Welcome to the fifty second edition of 10 Questions With…
Today our guest is:
Christopher J. Valin
Christopher J. Valin is a writer, artist, and social studies teacher living in the Los Angeles area with his wife and two kids. His short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Keys: Unlocking the Universe and Capes & Clockwork: Superheroes in the Age of Steam. His reviews of television shows and movies have appeared on various websites, including Television Woodshed (currently), PopSyndicate.com, Mediasharx.com, and ZENtertainment.com. Valin’s first solo book, Fortune’s Favorite: Sir Charles Douglas and the Breaking of the Line, about his 5x-great grandfather, was published by Fireship Press in 2009.
Up until recently, he mostly concentrated on screenwriting, and was the winner of the Golden Age of Television Pilot Contest, Part 9 of the Cowrite Screenwriting Contest, the Scriptwriters’ Network Producers Outreach Program, Chapter 16 of the L.A. Times “Birds of Paradise” Collaborative Novel Contest, and Week 3 of the FanLib.com Kirk vs. Picard Screenwriting Contest. His screenplays and teleplays have also placed in several other competitions, including the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting, the Chesterfield Fellowship Screenwriting Competition, the Fade In Awards, the Screenwriting Expo Cyberspace Open, the Austin Film Festival Screenwriting and teleplay Contests, StoryPros Screenwriting Contest, Scriptapalooza, and Scriptapalooza TV.
1.) What is something that many people might not know about you?
Most people don’t know I used to be a professional musician (I played bass guitar in several working bands, from blues to heavy metal), or that I was a comic book artist (mostly inking, but some writing) for several years. I also used to work as a background actor on the side, so you can see me in a bunch of TV shows from the early 2000s, like The X-Files, Gilmore Girls, and Deadwood. And I like to tell anyone who will listen that I’m in The People vs. George Lucas, which is a documentary about Star Wars fans.
2.) What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve written in many forms since I was a kid, but as an adult I mostly wrote screenplays and teleplays. When I got my master’s degree in military history, I decided that I didn’t want all the work I did on my thesis to go to waste, so I expanded it into a book, and it ended up being published. Around the same time, I had started writing a lot of short stories (mostly science fiction and fantasy), and those were being published in anthologies. I figured that I had the ability to write a full book and the love of sci-fi and fantasy, so I should combine them. The funny thing is, I had just been hired to write a screenplay at the time I made that decision, and even though I had a deadline for that, all I wanted to do was start on my book.
3.) Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
That’s a tough one, but I think if I have to pick just one, it would be Kurt Vonnegut. I remember reading Slaughterhouse-Five in high school and just being blown away by it. Even though he denied being a science fiction author, I felt like his stories almost always had some kind of sci-fi element to them. I love the humor and the unpredictability. When I read Cat’s Cradle, I liked one character description so much that I wrote it on a card and I always have it on the bulletin board above my writing desk: “Her smile was glassy, and she was ransacking her mind for something to say, finding nothing in it but used Kleenex and costume jewelry.” It always reminds me to find a way to describe who characters really are, instead of just concentrating on things like hair color and how tall they are.
4.) If you could have dinner with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I would have to say Vonnegut, since he seemed to be the kind of person I would really enjoy talking to. If it had to be someone still living, it would probably be Neil Gaiman. My first time going to San Diego Comic-Con, my friend and I were walking from our hotel to the convention center, and Neil was sitting alone at an outdoor table at a restaurant, eating breakfast. I wanted so badly to go over and talk to him, but I didn’t want to bother him.
5.) What book are you reading now?
Not counting all the self-publishing how-to books on my Kindle app, I recently started Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig, since I’m such a huge Star Wars fan.
6.) Are there any new authors that have captured your interest?
I really enjoyed reading Harry Connolly’s books, both his 20 Palaces series and his Great Way trilogy.
7.) If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in any of your books?
I think I would make my history/biography book longer if I went back to it. At the time, it was the longest thing I’d ever written, and it felt huge, but now it seems too short. Since my YA novel is just being released, I hope there isn’t anything I will want to change later, but I’m sure there will be.
8.) Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of my YA novel, Sidekick: The Red Raptor Files – Part 1:
The three baddies who are still conscious look at each other and try to escape. I grab two of them and slam their heads together and they fall to the ground.
