Interview with Claudia Hall Christian

Published 2018-07-12.
When did you first start writing?
I started reading when I was two or three in what’s called “Spontaneous Reading.” When I was able to talk, I told stories. When I was able to write, I wrote stories. My life growing up was a series of near-death misses. In the face of the horror of my mother and sisters schizophrenia, I told myself stories to bolster my courage and give me hope. I told myself stories about good, hard-working people who made it through reckless and dangerous times. These are the best stories, in my opinion. I’ve had a lot of practice developing this kind of story so this is the type of story I tell well.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
It has always seemed to me that, at one time or another, every writer is screwed by their publisher. It doesn’t seem to matter how many books a writer has sold or the number of prestigious awards the writer has received, they are eventually screwed by their publisher. I decided to skip the “screwed by my publisher” phase and move on to starting my own publishing company. I have owned other companies so it wasn’t such an enormous stretch.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
My greatest joy of writing is talking to readers about characters as if these characters are real people. There isn’t anything better.
What are you working on next?
Right now, I'm doing the research for the eight Alex the Fey thriller. The book begins 10 miles under the surface of the ocean. I've been talking to deep sea researchers and saturation divers on Twitter, as well as by email with information officers and publicly available YouTube videos. Prior to this research, I was not aware of the legion of men who work, usually for oil and gas companies, on the ocean floor. It's truly fascinating.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien — I read this every year growing up. When the movies came out, I openly wept with joy through every scene. It is a story of hope where the smallest person makes the biggest difference and everyone notices.

2. The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper — I love the way she threads myth and legend through a modern story. I grew up around the sense of darkness brought by extreme mental illness. The books gave form to the insanity acted out around me.

3. Ulysses by James Joyce — Oh Joyce. I love everything about this book and Joyce.

James Joyce desperately needed money and yet he wrote what came to him, what was authentic and real. He didn’t bow down to the pressures of Catholicism, society, or even publishers. He suffered tremendously for his dedication to his own craft. The book was difficult to write. Joyce’s eyesight was failing. His wife was unable to function. Sometimes, he was only able to write a word a day. It is a book that was deeply suffered over. The book was first serialized by an American Journal and published by a brave female publisher, Sylvia Beach. And then, the book was banned making Joyce financially destitute.

Yet despite Joyce’s failing eyesight, desperate finances, a mentally ill wife, and children to feed and care for, the book exists as a brilliant star above a sea of boring plots and stiff prose.

The book itself gave me some insight into the world my mother and sisters lived in. It is written in a kind of sensual stream of consciousness. You, the reader, get so far behind the characters eyes that we begin to feel as if the character exists at all. It is brilliant.

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to the audiobook of the book. It was an unequaled sensory experience. I highly recommend it to anyone.

4. The Stranger, the Plague, and the Happy Death by Albert Camus — Each book has played a unique and important role in various times of my life. I read the Stranger in high school and then in French in college. At the time, I was attempting to work my way through this small, private college filled with wealthy and entitled people. I felt every bit the Stranger.

I read the Plague when I worked in an HIV/AIDS laboratory at San Francisco General in 1986. I took the BART and the public trains back and forth from the heart of crack infested Oakland. I listened to the Cure and read the Plague as I went back and forth. As soon as I finished the tape of the Cure, I’d turn it over and listen to the other side. As soon as I finished reading the Plague, I would start at the beginning again. It was a weird time in my life.

The Happy Death is one of the reasons I broke up with the boyfriend I thought I’d spend my life with. He despised “those damned existentialist books” of mine. I was deeply struck by the idea that our happiness is our responsibility. Divorcing ourselves from our inner struggle feels like peace but is really a kind of death.

As a writer, I loved the idea that Camus incorporated his life philosophy as a theme in the story. Every book and story teaches the reader something important to the writer. This idea strong affects my writing today.

5. The Roads to Freedom by Jean Paul Satre
These books are written in three very different styles. Let’s be clear, they are not brilliant prose like Joyce’s Ulysses. They are stories in which the main character acts out Satre’s existential beliefs. I love the unique way each book presses the book forward. The second book, the Reprieve, is written in three voices. It was mind-blowing for me at the time. Mathieu’s last speech in the Troubled Sleep blew my mind. They were the words that allowed me to walk away from the chaos of my childhood and live free of the restraints of my own resentment and expectations.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Currently, I'm using a Kindle Fire. I really wanted to love the Nook. However, my Nook broke almost right away. I spent hours on the phone with seriously incompetent technical support. Nothing fixed my Nook. I was not allowed to return the faulty device, nor get another one.

The Kindle Fire is very easy to use. I use it for books that I own through Smashwords and other companies. The OverDrive application makes it easy to rent Library books and audiobooks. It plays videos, music, and audiobooks. It was inexpensive enough that I felt comfortable bringing it to the hospital when I was receiving my spine surgeries.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend a lot of time marketing my books, interacting with readers, and researching for the next book. In the summer, I enjoy gardening and cooking yummy food. We have kept bees since 2002. I listen to music and audiobooks. I also knit and needlepoint.

Because writing is such a sedentary job, I make an effort to exercise every day. We have two Plott Hounds which I love to play with or take on walks.

I spend a great deal of time fighting entropy in our 1907 home. We are currently wrapping up a kitchen remodel and are starting on finishing a bathroom remodel.

