

I have an almost finished YA Arthurian novel, book one of seven. I have a completely plotted Pratcheskian fantasy (ie like Terry Pratchett’s) about a heroic quest. And big businesses, and modern celebrity culture. I’ve wrote the beginning. I have possibly another six WIPS (it gets hard to keep track of them all). Oh, and of course, the prequel to Invictus.

I find it impossible to write one story at a time, or stick to one genre for a full career.

I also have two secret projects directly related to Invictus. One is a non-fiction project, and the other will hopefully be ready for release soon. And I’m saying no more about them than “they exist.” Lol.

My immediate project, however, is Nasty, Foul-Smelling, Mean-Spirited, Ugly Little Goblinses.

It’s a YA book about a 14 year old homeless girl whose been living rough in Glasgow. She meets a goblin and a princess who currently inhabits the body of a three feet high Barbie. The three of them are the only ones in the world who know Santa has gone evil, and intends to kidnap naughty children, forcing them to work in his toy making factories. It’s a story about the nature of freedom, the meaning of Christmas, sex, love and tinsel.

I’m really excited about it, actually.

Me: I am too. That sounds fantastic!

Q: How did you become aware of indie publishing, and what made you decide it was the way to go for you?

A: In 2004 I had the idea to set up my own publishing imprint. I was hanging around a Runboard forum called Scribes where lots of aspiring authors moaned about getting publishing deals. Or not getting them, to be fair. Anyway, I mentioned my plan to go indie, and everyone tried to talk me out of it. Only one person saw the potential in it that I saw. His name was Alan Baxter, and he went on to set up Red Blade Press. I think he’d had the idea before we discussed it, but we both figured then that this was what we wanted to do.

I spent the next few years trying to get stories to work. Eventually I had an idea. I wrote the full novel in three weeks (from conceiving the idea to having a fully finished edited novel). I’d never written so fast, or so good. It was the book I mentioned above, about the other world of Victorian literary characters. My beta reader loved it, but pointed out some copyright issues, and told me he doubted it would ever be published.

I started working on Invictus, fighting to stretch what was essentially a 50k word story into something between 80k and 120k thousand for traditional publishing. If I could only get a contract, I was sure that after a few books I could persuade a publisher to take a chance on my copyrighted novel. I started hanging out on agents blogs, and found two in particular that I loved. One was Kirsten Nelson, and the other Nathan Bransford.

Despite loving these agents, I hated the ideas behind traditional publishing. I hated synopsises. I hated queries. I didn’t want to give away my rights, my freedoms. I sent queries to people who helped you fix query problems. “It sounds like the heroine dies,” came the reply. “Change that.” How could I, when my heroine dies? I’d have to change the ending of the book.

And then Nathan Bransford changed my life. He made a blog post about the validity of “indie” publishing. And one particularly die hard indie author, who is everywhere on the internet fighting for indies to be accepted, was named commentor of the week. Her post changed my whole outlook on everything, took me right back to the arguments me and Alan had with all the pro-trad authors on Scribes, and I just knew Indie was for me.

So I started stalking Zoe Winters online for a while, just to make sure… and Scathach Publishing was born.

Q: You ran the Indie Blog Carnival that I participated in back in August. Where did you get the idea for that, and were you pleased with how it went?

A: I mentioned before that I used to run a steampunk writing blog. It’s still floating around in the ether (just google Steampunk World) but I no longer post new content. Anyway, I participated in a blog carnival on Steampunk RPGs. I did a list of ten possible plots.

When I set up Dun Scaith, I had a few disparate ideas. One, I wanted to get my blog out to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Two, I wanted to pay it forward by helping other indies (Zoe and Alan both helped me out, and still do when I need advice. But there was nothing I could really offer them). Three, I wanted to start out putting the seeds down for an idea I have. It’s the idea that indies should work together to promote each other, and to help each other. We may not have the validity, the financing or the experience of traditional publishers, but I believe indies are closer to the readers, and are more adaptable than the big publishers. And if we can all work together to build a grassroots community it will benefit ourselves and each other. We’re not each other’s competition because we’re selling one purchase products. A reader isn’t likely to buy multiple copies of your book. If he has money for more than one book, then he’ll probably buy yours, mine and Zoe’s (as an example).

