Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Writers With Day Jobs: Nik Korpon

Nik Korpon teaches writing. Automatically he knows more than I ever will about writing. Want to see for yourself? Check out his work from Snubnose Press, the novella Old Ghosts and the upcoming story collection Bar Scars. Or maybe his novel Stay God. And there's more. The man writes a lot.

Not enough for you? He works at a motherfuckin' tattoo shop. Checkmate. He's already won the sweepstakes, but read on anyway for more about Nik Korpon and his job(s).

What do you do as your day job?
I teach writing at a community college and create ridiculous lesson plans tying together narrative essay structure and Back to the Future. Weekends, I work at a tattoo shop and tell college girls that Beatles lyrics on the ribs aren’t as original as they think. Both groups usually give me blank stares. You know half of my students have never even heard of, never mind memorized, Back to the Future? I’m frightened for the coming generation.

Since you teach writing, do you ever get any derisive scoffs at your choice to write dark crime or "genre" stories?
No particularly. Most of my classes are either Comp 1 or 2, or developmental. If I can get them the least bit invested in English and writing, it’s a win for me. A fair amount of my students are marginally interested because I’m not writing boring books, and I talk about Star Wars and films noir in class and all. I had one student who called me a hipster because all I talked about were noir films and I dress like Hank Moody. I’m still not quite sure how to respond to that.

As far as the staff goes, the ones who actually write think it’s cool that I’m publishing books, though I don’t think they’ve ever read any of them. The others give me that grandmotherly pursed lip smile, pat my cheek and say That’s very nice, Nik. You’re late for class.

When do you find time to write?
I don’t have a lot of time to write because I have a toddler and two jobs, so I write half the stories in my head as I’m walking around, at the grocery store, going for a run. Once I get the ideas pretty sorted, I wait til my son goes down for a nap then type as fast as I can for those two hours. I tried writing at night after he goes down but then I never saw my wife. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and have time between classes or when the shop is slow. 

When my son was born I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to write but I’ve been finding that I probably write more, or at least more efficiently, since he came round. I think something clicked inside my head and realized that I only had that little section of time to write, so it just switches on. 

Has your job or coworkers ever influenced a story?
Totally. I meet all kinds of crazy people at the shop and walking around the city, see weird tattoos that give me ideas for stories, hear random stories from my students. Some of the guys at the shop have led interesting lives—MCs and sketchy conventions and other assorted debauchery—so I get little snippets from their accounts and turn them into stories. 

What would it take for you to quit and write full time?
Money, unfortunately. Made more unfortunate because I don’t have any.

Do your coworkers know you write? Do they know you write dark crime fiction?
Some do. Some at the college think it’s cool, though we have very different frames of reference for cool. I don’t go into detail about the novels because they write a lot of poetry and I don’t want them to hear about my characters enacting foreplay with straight razors. The guys at the shop are supportive of it. Some of them have read my stuff, but mostly I just tell them when I put one of their anecdotes into a story. 

What do they say about it?
Either, ‘I read your book. You’re not as smart as I thought,’ or, ‘I read your book. You’re smarter than you look.’

Do you think people respect writing as a job, or does it come off as less “work” than a labor or office job?
Other artists respect it as a job because they understand the process. Or rather, people who do similar things (like English teachers) appreciate it. The people who don’t respect it, I don’t really care about. There are plenty of reruns of The Bachelor for them.

I'll ignore the fact you insulted The Bachelor, which pays my mortgage, and ask if you would ever consider writing for TV, or is that like asking you to start eating meat again?
I don’t have anything against The Bachelor particularly, just all of those TV shows in general. Which is probably a pretty backhanded faux-compliment. The need for artificial reality and mental laziness of the general public just bums me out. That being said, if they called and asked if I wanted a job, I’d trample whoever was in front of me to snatch it. Being paid to write? I’m down. I don’t really care what it is. I’ve written a couple screenplays, only one of which was ever made, but I think the idea of television writing, of hitting these plot points within a certain number of pages while still making it interesting, it’s an interesting idea. I’d definitely like to try my hand at it (as I clear my throat, looking expectantly for TV producers to jump out of my refrigerator with a contract and pen.)

