Chris Thompson Talks flight of the stone
Q1. Hi Chris! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions! So we'll start with the basics. Who are you, where are you, and how did you start writing?
Chris: Here goes... My name is Chris Thompson and I work as a teacher in a comprehensive school near Bournemouth in England, UK. I've had a rich working life, being a heating engineer, prison inspector, even a BBC journalist for a time. But no matter what I did, I always had this desire to write. Notwithstanding this passion, and without seeming to make excuses, life always seemed to throw something at me which thwarted any serious attempts to knuckle down to write. I guess it's the same for most of us. So about six years ago, I thought “enough excuses, just get on with it,” and I did. It was a journey full of delusions and dead-ends. Many ideas didn't have legs and ended up a 'saved' file on my laptop. However, Flight of the Stone differed; it wouldn't go away. As a teacher there are some really busy times where you have to devout 110% of your time, and writing gets put on hold for months at a time. Yet still the story continued playing in my mind. I realize this sounds 'arty-farty' but it was as if the characters I created were alive and weren't going to rest idle because I was teaching — so I stuck at it until the story was completed. All in all, it was an amazing experience.
Q2. That's great that you stuck with it. It must have been an amazing experience to finally hold the finished product in your hands. What can you tell us about the story? You have me intrigued.
Chris: Flight of the Stone is essentially a story about a boy’s rite-of-passage. Elliot’s life changes when he throws a stone after being chased into a wooded copse by a pair of bullies. The flight of this stone sets off a chain of events; events which the reader can decide whether it was his destiny to fulfill or not. His subsequent adventures draw in his friends and attract the attention of some nasty creatures called Fuddles who are led by this vicious fellow called Larc. Though these characters are imaginary, most of the story is set around where I live, which is a beautiful part of England called Christchurch. I decided to do this in order to offset the fantasy aspect of the story, so it had an element of plausibility. This was because Elliot discovers he can use leylines to travel across vast distances of time and space, which does seem very far-fetched and fanciful. So when I was thinking about the story, I was able to visit many of the historical landmarks around Christchurch and imagine my characters facing their challenges in these places. For me, at least, it all became very real. Going back to my earlier point, I think this is what helped give the story legs so I could see it through to the end. Even the wood and the tree which the stone hits exists; as does the thorny hollow Elliot jumps into. I find the balance between fantasy and reality is narrowing, especially with the development of technology. Just look at the iPhone, 30 years ago such a device would have been pure fantasy, more Start Trek than reality.
Q3. Ley lines! I use them in my novel, too! Well, the story has caught my attention, and I'll be picking it up for sure. That's great that you were able to see the locations you were writing about. I was able to visit Bermuda a couple of times before I wrote about it in Progeny. Of course, Google Earth and tourist maps still came in handy, but actually being there was invaluable. I think a dream of mine is to find a location for a future project and go spend a few months there during the writing process. That would be quite an adventure, and I'm jealous that you live in such a place:) Is there a process you follow as far as gathering information and inspiration? Do you carry a notepad and pen on your walks, or does it all come to you at the keyboard?
Chris: I don't tend to write anything down when the ideas are flooding through. Instead, I just let the ideas germinate in my mind. But like you say, what is useful is immersing yourself in the landscape you're writing about. So living where I do helps so much. But as Sam (one of my characters) reflects in the story, sometimes we fail to notice much of what's around us. Our lives are so hectic we often travel distances without realizing how we got there. For me, the writer stops to examine the mundane; to look at things from a fresh perspective and see the extraordinary in the ordinary. This is what I had to get Elliot and his two friends Miles and Abbi to do. That's why I chose to use leylines and historical buildings. They were a means through which my characters could explore the story's themes. Particularly their relationships between each other and the world around them. I also wanted them to look at the boundary between the past and the present as it's often more blurred than we realize. Hopefully I did all this while keeping the story readable and accessible.
Q4. I like to ask authors about their ideal writing conditions, probably because mine have yet to become a reality (ever try writing on a couch with a 1-year old trying to hit the keys, a 2-year old saying, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy..." and your wife talking on the phone next to you? Yeah, that's been my writing world.) So I’m giving you supernatural power over the weather — what are you programming for your writing? I’m also providing you with whatever you want to eat and drink — what is it? I can arrange for you to stay anywhere you need to — where is it? I’ve also supplied you with a wardrobe — what are you wearing from it? Also, from your location, you have all kinds of views — which are you choosing? You get the idea...
