Day 7. - For our final day I thought it would be good to have an interview with the author of CHION, Darryl Sloan. He consented and it was great talking to a fellow Irishman. Enjoy!
CFRB - I see you're from Ireland. Where abouts in Ireland do you live?
DS - A town called Portadown, in Northern Ireland, which is really part of the UK. Technicially I should view myself as a Brit, but I prefer to call myself Irish. Portadown is just a few miles south of that big blob of water called Lough Neagh, which you can see on any map, smack
in the middle of Northern Ireland. There's an old legend that says the Isle of Man (between Ireland and Britain) was created by a giant lifting a section of earth from the middle of Ireland and tossing it into the sea.
CFRB - Ireland is called the "Emerald Isle", referring to how fertile and green it is. How come you chose a story that would hide all that beauty?
DS - Because I'm warped, probably. ;-) This is actually the first time I've thought about the issue. I guess it's because I've never really been interested in writing about beauty. What motivates my writing is drama and conflict and pain, the sort of vehicles that allow the characters in a story to grow. My fiction is always about people. The beauty of their surroundings rarely comes into my thinking, except when I get to have fun with the atmosphere of how strange it is, as in "Chion." I always side with bizarre over beautiful.
CFRB - Did you have any goal you wanted to accomplish in this story, or did you just want to tell a good story, as is the case with many Irishmen?
DS - Yes, I had a goal, but that only came about after I had developed the story in my mind. I knew from very early on that I wanted the central character to be a boy who was terminally ill. I didn't know why I wanted it that way, but that fact became central to the what the subtext of the book revealed itself to be: How do you find meaning in a life that's mortal, when death appears to rob your life of any meaning?
CFRB - Is there anyone who has influenced? How?
DS - I've always been super creative, since I was a young kid. Through my teenage years I developed interests in drawing, painting, computer programming, composing music, filmmaking, and of course writing fiction. Aside from my natural inclination to experiment creatively,
the biggest encouragement I ever had to write a novel came from reading Stephen King's "On Writing." I highly recommend it.
CFRB - Can you give a brief synopsis of your journey to publication of CHION?
DS - Well, it was hassle-free, because I self-published. I skipped the whole agent-hunting process and did the whole thing solo. I'm fortunate in that my background has made me skilled in areas like desktop publishing and graphic design, so I was able to do everything without paying anybody. I didn't even need to use one of the intermediary POD publishers like Lulu, Authorhouse, etc. I went straight to the printing firm direct. When Lightning Source produced
the book, I chose not to have it listed on Amazon. Weird decision, you might think, but there's method to my madness. When a web surfer discovers my book through my website, what sense is there in directing him away from my site in order to buy the book, sacrificing 60% of the
retail price to a third party in the process? How much better it is to sell the book directly to the reader, out of my own personal stock, enabling a less expensive cover price, and an autograph. The startling economics of this is that I can sell my book for $8 plus shipping and still make about $3.50 profit. It's also worth noting that eBay is a wonderful outlet for authors to sell their own books. In fact, it's my main sales avenue.
CFRB - What else have you written? Tell us a little about that book?
DS - My first novel was called "Ulterior." It's set in the same location as "Chion," a very real school building where I happen to work. But this one's quite a different story. It's all about a teenage boy who breaks into the school at night, with criminal intent, only to discover there
is something hidden and sinister going on that threatens the lives of all the children.
CFRB - What first gave you the idea for CHION?
DS - I got thinking about all the movies that had been made about weather phenomena - everything from John Carpenter's supernatural horror "The Fog," to the more believable "Twister," to the ice age in "The Day After Tomorrow." I thought, "Has everything been done or is it still possible to be original in this theme?"
CFRB - You obviously found a way to cover this theme with originality. What else would you like to share with readers about yourself or CHION?
DS - I'm not overly productive, and I like it that way. After "Ulterior," four to five years went by before I was publishing another novel. I've got fully developed ideas for other novels, but I just can't write them because I know they're just vacuuous entertainment pieces. And for the massive investment of time that it requires to write a novel, I just can't bring myself to do it unless there's more to it - a subtext of some kind, something important about life or about the world that I want to communicate. Better to have written a few novels that are remembered than thirty or forty that go the way of the dodo.
CFRB - That's a great philosophy.
DS - If you're wondering what might be coming next, the strongest thing in my mind at the moment is a sequel to "Chion." All I can say is it will be set one year later and based around the theme of how the world prepares for the possibility that the sticky snow will fall again. But
while surival looks assured this time round, there's a major twist. When will this be written? Will it even be written? Who can tell at this stage.
CFRB - Share with us one of the craziest things you've done or that's happened to you?