I became really interested in the novelization field, or film tie-ins or whatever they’re called, after reading an interview with Christa Faust and hearing Tod Goldberg on a panel. From what  understand, it’s a tough field to get into, but that seems like such a great gig. I’m probably romanticizing it with cigarette smoke and an Underwood and two empty pots of coffee, but it seems like it would really help you hone your craft and figure out how to turn on that creative switch, you know? I’d love to do it but have zero-idea how to find it.

I don’t have a problem with meat anymore, either. That vegan-warrior phase passed in my early 20s when I started getting sick. People should understand the connection between their hamburger and the cow in the field next door, but outside of that I don’t care. I still won’t eat it, though. Shit grosses me out.

Be honest, if you wrote full time, do you think you’d be disciplined about it?
I’d love the opportunity to find out.

I think I would. I juggle a ton of stuff now and still make time to write, so if all the other bullshit disappeared, I’d like to think I’d be disciplined.

What job, other than writing, would you most like to have?
Be paid to free-surf, play soccer or be a travel guide, like those Contiki people. Growing up, I always wanted to be a marine biologist and swim with sharks. I’d be down with that still. Shark Week is one of the only things I miss from having TV.

What has been your best job? Your worst?
Honestly, my favorite job was working in the bulk food section at Whole Foods when I lived in Western Massachusetts. I was active all day, talked to tons of random people and learned a lot about foods I’d never heard of. It gave me a lot of time to daydream and I probably wrote most of a novel and a number of short stories (half of which are in my upcoming collection, Bar Scars) during the downtime there. I love working at the shop too, but I’m way more sedentary here than at the grocery store.

Worst job? Most of them. I worked in Boston Market marinating dead chickens (and went vegan shortly after.) I worked at the Renaissance Festival when I was 14, cutting up steaks and grilling ribs. I delivered phone books. I ran part of a hotel for a couple years and worked 100 hours a week. I waited tables at Pizza Hut for a while. I’ve bartended. Boston Market was probably the worst.

When do you find time to read?
Because I don’t have much time, I usually have to choose between writing or reading, and most times writing wins, so I don’t read as much as I’d like. I do read almost every night for a bit before bed. That new Kindle cover with the light has stopped my wife from suffocating me with her pillow a number of times.

Have you ever, or maybe how often, have you considered quitting and shacking up to write novels, money issues be damned?
Every day. A couple years ago it was a possibility. From time to time now I’ll think about it for longer, but it always comes down to my son. My wife makes a fair bit more than I do (meaning: She got a degree in something useful) but it’s not enough to support the family. If I was ever fortunate enough to make a decent income with words, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

What is your ultimate goal with writing? Full time journeyman or millionaire? Or are you satisfied doing it part time?
Millionaire. I mean, really, who doesn’t want a ton of people to read their books? 

Realistically speaking, I don’t much care. Even if I sold two books for the rest of my life, it’s something I enjoy doing and it makes the rest of my life make more sense. I make time to write now with all the other crap going on and I’m as satisfied as I can be without being complacent. I expect to write part-time for the rest of my life. Anything more than that is awesome. This is where an agent swoops in with a contract, in case you were wondering.

Given what you've earned writing, dividing it by the hours spent, what would you say is your hourly wage as a writer?
Numbers and I are mortal enemies. That aside, my books are depressing enough. I don’t want to make it worse.

Do you have a spouse/partner that would support you writing full time?
If it was financially possible, without a doubt. I’m much less moody after a long day of writing and I’m sure she’d love me to be like that more often. I’m married to a fantastic woman who only wants to see me happy, and I her. Both of us have gone through grad school, so we’ve spent a lot of time eating rice and beans. We can survive on next to nothing, but have to look out for the wee one. 

