Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today? I’m doing fantastic…. writing, writing, writing. With that said, let’s get right to the point of this blog posting! As you can see, I still haven’t shaken off the interview bug! I’ve got my Warrior Weekend Series, and now the ‘SciFi Shenanigans’ series that inspired my podcast with Chris Winder. You can find the podcast here if you haven’t given it a listen yet!
Until then, let’s get to the interview! As you all know, I have a template to talk to authors about their latest books and their creative process. They’ll be able to pitch the other stuff too, of course, but many authors have deep backlists. It’s hard to get into the weeds with those prolific literary giants, so I took a weed whacker to the mess. Unfortunately, there are rare occasions when the authors are so prolific that they dual publish books every month! Two books a month, it’s like some sort of sorcery! But I took a chance with Christopher, and here are the final results! The questions are in no particular order, so grab your seat while your minion makes your popcorn and enjoy the ride!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Children of All Ages……
First, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
There’s not much to say, really. I was born in Edinburgh, went to a terrible boarding school (which provides no end of material for some of my books), studied librarianship in Manchester (ditto), worked in several different places until I finally broke into the writing world with The Empire’s Corps.
It’s difficult to put my politics into words <grin>. Basically, I’m a firm believer in limited government, freedom of expression, capitalism by the rules and so on.
Oh, and I’m a loving husband and father.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I think the one that constantly surprises (most) people is that I have never served in the military unless you count a few hours at an Army Insight Day, which most people don’t. I’ve had people assuming I’ve been in everything from the British Army to the USMC; I even had someone asking about my naval service during the Falklands War. Given that I was only a couple of months old when the islands were invaded, I suppose it gives ‘Captain Kid’ a whole new meaning.
I’ll go out on a limb and assume that if you write books, you also enjoy reading them. What other genres do you enjoy reading, and how have they affected your writing?
Apart from science-fiction? I read a lot of fantasy. There’s no real way to narrow it down – I’ve read Harry Potter, Mistborn, The Killing Moon, Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell and a vast bunch of others. I used to read a lot of thrillers too, but those have tended to pall in recent years; my grandmother, may she rest in peace, got me reading Sherlock Holmes. I occasionally try to read outside my normal tastes, but that doesn’t always work.
I’ve been known to say that writers should read widely, because that’s the easiest way to learn what to do – and what not to do. There’s things in some works I don’t like, so I try to avoid doing them myself. I have a particular pet hate for books that are really nothing more than huge chapters that don’t always expand the plot, so I try to avoid them where possible. I don’t intend to read Game of Thrones until its actually finished. I know I have long series myself – Schooled in Magic is the obvious example – but I try to make sure that each book is, more or less, a complete story in its own right.
I also read a great deal of non-fiction, mainly history. I study past wars and suchlike and sometimes pattern my work on them – First Strike, which was pretty successful, is largely based on the Russo-Japanese War. I like studying how people thought back then, as well as the limitations they faced. Much of history’s inexplicable moments become quite explicable if you look at them through the eyes of the people who did them.
Who are your biggest writing influences?
Oh, dear. That could take a long time.
David Weber, Brandon Sanderson, Peter F. Hamilton, Iain M. Banks, JK Rowling … they all taught me how to do things.
There are also authors who showed me mistakes, but I trust you’ll understand when I don’t list them. <grin>
What author or book is your guilty pleasure?
I don’t see any reading as a ‘guilty pleasure,’ really. I don’t look down on people for reading books I dislike. I don’t like it when people try to shame readers for what they read and I certainly have no interest in doing it myself.
I used to spend a lot of time reading comic books, particularly the greats. But I’ve started to slip away from most of the bigger producers now. The best stuff comes from the smaller firms.
How did that love of reading lead you into the trenches of the writer’s life? If that wasn’t clear as mud, how did you transition from being an avid reader into an author?
Well … the short version of the story is that I read a pretty good book where the good guys won by sheer luck, rather than careful planning. The bad guys seemed to hold all the cards. I thought I could do better, that the story would have been more interesting if the bad guys won for a while. So I drafted out a story that would have seen the bad guys win in the first few chapters, then work from there. It didn’t get published – I have a ‘WTF was I thinking’ moment every time I look at it – but by the time it got rejected I had the writing bug.
And things went on from there.
What is your preferred writing style? Do you have a favorite point of view; first person, third person, etc.? Feel free to answer as both a reader and as an author!
As a writer, I tend to move between first person and third person, although most of my books are third-person (allowing for more POV characters). The Zero Enigma books are all first person (three told from Cat’s POV, the remainder from side characters); the remainder, more or less, is third-person.
Really, it depends on what I’m trying to write. ‘Event’ stories work better as third -person, ‘character’ stories work best as sole-POV third or first person.
As a reader, it depends on the author. First-person is pretty hard to master, at least at first; you have to really put yourself in someone’s shoes. (See all the jokes about male authors writing female characters). Third-person is easier. I can cope with both – I just don’t like second person, immediate style. It gets on my nerves.
