VP Profile #20: Chris Cornell

Chris is a friendly guy, an accessible writer, and a talented musician. That’s a pretty good combination.

Tamago: When did you discover you wanted to be a writer?

Chris: I don’t remember not writing. I was an avid reader even in grade school, and it seemed like the next logical step. If you enjoy someone else’s stories, why not share some of your own?<

Tamago: What are your favorite topics to write about?

Chris: I enjoy any time characters are forcibly ejected from their comfortable world. How one reacts to the unexpected really defines that person. I don’t subscribe to genres so much as interesting and involving situations of any place or time. it’s fun to apply universal truths to outlandish settings.

Tamago: How did you come to apply for Viable Paradise?

Chris: Writing has always been a part of my life, but my discipline fluctuates as other interests come and go. I had reached a stage where I was really writing and critiquing with every minute I could pull from some other pursuit. I happened upon the Viable Paradise site while researching online, had the time to spare, and just went for it. A rare case of perfect timing.

Tamago: What would you tell a new writer about the workshopping experience?

Chris: Don’t sleep! Take every opportunity to get involved with your fellow attendees. Every day at VP is true gold, due as much to the other writers as the instructors. Also, wear your thickest skin and don’t take anything personally. I thought I was adequately prepared for criticism when I arrived, and discovered I still had much to learn. Good thing.

Tamago: My internet sources tell me that you are a musician. What do you play? Does your writing and music connect?

Chris: I drift in and out of music much like I write. I had played guitar in a club band in years past; now I mostly arrange and play everything from the comfort of my office. Writing is a similar process, be it music or prose or some type of script. You have to engage the audience and keep them interested throughout. I’ve also spent some time working in film and video. I still can’t decide what I want to be when (if) I grow up.

Tamago: What are you working on right now?

Chris: I have several very different projects in simultaneous development. I’m most excited about a project I’m working on with a talented artist friend, and it will most likely become a graphic novel. It deals with a slightly altered reality during San Francisco’s Barbary Coast period. Shanghaiing, rioting and other merriment. So much of that lawless period is romanticized, but there were some pretty twisted things going on. It’s also fun to incorporate local history and legend.

I’m also working my way through PCH Roadkill, a near future science fiction novel, and revisiting some of my shorts.

Tamago: Some people say that they are short story writers. Others say they are novel writers. Do you have a preferred form?

Chris: I suppose I’d have to say that I’m a novel writer. I tend to use short stories as an exercise in discipline, as they require incredible economy and focus to really pay off. My best work is usually about exploration of a theme rather than a concise point to be made within a few pages. Or maybe I just suck at editing.

Tamago: If you could write your dream project, what would it be?

Chris: I remain fascinated by the continued breakdown of the rigid categorizations we’ve traditionally applied to media. I’d love to develop a story that incorporates multiple forms in a satisfying way. Books, films, music, comics and even fine arts are all coexisting as ones and zeroes in the same digital storage.

Tamago: What is the one thing you know now about being a writer that you wish you’d known from the beginning?

Chris: Write, write, write. Professionals often tell you that bad writing in volume is very beneficial to learning your craft. Unfortunately, it takes doing that for awhile to understand on more than an intellectual level. Keep going. Knock out that lousy first draft.

Tamago: Where can readers find your work?

Chris: Nowhere convenient, unfortunately. Other than a short that I sold to a magazine that folded one issue too early, I haven’t been sending out many submissions. I hope to remedy that once I finish revising several long-form projects. I will soon be contributing a weekly segment, as well as music and other cues, to a streaming radio show on the Progressive Radio Network from New York. I’ll be posting links to projects on my blog as they reach sunlight. How’s that for an anticlimax?

Thanks for the interview, Chris!

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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