How old will your son have to be before he can read any of your work?
Can’t say. Some of it depends on what he reads. Warpriest, I’d be okay with him reading when he’s a young teen. I don’t want him to read Stay God because he’ll just look at me and go, Dad, you’re such a dork. What’s wrong with you? Some of the other more sexual and violent and sexually violent stuff I think I’d hide from him for a while. By the time he’s a teenager we’ll probably have microchips to download things directly into our brains so I won’t be able to do much about it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Quick Notes

Before you look below to Steve Weddle's interview, a few things.

My newest Revival House post is up at Criminal Element taking a look at the film Flesh and Bone.

My fist two novels (cowritten with JB Kohl) One Too Many Blows To The Head and Borrowed Trouble are on sale for the next few days, including the weekend. Only 1.99 for Kindle.

And the Snubnose Press sale continues until the end of June. All Snubnose titles only .99 including Dig Two Graves.

And in DTG news, we are prepping the print version right now so you can hold it in your hot little hands in a few weeks. It will include a preview of my story collection, A Bouquet of Bullets.

Writers With Day Jobs: Steve Weddle

You'd think, from his answers below, Steve Weddle is a man of few words. (except for the one rant) But Steve puts out not only a steady stream of high quality fiction, but also acts as editor of Needle magazine, keeps one of the more active and sarcastic Twitter feeds, and dishes out advice and rants over at Do some damage along with a host of talented crime writers.

Steve brings his typically blunt and funny demeanor to his answers here, so let's not delay and hear what Steve Weddle has to say about Day Jobs, writing, and the billion dollars it would take for him to quit.

-What do you do as your day job?
I work at a newspaper

-When do you find time to write?
When I’m deep into a book, I get up a couple hours earlier than usual.
Also, weekends. Notes in moleskines, backs of envelopes. Whenever and wherever I can.

-Has your job or coworkers ever influenced a story?
I’ve used work knowledge for characters, building up a backstory.

-What would it take for you to quit and write full time?
One billion dollars.

-Do your coworkers know you write? Do they know you write dark crime fiction?
I don’t know.

-What do they say about it?
Not a damn thing.

-Do you think people respect writing as a job, or does it come off as less "work" than a labor or office job?
I think, like most anything, people tend to have less respect for what YOU do and expect you to have more respect for what THEY do.
You write? Feh. That’s easy. I work at a dry cleaner. You work at a dry cleaner? Feh. I work at a restaurant.
No one really has any idea how tough things can be for other people.

-Be honest, if you wrote full time, do you think you'd be disciplined about it?

-What job, other than writing, would you most like to have?
I’d be pretty good playing second base for the Nationals. I just don’t care much for the travel schedule, so that’s out.

-What has been your best job? Your worst?
The job I have right now is the greatest job anyone could ever have ever.
By the way, on my first day as a Walmart employee, my supervisor gave me a twenty-five cent raise. That was pretty cool.
When I was in high school, I mowed yards and rake leaves. That wasn’t much fun. I also worked at a convenience store. My hours were five in the morning until 11 at night. Those made for long days. I didn’t much care for that.

-When do you find time to read?
In the mornings, before work. Also, in the evenings after work. Also,the weekend.
Michael Dirda of the Washington Post said folks would ask him when he found time to read. His response, “When you’re watching TV.”

-Have you ever, or maybe how often, have you considered quitting and shacking up to write novels, money issues be damned?

-What is your ultimate goal with writing? 
I have to have a goal? Crap.

-Given what you've earned writing, dividing it by the hours spent, what would you say is your hourly wage as a writer?

I don’t consider it work. This isn’t my job. I don’t take a wage from writing.

 You have become quite the fixture in crime fiction circles with Needle and Do Some Damage, editing anthologies, doing interviews. Does this all fall into that "not work" category? Or do you see promoting yourself and other writers as part of the job of being a writer?
I don't know about this "fixture" thing. If that means I plan to be around for a while, then that's fine.

Anything I do with other writers is because I think more folks should read their work. We're doing Tom Piccirilli's new on in the DSD book club. I love his books and think this one is great. Is it work getting that set up and wrangling folks? Nah.

