Interview with Chris Metteer

What are your five favorite books, and why?
In no particular order of impact: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell for its stories of people who thought differently and changed the world at least a little because of it; The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout for her use of simple settings in which to build characters who are so vivid I felt I was listening to private conversations; And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini because of his elegant use of words to describe a world I knew nothing about; Live By Night by Dennis Lehane because he lured me into a criminal world and captivated me with his characters; and Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer for his vivid and detailed look at Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who gave up a pro football career and ended up as a victim of friendly fire.
What books have had the most impact on you?
Two stand out from my earlier years. The first was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, which was the detailed account of the murders of the Clutter family in rural Kansas. Capote brought everyone to life from the killers to the victims. The other was Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I was captivated by Hesse's description of a man whose life changed radically. I use that literary tool as I build character arcs.
Who are your favorite authors?
Dennis Lahane for his tremendous ability to take history and build strong, believable characters you wouldn't expect to like. His Joe Coughlin in Live By Night and World Gone By is an out-and-out criminal, but I am fascinated by his life story. On an equal plain is Elizabeth Strout because she writes novels with a similar style to mine. She takes everyday settings, often in Maine, and surrounds them with great stories and characters. I sometimes refer to her as my literary muse. I must add mystery writer John Hart, whose work from King of Lies to Redemption Road is almost flawless. I met John at a Pikes Peak Writers Conference, and he was gracious and full of good information for a newbie author.
Describe your desk
Until yesterday it was a cluttered mess. Now it is a semi-cluttered mess. I had a tall pile of papers related to my novels. Some of it was research, some of it notes from writers conferences, and some of it just general items that caught my attention. I am in the process of filing all that in proper places. Each of my novels has a big envelope for research notes, critiques, and beta readers' comments. I also use novelist John Hart's advice and keep all rejections I receive from agents. He says those drive an author, and they are fun to look at after you are published. The other smaller piles are the stuff of everyday life such as bills, notices, and to-do lists.
What is your writing process?
Let's take this down the timeline. Story origination can be my past experiences, such as covering pro baseball and using that time as the foundation for One Summer Season. It might be someone I met, and I tweak circumstances to make them bigger than life. One novel I am working on started with a simple physical sensation. (That should raise some questions.) The next step is selecting a good main character. R.W. Clay is a big athlete with a cloudy future, and he must navigate increasingly difficult life situations. One of my other MCs is a sexist s.o.b., but a reader can see his reasoning (and rationalizations) as he or she continues the story. Next is the first chapter. Every first chapter I've written has been replaced later by another first chapter that is better. From then on it's simply creating the twists and turns that make the lives of my characters more difficult. I outline some of my plots; others I go by my feelings at the time. I don't favor one method over the other.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in The Dalles, Oregon, an agricultural town of about 10,000 residents on the banks of the Columbia River east of Portland. It had a major impact on what I value as I write. I got to know so many people because of the smallness of the place, and there were lines of recognition based on family because many people knew my mother or father, or my siblings. I aim to get that same familiarity with my fictional characters. I use The Dalles as the hometown of R.W. Clay, my main guy in One Summer Season. It's a baseball town, and R.W. is the current star. He comes from a wheat ranching family, and he advances by learning the power of hard work and setting high goals. Many of my other main characters are a major departure from the lifestyle of The Dalles, but small aspects of small-town life might find their way into those novels as well.
When did you first start writing?
As far as creative writing, it was about third grade. I had to write a haiku, and I wrote about snow on branches looking like ermine on the shoulders of a king. That was pretty grown-up stuff for an eight-year-old kid. It didn't hurt my wish for an eventual writing career that my dad saw that and suggested i might consider writing as a way of life. Thanks, Dad. I owe you one.
What are you working on next?