I enjoy spending free time with my husband. We talk a lot and laugh even more. We love story telling by television shows, movies, and books. Our dogs keep us moving and playing. I also have a lot of friends who I usually see for meals or events like concerts.
Which other authors have most influenced or inspired your writing?
Every author affects my writing. For a long time, I wasn’t able to read other writer’s fiction and still clearly hear my own voice. One of the joys of the last few years is that I’ve been able to enjoy fiction again.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I truly love life. Every day feels like a gift to me. Recently, I had two serious spine surgeries. Each surgery was long. My life was in danger during surgery as well as during the healing process. This experience deepened my gratitude for having more time on the planet.

What actually gets me out of bed is our dog, Cassie. She wakes up as if every day is New Year’s Day combined with her birthday. I get up to join the celebration.
How do you approach cover design?
I leave cover design to professionals. I worked with a cover designer for eight years before he retired. I'm currently trying out new cover designers to see what I like the best.
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Latest books by This Author

Lazy Bird, a Seth and Ava Mystery
Pre-release—available November 23, 2022. Price: $1.99 USD. Language: English. Published by Cook Street Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy
After all Ava and her forensic science lab team had been through, and all of the cases they had resolved, Ava had hoped that they wouldn't be asked to do anymore of these difficult and nearly deadly cold cases from rural Colorado. But on Ava's first day back from medical leave, her boss, "The Evil Wizard," called to remind her that she'd signed a contract for 10 rural cases, not 10 bodies.
Reapers
Pre-release—available October 21, 2022. Price: $4.99 USD. Language: English. Published by Cook Street Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Historical » Paranormal
Neith is an ancient and powerful creature hidden from the human world. She's spent all of her afterlife protecting human souls as a Grin Reaper.Until Tiamat, the demon, arrives to destroy human life and steal human souls. Neith and her family must fight the demon to protect those under care from soul destruction.
True Mark, an Alex the Fey Thriller
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 101,960. Language: English. Published: April 14, 2022 by Cook Street Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Suspense, Fiction » Adventure » Action
Questioned by her friends and her enemies, Lieutenant Colonel Alexandra Hargreaves's best friend tells her that people believe that she is the head of this international conspiracy that nearly killed her and murdered her friends including everyone on the Fey Special Forces Team. The wheels are in motion to hoist responsibility for all of the murder and madness onto Alex.
Freddie the Freeloader, a Seth and Ava Mystery
Series: Seth and Ava Mysteries. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 34,960. Language: English. Published: December 7, 2021 by Cook Street Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
So when “The Evil Wizard,” Ava’s nickname for her boss, asks Ava and her team to identify the owner of two bone segments of an index finger, they should have expected danger and difficulties. Two small bones grew into an entire bone field in the near center of the Colorado Rockies. Every set of remains was missing the ends their index fingers.
Estes Park
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 53,560. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2021 by Cook Street Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Suspense, Fiction » Adventure » Action
Still healing from her terrible fall down the stairs, Sandy decides to look through the objects they’d recovered from the Polish salt mine. She discovers an object that can destroy the world. Pierre Semaines, Nelson’s father, has touched the terrible object and is now dying. This launches a quest for the Templar's hoard to find the "Adam's Apple" ruby to save Pierre's life.
Steamboat Springs
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 67,820. Language: English. Published: September 17, 2021 by Cook Street Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Romance » Suspense
In Steamboat Springs, the inevitable unfolds with danger and adventure. When Sandy purchased a novelist’s journal, she had no idea it would wind up in a crazy adventure filled with danger and adventure. When the fairies talked about war, everyone knew that it might spill over onto some of the people in Denver Cereal. There was no way to know that it would be such a crazy ride.
Pagosa Springs, Denver Cereal Volume 20
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 89,680. Language: English. Published: December 15, 2020 by Cook Street Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Urban, Fiction » Romance » General
Crisis is the backbone of this book of Denver Cereal. Recently reunited, Nelson begins to realize that he will have to take on the mantle of the Templars. Sandy is injured in an accident that shatters her family and draws Cleo, her cat, into the fray. In usual Denver Cereal form, everyone stretches to support each other.
Footprints, a Seth and Ava Novella
Series: Seth and Ava Mysteries. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 34,440. Language: English. Published: August 31, 2020 by Cook Street Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
Ava and her team head out to the Pawnee National Grasslands to find the killer of Gina Young Raven. Almost immediately, the case blows up with the discover of multiple remains buried over decades. During their investigation, Ava and her team discover hundreds of unprocessed rape kits from local Native American peoples. Ava must pull in every resource and use every contact to solve this case.
Billie's Bounce
Series: Seth and Ava Mysteries. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 32,000. Language: English. Published: March 15, 2020 by Cook Street Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
(5.00 from 1 review)
Ava and her lab have received a grant to solve ten cold cases in rural Colorado using modern forensics techniques. The director of the CBI was irritated by the irregularities of their last case (see "Little Girl Blue"). He assigns Ava and her team the coldest of cold cases -- an unpopular Senator was killed by RPG shot under his limousine after he left Aspen, Colorado.
Glenwood Springs, Denver Cereal Volume 19
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 90,970. Language: English. Published: May 14, 2019 by Cook Street Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Romance » General, Fiction » Urban
Even if you save the world, there’s always some evil jerk you still have to deal with. That’s what our Denver Cereal friends discover when they arrived at the Fire of Hell. Levi Johanssen is, finally, and summarily dealt with by Abi. At the same time, Ivan moves to Paris where he finds Sissy thriving in the ballet world as well as personally. Blane and Nelson begin to explore a relationship.
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