Interview with Christopher Geoffrey McPherson

Your author slogan is “a different world in every book.” Why don’t you pick one topic and just write books about that? That seems to work for everyone else.
I have too many stories in me to confine myself to just one world. Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by the period between the wars -- roughly 1919 - 1946. Several of my novels are set during that time. Look at everything that occurred: radio (its beginning and rise to prominence), film (from silent to sound), music (swing and big band), art (cubism and the avant-garde), theater (the Group Theatre), literature (F. Scott Fitzgerald), dance (Isadora Duncan) -- and so much more. It can be argued that those years were some of the most influential in the whole of the twentieth century. So much fertile ground for one story after another.

With two exceptions, all my novels take place during that time; but, so far, all the stories have been different: the American home front during World War Two, Paris in the 1920s, and a film-noir detective series set in 1930s Los Angeles. In addition to those, I’ve written about a future San Francisco destroyed by an earthquake, and a world on another planet where the making of babies is the prime industry.
What is your writing process like?
You always hear of writers who sit down at their typewriter at 8:00 a.m. and write straight through until noon making sure they turn out at least ten pages a day. I'm nothing like that: ninety-percent of writing happens before you ever sit down at the typewriter. The research, the thinking about characters, about how they interact with each other and with the plot -- these all come first. I spend a lot of time cogitating about the research, the people, the ideas and let them organize themselves in my mind. At some point everything aligns itself just right and I sit down and start typing. This probably comes from my many years working at newspapers. When you’re on deadline, you don't have the luxury of writing and rewriting. On many occasions, I had to sit down and type out what became the article, with no time for rewrites. I guess I taught myself to organize the details in my head while I was driving back to the paper.

Once I do start writing, I’m concentrating on just getting things down. I don't worry too much about specifics of plot -- I put down something like "they meet at a restaurant and have a fight about something." I can clarify it later. Once that’s done, I put away the pages for a few days and think about something totally different. This allows me to clear my mind. Then, I go back and read what I wrote. This is when the book begins to take shape. I try to write every day -- sometimes new pages, sometimes rewriting or editing. But, if I don't feel like writing I don't. You can’t force yourself to write. It has to flow naturally.
How did you start writing?
Reading and I were best friends from an early age. I was really sick as a child, so I had lots of time to engage my imagination. It was probably the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me. That led me to writing at a pretty young age, noodling around with words, creating animal stories and various adventures. I began writing professionally quite early and built a career writing for newspapers, magazines, radio, the stage and some television.
What books have influenced your style of writing the most?
I was influenced early by Ayn Rand ("The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged"). She has a way of creating characters and setting scenes that really make you sit up and take notice. In all my fiction writing, I try to create characters as vivid and memorable as hers. It's not easy.
Who is your favorite character in your books? Why?
That's a really hard question to answer. Actors say there's a little of themselves in every character they portray, and I think there's a little of me in every character I write. Some characters have traits I wish I had, or are vulnerable in ways I'm glad I'm not. If I had to narrow it down, it would be the character of Richard in "Sarah & Gerald" a novel of Paris in the 1920s. He's handsome and smart (like I said, a lot of me in my characters) but also deeply conflicted. He's in love with someone he knows he can't have and shows a tremendous amount of strength in how he deals with that.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?
"Blackmail at Wrigley Field" is the fourth James Murray Mystery which, along with "Murder at Eastern Columbia," "Sabotage at RKO Studio," and "Abduction at Griffith Observatory," takes place in 1930s Los Angeles. In the first book, James is writing his debut novel; in the second, his novel has been published and has become a surprise hit leading to a job at a movie studio. In the third book, James witnesses a kidnapping which he tries to help solve. In this, the fourth book, James is overcoming some personal problems while trying to help two new friends who are being blackmailed.
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
I started out writing for my high-school newspaper, then moved on to writing for daily newspapers, monthly magazines and radio. So, there wasn’t a whole lot I didn't already know. That said, I think the most important thing I've learned about indie publishing is the value of a great cover artist. It's worth the money you pay to work with a competent professional and listen to his/her suggestions. They know more about design than I ever could. I'm lucky to work with a top-notch, award-winning cover designer. I wouldn't change it for the world.
How do readers find out more about you?
They can read a little biography of me at http://plasticliving.com/ChristopherGeoffreyMcPherson/CGM.html but they can certainly learn more about me in my writing. There’s a lot of me in everything I write.
What are three words that describe you?
Inquisitive. Passionate. Empathetic.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
I’ve done a lot of speaking engagements for students in grade school, high school and college. I always tell them the only one way to be a writer is to write. I know it sounds trite -- especially because it belies all the hard work involved to get published; but you’ll know if you’re meant to be a writer if you can’t live without writing. That's how I’ve been since I was a child -- always writing and reading.

