Award-Winning Science-Fiction Author Christopher Hinz
Christopher Hinz won the Compton Crook award for best first novel and was nominated for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer for Liege-Killer. From a forested realm near Reading, PA, he crafts stories in a range of media: screenplay adaptations, short stories, graphic novels, comics for DC and Marvel. His seventh prose novel, Starship Alchemon, launches in November.
How did you first come to writing?
I fell in love with science fiction at an early age and wrote my first “book” – four pages in a school notepad – somewhere around age eight. Teens and early twenties featured subsequent efforts but it wasn’t until around age 28 or 29 that I developed enough self-discipline to get serious about the craft.
What do you feel the SFF genre affords writers?
Primarily a sense of openness toward new or revitalized ideas. No other form of fiction kick-starts the imagination into exploring its most exotic frontiers, and none offers such an unlimited canvas on which to create. The trick, of course, is seeking balance between the macroscopic and the microscopic: tempering SFF’s cosmic freedoms with equally vigorous probes into the depths of the human heart.
Any other new and exciting books we can expect to be forthcoming from you?
Besides Starship Alchemon in November, Duchamp Versus Einstein, a novelette co-written with Etan Ilfeld, arrives Oct. 8th. Also released earlier this year was Liege-Killer The Graphic Novel, making 2019 an unusually fertile period on the publishing front – sort of an authorial version of a rare planetary conjunction. With 2020 foresight, I predict another new novel for later in the new year.
In your book Starship Alchemon, we see an atmosphere of escalating paranoia and multiplying dangers, where the crew must penetrate the nest of secrets to stop an evil presence from reaching Earth. Can you tell us more?
I’ve always been drawn to stories where character development corresponds to the three-part lattice at the core of the human animal. In other words, we might be said to possess an operational consciousness incorporating physical, emotional and intellectual selves. Ideally, our three selves act in concert, yet in practice they’re often at odds. Most of the “drama” in our personal lives and throughout the social sphere emanates from the underlying neurological conflicts among this tripartite structure.
In Starship Alchemon, the crew faces a being whose evolution led to a fourth state of consciousness, which grants it unusual and dangerous abilities. The best novels heighten suspense by bombarding the characters with inescapable troubles until survival seems impossible, and that’s all too true aboard the Alchemon. Each crew member must deal with the presence of this exceptional being while navigating the unique aspects of their own latticed selves. The novel’s net effect upon readers, I hope, will be a thematic afterglow, the special satisfaction arising from having one’s perceptions about what is possible altered and enriched.
Any interesting writing habits or writing rituals you could share?
Playing three or four swift games of FreeCell prior to every writing session. I rationalize the habit as a perfect way to warm up the prefrontal cortex for creative endeavors. But maybe it’s rooted in a more evolutionarily ancient region of the brain, where I just want the gut satisfaction of beating a competitor.
What was it like when you first received nominations for the John W. Campbell Award and Compton Crook Award?
I was surprised and honored when my first novel, Liege-Killer, earned such acclaim, particularly when it won the Compton Crook award. Being somewhat of an autodidact – no formal training for authorhood – and having spent at least 18 months in the isolating frenzy of the creative cocoon – the joy and bane of every writer – the nominations and strong reviews served as confidence amplifiers.
What’s it like working with Angry Robot Books?
After many years jumping from publisher to publisher, it’s been great putting down roots. Angry Robot has been incredibly supportive of my work and has paired me with thoughtful editors. By its nature, the writer-editor relationship exists in a state of tension, each side tugging on a story to bring it closer to their mindset. A.R. has a solid understanding of the dynamics of this relationship, aware that if both sides approach a book with open minds and a willingness to compromise, the ultimate work can’t help but be improved.
How did you find your way to your current literary agency Trident Media Group?
Like many writers in the profession for a number of years, I’ve had more than one agent. Some were good, some not so good and some… well, the less said the better. Connecting with Mark at Trident has been rewarding on a number of levels, and being represented by such a powerhouse agency lessens having to worry about the business side of the equation. Knowing that negotiations and contractual matters are in the hands of seasoned pros means I can concentrate on the writing.
Do you have any advice for hopeful writers looking to become published authors?
Wish I could offer something original but the classic three Ps – passion, practice and persistence – can’t be beat. Learn to love the writing experience at its most fundamental, ass-to-chair level, where the crafting of sentence/paragraph/chapter becomes its own reward. Become a ruthless self-editor; rewrite or even discard a previous day’s efforts should that ephemeral critic that lurks in your creative firmament – and which will grow stronger with exercise – fails to spark. And if you’re truly serious about wanting to be published, adopt the hardcore attitude that you won’t give up the dream until they pry your cold dead fingers from the keyboard.
Can you finish this sentence? “I love writing because…”
“I love writing!”