Meet the Author: Chris James

Author Chris James
Author Chris James

Chris James is an English science fiction writer who was born in Hampton Hill near London in 1967. In 1998 he moved to Warsaw, Poland, where he lives with his wife and three children. He published his first novel in 2010, a futuristic court-room thriller called Class Action, and his second in 2011, called The Second Internet Café, Part 1: The Dimension Researcher, which takes the sub-genre of Alternative Realities to its logical conclusion. He is currently writing the second part of The Second Internet Café trilogy.

Chris says when he writes, he concentrates on replicating what he enjoys most as a reader: a fast pace in the story, emotional involvement with the characters, and action, as well as story continuity that works. “Many things can take me out of a story that I’m reading: bad writing, bad editing, plot points that don’t make sense, clunky and dull exposition. These are all the things I try very hard to avoid when I write.”

Originalty and an interesting premise are important to Chris in his work. “Class Action came from one thought: what would happen if there was a technology that could see into the brain and extract everything, which made it impossible for suspects to lie under oath? The Second Internet Café came from: wouldn’t it be cool if there was a place where scientists knew where every single alternative reality was, and sent special researchers to go and investigate them?”Ideas like these and the others he has for future stories are the motivation for his writing, rather than any burning desire to be a writer.  “This, it seems to me, is the trick of being a storyteller: to come up with an original and entertaining idea that still has enough familiar elements to appeal.”

As is the case for most of us, Chris finds marketing his work to be the real thorn on the rose. “I want to write stories, and I don’t like losing time and wasting effort on marketing. I really went for it when I published The Dimension Researcher last September and lost five months of writing time as I got more and more frustrated because no matter how much I interacted with people on Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads, and guest blogged and gave away free copies in competitions, my books didn’t sell.”

He confesses that at times, it made him feel a fraud because his interaction with other people on these platforms was ultimately aimed at getting them interested in his books. He even shut down his social media accounts for a while.  “In any case, I don’t do blatant selling of my books anymore because I don’t care how many copies I sell because I can’t afford to care because I’ll go mad and besides I only really want to write stories. Yes, it depresses the hell out of me that I can’t get more readers, but I’m not going to give my books away for free because I put too much sheer bloody hard work into them, and I don’t think even giving them away would make that much difference. My books are out there, and they’ll just have to look after themselves: I’m busy.”

Chris says he gave up actively trying to recruit new readers. He says those who’ve been kind enough to write reviews have really become friends over the last few months.  If someone contacts him, he says he always responds as soon as he can, but seldom initiates contact himself. He says Indies Unlimited is a prime example. “I’ve been enjoying your site for some months, but I would never have submitted anything off my own back. But once Kat asked for a guest post and then this feature, I was only too happy to oblige and make the time for you.”

One of the changes Chris has made in the way of making more time to write is to switch to video blogging.”Although they’re a little nerve-wracking to record, they’re easy to script and only take a few minutes. While they’re converting and uploading, I can write fiction (instead of losing two or three hours writing a blog post).” Hmmm…

His feeling about the indie author movement reflects there is a way yet to go. He says indie authors need to get it together or face the prospect that the whole experiment will end awash in mediocrity. “It’s not just about typographical errors; too many read like first drafts, and I was speechless that people could publish this stuff and take other people’s money for it and still sleep at night. Apart from IU and the writers who I’ve read and respect, I have almost no interaction with other members of the Indie community. Some of the readers who bought and reviewed my books are also writers, and I’ve been happy to beta-read their stories, which on the whole have been good. One of the reasons I keep going back to IU is that you know what you’re doing when it comes to writing.”

Chris feels it is not unreasonable to expect that indie authors have a reasonable command of language. “English is our raw material, and every Indie absolutely MUST learn how to use it effectively. We don’t have the advantages of the mainstreams in this regard: Dan Brown either can or cannot write a coherent sentence, but it doesn’t matter because his publisher has got people to fix any mistakes. Indies don’t have that.”

Chris James’ book, The Second Internet Café, Part1: The Dimension researcher, is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK.
Lucas Hunter has the best job in the universe: exploring and investigating alternative realities. But from the first trip he realises something is wrong. A strange American is chasing Lucas across the continuum; from Soviet Warsaw in 1944, to Muslim-dominated Europe in 1911, and on to Nazi-controlled England in 1967. Lucas soon understands that his superiors have betrayed him, and the world is on the brink of the first trans-dimensional war.

Learn more about author Chris James and his writing from his blog, his Amazon US author page, his Amazon UK author page, and his profile. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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12 thoughts on “Meet the Author: Chris James”

  1. Very nice surprise to see Chris James highlighted on IU! I've read both of his books: Class Action and the Dimension Researcher. He definitely knows what he is doing when it comes to writing and use of the English language.

    I agree with Chris completely that IU has some of the very best Indie writers on staff and as readers. Quality in the post writing, quality in the comments and quality in the books written by staff!

    As a new writer, I admit I'm worried that when I finally do have something to publish just how on earth I will go about it. Marketing and selling is something that doesn't come naturally to me either; I'm pleased to read a post from writer I admire who is so straightforward in his approach and realistic in his expectations of sales. Though, my guess is that the "I'm busy" comment is made firmly with tongue in cheek :))

    Finally, I've seen many comments in IU and other places lately, talking about the need for quality in writing and books that are going to be published. Chris is right – Mr. Dan Brown has many options open to him that us Indie writers will be neither able to afford nor have the time to seek out. What we all should be doing is ensuring we know what we are doing and then hiring a professional (yes pay one!) editor to keep it on track.