Chris: It's an interesting question, but one that I've never considered until now. The reason being, as a school teacher there are very few opportunities to plan any writing. This is mainly due to teaching at ALevel which means there's a constant flow of essays to mark and feedback on. This gets worse during the two exam periods. Therefore I'm constantly snatching at any opportunity to write with both hands. Having an iPhone has helped, especially at weekends if I'm out with the family. For example, it allows me to write while in the train or waiting around a shopping centre. The thought of setting aside any dedicated time is an alien one at the moment. Of course there are the holidays but, like you say, even then it's a balancing act particularly when you've children.
Q5. So you've never fantasized about being all alone somewhere for a long time? I dream of that every day! I'd love to rent a place at the beach during the winter. Maybe someday. Is there any impression you're hoping to leave on your readers, a message they may take from the story?
Chris: There's no specific message as such. I just hope if people get around to reading Flight of the Stone they will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. But then thinking about your question again, maybe I'd like my readers to take with them the sense of optimism which drives the story; especially for younger readers. Even when facing some tough challenges, Elliot and his friends never give up. It's a theme which will continue into the sequel even though they're sure to face some really demanding situations.
Q6. So you have a sequel in the works? Is it going to be a series? Given all your past attempts at writing and the way in which Flight of the Stone grabbed you, do you see yourself eventually writing more novels in different genres?
Chris: Yes I've already started on the sequel because friends who'd read Flight of the Stone felt a sequel was a natural progression from where the story ended. Indeed some of them insisted!! Having said that, I think you're correct in assuming that one day I'd like to write a novel in another genre. I have a couple of ideas which seem to be getting their own momentum — always a good sign. But for the moment I'm going to continue working with Elliot and his friends, as they seem to have several formidable adventures coming their way. Particularly with those nauseating Fuddles growing in strength and Larc so desperate for those missing stones that he'll do anything.
Q7. So how has it been so far with the whole self promotion thing? Have you discovered any methods that seem to have worked for you?
Chris: It's still early days for me and I'm learning as I'm going. Naturally word-of-mouth got the ball rolling but as you can imagine this only takes you so far. Then Facebook 'friends' and a dedicated Facebook page picked up the ball. However, what really seems to work is IndieKindle and WoMen's Literary Café. They really put the effort in. Their Twitter and Facebook feeds help sustain a book’s profile. Plus I'm hoping they'll be able to review my book over the coming months. Then, last but by no means least, there's this interview with you. I just take the stance that everything helps — Rome wasn't built in a day. Little by little, piece by piece, ones creation finds its readership, it's niche if you like. What I like, like most authors I guess, is the feedback. It was the initial comments from friends which gave me the confidence to promote my work, as I'll admit that I'm not a natural self-publicist. So once one or two people said they were amazed at what I created, I became confident to push my work. The only frustration is some people don't like posting their comments on Amazon etc. I guess they too aren't natural publicists. But I understand where they're coming from.
Q8. Is there any period in history that fascinates you enough to one day set a story in it?
Chris: That's a fascinating question mainly because it is one of the themes in Flight of the Stone; the relationship between the past and the present. In the novel, Elliot's journeys blur the boundaries of time. He comes to realize that much of the past exists in the present, not just with historical landmarks but ideas and beliefs. I also use his capacity to travel in the way he does so I can locate his adventures in particular periods of the past which interest me. This idea is used even more in the sequel. It's not a new idea, I just want readers to consider how much of the past occupies our present, even in our own lives. Having said that, it's not a 'serious' story. It's driven by humor. Indeed, my copy-editor commented on how much warmth the humor gave to the characters, particularly Dylan, Elliot's chaperone. That was an interesting question!
Q9. That sounds like a great component to your story, and I'm excited to read it. When you're not working or writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Chris: When I'm not writing or working, I tend to take things as they come. Such as family activities, particularly walking. Living beside such a fantastic part of the UK means there are so many outside activities to get involved in. I guess it's all about finding the right balance between work, rest and play. Once you do that, everyone's happy and the imagination is free to roam.
Q10. That’s awesome! Again, I can’t wait to read it, and I wish you all the best as you continue in your writing adventures. Where can readers find Flight of the Stone and get in touch with you?
Chris: My novel Flight of the Stone is available as an ebook on Amazon. If anyone would like to contact me they can at email@example.com. I can be followed on Twitter @TwySoc
Thanks, Chris! Good luck!