What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
I am Chris Rakunas, and I live in a small town in rural Oklahoma called Clinton. I was born just west of here in another small town, Los Angeles, California. You might have heard of it.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
While I’ve always done a lot of writing, I don’t think I ever said aloud that this was going to be something I wanted to do as a profession. Most of the time I told people I wanted to be an astronaut, or a fighter pilot, or a dinosaur wrestler, or any of the other million things that kids say they want to be when they grow up. I worked for a newspaper, and I worked for NASA for a year as a science writer, but I don’t think I ever wanted to do it as a living. I think I still don’t know for sure what I want to be when I grow up, although I might give dinosaur wrestling a try.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
My latest book is called The 8th Doll. Here are the 20 words I’d use to describe it: Fast-paced thriller, Mayan apocalypse, murder mystery, fictional plot, real facts about the Yucatan, lots of twists and turns.
Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
I work with Divertir Publishing out of Salem, NH. They published my first book, Tears for the Mountain, which is about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The first time I spoke with Dr. Ken Tupper, the publisher, he suggested we donate a portion of the proceeds from that book back to the orphanage in Port-au-Prince where the book is based, and that always has remained with me. Understanding that businesses can also have a societal benefit is something that means a lot to me.
Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?
The 8th Doll was a lot different from the other books I’ve written in that it was more like a story that was stuck inside me trying to get out. I’ve heard other writers talk about words just flowing out through you, and I was rather surprised that it happened to me with this book.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
The 8th Doll is the first in a 4-book series, and I’m halfway done with the series already. So you can expect at least 2 more books with the same characters. The books are not all the same, though. The second book is a little more like a light-hearted action story, similar to a movie you’d see in the summer time. The third book is going to be much darker and intense, and the fourth is going to wrap up the whole series. After that I have several other novels planned that will range from stories of redemption to a western.
Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
I really take my ideas from all over the place. This book came to me while I was in the Yucatan. My wife and I were at the Temple of the 7 Dolls, and as I was staring up at it, an idea struck me. For the rest of our trip there I could not stop thinking about it, and it bugged me the whole way home. Even after a few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about this story, so I started putting it down on paper.
My other books, however, come from all over the place. Sometimes it’s just a matter of thinking about stories you’d want someone to tell you.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
No, not really. I’ve written pieces of it at the kitchen table, sitting on a sofa, in a library, or in an airport. The only thing I do the same every time is spend a few minutes thinking about what is going on in the story and putting myself there. Once that happens I start to feel like I’m really there with the characters, and then it’s just a matter of explaining what is happening to everyone.
Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
You know, the only time I’ve ever asked a reviewer to look at something again is when there are formatting issues. One of the downsides with electronic formats is that sometimes an e-reader might not load a file the same way another e-reader does. A couple of months back Amazon made some minor changes to their Kindle formatting, and I had problems pop up with some reviewers over it. That sort of stuff I think is ok to discuss. But if someone said they didn’t like the idea of my book, then that’s different. We don’t all have to have the same tastes. I figure that even Hemingway had people criticize his writing, and since I’m not even a shade of him, I’ll have the same thing happen to me.
How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
The title for this book came from the name of a temple in Dzibilchaltun called The Temple of the 7 Dolls. The temple figures heavily in the story, which begins when a murdered geologist leaves behind a doll with the number 8 on its chest. As for the cover design, I work with the publisher on some ideas and then they actually put it together. The folks at Divertir are much more creative when it comes to artwork than I am. If it were left to me, there would probably just be a stick figure on the cover.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
About halfway through I start thinking of titles for the book. I learned with my first book that it’s important to have a catchy title AND a title that isn’t close to something else. When people Google your book or try to buy it on Amazon, you don’t want it to be close to someone else’s book. “Catch-23” would be a horrible title in that regard. It needs to make sense and stand out in a crowd.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
I prefer to use real places in my books as much as possible. I think it’s awesome when you can go to Rome and actually walk through the steps of Da Vinci Code or cruise along the French Riviera and follow an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. So I try to use as many places, restaurants, bars, streets, and other landmarks as possible.
Characters, however, are a different story. When I can, I do try to throw in the names of people I know or of fans that I’ve met. I think it helps tie together the community of people who read my books. (The local librarian her in Clinton is always asking me when she’s going to make an appearance in one of my books) But if the names don’t work out, then I try to come up with something that fits the character best.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
Most of my characters are mapped out before I sit down and write. For me the story is the important part, and the characters have to have traits that match it. For example, Alex Guidry is the main character in this series, but he has some flaws (for good reasons). I don’t want him to be this awesome superhero sort of guy who whoops on bad guys and is perfect. Instead, he’s got a small cowardly streak, and sometimes he makes choices that make him feel guilty later. But I know what he’s going to be like at each point in the book.
Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
I have a very, very detailed outline. I think for this book it was around 5,000 words, and the follow-up book, Eye of Siam actually had close to 10,000 words in the outline. (That’s something like 20 pages and 40 pages, respectively). I’m sure there are some people who can just sit down and let it flow, but I always have a hard time ensuring consistency when that happens, even with basic things like the color of a character’s hair or what they’re wearing. Outlining really helps me a great deal.
Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
The other main character in this book, Skips Kane, is actually based on a real person. All of the other characters who appear in the book are purely fictional. Someone else was just asking me the other day if I based characters on me or events on things that had happened to me, and I try not to. I think if I wrote stories where I felt as though I were in them, I would have a tendency to make them unrealistic, almost like a James Bond movie. Instead, I enjoy watching characters who have some flaws struggle with them and be forced to overcome their problems.
Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
I don’t think they’ll totally replace printed books, but I do think that printed books are the next vinyl record. They’re soon to be collector’s items. More than half the books sold are in e-format, and it’s much easier to get them distributed. I have fans in India, Ireland, and the UK who I probably would never have connected with if it weren’t for the fact that my books are available as e-books. I love the fact that I can get comments from readers in Brazil, Australia, and China all in the same day. It’s wild.
Did you have a favourite author as a child?
Roald Dahl. I think I read everything he ever wrote including his biography, which sadly did not feature giant peaches.
What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Write. That’s all that matters is writing. Being a writer isn’t about interviews and book signings, and it’s not about how many copies you’ve sold. It’s about producing lots of high quality works. Herman Woulk is in his 90’s and has already won a Pulitzer. The guy still writes all the time.
If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
F. Scott Fitzgerald would be there as long as I could get him to leave Zelda at home. If not, Hemingway would take his place. I can’t imagine a dinner party of famous authors without having one of those two there since I’m pretty sure they’d be lively. I’d also add in Jennifer Lancaster because I have a feeling that she’s just as funny in person as she is in her books.
Where can readers follow you?
Your Goodreads author page? http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5833251.Chris_Rakunas
Your Goodreads author page? http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5833251.Chris_Rakunas
I love speaking with my readers, so please feel free to message me on FB or GR.