So if we all cross-promote each other’s work, it will be beneficial to us all. I’m still trying to work out the best ways of making this a success.

The carnival was much bigger and better than I expected. I thought I’d be lucky to get ten people involved. Even on the day it went out people were randomly writing blogs to take part without telling me. I had to constantly watch loads of different blogs. I was lucky not to miss any. It took a full day of sitting by my computer doing little else other than jumping from blog to blog. I had to read every blog so I could sum it up and post what it was about. I did this at 7am, after coming off night shift.

I think there were about 18 blogs involved, but I never got around to counting them. Looking at the stats on my blog is really interesting. It goes 8, 5, 12, 59, 103, 46, 47. Obviously the carnival brought with it a ridiculously high amount of traffic (for my blog). I think it was a great success for everyone else, too. I had people asking afterwards if I would do another one because they’d wanted involved, but hadn’t found out about it until afterwards, when it was already too late. I plan to do another one, probably nearer the end of November. It will be on a new topic, but I’m not sure what exactly.

Q: Now, who is this Chris Kelly person? What should we know about you?

A: Despite any rumours, I have never killed anyone. Honest. Ha, I always have issues with this, because how do we define ourselves? A lot of people define themselves through work – I’ve had over 70 jobs, including almost every fast food place in Falkirk except McDonalds. I’ve worked in call centres, sold gas, looked after bouncey castles at the fair, did my basic training in the Royal Navy, worked as an electrician’s apprentice, a plasterer’s mate, been in various warehouses, worked in two old folk’s homes, as a barman, as a paintball marshall, and loads more.

Other people define themselves through their education – I started studying a degree in biology at sixteen, when I left high school. Sixteen is too young to have that much responsibility, and I ended up drinking way more than I should (yes, I know it isn’t actually legal. I don’t drink anymore). I’ve studied drama, business (failed the accounts), creative writing (I swear I had to explain several different things to the head lecturer; that’s when I knew they couldn’t teach me a thing, and that’s not arrogance – it was a bottom level course.)

I had no interest in anything, no aptitude for anything except writing. Then in January I lost my warehousing job due to a slight disability that affects the tendons and ligaments in my right hand (my writing hand) and means I can’t do any heavy lifting. Faced with unemployment, I managed to get onto a college course in film and radio, and I loved it. I did so well that I skipped a year, going straight into the HNC in September (instead of the NC). My radio assessment was so good that the lecturers made this year’s class listen to it as an example of “what to do.” My films also rock, and I love doing it.

Now I volunteer in hospital radio, I’m studying for an HNC in Creative Industries Television, and I have no idea what this means for my future. My first love is still to write.

To define myself through relationships, I’m married to a wonderful woman named Lynn. We started dating when I was seventeen, and she was fifteen, and are each other’s first loves. I have 3 fantastic daughters. My six year old is called Star, named after a Lost Boys character. My four year old is called Kayla, and my two year old is KC (pronounced Kaycie).

And to define myself through me: My name’s Chris, and I’m a writer.

Ha. A published one 🙂

Me: Ok, possibly the Star/Lost Boys thing makes Chris my new hero or long-lost brother or something.

Q: Let’s hear about some of your favorites: books, authors, movies, TV, color, food, music, Disney Princess. Tell us what you like.

A: Favourite Disney Princess would have to be Jasmine, she’s a cutie. No, I’ve just always loved Scheherezade’s Arabian nights. I love the whole fantasy with an exotic flavour. My favourite author is Terry Pratchett because, over the course of all his books, he’s just fantastic. My favourite Terry Pratchett book is Guards! Guards! There’s just something about Carrot that I love. On the other hand, my favourite ever-ever book is Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. If you’ve never read it, you really need to. It’s amazing. My favourite writer is a guy called David Meadows. He’s been the beta reader on a lot of things I’ve wrote, and his short stories are amazing. I’ve been asking him for years to try and get published, but he just isn’t fussed. He simply enjoys writing. He’s going to be guest posting on my blog this month.

