...Interview Chris F. Holm

This is Chris.

And this is the most recent book in The Collector series! Order it here.

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(First, a small bit of news. One of my favorite publications, the Washington Independent Review of Books, invited me to become a regular contributor to their site. So, once a month, I'm going to write a column about...shit, I need to think of something. Anyway, I love that site, have published there before, and I'm really excited to write for them on a regular basis. Now on to the interview.)
I've come across Chris F. Holm's name so often that I'm starting to think of him in terms of "your favorite writer's favorite writer." Bloggers, reviewers and fans have been justly excited about his Collector series since its inception. His soul-collecting protagonist, Sam Thornton, travels across the United States with a world-wearied perspective that never descends into defeat or risks losing the reader's engagement. The books are fun and emotional, and do a great job of creating scenes that linger long after the book is finished (check out the battle in New York in DEAD HARVEST as an example).
He's also a super nice guy. He blurbed my first novel after I timidly e-mailed and asked him and, as any writer will tell you, getting that kind of encouragement means the world.
Here's his official bio:
"Chris F. Holm was born in Syracuse, New York to a mother from a cop family and a father from a long line of fantasy and sci-fi geeks. He wrote his first story at the age of six. It got him sent to the principal's office. Since then, his work has fared better, appearing in such publications as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. He's been longlisted for a Stoker Award and nominated for an Anthony, a Derringer, a Silver Falchion, a pair of Spinetinglers, and a handful of House of Crime and Mystery Readers' Choice Awards, racking up a couple of wins along the way. His Collector novels recast the battle between heaven and hell as old-fashioned crime pulp. Chris lives on the coast of Maine with his lovely wife, crime-fiction reviewer Katrina Niidas Holm. No, she hasn't reviewed his books."
And here's my interview with him:
What's your favorite joke?
I'm from a cop family, and I hang out with crime writers, which is to say all the jokes I know are in poor taste. So allow me to dodge the question. You know the impatient cow joke?
"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"The impatient cow."
"The impatient c--"
Well, my wife loves that joke. Only when she first heard it, she never managed to tell it right. It always came out "Knock knock MOO!" Turns out, it's much funnier that way.

What other art forms inspire you, or do you enjoy (TV shows, movies, musicians, etc.)?
Uh, all of the above. I'm a huge TV geek. Twin Peaks, Sports Night, Buffy, Fringe, The X Files, The West Wing, and The Wire have probably taught me as much about good storytelling as any books I've ever read.

I confess, the PG-13ing of America has caused my love of movies to wane, since it's rendered most genre flicks toothless, but they're still an influence. Any facility for action staging I might have, I've no doubt lifted from Die Hard, Aliens, and The Terminator. Carpenter, Cronenberg, and Craven taught me a thing or two about scaring people. And I'm convinced my love of pulp adventure was fostered by Spielberg and Lucas from a very young age.
And as for music... I grew up on the fringes of a hardcore punk scene. Watching kids my age climb up on stage and play taught me artists aren't some mysterious other species; they're just normal people who had the guts to put themselves out there. My tastes in music have mellowed some -- and diversified considerably -- since then, but it's a lesson I've carried to this day. Without it, I may have never dared to try my hand at writing in the first place.

The Collector series has such a large mythology behind it. Do you have plans for any type of "spin-off," or more stories told from characters other than Sam?

This question presumes I have plans for anything ever, which I never do. I can't think more than five minutes ahead at any given time. But I've certainly thought about exploring other characters within that world. Three fan-favorite characters from the first two books wind up traveling together at the end of THE BIG REAP, and I'd like to think they're out there fighting evil Supernatural-meets-A-Team style. That'd be a kick to write. And without giving too much away about what the future might hold, if ever I write a second trilogy, it may well be told from the point-of-view of a handler with a stable of Collectors.

At times, it seems as if Sam has a growing attraction to evil, or that evil feels he can be manipulated. Is that part of a larger pessimistic philosophy behind the series, or his character?
It's funny; I don't think of the series as pessimistic. I think it's about a guy trying to do right. Trying to figure out who he is and where he fits in, in a cruel and messy world. And he's doing it with no promise of reward, no hope of salvation from on high. Sometimes he slips -- lets his guard down -- and learns a tough lesson. But I think Sam's arc is still redemptive, overall. 

What's been your best moment in publishing?
That's a tough question; there've been so many. But the first time I held a real, live copy of DEAD HARVEST in my hands is up there. It was the culmination of a lifelong dream.

On a related note, how did you end up with Angry Robot books?
Oh, the ordinary way. I wrote a book. Sent out queries. Got an agent, who shopped but never sold that book. Wrote another one in the meantime that turned out to be DEAD HARVEST. That one, she sold. And the rest, I guess, is history.

What are your thoughts on the changing nature of publishing? More specifically, do you think small presses and self-publishing have been beneficial or detrimental to writers/writing?
I think small presses, in general, are -- and always have been -- wonderful for publishing. They can take risks the big six can't or won't. They can put out stuff that otherwise might not find a home. And thanks to the explosion of e-readers, they can do so on a scale unimaginable in decades past.
Self-publishing is more value-neutral, in my opinion. I'm not against it by any means; heck, I've self-published two short story collections. But I think there's this notion among writers that self-publishing is the easier route, and that's wrongheaded. Sure, you can publish these days with the click of a button, but making sure a) your work is of publishable quality and b) it actually gets in front of readers' eyeballs is damn hard. That said, used correctly it's a powerful tool.
You can follow Chris on Twitter here and visit his web site here.
And, as always, find me on Twitter here and Facebook here.
Marketing, bitch!

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