I got connected with Chris through the Medium platform where I post many of my interviews. He had made a post on mental illness and I fell in love with his writing. That is when I reached out and we started a long-distance dialogue about writing. Over that time I got to know Chris and he told me of his new book Untold History that he just published. This post is about Chris, his writing and his new book.
Chris, can you tell us a little about yourself? When did you first start writing?
I grew up in Birmingham, England, and now live in Yorkshire with my husband (the artist Bruce Rimell) and our two rescue cats. I’ve dreamt about being a writer for a long time, but I’ve done a couple of different jobs over the years. I’ve worked in IT support for a time, but I’m passionate about helping people so when I got the opportunity to help my colleagues through difficult employment issues, I jumped at the chance. I’m now a fulltime union officer — which for anyone unfamiliar, is pretty much an independent employee advocate.
When I first started writing, I made a conscious decision about the type of stories I wanted to write. I didn’t want to focus on my own life and sexuality, reflecting that in my novels. In the early days, I was still unsure of myself and didn’t want to put myself at the center of attention. Nowadays I’m of a different mindset, and I’m storing up some interesting ideas for the future.
The first time I seriously considered writing was after I read and watched Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton). I was young (13ish), and wanted to write a sequel that did justice to the original. I never did finish it, but recently I discovered the first few pages and scenes I wrote. They don’t stand up to the test of time, but funnily enough, the idea itself is still pretty good and was similar to some of the ideas that the actual scriptwriters came up with for what would have been Jurassic Park 4, but eventually became Jurassic World. If only I’d developed the idea more… 😉
What gave you the idea to write, Untold History and can you tell us a small synopsis without giving away too much?
The premise for Untold History evolved over several years, but the initial spark of creativity came from a TV conspiracy show I watched — I should caveat that I’m not one for conspiracy theories, and they don’t warrant attention as far as I’m concerned. But this show made me ask the question: What if the Apollo moon landings hadn’t really taken place, and we later discovered that human life on Earth had once evolved from lifeforms that occupied our lunar sister.
It’s fair to say that the final form of the story is substantially different from the first draft I wrote, but that’s the beauty of allowing characters to come to life and take over. It’s their story, not mine.
Untold is set in the very near future and tells the story of humanity’s quest to discover who we are, where we came from, and why our lives are inextricably linked to an alien race. Told through the eyes of Mark, he must face the consequences of his family’s past as he voyages into half-remembered memories, the cold expanse of space, and the unknown… It’s not your average space drama.
What was your hardest scene to write? Did you incorporate something that happened to you in real life into your book?
The few scenes between Mark and his estranged mother were really difficult for me to write (I still get chills when I read them back). They were difficult because it required me to dig out some of the problems from my own childhood, but putting it on paper was therapeutic. The situation is entirely fictional, but the feelings aren’t although they’re not aimed at my mum (I love my mum!)
There is one scene, in particular, that was straight from my life. No spoilers here, but the smell of boiling potatoes will forever be synonymous with death for me.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Absolutely! When I first started writing it was pure escapism. When I’m writing I’m in a different world and no matter how good or bad the words are, I’m there, right alongside the characters — what happens to them is what happens to me also. It became my outlet so I could disappear from the drudgery of my own life.
Over the years my life has transformed. I met my husband and built a happy life together, and we’ve become free together too which has been amazing. So writing became a side project because I didn’t need to escape anymore. Problem is, I love writing and it’s relaxing and taxing in equal measure — it’s something I need in my life, so I’ve had to reclaim it.
I now tend to write with the music cranked up and the lights down low and then I relinquish control to the page.
Do you have any other books in the works?
I’ve got a couple of things in the works at the moment. My next project Devil’s Gate, focuses on the Bermuda Triangle — I can hear you all groaning and rolling your eyes. No, this isn’t just another sci-fi tale about disappearing people, and yes, I’ve done research and I will be recounting some real events along with fictional ones, but this tale is very different. It’s an exploration of what might exist in a different realm to our own, and how it may interact with us. It’s also an exploration of my own faith and a rejection of some of the religious beliefs I was signed up to as a child.
Untold was written as a beginning rather than an ending, nevertheless I never intentionally wrote it with a series or sequel in mind. But I do have a second book written which will need some extensive reworking, so when time permits, that’s also on my to-do list.
As I mentioned before, I didn’t want to write about my own sexuality, however after years of involvement in the LGBTQI+ community I am ready to start exploring something meaningful — not just writing queer characters or a queer love story, but creating an inspiring tale that will help young queer people on their journey to understanding themselves… a powerful vision and I can’t go to the grave without realizing it!
What do you do for fun besides writing?
I’m a fairly big film buff, especially horror films and sci-fi — I’m totally besotted with things that play with linear nature of time and time paradoxes.
When I’m not geeking out, I’ve got my fruit & veg plot to look after and I use the produce to make various things including jams, pickles, chutneys, and pies. I’d love to have some chickens to give me fresh eggs to bake with but will have to do with buying them in!
We also go travelling quite a bit. My husband is an artist, so we get to be involved in quite a few international trips — more recently we’ve had an amazing experience with indigenous people in the northern jungle in Colombia, and a community volunteering experience in a Township in South Africa.
Also, recently heard about a UK based company that pairs sighted and partially sighted or blind people together in order to help them see the world — I think the idea is amazing and it’s on my list of things to do!
How can people keep up to date on your journey?
You can purchase Untold History on Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle formats) and you can keep up to date with my news on my blog. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.
Chris, it has been a pleasure. I actually learned some new things about you that I didn’t know about. I am also a lover of horror, sci-fi, and anything that has to do with time paradox. Thank you again and we look forward to your next book.