Interview with Chris Segura

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Undoubtedly it is when my characters surprise me. When all alone at my computer I hear myself laugh out loud at some piece of dialogue or unanticipated twist in the narrative, I just know that it never gets any better. But by far the greatest writing experience of my life came in the early spring of 1980 on a bus returning to my quarters on the North Campus of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor where I was a on year-long sabbatical via an NEH Fellowship in Professional Journalism.

I had been working on the second story in Marshland Brace (later Marshland Trinity) and was wondering just where in hell the story was actually going. It came to me freely every morning, just like the alarm clock that I never really used, waking up with the words running before any actual bells went off. I would be writing before I was fully awake. Those were the typewriter days and I couldn't hit the keys hard enough or fast enough sometimes.

It had snowed the night before and the field adjacent to our housing complex was bright white from a sunlit, cloudless sky and solid ground was knee deep. There was one stop before the turnoff to our cul-de-sac then another before the final one in front of my A-frame house against the forest where my nocturnal raccoon friends lived. Just before we reached that first stop, the unwritten balance of the story flashed through my frontal lobes like near-death experiences you sometimes read about, all the way to the last word, like a super-fast-forwarded video (DHS or Betamax in those days).

I was literally breathless. I could not wait. At the first stop I jumped down and ran as fast as my snow-boots would allow across that field, kicking a trail through the powder, pulling my house keys from my pocket as I ran. Inside I snatched up the typescript, blew through the pages like autumn leaves in a heavy wind and discovered that the whole narrative had been constructed from the very first words to set up the revelations in the final pages, all the way to the very last word which is, by the way, 'shut'. This was done totally without the active participation of my cognitive design.

Now if that happens just once more in my lifetime I will die a happy man.
What do your fans mean to you?
I am gratified by recognition, naturally. Also, I can never utter any words with more sincere honesty than 'God bless all readers!' However, at this moment of my life I am far more focused on the writing than anything else. It came as a great shock to me and some of my early supporters, especially financial backers, to discover that I had no true aptitude for self-promotion.

My greatest teacher in story-telling was my grandfather, a third-grade graduate, self-educated and self-made successful businessman with far-greater skills than mine. He sought no recognition. Had my early career been successful (there was my allotted 15 minutes of fame and also a modicum of financial return), I would never have become an 'indie'.

However, I have never been happier than now, in the writing. Smashwords.com has liberated me in a way I never dreamed. Now my readers can see exactly what I see every morning to the best of my ability to present it. Faulkner said all his books were failures because they never duplicated the magnificence of his inspiration (roughly paraphrasing), even his 'most magnificent failure' The Sound and the Fury.

I need money to feed my body but I need to act on inspiration to feed my soul. My fans nourish me, too, but I am happy enough just with the little time I am allotted just to write. Many thanks and God bless all readers.
What are you working on next?
I am a little more than a third of the way through the final draft of Mystery River Pendulum, an intertwining of two novels as of this morning containing a total of slightly more than 260,000 words that I have been working on for three decades. One novel is set during the War Between the States (uniquely chaotic in French Louisiana) and the other in the bridge between the 20th and 21st Centuries. The stories and the characters (or their ghosts, legacies, auras and even curses) interflow.

Once I am finally through and the work has been proofread by one of my former wives (there is none better), then processed you can look for it on Smashwords.com. After that I plan to return to more light-hearted fare in a shorter, singular novel called Alligator Man, set during a local celebration in Cajun Country during the 1952 presidential election campaign (very) loosely based on an actual appearance in my home town of former President Harry Truman.

So many books, so little time!
Who are your favorite authors?
Faulkner, Hemingway and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I still have to do actual work for a living. My entire adult life has been a struggle finding time to write. For decades I was a newspaperman, working as a staff writer or freelancer on five continents. Right now I pay the bills primarily as a field supply representative for a helicopter company. There have been only two years when I was able to achieve any sizeable amount of time to devote to writing: when I was on a fellowship at the University of Michigan and when I got a windfall of money for writing a ghost story book. Both of those years I produced significant literature. At Ann Arbor I wrote the second story in Marshland Brace (Trinity). The year I wrote the ghost stories I also finished most of the first draft of my current project which now stands at 260,000 plus words.

Time is our most precious possession and it is running out for all of us, some of us more than others. Recreate, recharge your batteries, but do not squander time. Buy eBooks! That buys time for writers. That keeps the flame alive!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. My mother framed it. I was seven years old. It was called "The Red Cow." It's not a bad piece, subtly in the cross-gender mode, stream of consciousness with a happy ending.
What is your writing process?
Mine goes on 24/7.

I have to do it when I can, catch every moment.

In the rare periods when I could afford to arrange my life around the process it was to get up early and write until I reached a point where the narrative built to a natural pause such as a change of setting or introduction of another character into the movement, when I was solidly aware of the immediate direction, the next word or phrase, then to stop. Usually this was midday or early afternoon.

Then I relaxed, tended to my personal needs, reviewed my work in the late afternoon, perhaps with some minor revisions, and relaxed again until sleep and then morning again and a new start.

When one project is finished put it away and go on to the next or to the one before for final redoing, retouching. I enjoy rewriting and revising as much as the first draft.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No. I was told it was Ferdinand The Bull. The first book I remember was Zane Grey's Spirit of the Border.
How do you approach cover design?
I'm hopeless with graphics. I get in touch with Jolene Naylor.
What do you read for pleasure?
Everything I read is a pleasure or I don't read it very long.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have two Nooks and a Kindle. I favor the Kindle. It's an older model, not so gadgety, more like a book.
Published 2013-10-09.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Bayou Phantasia II
You set the price! Words: 63,370. Language: English. Published: December 22, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost
Bayou Phantasia II is the second volume of twenty short stories each based on the ghostly, eerie and/or unexplained events, history and culture of the Cajun country of southwestern Louisiana. These tales will frighten, amaze and amuse you.
Bayou Phantasia I
You set the price! Words: 62,860. Language: English. Published: December 11, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost
The first twenty of forty ghostly short stories of the eerie, the macabre and the unexplained from the Cajun bayou country of southwestern Louisiana.
Bayou Christmas Memory
Price: Free! Words: 2,440. Language: English. Published: November 25, 2011. Categories: Nonfiction » Inspiration » Personal inspiration
(5.00)
Remembrance of a magical Christmas in the Bayou country of southwestern Louisiana.
Marshland Trinity
You set the price! Words: 155,760. Language: English. Published: July 11, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
(5.00)
Three Louisiana stories of the Cajun experience during the 1950s told from the respective points of view of an aged trapper trapper on a pigogue chase of a mass murderer through vast marshes; an adolescent boy from a trapping, cattle-raising, farming family discovering his true place in the cosmos; and a young boy thrust into the painful ambiguities of McCarthyism and the Korean War.