[Interview, Part 1 of 2] Chris Hoare, author of ‘The Wildcat’s Victory’
Fantasy and science fiction author, Christopher Hoare’s three novels, Deadly Enterprise (Double Dragon Publishing, 2007), The Wildcat’s Victory (Double Dragon Publishing, 2008) and Arrival (Double Dragon Publishing, 2008), are set in a 17th century alternative world and revolve around the lives of the people of the stranded starship, Iskander.
Currently he is working on another book in the the Iskander series.
In this, the first of a two-part interview, Chris Hoare speaks about his concerns as a writer.
How would you describe your writing?
While I also write fantasy and supernatural humour, most of my work now is on an Alternate History/Science Fiction adventure series about the people of the stranded starship Iskander on a 17th century alternate world. It combines sociology (the science) with some anachronistic additions to sword and gunpowder swashbuckling.
Since the early 1980s, I have never got far with any project that draws on my own experience in various areas of the oil business, including exploration in N. African desert and the Arctic. It seems that I’ve not yet managed to negotiate the narrow path between real events and fiction that Rudy Wiebe pointed out to me.
Who is your target audience?
I think I write primarily for women of active imagination. Since older women buy most of the fiction published today, I’m glad that my fascination with the daring and clever Security Officer, Gisel Matah (from the Iskander), ties in with their reading habits.
I am always torn between writing stories that appeal on a pleasure level and ones that point up the illusions of life.
I prefer to write the kinds of stories that I enjoy. On the other hand, I would hope to have some aspects buried in the writing that would one day be considered a contribution to literature.
I work on varied projects with the aim that every area of the craft I learn will add something to the next project I venture.
What are your main concerns as a writer?
I think a writer’s greatest concern is securing a place in the crowd.
Today, the writing isn’t enough. While we may have sweated blood over our portrayals of our fictional realities, no one will see them unless the finished novel reaches the attention of potential readers.
I’m disappointed that the big corporate publishers are widely accepted to be the arbiters of quality when in reality they pander to every public whim and launch huge volumes of dross into the world in the hopes that some of it may return them a profit. I wish they really were purveyors of the very best quality and concentrated on that, but I realize that is foreign to everything our economic system stands for. I mourn for a better world where books were published because someone believed in their message or content.
Do you write everyday?
Before I became embroiled in weeks of promotion, I used to write most days. When revising chapters, I may write a paragraph or a couple of pages; when writing a first draft I might get 3,000 words down once I know where the scenes are going.
I generally start with some housekeeping, saving completed work to a storage site or into a thumb drive, making new notes in my scenario or plot files. Usually I write in complete scenes and only end when I reach the final actions. These may also require revising in order to keep up the pace and tension before I write on into the next scene.
Who would you say has influenced you most?
Most has been influence in a negative direction — pointing out things I avoid. I find TV drama to be terribly flawed, and novelists who write from such a perspective to be mistaken. I avoid following all the writers who portray women in action roles as damsels in distress. The one that sticks in my craw most was a Brit TV series about a young woman bequeathed a detective agency, who, in peril, in a deserted summerhouse with an enemy possibly breaking in, walks around investigating with a revolver delicately held between thumb and forefinger as if it were a dead mouse. How patronizing!
Then there are the scads of ‘funny face’ science fiction. These green humans with pointed ears might be acceptable as fantasy, or if they were the product of a deeper exploration of a natural system that might logically produce them, but by and large they are simple parroting of what has been done before. I’d rather fill my writing with people like ourselves, instead of clichés.
How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?
I like to think that my own experience shapes the stories I tell without having myself intruding into them.
Throughout my life I have never fitted easily into the societies and positions I found myself in, and rather than change to conform, I have looked with outsider’s eyes to see the cracks in the edifices. I like to think my novels take place within some of those cracks, and show readers something they might never have noticed.
When did you start writing?
I completed my first novel around 1974, a huge historical epic about the arrival of the Anglo Saxons in Roman Britain, entitled Wyrd’s Harvest. I started it in 1967 in Libya, researched details in the British Museum Library, wrote the first attempt from a truck camper travelling across the States, and finished the last draft on night shifts at the old Calgary Refinery. It was never published.
How did you make the transition from wanting to write to becoming a published writer?
After finding out I could plug away through several hundred thousand words and keep my spirits up to complete a novel, I decided to learn more of the craft with short stories and eventually produce a publishable novel. I soon came to hate the short stories I worked on.
I started the next novel (about the workers trying to buy the Calgary Refinery) in the late 70s and took the first draft to Rudy Wiebe, then writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary. I found out that I needed to learn better control of my imagination and prose when he laughed through all the dramatic bits.
I have attended other writing functions, the last with Guy Vanderhaeghe who won the Governor General’s prize for The Englishman’s Boy, now a TV drama. He taught me the importance of every detail — such as what would or would not be in the POV character’s sight in every scene. After that I joined the best of the online writing groups, NovelPro, and have had every novel thoroughly critiqued until they were worthy of showing to the world. NovelPro is as valuable as most MFA programs.
How many books have you written so far?
The three Iskander novels published or contracted are Deadly Enterprise (July 2007), The Wildcat’s Victory (January 2008), and Arrival (July 2008). They are all published by Double Dragon e-Books. They all feature my courageous and clever female Security Officer, Gisel Matah, who works to protect the interests of a group of modern people marooned on a 17th century world. When the moderns work to introduce technology we might relish, established power elites attack them to maintain the status quo.
My fantasy, Rast, is due out from Zumaya in January 2009. It takes the side of a small magical kingdom, Rast, invaded by an imperialist power whose mechanistic philosophy denies the existence of things that cannot be touched. Rast is maintained by the magic of its succession of sorcerer kings, who must eventually meet their end under the power of the forces they wield. The Prince must succeed his doomed father while fighting many enemies; meanwhile his sweetheart has her own struggles against a rule of succession that says she cannot bear his heirs.