Thursday, September 22, 2011

Author in the Locker Room: Chris Eboch

The locker room is all cleaned again (!) and I'm so happy to have MG author, Chris Eboch, here talking about her new book, The Eyes of Pharoah. Please give Chris a high-five!


What kind of research did you do for this book?
I’ve been fascinated by ancient Egypt since I was a kid. Plus, I grew up in Saudi Arabia, so I have some familiarity with the Middle East, and my family visited Egypt when I was in my 20s.
The Eyes of Pharaoh is actually the second novel I’ve written set in ancient Egypt. The first one still needs major revisions, so I’m not sure when (if ever) I might get it out, but I was able to use much of that earlier research. I have at least a dozen books on ancient Egypt on my bookshelf, including several of the Time-Life books about how people lived, with lots of pictures. I also did a lot of library research, and I’ve been to several museum exhibits.

What is the most surprising thing you learned from your research?
One thing that intrigues me about history is how some of the lessons of the past resonate today. My first novel, The Well of Sacrifice, is an adventure/drama set in 9th-century Mayan times. I explored some of the reasons the Mayan civilization collapsed, such as environmental degradation and too much money flowing to the government and away from the people. For The Eyes of Pharaoh, I touched on issues such as illegal immigration and the dangers of a country thinking it’s the best and most powerful country in the world, and therefore untouchable. It’s almost creepy how some of these themes still affect us. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever learn from the mistakes of the past, but I hope my books will get people thinking a little harder about these issues.

What is your normal writing day like? Where do you write? What things do you need (silence? music? the cat?) in order to write?
I check e-mail while eating breakfast and drinking my tea. Then if I’m working on a novel, I’ll try to write a chapter. That usually drains my creative energy, so in the afternoon I work on nonfiction articles, blog posts, critiques, publicity, or errands.

I usually write directly onto the computer, though if I’m struggling I like to take a walk with my miniature digital tape recorder and dictate. I find that the rhythm of walking helps me focus. Once I start that way, I can usually head back to the computer and keep going. I use voice recognition software, so dictating my work isn’t uncomfortable for me. I don’t listen to music, since it would interfere with the voice recognition, but I prefer quiet anyway.

I don’t have a pet right now, but I do enjoy having a window that looks out on a bit of nature, so I can watch the birds or any other critters that wander by.

What is your writing process like?
Over the years I’ve gotten better at using outlines. Now I prefer to start with them, as it saves me a lot of time and frustration during the writing process. That means I’ll spend several weeks brainstorming before I start writing, and I’ll also do any necessary research in advance. Once I start writing, I generally set a daily word count goal – about a chapter, which is 1500 words for a middle grade novel and 2500 words for an adult novel. As long as I don’t have too many distractions, like speaking engagements, I’m fairly successful in meeting those goals. Then I take a few weeks for editing, and maybe a break between books to catch up on other things.

Did you choose your genre, or did your genre choose you?
Writing middle grade novels seemed like a natural fit to me. I read an enormous amount as a kid, and I still enjoy reading children’s books. It fits my style, partly natural and partly based on journalism training, with a focus on simple, clear language and plenty of action and dialogue to keep the pages turning.

A couple of years ago, I was starting to feel restless and wanted a change. I realized I had mostly been reading adult romantic suspense novels. I decided to try one, and eventually published Rattled. It was fun to do something new, plus I got to draw on my passion for my local New Mexico landscape and activities such as hiking and wilderness exploration. I have another romantic suspense with my agent, and I’m ready to start a third, which will involve falconry and a murder.

I also write articles about writing, teach writing through a correspondence school, lead workshops, and offer private critique services. I enjoy teaching, and I learn a lot from analyzing other people’s manuscripts. I recently put together a book called Advanced Plotting, designed to help intermediate and advanced writers write stronger manuscripts.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the fourth book in my middle grade Haunted series, The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, come out next year. I expect my future will hold a combination of writing for children and for adults, plus teaching and editing.

What one piece of advice would you give aspiring writers?
Take classes and get professional feedback. Most people try to submit their work long before they’re writing at a professional level. You’ll save yourself frustration if you focus on learning to write better for a few years before you worry about the submission process.

Describe your book in 140 characters or less...
The Eyes of Pharaoh brings ancient Egypt to life as three friends investigate a plot against the Pharaoh.

Where can readers find your books?
Readers can learn about all of my books and order them on my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Eboch/e/B001JS25VE/. They can also read excerpts of my children’s books at www.chriseboch.com, learn about my romantic suspense novels at www.krisbock.com, or get writing tips and excerpts from Advanced Plotting on my blog, http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/.

Chris Eboch's novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or check out her writing tips at http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/. Chris also writes for adults under the name Kris Bock. Rattled launches her new romantic suspense series featuring treasure hunting adventures in the New Mexico wilderness. Read the first three chapters at www.krisbock.com.