I’d like to introduce you to the ninety-fourth interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. He is Christopher D. Abbott.
Hi, Christopher! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. It’s wonderful to talk to you again. How does it feel to be close to having three books published?
Hi Susan, it’s always a pleasure to speak with you and thank you, again, for your time!
How does it feel..? It’s surreal to be sure, I didn’t expect to have one published, but to have a third almost ready to publish is amazing. Sometimes I look at the amount of books my fellow authors publish and I’m in awe, but I’m also very happy with the time I spend working on getting my books ready. A lot of people help me, including some very talented members of law enforcement, clinical psychologists, not forgetting an amazing team of editors – and a cover artist extraordinaire!
Your latest book, Dr. Chandrix Dies, is the second in your mystery/crime series novel and is due out in Fall 2014. Will you tell us about the book and the series? Do you have a release date yet?
Yes of course. Dr. Chandrix Dies is set 5 years prior to the events of Sir Laurence Dies, and tells the story of how Dr. Straay and Chief Inspector Drake met. It was the first case they worked on together, and there is some tension between them. We meet familiar characters that appear in Sir Laurence Dies – we also get a glimpse into a clandestine world – which is the bulk of where I go with this book. Readers of Sir Laurence Dies may remember that when he was interviewed, Major Heskith remarked on how Sir Laurence did a lot of “hush, hush, work for the government”. Well, there are some obvious elements that appear in this book that translate across. There are some threads that have been deliberately left to ensure that the 3rd book in the trilogy ties them up all, but this book, like Sir Laurence Dies, has a mystery that is solved.
The release date for this book is 1st September 2014.
I heard that your first book was a finalist in a reader’s choice contest. Can you tell us about that? How did it feel?
It’s amazing. To be an “Award Winning Author” so early on in my literary career is so far from where I came from, it’s humbling. I’m still learning my trade, but to have this award has given me a serious boost in confidence. I find out on 1st September where I came in my category of “Sleuth” – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or Runner Up. Whatever happens, I made it to Finalist, which is also award grade – so even if the book doesn’t go beyond that, I’m still very happy.
Would you give us a brief (250 word) excerpt from Dr. Chandrix Dies?
Here is the start of Chapter Two.
The lobby of the Royal Albion was luxurious. The lavish décor impressed all who visited. The hotel itself was the hub of all activity in Brighton. Recent bad press notwithstanding, the clientele were there to enjoy their summer holidays free of real world difficulties. A mixture of young and old, in political or theatrical professions, mingled in its bars, on the tennis courts, and in its three dining rooms. It really was the place to be.
Doctor Straay lifted the receiver in the hotel lobby and started to dial. Before he could finish, a gloved hand pushed the cradle down. He turned to see a red-faced man in a pin-striped suit, his right hand covered by an overcoat, pointing at him. He looked almost apologetic.
‘I wonder if we could just take a minute of your time before you make that call, Doctor Straay,’ he said. His eyes moved towards a second man.
Straay replaced the receiver with care. The other man approached—much older, with silver-white hair, dressed almost the same and supported by a silver-handled black cane. He bowed as he approached. Here is a man who’s in the services. Old enough to be in a commanding position, Straay mused. His limp still causes him pain; his face contorts with each step he takes. But it’s not a recent injury; the cane is well used. Its tip has worn away to the harder metal beneath. He turned to the red-faced man. Both wear similar suits, almost regulation. The regulation way they dress suggests they aren’t criminals. They must therefore be officials. But not police–how interesting…
As a mystery writer, you need to leave a trail of crumbs for your readers to follow. Are you an outliner or a seat-of-your-pants writer? How much of the plot is developed before you begin writing? At what point do you have a clear idea of how it will end?
I’ve never been one to outline. I tried it a couple of times and to be frank, I move so far away from the original concept that it makes the entire exercise a little farcical. I have a good idea where I want to go, and I make many notes. I have some tie ups to complete at the end, so I have to know what threads I started. Sometimes I go back and weave a thread through the story after it was written. For example, in Sir Laurence, one of my friends and top beta reader, Rob, figured out a major plot sequence – I had to make a radical change, and that is how the ending was redeveloped. This time, I kept it a little simpler in so far as the number of revelations but it’s still essentially a whodunit.
