Behind the Book with Kristi Charish
This week I bring you an interview with paranormal Canadian author Kristi Charish!
Liz - Tell us what it’s like over in your part of the world?
Kristi - This will be the question you wished you didn’t ask me - Honest answer? I’m a Canadian so the last week has been heartbreaking. I live in British Columbia and last week an unmarked, mass grave of more than 200 First Nations children was discovered at a former Kamloops Residential School. For readers who might not be familiar with that particularly dark episode of Canadian history and are interested in learning more, the CBC has good coverage. A downer to kick off this interview but, being Canadian, it’s impossible to ignore.
Liz - Absolutely heartbreaking! I honestly had never heard of this before, so thank you for bringing it to our attention. Now, Kristi, when did you discover your love of writing?
Kristi - Mmmm. I’d call it a love of story telling rather than the act of writing. Writing is only one vehicle to tell the stories that I constantly have making their iterations in my brain. As far as when it’s started? I’ve been writing stories for myself ever since I can remember. Putting them to digital page was something I only started in 2010, but there is definitely a meditative feel to getting into a keyboard groove that I enjoy.
Liz - You love writing strong protagonists—what are some of the traits you like them to have?
Kristi - I like my character to have agency. I know that’s become a catch-all/trendy/ambiguous term to describe every and all female protagonist - but to me it means a character who - doesn’t necessarily have control over their lives, a lot of our lives are reacting to the world around us - but they seek out the things in their own world’s they do have a choice about and think about the decisions they can make.
Liz - What is it that draws you to the paranormal genre?
Kristi - I love paranormal fiction for the escapism. Give me a great monster of the week, a bit of mystery, some adventure and I’m there. Fiction with a fantastical element (sci-fi and fantasy) has always been an important escape for me.
Liz - Your Kincaid Strange series features a Voodoo Practitioner. What kind of research did you undertake?
Kristi - As much as I could. There are several accredited American University public lectures on the history of Voodoo in the USA available online that discuss in depth the impact it has had shaping culture and religion. I really enjoyed them. But I would say that Kincaid isn’t a Voodoo practitioner in any traditional or ‘real’ sense. She is a professional who works with the dead- ghosts, zombies, and ghouls – but in her world Voodoo is a tool to talk to and manipulate the dead as much as it is a religion. When it comes to talking to the dead, Kincaid uses any and all tools available to her. Voodoo is a religion with significant cultural importance that is still practiced today so one of my goals was to be respectful of it in the book while paying homage to how incredibly well designed it is to interact with the natural and spiritual world. Hopefully, I achieved that.
Liz - Having lived through my teens during the grunge era, I love that you have the ghost of a Seattle grunge rocker! What inspired this character?
Kristi - Also a graduate of the grunge era! I guess finding out my entire high school wardrobe was now considered ‘vintage’ inspired me to have a ‘vintage’ ghost from the 90s. There’s also a hard to describe ‘atmosphere that comes with the whole grunge era. A little dark, a lot of flannel, some general apathy, and a whole lot of ‘wet’ coast overcast days. I remember the tonal atmosphere that went with the 90s and I wanted to bring that in. What better way than a fictional grunge star?
Liz - You like to include pop culture references in your work—what are some of your favourite to date?
Kristi - Video games, celebrity absurdity, and a LOT of 80s adventure movie references- I love me some obscure Indy references. With regards to pop culture, I go less for specific details and try to reference the things that catapult ideas and things into popular culture. Counterintuitively, an inside joke only works if most of your audience gets it. Pop culture for the win!
Liz - You’re also a scientist, specialising in genetics, cell biology and molecular biology—do you find your love of science impacts your views on the paranormal?
Kristi - Not at all. To be perfectly clear - I relegate the paranormal to fiction. What I do believe is that the brain is a wonderful biological machine that is constantly trying to make sense out the world around us from the input it receives. Everything from changes in our habitat, our fight and flight instincts, our life experiences - all of them fed through our wonderful brains. It’s a wonder our imaginations don’t come up with more.
Liz - Congratulations on your latest release in the Adventures of Owl series! What can you tell us about it?
Kristi - Owl and the Tiger Thieves is the fourth book in my Adventures of Owl series about an archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief who has one rule - no supernatural jobs ever. That goes out the window as book four sees her trying to stop a brewing supernatural war and save one of her companions from a fate worse than death, all while dancing around a troop of mercenaries.
Liz - What do you see ahead for Owl?
Kristi - Hopefully more adventures in the not too distant future that will definitely involve a stint with supernatural hunting mercenaries.
Liz - How do you prepare to write a series? Do you plan one book at a time or to do you plan the whole series from start to finish?
Kristi - I start off writing a novel by finding the right voice for my protagonist (or just finding a protagonist). After that, the plan usually focuses on the novel at hand. I always have ‘bigger picture’ stuff in the back of my mind percolating around, but I prefer to keep it nebulous. You can never guarantee a series.
Liz - What are you working on at the moment or in the foreseeable future?
Kristi - I’ve got four manuscript drafts I wrote last year and my goal is to get them all edited and to my agent by Dec 31st. The first one is a spy spoof about the people who keep the world thinking a particular ‘super spy’ actually knows what he’s doing.
Liz - What are you currently reading?
Kristi - Ben Aaronovitch’s River’s of London series (recommend) and starting Stephen Blackmoore’s Eric Carter series (also recommended).
Liz - What does your writing process look like?
Kristi - Honestly? Sit ass in front of computer. Make hands do fun typy-writey thing on keyboard until words come out. Try to do it for 4-6 hours every day. Don’t worry about spelling, at least not at first, make sure to drink water occasionally, and don’t get discouraged. And that’s not meant to be glib, that’s pretty well what my process comprises of. There is a ton of fantastic advice already written about how to organize your thoughts, how the backbone’s of a novel work, great plots- all of that you can find online for free, but there are countless authors I meet who never get to the writing part because they’re afraid it won’t be perfect. If you never sit down and do the physical work of writing something awful (I’ve done it many times, gleefully!), you’ll never get to the part where you figure out how to make it better. Honestly, that’s the best process advice I can give. Get the work done.
Liz - What advice do you have for anyone embarking on their writing journey?
Kristi - See above. Also, keep the cardinal rule in mind. Money always flows towards the author and you don’t need to spend a dime to become a published authors. There are so many people out there who prey on new authors. Keep that rule at the front of your thoughts and you’ll be good.
Liz - Where can our readers follow you?
as well as my website, www.kristicharish.com.