And NEEDLE exists so more folks can read stories by more folks. What is super cool is that agents will email me saying they read so-and-so in NEEDLE and do I have that writer's email address. Happens quite a bit, lately. And that's fantastic. That's better than what I ever could have hoped for. That sure as hell doesn't feel like work.

And having been able to work with so many talented folks with the magazine is amazing. I don't mean John Hornor Jacobs's art work alone. Or just the reading and editing from Matt Funk and Stephen Blackmoore and Dan O'Shea and Naomi Johnson. Those folks are amazing and top notch. What's really amazing, as well, is the writing we've had. From
the first issue, which had that cool short from you, to all those you can find listed on the website and all those upcoming.

Look, Chris F. Holm makes a big deal out of the fact that he asked me something about "The Hitter" and we talked about it and it ran in NEEDLE and a little while later was selected for BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2010. That was all Chris. He says "Steve Weddle did" this and
that. Look. Steve Weddle didn't do jackshit. Just like the stories in NEEDLE are all the work of the authors. I just try my best to help folks get these stories to a wider audience, if I can. This isn't anywhere close to what I would consider work. People send in stories and we share them with more people? Hell, that's what I ought to be doing, isn't it? Isn't that what we all should do more of? Promote stuff we like? Try to help deserving folks out? Speaking of which, John's THIS DARK EARTH hits shelves soon. It's my favorite of his books.

I don't see promoting other writers as being part of the job of being a writer. I see it as part of the requirement for being human, you know? You care about something, you let people know. You tell them to read Holly West's DIARY OF BEDLAM and Stephen Blackmoore's CITY OF THE LOST and Chris F. Holm's WRONG GOODBYE and Hilary Davidson's NEXT ONE TO FALL and Frank Wheeler's THE WOWZER and Chad Rohrbacher's AZREAL DECEPTION and on and on.

Oh, and as for, I get to share blog space with people who have talent. How cool is that? And sometimes I get to follow instructions from The Doctor, who said in some episode or another of Doctor Who, "There's something that doesn't make sense. Let's go and poke it with a stick." So I get to do that, poke things that don't make sense. Which I quite enjoy.

- Now that you've had a taste of it with Needle, would you ever make publishing a full time pursuit if you could make it work financially?
Well, now that's starting to sound like work, isn't it?

-Do you have a spouse/partner that would support you writing full time?
My spouse has supported much dumber ideas of mine, yeah.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Writers With Day Jobs: Matthew Funk

Matt Funk is everywhere these days. He manages to churn out a steady stream of top notch stories with his own unique blend of darkness and deep emotional, um, darkness. His stories go down some scary rabbit holes.

Matt is also among the best dressed of all us crime fiction scribes. Shameful, really, the way the rest of us just go about our lives like unemployed frat boys. Yes, Matthew Funk is a man with focus, drive, and writing chops to spare. Now that he has signed onto the illustrious Team Decker, you will be seeing more of him very soon.

Before we begin let me remind y'all that June is almost over and so is your time to get ALL of the Snubnose Press titles for only .99 on Kindle. Join in our anniversary sale!

Now then, please welcome Matt to tell us a bit about his job and his process, his hopes and dreams and his time as a graveyard shift gas station attendant.

What do you do as your day job?

I'm a digital marketing consultant. The official job title is Social Media Marketer, but expertise in social media is only one cog in the machine. As my Air Force general grandfather used to say when giving cause for a second glass of Dewar's, you can't fly on one wing. Marketing over social media effectively also demands savvy with Search Engine Optimization, site design and copy writing, not to mention an aptitude for reaching customers offline and hauling them onto the Web. Wrap that all up into a single sheet and it comes out to digital marketing.

It has to be a flexible definition. Success in that field requires that one be dynamic, shifting with the tides of user trends, staying on top while the MySpaces topple and the Pinterests rise. Yesterday's proven formula for success is tomorrow's dud. It's a thrill living on the frontier.

When do you find time to write?

