Christopher Keene, formerly of Timaru, has written a fair swag of books and the third in a series of novels by him has just been added to the library of his former school, Mountainview High School. Timaru Courier reporter Chris Tobin catches up with him.
Q. You grew up in Timaru – where did you go to school and what are some of your stand-out memories?
I attended Highfield Primary, Watlington Intermediate (now shut down) and Mountainview High School. Perhaps there’s a psychological reason for it, but my memories of either stretching or outright breaking the rules there are always the most vivid, whether it be watching things I wasn’t supposed to watch, reading things I was supposed to read, or going to places I wasn’t supposed to go.
Q. Have you always been interested in writing and how did it start?
I was born in 1990 and my first experiments were when computers were still running Windows 95. My first attempt at writing a novel came about when I got impatient with my father’s reluctance to read The Chamber of Secrets with me after we’d read the first Harry Potter book together. He wanted me to start reading it on my own. However, I wanted to write my own book. It took me five years to finish it and it’s still unpublished. Like most writers, my first book was only practice.
Q. Tell us a wee bit about your latest book?
In 2015 I was dared by a friend to write a stuck-in-a-video-game-style novel and in 2016 that book was published under the title Stuck in the Game. In 2017 and 2018 its sequels were also published, the latest of which, Ghost in the Game, is being released in paperback and added to the Mountainview school library. Making it a trilogy of books would have been nice but the series ended up being called “Dream State Saga”, so I was compelled to write two more books to conclude it. Book 5 I’m currently editing and book 4 is set to be released in the near future.
Q. Where do you live now? Do you write in your spare time or full time?
Despite what my Facebook profile claims, I now live in Wellington where one of my publishers is located. There I spend most of my time figuratively bashing my head against the wall and hoping something original falls out, or as I like to call it, being a full-time writer.
Q. Do the creative juices come easily or can it be a grind?
The “doing of it” comes very easily and sometimes my typing can’t keep up with my thoughts. During those moments of “flow”, I love it and it takes me less than a month to write the first draft. However, there’s a wall made up of insecurities and self-doubt that I have to puncture to get into that creative space. It’s easier for me when I have a contract to fullfil, when I know from the beginning that what I’m working on is going to see the light of day and not just fall into the long line of projects that have become little more than sunk-cost equations. Even then, editing alone always feels like a grind.
Q. How many books have you written and what are your future writing goals?
I’m now working on my 18th book, give or take two depending on whether or not you consider long novellas to be books. I’m hoping that once I get to book number 20 I would have snagged me one of the big 5 publishers, preferably one that specialises in fantasy and science fiction, but I’ve also heard many stories about authors losing their love of the craft once they become successful due to the pressure of expectations from fans. At the moment, I’m happy just being free to write whatever and seeing if anything comes of it.