When did you get serious about your writing as a career, as opposed to it being just a hobby?
Back when I realized my career wasn’t going anywhere. Writing seemed a way out.
What is your current novel? Can you tell us a little bit about the premise?
Really, that depends on when this interview is published.
As of ‘now,’ I’m working on Favour The Bold, which is Book 16 of The Empire’s Corps. The Empire has fallen and the Marines, amongst others, are trying to put the pieces together. And this leads to conflict …
The Empire’s Corps is apparently a series, where can we expect it to go? Give me broad stroke arcs, but no spoilers, please!
The basic idea started with a marine company being reassigned to the edge of explored space, after its commanding officer spoke truth to power (which, as everyone knows, is a death sentence.) Somewhere along the line, it split into a combination of mainstream stories following those marines and a handful of smaller stories based around the theme of exploring problems with modern-day society. I set out to teach as well as educate. The first mainstream storyline ended with Wolf’s Bane, so I’ve now started a second mainstream series with Favour The Bold.
As to where it will go … well, wait and see.
Where did you find the inspiration for The Empire’s Corps?
The original idea came from a roman legion being abandoned as the empire started to contract and grew out from there. Some elements came from history – To The Shores came out of the Boxer Rebellion – and others from current affairs. For example, Cry Wolf is focused around freedom of the press, both in the sense of government regulation and editorial bias.
Your characters from The Empire’s Corps are sent into a gladiatorial deathmatch. Who wins?
In hand-to-hand fighting? The Marine Pathfinders would probably have the edge.
Changing course for a moment, what do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence?
Generally, I prefer silence. I’ve tried listening to music, but it’s just a distraction.
Okay, and here is another random question. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?
I spent some time trying to figure out how Emily, the main character of Schooled in Magic, could make gunpowder from scratch. I think that might have raised a few eyebrows. In the end, I just handwaved the whole thing.
What was your favorite part of writing Favour The Bold?
Really, getting back to the universe of The Empire’s Corps. It’s fun to revisit old friends and pick up plot threads I crafted back when I wrote the first book. And to craft new ones as things start to spill out of control for the characters.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from Favour The Bold?
That’s a tricky question to answer – I don’t know many actors <grin>. Haydn would probably be Chris Evans, Kerri would probably be Claudia Christian – I actually had the pleasure of meeting her at a convention a couple of years ago. Derek would probably be Tom Holland, Rachel … I don’t know. Nana Visitor, perhaps.
Do you have a particular time to write? How’s your day structured?
Generally, I feed and bath the kids in the morning, then get to work. I put in around 5 hours of work per weekday, then go collect the older kid from school.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I try to do around 9000 words per day, except for the very first day of a new project.
When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them grow as the story unfolds?
A bit of both, really.
A lot depends on the story. Favour The Bold has a short plot, but I decided to let it grow naturally as I went along. Some characters have grown in ways I didn’t expect – Derek is pretty much the prime offender. Others, particularly The Zero Enigma books, are a little more constrained, although there’s a major character in The Family Pride that isn’t mentioned, at all, in the plot. I added her in as a link to a future story and … well, she grew into a far stronger presence in the book. Given how big Schooled in Magic has become – eighteen books as of writing, plus one novella – I keep being surprised by how many early characters and mentions fit into later books.
Speaking of characters, why don’t you tell us a little about the main character in Favour The Bold?
I’m not sure you could pick out a single main character in Favour The Bold, but the prime mover is Major-General Jeremy Damiani, Commandant of the Terran Marine Corps. Jeremy has basically committed himself and the corps to rebuild civilization after it collapsed. He’s certainly the one who made plans for Earthfall and everything that happened afterward, as well as being the one who put the events of the story into motion.
If Favour The Bold had a theme song what would it be?
The Infantry, by Bobby Horton. Probably.
Favor The Bold is full of many amazingly talented characters, and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?
I think Derek is my favourite, although he’s technically on the wrong side. He’s not a marine or a starship captain, but someone who got caught up in the crossfire by accident and gets changed forever. Plus he gets a chance to grow up a lot, which never gets old <grin>.
What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?
Work hard. Find your voice. Prepare for disappointment. Grow a thick skin – believe me, you’ll need it. The internet never forgets. Etc, etc. There are quite a few pieces of writing advice on my blog – https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
Finally, where can readers and future stalkers find you?
I hope you enjoy this little conversation! If you want to find out more about Christopher G. Nuttall, follow the rabbit trail to his den of insanity! (Hint, that’s his blog, where all the cool kids hang out!) If they don’t like it, beat ‘em with a carrot and keep on truckin’!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screenshots taken by JR Handley and used under the Fair Use Doctrine.
–> Some of these interview questions were inspired by my good friend TeacherofYA, and are used with her permission. If you have kids who love to read, she’s the girl who’ll make the literary introductions! You should check her out, after a lifetime of reading, your kids will thank you.