Whenever the phone quits ringing. As soon as I'm off the clock, even for an hour, I'll slam words onto blank pages as fast and best as I can. Exact hours depend on the season. I'm a Valley Boy, so cold weather mornings don't suit me, making winter a fallow time for 5am writing. Evenings and weekends suit me best, until the skies warm and I settle into a green steel chair at Starbucks before the world has woken up. 

Sometimes I just have to switch the phone off. I may not be living with my parents and roaming the corn fields with a sword in hand like Robert Howard, but I'm not notorious for being a social butterfly. Writing always takes priority. It's an easy choice, considering I was always more disposed to crawling into a corner to daydream than I was to hanging around, flapping my gums.

Has your job or coworkers ever influenced a story?

Rarely. They say that one should write what they know, but when what I know mostly boils down to stupid cat videos on YouTube and superficial gasps for Facebook fame, I bore easy. My job influences how I understand effective marketing of my writing's message, not the writing itself. 

There happens to be an exception coming down the pike, though: Crime Factory accepted a ghastly short I recently wrote for their upcoming Horror Factory issue, and social media features prominently in it. I fuse toxic waste, Twitter and teen cruelty into a single murderous flow. That was a delight to write. Still, I think much of what I write is an escape attempt from the superficial world of marketing.

What would it take for you to quit and write full time?

Dr. Evil's answer comes to mind: One million dollars. In other words, a financial platform I could survive comfortably on for an extended period of time. And by "extended," I don't mean, "halfway through a car payment on a Chevy Volt." I would need a sum of money solid and rich enough to grow a future from on its own.

Part of that is because I really love my day job - love its protean nature, love the war stories, love how it weaves into my overall vocation of storytelling. The other part has been ingrained in me since I was a teen. For as long as I knew I wanted to be a writer, I knew I would need a paycheck coming in from elsewhere. It would take a hefty sum to keep me sleeping soundly. Considering I've always been able to produce work despite a day job, and that I suspect professional pressures might add to a feeling of artistic foment, it would take quite a bit to get me out of the saddle.

Do your coworkers know you write? Do they know you write dark crime fiction?

Many of my co-workers know that I write professionally and that I write dark crime fiction. My immediate bosses, JD Rucker and Ron Fortier, both took an interest immediately. They have backgrounds in creative work and staunch love for the craft. And I've been told on a few occasions that I have loyal fans in the guys like Robert Moronez and Kelvin Cruz who've risked reading my work. One close co-worker, Erin Ryan, is going to be in the Acknowledgments of my first novel given her support. 

This is all to say that I make no secret of what I do, and for the most part, folks around the office are supportive of it. 

What do they say about it?

I've yet to receive a bad review. Most tell me that they liked whatever story they read, want to know when the next one's out and would appreciate a signed copy of any novel that sees print. Bear in mind, I work with people who have 12-inch Jason Vorhees models in their cubicles and game design gigs like Fallout on their resume. This is an easy crowd.
Matt reading at Noir At The Bar

Do you think people respect writing as a job, or does it come off as less "work" than a labor or office job?

They respect it, but seem to apply the same outlook I do: That it's hip, it's wondrous, it's a raison d'etre and all that, but day-to-day comes down to paying the bills. I've never had anyone assume what I do is easy, even in the case of getting a story up on some friendly blog. In that sense, they see it as even more "work" than our daily grind, given that the whole effort has an air of mystery and glamour around it. But they also know, as I do, that whatever work it takes is done on my own time.

Be honest, if you wrote full time, do you think you'd be disciplined about it?

Absolutely. Writing is a physical urge for me at this point. It's my chief entertainment, my favorite escape hatch, my leading sense of validation. I don't devote so much time to it because I have to, but because I want to. The time I devote, I organize. Scheduling helps me reduce stress and pander to whatever control freak element I have in my bones. 

In short, writing and discipline are two of my favorite things. They're my steak and potatoes. How could I not enjoy them together as much as possible?

What job, other than writing, would you most like to have?

