About Chris Lodwig:
I live in Seattle with my wife, daughter, dog, lizard, and an unlikely number of shrimp.
I have spent the last twenty-three years working for technology companies in the greater Seattle area.
I spent my younger years playing music, frequenting Burning Man, throwing art parties and unsanctioned parades, and clandestinely installing monoliths and other art in local parks.
I have degrees in both Comparative History of Ideas and Communications from the University of Washington.
Systemic is my first published novel.
What inspires you to write?
I love when I have an image, or situation, or idea in my mind that I want to explain, and I have to struggle at it. I might try twenty different ways to get at the idea, and then, when I get it right, I go, “ah, that’s what I wanted to say.” I get this little shot of dopamine or oxytocin. It’s a bit addictive. And then, when I’m done and someone else reads it, and they get what I’m saying or see what I’m showing them, it’s the closest thing to telepathy I can imagine this side of the technologies I write about in my stories.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
The book I force on every young person is Ender’s Game. That book probably turned me on to reading and sci-fi in particular. Dune is so epic and vast it blows my mind. Blood Meridian is the most beautifully written and wrenchingly horrible book of all time. Moby Dick’s not bad either. But I love all sorts of books for all sorts of reasons. Currently the books that have me pounding the table and shouting at people to read are: The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill which is incredibly charming. Erin Morgenstern’s, the Night Circus wins for atmosphere, and N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series was dark and refreshingly original. Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel was a pretty big influence on the mood of Systemic, and the sequel I’m currently writing.
Tell us about your writing process.
For Systemic I was a discovery writer, which was really fun. I had no idea at first where the story was going. Writing felt a lot like reading, so every day was exciting, interesting, and surprising. But there were a lot of problems with writing that way. I had to go back and edit and restructure the manuscript to death once my beta readers and editors got a hold of it. There were just some parts of the story that didn’t work very well and the corrections had to be retrofitted in. The result is something I’m extremely proud of, but it took a ton of effort.
For the sequel, I decided to outline the whole thing and make sure all my characters had believable motivations, backstories, etc. I think that the sequel will be a better crafted story, but I do worry that it might lack some of the sense of wonder that made its way into Systemic because of how I wrote it.
One of the things I like to talk about when discussing process are the tools I use and the ways that I use them. There are different stages of writing, and different styles of prose within the body of the work. I’ve found that some tools may be better suited to a given task, so I switch between them continually.
Here are all the different tools I use and how I find them most useful.
Writing by hand, produces flowing beautiful prose. It’s also good for getting at nagging ideas that have slivered their way deep into my cranium and need to get worked back up to the surface.
Writing on my phone is my second favorite way to write. Oddly, it’s almost as flowy as writing by hand. I wrote probably 70% of Systemic on the bus using my thumbs. Since both Word and Google Docs are in the cloud, you can work on your story on your phone while commuting, then hop on to your computer the second you get home and all your changes are already there.
I also use dictation a lot because it’s very fast. I described a huge portion of the outline of my new book aloud just to get it down as quickly as it was coming to me.
Right now, I’m fleshing out the outline of the sequel to Systemic. There are lots of characters inhabiting different places and timelines, and there are at least three major story arcs. I have a massive glossary of terms, and descriptions of world building, and character sheets. I use Scrivener to keep all of that straight since it has a million different useful features for novel writing.
Once I’m happy with it, I’ll output it to a Word doc, do another editing pass to smooth it out. Then I’ll read the entire book aloud to my wife. I have always been of the opinion that the written word should be read aloud as part of the refinement process. Your ear will pick up on unnatural phrases and reused words etc, that your eyes never will. I also have begun using Word’s “Read Aloud” feature for this same purpose.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
In a way, yes. I tend to speak their lines aloud while I’m writing them, and I give them permission to get away from me and say unexpected things. But I don’t talk to them about random things like the price of gas, good movies, or politics.
Mostly I visualize them. I see their body posture, or the way expressions look on their faces. I always want to know what they’re doing with their hands, and which direction they’re facing in a room. And of course I always want to know how they’re feeling.
What advice would you give other writers?
Write. I think the hardest thing about writing, aside from just making the time to do it, is writer’s block. I think writer’s block comes from a desire to write something amazing, and when it doesn’t fall out of our brains fully formed and beautiful we are terrified to acknowledge the quivering pink embryo of an idea by committing it to paper. But writing is a lot like sculpting. You need to have a block of words so that you have something to carve away. Let yourself write crap, just make sure to write a lot of it. No one needs to see anything you’ve written until you decide to show them. The number of days I start off writing something like “So, what are you trying to do here? You’ve got character X in situation Y and she’s panicked. Why is she panicked? Well…let me think about that…perhaps…” I literally write things like that all the time. And generally, about one or two paragraphs in, and I’m off to the races. I delete all the hemming and hawing later.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I self-published. There is the sort of punk-rock DIY aspect to it that I really like. But then there are sales. It’s really hard to get your book noticed in a sea of other books. I knew that going into it. But I figured the chances of any publisher wanting a forty something first time writer with no history, no social media presence, and no desire to quit their day job, seemed low. So, I left it up to fate. I researched a dozen or so publishers and sent them query letters. If one of them showed interest, great, if not, I would just self-publish. None did, so here I am. In hindsight I wish I would have tried a little bit harder, but I just didn’t have the patience for it.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I don’t pretend to be an expert or even casual observer of the publishing industry. If I were to guess, I think that books will go the way of music and other media, which is to say continually subdividing into more and more specific genres and subgenres that speak to their specific audiences. I think that the experience I had self-publishing my book supports that. It was extremely easy to get my book edited, printed and an audio book produced with professional results. With online sales, and print on demand, distribution is painless as well. It will continue to be more and more difficult to generate buzz and make any one book stand out against the noise.
What genres do you write?: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
What formats are your books in?: eBook, Print, Both eBook and Print, Audiobook
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All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.
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