I currently have a commercial fiction novel that is in the first-draft stage, and my crew of beta readers has that now. I can't tip my hand about plot details, but it involves modern times and historic moments. The novel has the signature trait of all my work: I use settings and characters common to my readers' lives, and I simply supersize the surrounding events. Anyone can relate to R.W. Clay, my main character in One Summer Season. He's a kid facing that delicate time of going from high school to the adult world, where adjustments are necessary to success in everyday life. The fact he is a pro baseball player thrown into a wild and challenging group of people only supersizes the reality we've all faced.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I will answer in two parts. My latest published work, One Summer Season, started when I covered Class A, short-season baseball for a newspaper. These are kids just out of high school, Latinos uprooted from the Caribbean or South America, and some college kids who must work their way up from the bottom rungs of the pro baseball ladder. The stress can be tremendous. Kids such as R.W. Clay go from being hometown heroes to being another player who is a suspect and not a prospect. (I borrowed that line from Jim Baumer, the former director of development for the Philadelphia Phillies.) My work that is being read by beta readers started with the memory of an old man who lived down the street from us in Santa Rosa, California. He was a great guy. I simply took him, twisted realities about him, and surrounded him with a world full of major problems.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The creative process. There is something that satisfies my soul in creating characters and circumstances that might resonate with readers. One question i ask readers is, "Do you read for catharsis or escapism?" I write for the catharsis lovers. I want readers to feel something deep inside although my MC might be an eighteen-year-old kid or a sexist s.o.b. being forced to battle his internal demons.
What do you hope to achieve in your writing career?
I must be honest. A measure of respect is at the top of the list. I want readers to experience something that touches them deep inside. I want that moment of catharsis I talked about. My works have taken from 15 months to several years to complete, and some projects I worked on for years are still in the developmental stage. When finished, I want readers to feel they have read something worthwhile. I also love to be a storyteller. There is great satisfaction in getting feedback from readers about a novel, and that goes for negative responses as well. Hey, my novels aren't for everyone, but they resonate with some. I like that. The financial rewards? I must be honest again. It would be nice, but it's not necessary. I write to tell stories, not line my pockets.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I was in middle school when I wrote a James Bond-type novel. It was short on grown-up situations and long on types of alcoholic drinks and physical traits of women. The only good thing I remember is that some of my friends gave the story good reviews.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Life. It is a dizzying process even on what appear to be mundane days. That ties in with my belief in the "so real you can touch them" aspect of my characters and stories. This life is an amazing gift.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend time with my wife, who (excuse the trite reference) is the love of my life. I also love sports, exercise, and defeating challenges. Some of those personal triumphs are almost instantaneous and some take years to master. I love to travel so I can learn about and savor other cultures. I also love to be in places that fill my soul. My favorite place to be? Bellagio, Italy, on a sunny morning as I sit on a terrace with my wife and sip cappuccinos. The rest of the day is spent exploring shops and having lakeside walks. Maybe George Clooney stops by for a visit.
What do your fans mean to you?
I appreciate each and every one, whether they are old friends or those who discovered my work here. I write to be a storyteller, and I pour considerable effort into each novel. Anyone likes a measure of respect for what they've done. Being able to get a positive review from a reader is a good thing, and I have several emails or texts that are thumbs up. I only wish more of them would post their reviews on my Smashwords page.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Word of mouth is the strongest factor. I love it when friends say they read this book or that book, and give me a recommendation. I also like some reviewers such as Anna Reynolds, who says she gives honest appraisals and doesn't promise good reviews. I can't believe that some "reviewers" say they automatically give good reviews. That is dishonest, and authors who use such sites are cheating themselves.
How do you approach cover design?
I eventually rely on the ability of talented designers. I might suggest a couple of possible photos or images to the designer, and I step back and let the expert do his or her work.
What do you read for pleasure?
Anything John Hart has published because he is a sort of a mentor. Next on my wish list is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I want novels that move me and transport me to real places with major life implications. I am not much for cozy mysteries and such.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Macbook Air. I rely on my iPhone in a pinch.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I had two book tours, and one of them yielded at least adequate sales. To be honest, self-marketing is the toughest part of self-publishing. I had radio interviews and newspaper articles, and I leaned heavily on Facebook and other social media without as much success as I hoped.
Published 2016-10-05.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

One Summer Season: A Young Man's Brutal Baptism Into Love And Baseball
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 78,130. Language: English. Published: April 9, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Family
(3.50 from 2 reviews)
R.W. Clay has the world on a string, the hometown hero who can hit the baseball a country mile. No one stays young forever. He steps into an adult world that doesn't care about hometown heroes or high school stardom. Coaches try to change him, an opposing pitcher known as Muy Mal Hombre tries to hurt him, and women want him for different reasons. Hero? Nah, just a young man meeting life head-on.