Interview With Author Chris Martelle

Chris Martelle is a successful Indie author who has written multiple series and spends some of his valuable time providing invaluable aid to other Indie authors through his 20Booksto50K initiative. In search of stories similar to the much beloved Firefly series that included a crime thriller story line, I fortuitously stumbled a cross the Darklanding series.

Christ was gracious enough to spare some of his invaluable time to answer the following questions.

Most authors work alone. What led you to decide to write the Darklanding series with Scott Moon?

Neither one of us had the bandwidth to do the series alone. Scott is a great storyteller and a good friend.

How does writing a story with another author differ from the more common approach of writing alone? How does the process differ?

The challenge is in seeing the characters in the same way. We did our worldbuilding first, describing the traits of the characters (both physical and emotional). We talked about the characters and that is the key thing. Once we agreed on how they were, the stories took shape. Scott added a lot of the backstory to other characters. The sheriff was my guy because of the military background.

As a Browncoat I’m still irritated by the sudden but inevitable cancellation of the beloved tv series Firefly. When the two of you decided to collaborate to write the Darklanding series, what led to the decision to create a ‘verse similar yet different to Firefly.

Creating a verse that would be the next Firefly was inevitable since we are both monster fans. That is the anchor that holds us firmly to the ground. We wanted that space western, although neither of us can sing the theme song, we know people.

When compared to each of your other series of novels, the Darklanding series is a departure of sorts. Space opera with a Bonanza theme I believe is how the story is described. When I first read Assignment Darklanding I envisioned the story as a mix of space opera with Gunsmoke and Firefly mixed in. How did the two of you develop the concept for these stories?

The concept came from Diane Velasquez, Dorene Johnson, and Kat Lind, but it was originally an Alaskan gold rush themed story. I live in Alaska and no matter how we wrote the natives, it wouldn’t resonate well, so we changed the concept to a gold-rush (of sorts) in space. It was only natural that it took shape with eight main characters as Firefly and Star Trek and most major space opera franchises use. Don’t forget Wild, Wild West as one of the foundational space western type series:)

If authors who have decided to collaborate together on a novel or a series approached you for advice, what wisdom would you share with them?

Give and take. Both must bring something to the game. Through twelve books, we hit every single deadline with time to spare. Our tagline was a new book every 18 days. And we delivered for an entire season. I wrote book 1 to set the tone. Scott wrote books 2-5 to flesh out the characters. I wrote book 6 because it had a military slant (and also for filming, it uses very few of the main characters, so they’d get a break). Scott wrote books 7-8. I wrote 9 as a straight military scifi piece, once again, with few of the other characters. This was near and dear to me as a twenty-year Marine Corps veteran. Deploying was always so comfortable, the hyperawareness that one feels in an environment such as war, yet the rending of your soul as you are separated from your family. I think A Warrior’s Home was one of my best stories. Then Scott wrote books 10-12, the heaviest lifting as he had to wrap up the season while leaving something open.

Please describe your own unique approach to writing?

Everyone has their own method. I started outlining because I don’t have the time to freewheel it, but then I stopped outlining because I didn’t have the time to outline, but since I was thinking outline, the words came quicker and smoother. I sit in the chair and I write. Every single day. On vacation. On my death bed. No matter where. In just a few days, I will cross 1000 days of being a full time author. I’m averaging 2700 words a day for that entire time. That’s 2.7 million words and a huge backlist. Write every day and you’ll develop a process that works best for you. Writing then becomes your refuge from everything else going on in your life.

How does living in Alaska influence your story telling and writing process?

I wrote a few books set in Alaska, but living here has helped my understanding of what it takes to live in an austere environment, what it would be like to start with nothing and build a society. Right now, we have 24-hours of daylight. In six months, we’ll have 3 ½ hours of daylight. Although there are wild extremes outside (130 degrees difference between summer and winter), it doesn’t affect what goes on inside. I have multiple computers and a back up generator in case we lose power (like we do every winter for a day or seven days, or whatever. It’s the price to live away from other people.

What inspired you to take the leap and become a working author?

I was working as a business consultant on the North Slope of Alaska. That is inside the Arctic Circle. I was 52 years old and gone from home over half of my life. I was tired of that life, so I retired (for the second time, first was from the Marine Corps). I thought I’d work in my yard and make it immaculate. I lit myself on fire, so yard work was out. I always wanted to write a book, so that’s what I did. I set a goal of 1000 words per day and didn’t always reach it, but 61 days later, I had a 100k word book that was a good story, but needed a lot of work. You can’t edit a blank page and that book went on to be a traditionally published four-book bestselling series that you can now find in Barnes & Noble and in Simon & Schuster’s catalogue:)

Could you describe your creative process in creating a story?
Not really. I’m a serial daydreamer so there’s lots of crazy stuff in my head.

What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

The most important thing and hardest thing you’ll do is write your story, from start to finish. Accept that it’s going to suck and then go fix it. And then write the next story. Be able to change your hat when you hit publish. Once your baby is for sale, it’s a product. Treat it like that.

What business advice would you offer to new authors?

Join a group like 20Booksto50k and come to one of the conferences that I run (20Books Vegas, for example). Being an indie is a lonely profession, but you are not alone. There is way too much for you to learn by yourself, so join others on the journey, although yours will be different, some will be the same. And never compare yourself to someone else – what draws readers to your books may not be what draws readers to someone else’s books. Your competition is only you.

To read some of the Darklanding Series of books, click on the links below.

The Thomas Sullivan Chronicles and Other Stories