And other than marketing? Slotted right below "full time writer" and my current day job would be a game theorist. I'd enjoy working for the RAND Corporation analyzing international relations, particularly in the Middle East and Central Asia, and deriving game theory from the data. I relish all study of human behavior, from the deeply, immediately personal up to the level of national destinies. That's my principal academic background and it would be a lark applying it toward an influential end. 

I'm disillusioned with politics these days, but I adore political science. Being able to bottle the human hysteria into predictable modes of interaction is a blast. I'm not vain enough - almost - to presume I'd be comfortable as a puppet master, trying to pull strings from a basement in Langley or some sweaty, partisan war room. I wouldn't mind lending the decision makers some critical food for thought, though.

What has been your best job? Your worst?

I am now in my best job. Considering the positions I've had before - Editor and Tutor - that's saying something. I love writing and teaching, but nothing quite beats learning how to sell at a time when my fiction career is getting traction.

As for my worst job, I didn't feel terribly fulfilled as a tutor at times, but it still wasn't so shabby. I preferred my job as a graveyard shift gas station attendant - there was more time to kick back and absorb stories from the road and the night, and I always enjoyed seeing the dawn. Still, tutoring was a pretty keen gig for a "worst job."

When do you find time to read?

Unfortunately, on the list of things I love that get wedged into the crannies of my life, reading is a low entry. It hovers just above exercise. Often, it's the same process - I read while on a stationary bike. I also tote a book to most meals I take alone, grab glimpses while walking from one place to another, bookend my meals with a chapter or two. Occasionally, I'll get into a rhythm with reading that finds me filling my off-time with it. I usually don't do that unless I'm researching a writing project or have become obsessed with an author or oeuvre, though. 

Have you ever, or maybe how often, have you considered quitting and shacking up to write novels, money issues be damned?

No. Only some of that denial is due to the money. A large part is because I know I'd want to be doing something else - other kinds of writing, other sources of income, other artistic pursuits outside the artistic medium. There's so much in the professional sector that inspires me outside the realm of novel writing, or even fiction writing. I'd love more time to write long-form fiction, but if it becomes the sole source of my professional focus, it loses its luster. It becomes less special. It risks changing from "what I most want to do," into "all I do."

What is your ultimate goal with writing? Full time journeyman or millionaire? Or are you satisfied doing it part time?

My ultimate goal is to write a novel-length work that is regarded as a major artistic installment in the genre or literary canon. I'd like to achieve other benchmarks of success - I'd enjoy evolving a series of published works, a fan base would be keen, and money would certainly be welcome - but so long as I hit the mark on artistic contribution, I would be pleased as can be.

Given what you've earned writing, dividing it by the hours spent, what would you say is your hourly wage as a writer?

As a fiction writer, nada. And that's all according to plan. As a professional marketing writer, about $31.

Do you have a spouse/partner that would support you writing full time?

I do indeed - Gina Marie, a long-time fan of my work who became a stalwart friend and then a lover. She supplies fodder for my stories, fiercely candid criticism and unflagging support. She is almost as in love with writing as I am, and enjoys every aspect of editing, craft and planning that I share with her. Like me, she has a lot of day job taking up her time. But also like me, she views writing not just as a passion, but as a privilege. Storytelling brought us together. Supporting it is an integral part of supporting us.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writers With Day Jobs: Chris F. Holm

Chris F. Holm is the author of the widely praised (even by your truly) Dead Harvest, a wildly inventive urban fantasy/crime/horror novel and book 1 of The Collector series.
Book #2, The Wrong Goodbye, is out in a few months. 
(As an aside, these books have some of my favorite covers of anything recently, and maybe ever. As I delve deeper into this cover design thing I have the utmost respect for good cover design and artistry. These things are frame-worthy things of beauty.)

That's not to mention his collection 8 Pounds, and his work in the anthologies Crime Factory: The First Shift, Beat To A Pulp: Round One and Round Two, and I'm proud to share the page with him in Pulp Ink.