DS - Ten years old, walking through a public park, a teenage punk runs up to me and places the tip of a knife against my back and holds a hatchet over my head, and he says, "Hey. Come with me." I remember having the cold, clear thought: "This is it. I'm going to die now." All my in-built sense that bad things only happen to other people evaporated. And I started to cry. And he laughed ... and ran away back to his friends. I have no psychological scars from that event whatsoever. The cotton wool just leapt straight back into my brain: "Oh, I guess bad things only ever do happen to other people." But I sure never forgot it.
CFRB - Where did you get the idea of "sticky snow"?
DS - I guess I fixated on snow, because fog had been done, rain had been done, ice had been done, tornadoes had been done, etc. So ... snow. But unfortunately, snow was fluffy and white and fun for kids. I knew I couldn't make a disaster story out of this unless I made snow
fundamentally different. So, with a little thinking outside the box, somehow I came up with the notion of glue-like snow: when you stand on it, you stick to it, quicker and firmer than Superglue.
CFRB - What concept or scripture is God revealing more deeply to you in this season of your life? And how is that revelation influencing your life?
DS - In the last year or more I have been becoming increasingly aware of how much I am wasting my life, spending so much time staring at a television screen, or playing videogames, or yes, even reading fiction. I was in danger of leading the sort of life where, outside of work, all that's left is to close yourself off from reality and entertain yourself as much as possible. When you start to wake up from this sort of thing, it's actually a little scary to walk past peoples
houses on a dark evening, glancing into living rooms and seeing people gazing continually into the oblong box in the corner of the room. There's some kind of seduction going on that makes us willing to close ourselves off from real life to seek some kind of escapist paradise, while real life passes us by. And what is real life: anything from the enjoyment of nature to the joy of helping others. "Love your neighbour as yourself" is one of the most profound, yet easily ignored, Scriptures I've ever read.
CFRB - Unfortunately, I'll have to 2nd that. Why did you choose the Greek word for the title of this book?
DS - Choosing a Greek or Latin title for a book is what I do as a last resort, when I can't for the life of me discover an English one that's good enough. You know what I mean. "Deux ex machina" sounds kind of cool, doesn't it? I recalled that phobias were named from Greek words
- arachonophobia, and all that. So I wondered, is there such a phobia as the fear of snow. And indeed there was. With a quick Google search, I found out about "chionophobia." And it sounded cool. For a long time, that was going to be the title of the book, but I became dissatisfied with how big a mouthful it was. I later discovered that you can shorten the Greek "chiono" (snow) to "chion," which means "like snow." Perfect.
CFRB - How do you choose names and get to know your characters?
DS - For names, I just pick and mix in my head. Without wanting to sound overly mystical, sometimes a name will feel right and another will feel wrong. I don't know why, but I go with it. I start with vague ideas of personalities and characters, but they really only come to life when you get down to the business of fleshing out your synopsis as actual prose - putting flesh on the skeleton, so to speak. Occasionally, you get a nasty surprise, when you realise halfway through your story that you can't make your character do a particular thing because it's out of character with what you've let him become. Writing fiction really is an amazing experience for the writer, when characters live inside your head. You know it's an illusion, but these people take on incredible substance. I had a particularly potent experience of this one time when I chose to write an eight-thousand-word story in two days.
CFRB - What's your favorite scene from CHION?
DS - In terms of action and drama, I really love the very beginning. I love the way the story wastes no time in pulling the reader straight in, and I love the way the reader will be initially confused about the events until the missing pieces in the puzzle are slotted in. I have great fun with this material when I give presentations on the novel to kids. I tell it in my own words, stopping at points to ask the kids what they think is going on. And they love it. In terms of the more spiritual side of the story, all I can say is I love pages 132-133. I daren't spoil it for readers, but it's an exchange between Jamie and Tara that brings into focus the whole theme of the story - the inevitability of death and its effect on the meaning of our lives.
CFRB - You're the first author that has expressed a desire not to have a video teaser. Can you tell us why that is?
DS - I actually would like to have one, but I feel that so many of them need to be more than what they are. Pan-and-scan image slideshows just aren't enough. I did that sort of thing for my first novel, and I don't feel it had a great impact. I would want to get actors organised, to put together snippets of scenes from the novel, so that it would look as effective as a genuine movie trailer. It would take a lot of organising, which is why I haven't done it. But would it be worthwhile? I think so.
CFRB - Are there any closing remarks you'd like to share?
DS - I always love interaction with readers, so please feel free to contact me, and to take part in the many discussions that arise on my blog, which you can find at http://www.darrylsloan.com
CFRB - Thank you for taking the time to share with ou readers. It's been fun.
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