I need to persuade him to go indie. I’m putting this in because he’s following my blog tour, but not commenting. David, go indie. And comment, for goodness sake…

My favourite character is Peter Pan (he’s one of the ones giving me copyright problems in the book I mentioned above). My favourite movies are Lost Boys and Kickass. For TV, you can’t beat Buffy or Firefly, and for internet programmes if you haven’t seen Felicia Day’s the Guild, you need to check it out. Felicia Day is my favourite actress, Jason Statham my favourite action hero. Although he would make a poor Conan.

I love Druss the Legend (from the David Gemmell books) and my favourite colour is Lilac. It’s just so pretty…

Q: Ok, how about something you don’t like. Got a pet peeve?

A: I don’t like the attitude lots of people have towards self-publishing. Read my book before you decide it’s crap. Or awesome. I’m a big believer in personal freedom, that people should be allowed to do whatever they want (unless it impacts on someone else’s ability to do what they want) so things that take freedom away really wind me up. But my biggest pet peeve, the thing I hate most of all, is the way Americans mangle dates. 12/25 isn’t Christmas, it’s lunchtime. Christmas is 25th of the 12th. Silly colonials… 🙂

Q: Now we know why you’ve gone indie. Could you tell us why you write?

A: I can’t stop. Looking back over my answers on here, I’ve given you a story to most of the questions you have asked. I tell stories all the time. My kids ask how my day was, and I always fit a crocodile or alien abduction in there somewhere. I constantly make things up. There’s always a part of my brain that is having a conversation with itself no matter what the rest of me is doing (well, there are one or two exceptions that quiet the voices inside me).

I’ve written everyday of my life nearly (well, since I could write). I spent one summer holiday during my school years with writers block. It was horrible. Since then, I’ve barely went two days without writing, and when I haven’t wrote, I’ve been a moany git.

Writing is what I do to relax.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

Invictus, by Chris Kelly

A: Absolutely, I love to talk. Matilda Raleigh, heroine of Invictus, loves to talk, too. Find her on twitter as @MatildaRaleigh. You can also check out my new blog, for my upcoming Goblins where I will be blogging every bit of creating and writing the book, every random idea and plot spin, every chapter as it is written. You’ll be able to follow along on a journey that few people ever see, the creation of a novel.

I’m also on facebook, and I have a Scathach Facebook fan page.

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3 Comments

Filed under books, Guests, interviews, self-publishing, writing

3 responses to “Guest Post: Q and A with Invictus Author, Chris Kelly

  1. Lauralynn Elliott

    I’ve always wondered what you were like when I saw you commenting on Zoe’s blog. Now every time I see a comment by you, I’ll have an awesome, sexy accent in my mind.

    We have at least one thing in common…we love to see Jason Statham in action. LOL

    It was great getting to know you better on this post. :0)

  2. Pretty cool you started the story at the end. I’m not sure if it’s a unique concept, but it’s a unique idea to me. I’ve seen books with a single scene from the end, but never a complete novel. Cool!

    It’ll be interesting to see how the cross-genres work for you. I know with traditional publishing, authors are pressed to stay within one genre. For me, my ideas span across several. I hate the idea of never being able to tell the stories because it doesn’t fit in my current genre. Or forced into a genre I’ve tapped out in my mind.

    Zoe Winters was/is a huge motivator for me also. It’s amazing to see so many others find her as an inspirational source also.

  3. @Susan thanks for the interview, great questions.

    @Lauralynn thanks… yep, Jason Stratham is awesome.

    @Reena David Gemmell did essentially the same thing with Legend but, yeah, I think’s it just the two of us.

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