His life in between pumping out these Anthony Award nominated, Derringer-nominated and Spinetingler-Winning  stories was so interesting there are a few follow-up questions in here, including two cents from his wife, Katrina. Hmmm . . . I sense a new series of questions here. Spouses of Writers Get Their Say.

What do you do as your day job?
I'm a research associate at a large biotech company, which is a fancy way of saying I'm a lab rat. Once upon a time, I was enrolled in an Infectious Disease PhD program; I thought I'd work for the CDC, chasing nasty microbes around the globe. Turns out, it wasn't quite my cup of tea. So I quit. Got a job. And started writing.
Your job and background sound ripe for a thriller set in the CDC world or with bioterrorism and other "high concept" stories. Have you ever been tempted to "write what you know" and sell yourself as one of those "expert" authors that publishers seem to love so much? Lawyers writing legal thrillers, Barry Eisler's CIA experience, etc.
Honestly, I've got no interest in selling myself as an "expert" author, because a) I'm more dilettante than expert, really, and b) microbe-centric-thriller-author sounds a hell of a lot more restrictive than either of the examples you mentioned; I'd be repeating myself by book three. That said, I've had an idea for a weird little wrong-man conspiracy/global pandemic tale bouncing around my head for years that no one's scooped me on yet, so maybe one day I'll get around to writing it.

When do you find time to write?
I've worked hard to carve out a few hours a week -- eight till noon, Saturday and Sunday -- during which I write no matter what. Friends and family know not to call then, because I won't answer. Weekdays, I'm far less strict, but I try to open up my WIP once a day at least, because even a few minutes spent writing gets me a little closer to the finish line.
Has your job or coworkers ever influenced a story?
Absolutely. My short story "The Big Score," which featured prominently a lobsterman, was influenced by the view at my last day job; we were a scrappy little marine bio startup, and our (shabby, shabby) offices overlooked Portland, Maine's working waterfront. I'm talking bait trucks and the like. I wrote a short called "A Native Problem" that hearkened back to my infectious disease research days. And I've got one coming out later this year influenced by my layoff a couple years back, and the sort of existential emptiness of modern cubicle culture. (Not that I'm complaining, work-folk. I'm very happy for the job. And the paycheck. And the benefits.)