If you want to be a writer, write; if you want to be a good writer, read; if you want to be a better writer, read a LOT. Perhaps the most important thing I can add is that you must write for our own enjoyment. You’ll probably never get rich writing. For most of us, the writing itself will have to be the reward (rather than fame or fortune). If that’s not good enough, then I would suggest finding another career.
Published 2015-01-03.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Blackmail at Wrigley Field
By
Price: $4.98 USD. Words: 81,150. Language: English. Published: January 2, 2015. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
Los Angeles. 1937. When we last saw young novelist James Murray, his life had taken a bad turn. And now, two years later, he must come to grips with the choices he's made in this, the fourth James Murray Mystery. Here, he meets a young ballplayer who's been receiving blackmail threats. Can James turn his life around and help the young man?
Abduction at Griffith Observatory
By
Price: $4.98 USD. Words: 70,390. Language: English. Published: June 1, 2014. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
Los Angeles. 1935. Writer James Murray is hard at work on a third novel, living with the girl he loves and enjoying a life he once could only dream about. But an innocent outing to Los Angeles’s new Griffith Observatory changes all that when a commotion during a presentation leads to a kidnapping. James feels compelled to find out the truth behind it.
Sabotage at RKO Studio
By
Price: $4.98 USD. Words: 84,580. Language: American English. Published: January 2, 2014. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
Hollywood. 1933. James Murray’s first novel is a surprise success. On contract at a major film studio, he tries to figure out what’s behind a series of accidents plaguing various productions -- including "King Kong," the studio’s new film. "Sabotage at RKO Studio" is two novels in one: two parallel stories, featuring two heroes, working two cases in two different versions of 1930s Hollywood.
Murder at Eastern Columbia
By
Price: $3.98 USD. Words: 67,200. Language: English. Published: May 27, 2013. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
Los Angeles. 1931. James Murray, clerk in the Junior Boy's department at the swankest new department store downtown, suddenly finds himself trying to solve the murder of his best friend before time runs out. "Murder at Eastern Columbia" is two novels in one: two parallel stories, featuring two heroes, working two murders in two different versions of 1930s Los Angeles.
The Babi Makers
By
Price: $2.98 USD. Words: 53,270. Language: English. Published: January 16, 2013. Category: Fiction » Science fiction » General
Welcome to Nové, a planet much like your own. There is no war or hunger. No conflict of any kind. It's a "happy life ever" on this utopian world. Balance has finally been achieved after all life was nearly extinguished during The Fall. There is one major industry on Nové: the making of babies. Babies are the most important resource on the planet.
Sarah & Gerald
By
Price: $3.98 USD. Words: 41,280. Language: English. Published: September 3, 2012. Category: Fiction » Romance » Historical
In the years after the great war, life was golden and happy for those who had survived it. An entire generation of young men died so others could sit on a beach and splash in the water and have sandwiches on the sand. It was a golden time for American expatriates -- like Sarah and Gerald -- to be in Paris.
Forever -- and other stories
By
Price: $1.98 USD. Words: 36,600. Language: English. Published: April 24, 2012. Category: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
A collection of stories about life -- and death -- and life forever. Includes "Forever" a story of two souls that continue meeting in one life after another.
The Life Line
By
Price: $2.98 USD. Words: 61,570. Language: English. Published: March 14, 2012. Category: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
Take three men and two women, add one concrete underwater tunnel, shake vigorously with a major earthquake and you have the makings of "The Life Line" -- a novel of survival.
News on the Home Front
By
Price: $2.98 USD. Words: 84,110. Language: English. Published: February 22, 2012. Category: Fiction » Historical » USA
Set against a worldwide canvas that includes New York, Paris and Germany "News on the Home Front" tells the story of two women who have been friends since their childhood in West Lake, Maryland. The world war has torn apart their lives leaving each trying to find a way to put it back together. It's been a difficult few years with rationing and shortages starting to take their toll.