Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Chris Sharp?
A middle-aged dreamer with a propensity for long-winded storytelling, a fierce resistance to adulthood, and an optimist’s belief in magic — within the hardened shell of a pragmatic pessimist.
Your new novel, Cold Counsel, will be published by Tor.com in February. It looks rather awesome: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
Looks are not deceiving; it is rather awesome. It’s a reimagining of Norse mythology in a post-Ragnarok world from the vantage of the angry losers of the ancient Vanir/Aesir war. It’s also a ferocious coming-of-age/revenge yarn about a boy, his aunt, and his ax against the backdrop of a dying dreamland. There are no humans or easy heroes to hold to, but you’ll find yourself rooting for a loveable band of bloodthirsty killers, and wishing for more at the story’s close.
Pretty sure that dark troll based fiction is about to have a moment, so I hope/plan on it being part of an ongoing series — if I am so lucky. I have two more sequels mapped out already, and another trilogy in my craw for later down the road. Fast, furious fun for the whole family if the family isn’t afraid of harsh language, brutal violence, and reveling in the fodder of nightmares.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
In some ways this was an accidental book. I was disheartened by the underwhelming sales of my first book, depressed by the direction some of my life choices had taken me, and penned inside by the brutal New England winter of 2014. It was started as an exercise in speed and brevity, but metastasized into the book it is today.
I call it my angry book, though in truth, the protagonist, a troll, was based on a RPG character that I rolled up in the seventh grade when I was a much more carefree me. I suppose that much of the inspiration for this was born in those RPG years of youth – though I also suppose that I, like everyone, borrow and steal bits of inspiration from everything I do, see, and read.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
I’ve always been strongly drawn to myth and fantasy. I loved the books of Greek, Norse, Egyptian mythology as a kid and became pretty obsessive about RPG’s and movies throughout the 80’s and 90’s.
In preschool I used to carry a picture of Bilbo Baggins around in my pocket that I’d cut out of the TV guide from the Rankin Bass cartoon movie. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were perhaps my truest gateway drug to all things fantasy. Original, I know.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I love being a writer, as I can’t seem to stop myself from doing it. Getting to participate in the publishing industry is something I’ve always dreamt of, and hope to do much more of moving forward. It’s a tough road, requiring luck and good timing, and filled with disappointments and setbacks, but then again, isn’t everything.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I started to really get my writing chops while living in Brooklyn and holding down a full time job. Got a wife and then a kid, and only ever had time to write at night. I’d come home from work, make dinner, put the kid to bed, and then leave the house at 9 or 9:30 to go work at a writer’s space a few blocks away from where I lived until midnight or so. Come home, sleep five or six hours and then wake up and do it again. Not the best, but I kept strict word count in a journal, didn’t beat myself up too much when I fell short, and after a few years I had a book.
I’m still balancing the day job, family life, and writing goals precariously, but nights and weekends remain fairly reliable for getting words out.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I always thought I wanted to be a writer, but never really wrote enough to prove it. But I’d always had one big story welling in me since I’d been a kid and, finally, in my late twenties, it burst out in a big messy splatter of words.
The first thing I wrote took seven years to complete, and was a 270,000 word epic fantasy about schizophrenia, the occult, and the Jungian archetypes of dream. Some of the characters in Cold Counsel appeared there first. That one never found the love I thought it deserved, but I plan to dust it off and give it another shot one day. It was my own deep dive, self-taught MFA program – learned about story creation, failed expectations, ego management, and industry structure all in one. The best and worst thing I’ve ever done to myself.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I think the genre is pretty robust and going strong. I love that there are a lot more voices and perspectives represented today than have been traditionally acknowledged, and I’m very excited about a lot of work I’ve read in the past few years in fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.
I think I can contribute to the greater discourse in an array of different ways. I feel like I have stories to tell, and hope I can remain lucky enough to have an audience for them. I’ve always been most drawn to spec-fic that has one foot rooted in the real world, and I tend to focus my efforts on the magics, other worlds, and fantastic stories that are linked by myth or perception to the here-and-now. I think that I might be approaching that topic a little differently from most others, and believe I might have a tale or two that really says something and hopefully even means something to someone other than me.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I am putting the finishing touches on the sequel to my first published effort – a dark, upper YA crossover series about climate change, the capacity for humanity to work in accord with the elements, and dragons.
I’m also writing a horror screenplay for an excellent TV/film producer/director who is looking to go into production with it later in 2017. I have a background in film production and like to sprinkle some script work between book projects when I can.
Then I hope for more in the Cold Counsel saga, more dragons, and a few more things I have in the works as well.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I mostly read fiction. Just finished Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones, which was darn swell, and am now reading Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys, which is also really good. Before that was Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, and the first two in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence. It’s been a pretty damn good run for a while.
If you could recommend only one novel to someone, what would it be?
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I was the star/producer of a super low budget movie, Murder Party, which came out from Magnet Films in 2007. (Pretty sure that I have like eight or ten fans in Finland.)
Also, I met George R.R. Martin at a convention in 2004 and pitched him on turning the Song of Ice and Fire into an HBO series. He said, “Yeah, it’ll be like Deadwood with armor!” (true story)
Also, also, my fake sword fighting skills and dance moves are the stuff of legend.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
I’m pretty excited for Cold Counsel to come out, pretty excited to help to get this unwritten movie made, and pretty excited about the book I’m finishing right now. I have one line and get beat-up in an awesome movie that’s premiering at Sundance that’s directed by an old friend, and hope that I can find a way to leave my day job behind and give writing a full-time chance. (I hope my boss doesn’t read this.)
Chris Sharp‘s Cold Counsel is published by Tor.com on February 21st, 2017. It will also be available in the UK. For more on Sharp’s writing and fiction, be sure to check out his website, and follow him on Goodreads and Twitter.
Here’s the synopsis…
In Chris Sharp’s new epic fantasy Cold Counsel, Slud of the Blood Claw Clan, Bringer of Troubles, was born at the heart of the worst storm the mountain had ever seen. Slud’s father, chief of the clan, was changed by his son’s presence. For the first time since the age of the giants, he rallied the remaining trolls under one banner and marched to war taking back the mountain from the goblin clans.
However, the long-lived elves remembered the brutal wars of the last age, and did not welcome the return of these lesser-giants to martial power. Twenty thousand elves marched on the mountain intent on genocide. They eradicated the entire troll species — save two.
Aunt Agnes, an old witch from the Iron Wood, carried Slud away before the elves could find them. Their existence remained hidden for decades, and in that time, Agnes molded Slud to become her instrument of revenge.
For cold is the counsel of women.