Interview with Christopher Kesting

When did you first start writing? What compels you to write? To keep writing?
I’ve written creatively for as long as I can remember: Fragments of stories on reams of theme paper gathering dust in old boxes and footlockers. The impetus for my journey to finally become published came after reading one too many recycled stories from ‘national best selling authors’. One day, I’d just had enough. I put one particular piece of poorly researched medical drama down after 100 pages and told myself that I could—should—take on the challenge. Enough people told me over the years that I had the talent; and besides, how much worse could my efforts be? Really?
So, upon my return from all-expense paid government sponsored vacation to Iraq in 2003—with my life refocused—I set out to write my first full-length novel: Rubicon Harvest. My goal was simply to write the type of books that I’d like to read. After a long and arduous journey; it seems that my perseverance has paid off. Wings ePress gave me a chance in 2008 and now I’m making the most of it. I’m still having fun and will continue to write until someone tells me I ought to stop.
I want my stories to be readable speculative fiction. The bulk of today’s sci/fi is laden with so much dense math, fringe philosophies and pretentious science that modern authors tend to alienate the average reader. Personally, I’m not a fan of the epic world building tomes that force the reader to slog through pages of detailed alien archeology just to find a lukewarm plot that fizzles far before it pops. I like speculative stories with a distinct human flair—something anyone can immediately relate to.
Who are your favorite authors? Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from many sources; but the authors I most revere are the grand storytellers of my youth. I grew up reading Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. In time, I ventured into the darker, more multi-layered realms of Philip K. Dick, William Gibson and Robert Heinlein. I always try to insert a small hidden homage to these masters in all of my books; whether through some obscure allusion in narrative or dialogue, or maybe even something as blatant as naming a character. Envar Island is probably the most fun I’ve had in honoring these classic geniuses. You won’t have to dig too far in this story to find a humble nod to the grandfathers of science fiction. I’ll read anything nowadays, in hopes of discovering a new voice. But I tend to fall back on Dean Koontz, Greg Iles or Dennis Lehane for my guilty indulgences.
What is your writing process?
There are a great many things that bug me; and as a result, I’m never lacking for ideas. The real challenge is in sifting through the knot of emotions that are usually attached to those ideas and then refining them into a reasonable philosophy that I can safely share with the casual reader.

I don’t believe in outlining a story or adhering to any one formula when constructing a plot. I begin with an idea, then start writing from one character’s perspective, allowing the plotline to evolve. I often have no idea where they’re going, where they’ll end up or whom they’ll meet along the way. Although this tactic makes for intriguing (and perhaps excessive) edits and careful post-production dissection, I sometimes come across the coolest characters and settings.
Despite the intriguing and entertaining cast of characters that surround me daily, I rarely borrow personalities from real life. That being said, I certainly infuse bits of myself into each and every character that I bring to life. More often than not, these entities develop and evolve quite efficiently on they’re own. Sometimes, I even find that I need to have special conversations with them—ask them to tone it down a bit. My plots tend to evolve naturally and smoothly. Each scene is character driven such that personalities of both story and cast develop simultaneously. That’s not to say I haven’t had to put a story away for a bit, but that is usually just because the bad guy keeps finding ways to win. In those instances, I just tuck it away for a while and allow the good guys a chance to regroup.

When I edit, I like to try to edit as a reader because often times, it’s as a reader when I discover errors in others work—even from the fella’s in the ‘Big Leagues’ (which, by the way is a sad, yet sweet and selfish indulgence). Unfortunately, I have trouble objectively separating myself from my own work and so then I find myself falling into that author’s trap of missing the trees for forest. Thank goodness for the near-sentient AI of my Mac.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't remember the very first story I ever read, but I do remember reading Ray Bradbury for the first time and what a profound (and still an inspirational) effect his tales had on me. I believe it was a collection of short stories and the first one was entitled "There Will Come Soft Rains." It was about a fully automated house that was still going through its routines even after an apocalyptic nuclear war had wiped out all humankind. A potent collection of images and emotion expressed so tenderly--as if the house itself was the lone remaining "soul". He brought a necessary humanity to all of his stories and it didn't take me long to devour everything he wrote. "Fahrenheit 451", "The Illustrated Man" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes" are easily my favorites and should be read by all. To this day I still draw from the terror and fear and hope and redemption those stories showed me. Mr. Bradbury will be missed.
What's the story behind your latest book?
"This Garden of Souls" is an existential tale that speculates on the essence of human awareness, the consequences of free will and the origin of mankind. Set within the Institute for Human Studies – an enigmatic Collective that claims to devote its vast resources toward improving the human condition - the story chronicles the lives of three mysterious individuals.

Alternating between interview excerpts and first person oral histories, we follow these characters through a sequence of progressive dialogues. Their tragic and fractured pasts are revealed, their human frailty is exposed and the very significance of their lives is questioned. As the tale unfolds, they begin to understand that they share a suspiciously high degree of synchronicity with one another. Over time, they come to terms with the consequences of their choices and the circumstances of their shared realities, realizing that their world and the people in it are not at all what they seem.

In the end, traditional versions of the Story of Mankind are shattered—replaced by a radical, yet elegant new paradigm of the Universe, forever challenging how we conceptualize our reality and ourselves.
What are you working on next?
I have a lot of irons in the fire right now. I very much want to write a sequel to Envar Island--my third and most successful book. I've agreed to collaborate with an author friend of mine, G. David Clark, on a legal thriller/love story inspired by his short story, Christmas Eva; which can also be found on Smashwords. I have a very exciting screenplay that I really need to polish up and submit. But my most recent passion has been a return to the short story. I love the challenge of trying to telling a story in under 5,000 words. I wish I could've written for The Twilight Zone.
Published 2014-01-11.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Inquisition
Price: Free! Words: 3,750. Language: English. Published: February 5, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
(5.00)
Inquisition is a short story that introduces the epic tale of Man and God and their insatiable quest for one another. This is the inspiration for Kesting's latest novel: This Garden of Souls
A Small Measure of Anxious Grace
Price: Free! Words: 2,990. Language: English. Published: January 10, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
(4.50)
A small girl, racked with persistent and paralyzing anxiety, shows us that our perceptions of the world are far narrower than we could ever imagine. In fact, the world we experience is but a veneer over the real world. She alone holds the perceptive ability to see what we cannot. And perhaps warn us, should the need arise.