1. What was the inspiration for your novel?
The first kernel of The Ottoman Motel was a tiny scene I wrote about a young boy with his parents at a roadside cafe: the boy’s observations about the minutiae of the place, and the feeling that the whole family was on their way to somewhere they’d rather not be going to. I didn’t return to the scene until some months after I’d written it, which was when the first outlines of plot began for my novel. Once I decided on the inciting incidence of a disappearance of the boy’s parents, I tapped into that feeling that we’ve all had in our childhood of losing our parents, even momentarily, and the worst-case scenarios that your mind immediately plays out.
2. When did you take up writing?
I’d enjoyed writing stories ever since grade one (although those ones were more about scores of army men blowing each other up), but never really considered making writing a legitimate career until after I left school. I enrolled in a Creative Writing course at uni, and haven’t looked back. I still work another job on top of writing, but one day hopefully it can become a full-time pursuit!
3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
Place is very important in my writing, as it (for me at least) pervades the mood of the characters and the story. In The Ottoman Motel, the town of Reception (a fictional holiday town on the NSW north coast) plays a big part in the central mystery of the story. It is a repository for all the characters in the story, who all have their reasons for ending up there.
4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
Because my novel has three distinct voices (and a large cast of characters), it would be hard to choose. But if I had to choose a character that I’d like to write about again, it would be Pony, a young man with a mysterious past who becomes perhaps Simon’s greatest ally in the search for his parents.
5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
Show, don’t tell.
6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
I try to. For me, the biggest challenge when writing is setting a routine and sticking to it. At the moment, Monday, Tuesday and Friday are my day job. Wednesday is for writing admin and side projects, Thursday and Sunday are for working on my new novel. I try to treat my writing like any other job, which means starting at a set time, and working in significant blocks of time. Life has a way of throwing its spanner in the works of your good writing intentions, but you just have to try and stick to it!
7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
I’m more in the winging category. If I plot, I tend to get bogged down in it, and end up endlessly tinkering with scenes as a procrastination tool. For me, the sooner I start writing the better. I try to go in with a basic outline of the story, but I do let my writing take me where it will.
8. Can you name three of four of your current favourite books?
At the moment: “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach; “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson; “Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk” by Ben Fountain and “Floundering” by Romy Ash.
9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
My first book, The Ottoman Motel, which was a modern gothic mystery, whereas my new book is more character-based and (hopefully) a lot funnier. At its heart is a man trying to come to terms with his new-found notoriety after falling off a mountain and surviving.
10. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?
Work harder than any other writer you know, and be nice to people.
The Ottoman Motel is available at all good bookstores.
You can learn more about Chris and his writing at his wonderful blog.
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