As to the ending, here is my process. I write the beginning and when I get to about 40,000 words, I write the end. It may change along the way, but I have a clear ending by the time I’m mid-way so I know where I’m heading, and where I should start winding up threads and plots. I did the same in Sir Laurence Dies. For that book, I wrote 5 endings.
When the 3rd book is done, I’m going to write a “HowDunnit” – which will detail each story, how I developed them, the characters I used and their original names, the plot turns – some of the original scenes and the various endings. I’m looking forward to that. I have many notes. It will be interesting for anyone who is curious about my process.
Where did you get your book cover?
A very talented man called Richard Sutton makes my book covers for me. He understands me and my style. Richard “gets” me. I really don’t have to feed him a lot of stuff, his ideas are usually spot on. Richard doesn’t just coble together pictures from his sources (which he does amazingly) he makes the images himself. Dr. Chandrix Dies cover is a “1930s Cow Bone Scalpel” that he procured through eBay and shot himself. I have the item in my possession. Richard also does the covers for my friend, John B. Campbell. His new book, A Lark Ascending, looks gorgeous.
Do you have a favorite book review?
I think I like all my reviews, whether they are 1 star or 5 star. Of course I prefer the 5 star ones, who doesn’t? I would be lying if I said I didn’t take the bad reviews personally, because despite what people tell you, they are personal, and there’s no other way to take them. I suppose my favourite would be the one from “Readers’ Favorite” because it started me towards the award for Sir Laurence Dies.
Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite
Sir Lawrence Dies is a detective mystery, written by Christopher D. Abbott, featuring Dutch psychologist, Dr. Pieter Straay, who has a keen interest in crime. He’s on his way to England from Amsterdam when he’s approached by Sir Lawrence Gregson, a retired Lieutenant Colonel. Sir Lawrence is a severely disfigured survivor of World War I. He invites Straay to come stay at his estate after confiding that he fears someone is trying to kill him. Sir Lawrence recounts a near hunting accident and a later boating accident that, combined with some ominous whispering he overheard, have made him feel sure that his life is in danger. Straay accepts his offer and arranges to come for dinner at the estate. The trains are late, however, and Straay misses the dinner, but is able to observe the inhabitants of the house that evening.
Christopher D. Abbott’s detective story is a first-rate murder mystery with an engaging Dutch psychologist-sleuth. The reader gets to follow as Dr. Straay and his friend Chief Inspector Drake interview Sir Lawrence’s family, friends, and staff after his apparent suicide on the night of Straay’s arrival. This is a stylish and enjoyable mystery that keeps the reader guessing as Straay and Drake consider clues, motives, and inconsistencies. Fans of Christie and Holmes alike should enjoy Sir Lawrence Dies as well as anyone who likes police procedurals. I was caught up in the plot from the very first pages and found it to be quite entertaining and not at all predictable.
Do you think that having more than one book published has helped you gain a following? How do you promote/market your books?
I would like to think I have a following. Having more than one book is great. Revolting Tales was published November 2013, and September 2014, Dr. Chandrix Dies will be published. Not as fast as some, but I’m happy with that turn around. I started writing Chandrix in June 2013 and finished June 2014. I market myself on Facebook and other social media. I use interviews with people like your good self. All this helps to get me out there. I write a blog but I’m always looking for other outlets. It’s hard, and you always have to maintain it. If I take my eyes off my own marketing, my sales drop. No one is going to do it for me, unless I pay them, and until I sell enough books to employ someone, that’s not a reality.
Have you had an easy road to publication? Are there any pitfalls you would warn new writers to avoid?
Well now. I have had an easy road, it’s true. I’ve had some good offers too from a number of Press’s and some have been tempting. I have a short story published with “J Ellington Ashton Press” but I chose to self-publish my mystery books. The reason is simple. When all three books are done, I will attempt to sell them to a larger press. Until then, I need to prove they are worth selling. I think they are, but book sales will uphold that belief.
Pitfalls… yeah, get an editor to EDIT your book! It doesn’t matter how good you think you are, even one of my editors has her books edited by someone else; you need someone else to do it. Get a decent cover, trust me, it will help sell your book. ASK for feedback from other authors. Get beta readers… in short, don’t sprint to publish a book that’s not ready to be published.
Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!