The Mars Run had a lasting impression on me. It is an imaginative and incredibly well written debut novel. When I finished the novel, I decided to find out more about the writer. Chris, thank you for finding time for an interview. So, let’s get right to it!
E.M.: First of all, Chris, tell us a bit about yourself and your path to becoming a fiction writer. When did you start writing and when did you realize that you want to take it to a professional level?
C.G.: I tried to write a murder mystery in 5th grade, and made a couple of other half-hearted attempts, but I didn’t get serious until 2001. That year, a columnist in the Chicago Tribune was doing his “someday is now” campaign – the idea that whatever thing you were going to do someday (in his case run a marathon) you should do now. So, I’d always said I’d someday write a novel and I did.
E.M.: How did you come up with the idea for The Mars Run and how long did it take you to write it?
C.G.: As part of my “someday is now” program I bought a book called The Weekend Novelist. That book told one how to write a first draft of a novel in 52 weekend sessions. I more-or-less followed that plan, and a really bad novel about a family traveling to Mars was born. Think Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones (a trip to Mars by a Moon-based family) but with pirates and done really badly. Seven or eight drafts and five years later, it had morphed into a version of the Mars Run, in which Janet goes to Mars and gets pirated. I self-published that version, then, in 2015, I was approached to re-release a conventionally-published novel, its unpublished sequel and The Mars Run. I did a 30% or so rewrite of Mars Run as part of that package.
E.M.: You have written a story from a point of view of Janet, a young astronaut caught in unfortunate circumstances. Was it difficult to write in the point of view of the opposite gender? And was it difficult to write from the first person point of view?
C.G.: It was difficult enough that I swore to never do first person again! Like many beginning writers, I thought first person would be easier. (I came, I saw, I conquered. How hard can that be?) News flash for those reading this – it’s not nearly as easy as it looks. As far as opposite gender, that was another rookie mistake. In The Rolling Stones, the family has two teenaged boys. I said, “hey, just flip it to girls!” I’ve been digging myself out of that hole ever since.
E.M.: If your book gets a movie deal, who would you like to act in the key roles?
C.G.: I envisioned Janet to look like Leann Rimes. Gus I thought should be whoever played the tall aboriginal in the Crocodile Dundee movies [David Gulpilil – E.M.]. The pirate Rachel Storey was modeled after Traci Lords (she was a redhead in a few episodes of an otherwise forgettable SF TV series.)
E.M.: You write about events happening on Earth, in space, on Mars, and somewhere in Africa. Which one of these settings you loved to create the most?
C.G.: Actually, in this book, Africa and Chicago were my two favorite settings. I’m based in Chicago, so what you see is my vision of what will be there, and there’s a country in Africa called the Central African Republic. For a brief period of time in the 1960s, it was the Central African Empire, propped up by the French Foreign Legion.
E.M.: Where did you get the inspiration for such vivid descriptions of African events?
C.G.: The old-fashioned way – I went to my local library and did my research.
E.M.: What are your plans for the future? What are you currently working on?
C.G.: Pamela’s Ghost, an alien invasion novel, will be out this year, and I’m shopping a space mystery One of our Spaceships is Missing.
E.M.: Do you have any tips for the aspiring writers on how to get where you are at, which is an accomplished writer with several books in print?
C.G.: A bunch of advice. First, write what you love to read. Second, sit down and write it and finish it! You can fix a finished work, but you can’t fix an unfinished one. Until draft one is done (i.e., your story has a real ending) don’t rewrite. Third, you cannot edit yourself. You must get a critique group (online or physical) that meets regularly. And here’s the important part of a critique group – your critiquing of other people’s writing – saying why it does or does not work – will help you understand your stuff.
E.M.: What do you think of a self-publishing route for the writers? Do you find it rewarding or tasking?
C.G.: Writing is an art, publishing is a business. If you decide to self-publish, you are going into business with yourself as boss. Treat it as such.
E.M.: Where can your fans interact with you in the nearest future? Where can we track your appearances?
C.G.: I need to get a calendar up on my website. In the meantime, I blog about where I am on my blog, and I’ll be at Windycon (windycon.org) in Chicago in November.
It turned out to be an interesting interview. I decided to help you guys visualize what’s going on in the book with the help of Chris’ ideas about the cast of the ‘would-be’ movie based on The Mars Run. Here’s what I came up with:
Copyright 2016 Ellie Maloney