Interview with Chris Korman

Do you consider yourself a writer?
Well, I wrote this book, so in a sense I am a writer. But strictly speaking, no. It is not my vocation. Maybe it will be the only book I'll ever write.
Don't you have other books in the making?
I do, but they're only in the early stages. It's gonna take me some time.
What will they be about?
The same themes: love, sex and identity.
So, why did you write this book?
Well it's a long story. Although it isn't autobiographical, it does say, to some extent, who I am.
First and foremost I wrote it for my children, so they would know, in a round about way, who I really am.
What do you mean by a round about way?
Two things actually:
First the novel is pure fiction: none of the the events that are depicted in it happened in real life, although I drew from my own experience and inserted autobiographical details.
Second, all the things that happen in the book, although fictitious are actually true.
But why didn't you just tell your kids about it? Why write a book about it?
It is complicated. Let me say that I am quite open with them and they know about my dual personality. However, it is quite hard to get some things across, so I chose fiction to try and be as honest as I could about it. And then there is the pleasure of creating!
Aren't you afraid to shock them?
There is the possibility. I waited until they were old enough to finish and publish the book. They're both young adults now and mature enough to handle it.
You make it sound as if your book is some sort of legacy?
It is! I have started the downhill journey of my life and I really wanted to leave something for them to understand who I really am, deep down.
Indeed, I have reached a stage in my life, (I'm 56), when you start wondering about what next? What will happen when you're dead? You see, I'm an atheist. I believe you're born, you live, you die. Period. No life after life. No heaven. So it's pretty lonely and depressing at times. And I vaguely wanted something to be remembered by. For my kids and wife, and all the people who know me. And possibly for the world at large. I know this might sound a bit presumptuous, but there you are...
Then I have such a love of English and American literature, that I wanted to pay my (modest) tribute to the authors I love.
What about the other potential readers?
I believe that many might recognize themselves in the story. For I do believe that we are more complex than what meets the eye, and maybe, maybe, some readers might have been confronted to similar situations and have had to make difficult choices.
You are French, why did you choose to write in English?
Oh, there are many reasons.
First I didn't want my mother to understand anything for fear she might have a heart attack or disown me!
More seriously, because of my job. I have been teaching English as a foreign language for over 30 years and English literature for more than 15 years in French schools, and I wanted to put myself to the test. See if I was able to write a convincing story, in a relatively correct language, after all these years.
Has it been easy?
Of course not! …...
As I said I wrote mostly at night, after I had done my professional and family duties. Also it didn't take long to realize that reading books is one thing and writing is quite another thing! So I trudged through it, for about three years, writing snippets at a time. Which also accounts for the somewhat disjointed structure of the book. But it suits me fine, as I wanted it to have the rambling appearance of a dream.
Can you tell us more about the way you wrote it?
Mostly by 'tableaux': each chapter was composed separately and corresponded to a specific mood, a specific moment in Tom's adventure. I more or less kept the original titles I used to save the pages in the table of contents.
The difficult part was to smooth out the way from one tableau to the next. Also to decide which one would appear in Book One, and which would appear in Book Two. There's been a lot of shuffling around before I came up with the final version.
Who are your literary influences?
Stevenson, Conrad, Melville, Henry Miller to name a few.
In the other arts?
In painting I made references to Klimt and Quattrocento painters. In the movies: Apocalypse Now, by Francis Ford Coppola of course, but also more recently Ang Lee's adaptation of Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
The musical influences are clearly stated in the book. Funnily enough, I think I omitted 'Hotel California' by the Eagles, which was playing round the clock in the country back in the eighties.
Which brings me to the next question: are you considering rewriting some parts of the book or are you satisfied with the result?
This is what is fantastic with publishing on line, and with Smashwords in particular: you can revise your book, improve it, enrich it, as many times as you want. There are some parts that I would like to redo. Then it will also depend on readers' reviews.
To come back to your novel, can you tell us about its genesis?
I carried it in me for years, decades actually.
You see, as a young man, I served for two years in the Philippines, as a military cooperant, the French equivalent of the US Peace Corps, as an alternative to the then compulsory military service. I didn't want to be in the army. I taught French there instead. The first months proved a difficult experience at first, but after a while, I fell in love with the country, the people, lots of extraordinary people!, Asia and travels in general.
Then when I came back to France and started working, I began fantasizing about things that could have happened, inventing stories in my head and over the years, and my travels to other parts of the world, it became more complex until one day, to cut a long story short, I told myself, 'Hey why don't you stop fantasizing and actually write a book?'.
That was thirty years ago, why so long?
Procrastination! And life. My life has been rich and full. So it actually took my midlife crisis to kick me into action.
I guess I wanted to look back on the young man I was back in the eighties, and come to terms with missed opportunities.
Would you say that Thomas Hermann is you?
Not really. But in a way, yes of course! But so are Jun, Maya and André.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kobo reader
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
There is no success to speak of so far. I have only sold one book, ( thanks to my first cutomer!), and have had about 180 free downloads. Where success may lie is in the fact that I actually finished writing the book and eventually published it. And in this regard, Smashwords has proved invaluable: the smashword style guide and all the online tips were a great help!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The fact that you can create anything you want. There is no limit to what you can think up. It's so thrilling: total freedom!
What do your fans mean to you?
I'll tell you when I have some.
Published 2016-07-03.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Out in the Mangrove
Price: Free! Words: 110,660. Language: American English. Published: June 20, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay, Fiction » Adventure » Sea adventures
In a far-off land, Tom falls in love with Jun... and Maya. They fall in love with him too. Can this work out ? There will be sex, there will be happiness. But there is also money involved. So could it just be a sham after all?