Christopher Blanchard is a 37 year old husband and father who has decided to really get serious about becoming a published author. He is currently querying The Windsmith, a Young Adult Fantasy novel.
1) The Windsmith features a male main character with magical powers previously only held by women. Did the story begin in your head as a reversal of the stereotype that “girls can’t do everything boys can do?”
Actually, the idea was a collision of two other ideas. One was a blantent rip off of a story I read long ago, about the daughter of a witch (women) that discovered she had wizard powers (men). The other was an old idea for doing a fantasy story set in a world that consisted of only pacific type islands. I liked the idea of all the magic users in this world being women, and once I had that, my main character was decided.
2) What process did you go through to produce the final version of The Windsmith?
Lots of revisions. Each round of editing took something away or added something to it. My second draft, for example, completely eliminated the first chapter, as it didn’t add anything to the story, and I realized it started in chapter 2. After that, it was just a matter of removing everything that wasn’t the story, and adding the stuff that was missing from it, until I eventually got to the point where I felt like it was as good as I could make it. And that’s where I am now.
3) How many rounds of editing and how many different people were involved in the revision process before you felt it was ready to query?
The exact number is tough to answer. I refer to the different drafts of the document, but a single draft might have had one to three rounds of editing. This final draft is the fourth draft. As for other people involved, there were lots. My wife helped me, mostly with some grammar stuff. I’ve had alpha readers that gave me some feed back, and a friend that did a through editing of my first draft, both in terms of copy and story. I’ve even got some help from professionals.
4) Were any suggestions made to you that you were reluctant to incorporate?
None immediately come to mind. I was pretty open to suggestions and changes, I wanted to make this story as good as I could get it. This isn’t to say that I made every change suggested to me, it’s just that none of them stand out as particularly objectionable. It usually boils down to this: I know what this story is about, and if a suggestion helps me reach that, good. If not, then I don’t use it. But I am open to listening to a suggestion and seriously consider it before rejecting it.
5) What criteria did you look for when deciding which agents or publishers to query?
Mostly, I look for agents that represent books similar to the Windsmith. YA agents, sure, but I prefer ones that do fantasy as well. I want someone that knows the genre, because, really, YA is a market, not a genre. That’s probably my biggest criteria.
6) What influenced the decision between traditional versus self-publishing?
Honestly? I want to see my name on a paperback when I walk into my favorite Barns & Noble. That doesn’t happen with self-publishing. That said, I’m not adverse to self-publishing, and am currently looking into it. It doesn’t hold the stigma it once did to the commercial publishing world, and many publishers look at the Amazon charts to see what’s doing well. Plus, self-publishing is now a viable way of selling your books. I’m seriously considering it. But, I still want to see my book on that shelf in the book store.
7) Are you working on something new now?
Several things, actually. I have one other complete novel finished, a sci-fi about the first man born on mars, and two more in the works, both twists on the classic epic fantasy. Plus an incomplete novel that I would like to go back to and finish one day. I’m also working on polishing some of my short stories and submitting them for publishing in a magazine. I am also working on an anthology book with some friends featuring several short stories set in a shared world. It’s a classic pulp fantasy, with a Middle Eastern flavor. I’m really enjoying it.
8) How many times have you done NaNoWriMo? What was the experience like for you?
I have done NaNoWriMo five times now, and won four of them. I love it. It’s a brilliant way to get down a first draft of a story, because you don’t have time to think about what you’re writing. A bad story can always be made better through revisions, but even a bad story has to be written down first. And NaNo has enabled me to do that four times now. Plus, it’s a great feeling belonging to the community, knowing I’m not writing alone. Writing is a lonely craft, it’s said, but with the NaNo forums, it doesn’t have to be.
9)In your 1storyaweek blog, you attribute the endeavor to Ray Bradbury, who said “Write 1 Short Story a Week for 52 Weeks, and Get Out the Junk.” So, does this mean that we, as writers, have junk stories inside us that are getting in the way of the good stuff?
Absolutely, although ‘getting in the way’ might not be the way to put it. It’s more a matter of the junk stories are junk because we as writers don’t know what we’re doing yet. So, you get this junk out by writing. The more you write, the better you get. It’s like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you get, and the less junk you produce. So, yeah, in that sense, the junk is blocking the good stuff from getting out.
10) Do you have stories stuffed in the back of the virtual drawer that will never see the light of day?
11) What do you like about #5MinuteFiction?
The creativity. Having only five minutes to write a story on a given prompt really gets the brain juices going. I’ve written some really good stuff in this contest. Of course, I’ve written some real crap, too, but overall, it’s a great experience.
12) Have you always considered yourself to be a writer, or was there a time in your life when you decided that is what you were?
I decided to be a writer when I was in my mid twenties and married to my first wife. I realize now, however, that I’ve always been a writer, I just didn’t know it. I channeled my writing talent into other things. Comic books that I wrote and drew and stapled myself. I played Dungeons and Dragons, and wrote epic campaigns for my players. Finally, I realized that I should be focusing all this creativity on stories. And when I did, sparks flew. I re-discovered writing, and fell in love, and haven’t looked back since.
13) Do you have a blog? How do you use it?
I do, it’s http://christopher-blanchard.blogspot.com (/shameless plug). I use it mostly to let people learn who I am, maybe offer some advice on writing that I’ve learned. I’m planning on using it to preview the Windsmith soon with some sample chapters.
14) What social media do you use? Do you combine your personal and professional or keep them separate?
I use Twitter, Facebook and Blogger. For twitter and blogger, I do keep them separate. On Facebook, I have a personal account that I also talk about writing on, and then a fan page for Christopher Blanchard the author. Blogger we mentioned above. I’m not any kind of expert in any of these though, so I’m always trying to learn more and better ways to use them in my writing career.
15) What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
Scriviner for Windows. It’s in beta right now, but I love this program. I can have notes, internet links, outlines and the first, second and third drafts of a story all kept in a single place and all available through a single program. It’s quite powerful, and really good at helping me keep my stories organized.
16) What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
Notebooks. Spiral ringed notebooks with lined paper. I love writing in those things, I really do. I don’t do it often, because I type far faster then I write, but I just love writing in those notebooks.
17) What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
Twitter and Facebook. I like to constantly check to see if people have responded to something I posted, or check on conversations I’m having with people. I waste more time just checking up on those two sites.
18) What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?
An office with a corner writing desk in it. It will have a window in it that looks outside at a tree, or maybe trees. It has a couple of comfy chairs and several book shelves filled with books, so I can sit and read as well as write. And most importantly of all, it has a door, so I can shut it for privacy. Have I created that? Nope, never. Right now, my computer sits on a little desk in the corner of my living room. But, I won’t complain, because I still get to write.
19) When the day comes that you are on stage, accepting some prestigious award, who are you most likely to forget to thank?
You know, that’s a good question. I think it would likely be my mother, sad to say. I’d be focusing on the editors, my wife, my son, my agent, and I would just forget her.
20) Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
Han shot first. I strongly believe that this was a defining moment in Han’s character. He lives in a dark world, one that is kill or be killed. And showing that he was willing to kill first, even in a situation where he might not have been killed himself, really showed how far Han had to go to become the hero he finally does become at the end of the movie. I think that having Greedo shoot first (or at all, really) lessens the darkness in Han’s life. It doesn’t eliminate, true, but it does lessen it. So, I prefer the darker Han who had a real up-hill climb to become a hero, rather than Han the hero that was hidden in the dark smuggler world.
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