Now that you have a high-profile book out, do those co-workers who are supportive ever think they've found themselves in Dead Harvest or anything else you've written? Are they right?
You know, no one has! And I tend not to base characters on folks I know, so even if they thought they were in there, they'd be wrong. Every once and a while, I'll borrow a friend's last name for a minor character or street name or whatever, just to make 'em smile, but that's about the extent of it.
What would it take for you to quit and write full time?
That's a question I've often asked myself, and the answer I always seem to circle back to is, "A deal big enough I don't have to worry about how I'm gonna keep the lights on." Which is to say, at least a couple years' salary. Because one big sale is no guarantee you'll make another anytime soon.
Do your coworkers know you write? Do they know you write dark crime fiction? What do they say about it?
They do. As I mentioned, I was laid off a couple years back. It occurred to me that most potential employers Google folks they're interviewing, and in my case, that meant they'd stumble across my blog, my Twitter profile, even a number of my online short stories. So I was up-front about it. Explained that I wasn't exactly making a mint at the writing gig. Emphasized strong writing skills, and downplayed my penchant for killing people messy on the page. Much to my surprise, it worked.
Don't get me wrong -- most of my coworkers thought my writing an eccentricity. Then I got a book deal, and something shifted. Many of them have really embraced -- even championed -- my writing, for which I'm very grateful. And if I've creeped any of 'em out, they've been too spooked to say so.
Do you think people respect writing as a job, or does it come off as less "work" than a labor or office job?
A bit of both, I think. Most folks seem to respect the time and effort that goes into it, if only because they can't imagine writing anything for fun, much less thousands upon thousands of pages worth of material. But on the other hand, I think writing's sometimes viewed as a natural talent, a facility, rather than something that requires exercise to maintain. And unless you've been in the submission trenches, taking rejections left and right, you've no concept of how daunting the actual business aspect of writing can be. God knows I didn't, starting out.
Be honest, if you wrote full time, do you think you'd be disciplined about it?
If you'd asked me that a year ago, I would have said no. But lately, I've been on a tear, forcing myself to put ass-in-chair every chance I get, to write even when I'm not feeling it at all. This past month alone, I wrote a hundred prose pages. Plus my promotional duties. Plus my day job. And hell, I even managed to fit in a road trip for a good friend's wedding. I used to think, "A book a year would be a breeze if I were writing full-time -- imagine how much time I'd have for other stuff." Now, I think, "If I were writing full-time, to hell with one a year: I could probably fit in three."
What job, other than writing, would you most like to have?
Bookstore owner. Rock star. Covert agent. Iron Chef. Sommelier. (Note your question never states I'm required to be remotely qualified.)
What has been your best job? Your worst?
Best job (no offense to my current one, which I quite enjoy and also please don't fire me) would have to be driving a shuttle van in college. Radio on, windows down, brain wandering; it was a writer's dream. My friends would come hang out while I was on shift, and if nobody showed up looking for a ride, we'd go grab a bite to eat, or play PlayStation for free at Toys R' Us, or whatever. Good gig for a kid on scholarship, too poor to own a car.
Worst was hands-down the summer I spent running a drill press in a rural upstate New York factory that built forklifts. It was hot, hard, brutal work, and it didn't help that I was a rail-thin, multiply earring'd college kid in a building full of grizzled lifers. By summer's end, me and those guys got on okay, but it was rocky getting there. 
When do you find time to read?
Uh. Um. Remember when I said I've been on a writing tear? Yeah, a lot of that's been at the expense of reading time. I bring a book to work so I can read during lunch. Some days, that's the only time I find.
Have you ever, or maybe how often, have you considered quitting and shacking up to write novels, money issues be damned?
I haven't. My wife's been insanely supportive of my writing, but I don't think I could ask her to be sole breadwinner while I slogged away in penniless obscurity. She and I've been broke before, and I'm not about to volunteer us to wind up that way again. Poor's only romantic to folks who haven't had the displeasure.
What is your ultimate goal with writing? Full time journeyman or millionaire? Or are you satisfied doing it part time?
Writing's the only thing I've ever done I thought was worth a damn. I'd love to make a go of it full-time. Whether I'm lucky enough to hit it big, or just scrappy enough to make enough to keep the lights on, that's what I aim to do. Lord knows how long it'll take to get there.
Given what you've earned writing, dividing it by the hours spent, what would you say is your hourly wage as a writer?
I don't think my calculator goes that low. Is it too late to reconsider on that whole full-time/part-time thing?
Do you have a spouse/partner that would support you writing full time?
Very much so, though as I said, Katrina and I are of a mind about making sure doing so's financially tenable first. It was my wife who encouraged me to try my hand at writing in the first place, and she's not only read but edited every story I've ever written. The world doesn't see it without me first getting her thumbs-up, and her input's been vital to my career. Of course, it's worth noting she's a book blogger and reviewer who's read more mysteries than any ten other people I know, so the opinions she's offering aren't simply of the blandly supportive variety.

And as long as you brought her in, do you mind if I ask your wife what she thinks of what your imagination is capable of? Does she sleep with the lights on? 
Katrina Niidas Holm:
Chris’ madness knows no bounds. It’s really quite terrifying.  Please send help.
Seriously, though – I’ve always been impressed at Chris’ ability to craft a story, but I don’t think I was ever really caught off guard by the scope of his imagination until I read the second Collector novel (THE WRONG GOODBYE, due out this September).  That book knocked me back.  I can’t count the number of times I came across something in the text – some creature, some concept, some set piece, some sequence of events – that caused my jaw to drop.  I must have sounded like a broken record, so often did I turn to him and demand to know how in the hell he’d come up with something.  I’m now fairly convinced I’m married to a literary Willy Wonka.  Or maybe a noir-ish, pulpy Jasper Fforde (that’s high praise, coming from me!).  And I can’t wait to see what crazy shit he comes up with next.