The third tries to limp away, and even though I’m barely breathing hard, I don’t feel like chasing him. I toss my boomerang and tag him at the base of his skull, which may not have knocked him out. But when his face hits the dumpster on his way down, I’m pretty sure he’s done with.
That’s when I hear him.
“Not bad.” I hate that gravelly-voice thing he does when he’s in costume. I’ve told him how lame it sounds, but he still insists on it, even when nobody’s around to hear it except me.
“Not bad? I thought it was pretty damn good.”
He steps out of the shadows, where he’s apparently been standing, watching me. With the almost all-black costume, it really isn’t that hard for him to do. Unlike me, with my bright-red uniform and blond hair.
So ridiculous. He has no problem taking me into situations where I’m more likely than not to get killed or maimed, but I’m not supposed to swear around him.
“Yeah, sorry. How long were you standing there?”
“Long enough.” I’m serious, he sounds totally fake. I almost want to laugh sometimes.
“And you didn’t think it might be a good idea to, I don’t know, give me a hand?”
“You didn’t need any help.” Wow. From The Black Harrier, that’s pretty much the highest compliment you can get. “But there are still some things we need to work on to increase your efficiency.”
I nod and decide not to ask him where he was all night, even though it’s the fifth time in a couple of weeks I’ve had to patrol alone.
“Is tomorrow okay?” I always have to confirm things with him. Never assume.
“Okay, then. Well, I think I’m pretty much done here. Sounds like the cops are on the way. I need to get home to finish my homework and check on my mom.”
He grunts. He always gets extra-broody when I bring up my mom. I swear, sometimes he’s such a tool that I almost don’t want to be his partner anymore. I shoot my grappling hook up to the top of the building next to me and prepare to go up.
“Kite.” I hate the way he says my code name. In fact, I hate that code name. At least it’s not so gravelly this time.
“It’s ‘Raptor’ now. ‘Red Raptor’.”
“Right. I keep forgetting.” Yeah, sure you do. More like you’re so mad I changed it without your permission that you refuse to accept it. “Plus, until it gets approved by—”
“…by the Guild, it’s not ‘official’. Yeah, so you keep reminding me. Is there anything else?”
He tosses me a package wrapped in newspaper. The guy’s a billionaire, and he can’t splurge on some gift wrap?
“Happy birthday.” Dude, something strange is going on for sure. And who gets the newspaper anymore?
“Uh, thanks.” This is so weird I’m not even sure how to respond. I just look at him, waiting for something else. As usual, he just stands there being all tough and silent.
I thumb my grappler button and rise up toward the rooftops. As I turn around, I see Harrier pick something up off the ground and examine it in the moonlight…some kind of business card.
And I can’t shake the feeling in my gut that whatever has him acting so weird has got to be really, really bad.
9.) What song best describes you and why?
On my way home tonight, I heard Billy Joel’s “My Life”, and thought about how it described me pretty well.
10.) A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
He says, “You have thirty seconds to figure out why I’m here and why I’m wearing a sombrero, or things are going to get ugly up in here.”
And I respond, “Really? Because I’m way more interested in how you can talk than I am in the sombrero.”
And then things get really ugly. Kind of like the opening to the film Desperado, but more penguinish.
Go ahead, pimp whatever book you want:
My new release is the YA novel I mentioned earlier, Sidekick: The Red Raptor Files – Part 1. It’s about a teenage superhero who has to figure out what to do when his mentor disappears. I also have a recent anthology of short stories called Tres Puercos and Other Dark Tales available for Kindle. Tres Puercos is an updated version of the Three Little Pigs story told as a dark comedy, plus there’s a story about a guy who realizes he’s been turned into a vampire and is afraid of heights, and the story of a guy who unwillingly enters people’s nightmares.
GIVEAWAY: Christopher J. Valin would like to giveaway a signed copy of Sidekick: The Red Raptor Files – Part 1. Answer the following question in the comment section to get registered for the giveaway:
Who is your favorite superhero and why?
This giveaway will stay open until January 27, 2016, at 8:00 am (est). Due to shipping cost this giveaway is only open to those in the Continental United States. Good luck to everyone.
I would like to thank Christopher J. Valin for joining us today for this edition of 10 Questions With…
To learn more about Valin and his books, visit his website.