    Thanks for being honest, Chris!

    1. Hi Jo,

      Thanks for commenting – I'm so glad you enjoyed the stories and took the time to post reviews of my books.

      I think the best thing you can do is look around and what others do. There's no doubt in my mind that a web-based marketing strategy can work, but it is extremely hard work (in my opinion) and depends greatly on the time you can devote to it. I really admire those writers who can make it work for them.

      My main reason for griping is that I have a full-time job and a young(-ish) family, so I do prefer to devote the little free time I do have to writing fiction.

  2. Excellent points, Chris, thank you! Yes, as indies, quality is our best defense against mediocrity, and hopefully will lead to a tipping point where readers see that we're worth more than the average foamy coffee beverage.

    1. Thank you, Laurie. When I read news stories on outside sites, like Guardian Books, self-published authors come under attack for the quality of the material we publish, which is an image that the struggling mainstreams are only too happy to promote: we're bad, they're good. So if you want a quality product, you should buy mainstream.

      I don't think that's fair, and that irritates me. In fact, it irritates me as much as that dunderhead who runs my anger management course 😉

  3. My book is still a work in progress so I have no personal experience to draw upon but everything I have learned in the last six months, much of it on LinkedIn and here on IU, tells me that a great many of the readers out there are more interested in content than in quality. By content I mean stories that deal with the current fads whatever they may be. They want more of the same rather than original ideas that may take them out of their comfort zones.

    Most of us want to write stories that we want to read ourselves and part of that equation is the desire for originality. Kind of a catch-22 right there because finding readers who want the same thing is like looking for that proverbial needle.

    So are we destined to fail right from the outset? I don't think so. I believe we should view our books as 'sleepers', slow to gain recognition but more durable, and hopefully more successful in the long run. This is not a very palatable truth but I am going to give my books two years to gather momentum before I give up on them. Two years is a long time to wait for recognition but it's a big, big, big world out there and word of mouth spreads slowly so I expect 2014 to be a very good years for all of us.

    Thanks for being so honest with your experience Chris. You and the others on IU are at the front lines and you're making the battle just that little bit easier for the rest of us.

    1. Hi Meeks,

      Many thanks for this: you make some extremely good points.

      Firstly, I think the whole idea of "quality" does depend on the audience. Many readers don't pay attention to quality, but a sizable minority do, and outside the Indie world, it's this minority that seems to me to have the louder voice. As for comfort zones, for me that's one of the great things about the Indie movement: that all sorts of cross-gnere mash-ups are out there and doing well; stories that the mainstreams wouldn't touch because, they claimed, "it's not what our readers want". Yeah, right.

      I certainly don't think Indie writers will "fail"; the problem today is the percieved lack of quality in Indie writing by the rest of the world. We have to take the fight to the mainstreams: any Indie book that does well needs be of sound quality to shut the literary snobs up, which in turn will gain us broader acceptance.

      One huge advantage that we do have, that you rightly point out, is that our stories actually don't have a shelf-life. Over time I also think this is going to be valuable to all of us.

  4. Again I have to wholeheartedly agree about the guys here at Indies Unlimited. I have read a gazillion pieces of information since I started writing and none of it has been as helpful or as professional as the advice and information I have found here.

    Marketing sucks. It takes forever to woo your audience and I have now had considerable experience of marketing having tried almost every trick in the book. (Most of my posts are about how to promote and market your work.)

    My debut novel was published in 2011 and I have been marketing it religiously ever since. It was a battle to write the second novel while, at the same time, I had to be my own PR agent, keep sending emails to newspapers, do interviews, send more emails and maintain a regular social media presence. Perseverance does pay off but I have to agree with you – stick to what you enjoy.

    Very glad you are part of the team-I'm sure you will soon recruit a fan base here.

  5. Thank you for your kind words, Carol. You're a good example of a person I admire for pushing on with marketing and not giving up: if you could bottle that and sell, I think you'd be a rich lady 🙂

    1. Now I am the one who is blushing! I shall keep trying Chris…I am not a quitter and as soon as I find a magic formula, I'll be back to share it with you.

  6. As a fan of your work, I would much rather see you writing than marketing. On the flip side however, if you had not spent the time on Twitter talking about your work, or on YouTube showing us your award winning personality, the chances of finding your work on my own would have been slim.

    I think there is a balance in this equation that is difficult to maintain. Too much social interaction and you lose writing time; too little and you miss out on growing a fan base.

    Some people mistakenly believe that if they double their marketing efforts the sales of their books will double as well. As you can attest, this is not always the case. It wouldn't be unreasonable to spend a month marketing a new book, then set aside a few hours a week towards that effort however.

    The issue, as you rightly pointed out, is that too many authors spend their precious free time in the wrong area. You can try to justify yourself as a writer by sales and marketing, or you can be a writer.

    Personally, I would rather have a large body of work than one book that I spend the rest of my life trying to get people to read.

    Enjoyed your post my friend, and I'm looking forward to many more.

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