Today I have with me author Chris Stralyn, who writes suspense thrillers. It is my pleasure to invite her, as I have never had a suspense thriller author on the blog. This got very interesting, as I was able to ask all the questions I had about writing thrillers! So, lets jump in and get started with this interview!
Interview with Chris Stralyn,
author of This Time You Lose
Describe your book? What genre would you classify it into?
What would you do if street thugs invaded your home? What if you’re a child care provider, caring for a dozen kids at the time? Lisa Kaamp, a most unlikely heroine, faces just such a nightmare in This Time You Lose, the terrifying story of one woman’s struggle to survive when she and the children she cares for become victims of a home invasion gone terribly wrong.
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
Years ago, a neighboring community was plagued with a series of home invasions. A childcare provider myself at the time, I wondered what would happen if one of these invasions occurred in a childcare home. A woman home alone, caring for up to a dozen children in a deserted, middle-class neighborhood made the perfect target for one of these invasions – and thus my story was born.
When and why did you begin writing?
I never intended to be a writer. Short-order cook, security guard, safety officer, childcare provider, and teacher were all titles I’d worn – but never writer. Then, at age 40, I entered an essay contest for “The Worst Vacation Ever” and won. Writing became my new hobby, and soon I had several articles in print with local publications. This was followed by a short story, The Khaki Pants, which was published by RDR Publishing in an anthology that went on to sell over a million copies.
A suspense thriller was my next undertaking, and in 2008 This Time You Lose was named a finalist in the TNBW Strongest Start Novel Competition. Four months later it earned the distinction of being a TNBW Readers Choice Top Ten Novel, and has remained on the Top Ten list ever since.
How has your journey from writing to getting published been?
In a word – long. While the first draft was completed in 6 months, it took another year and a half of editing and rewriting to get it to the point where I felt confident sending it out. After many, many, many rejections I finally got an agent in New York. She sent it out to all the major publishers – who rejected it, but offered constructive comments. I then reworked the story based on their comments and my agent resubmitted it. This time most of the publishers really liked it, but still turned it down. My agent explained that it had more to do with the current economy than the writing….the big publishing houses just weren’t taking many chances on unknown authors right now. She suggested shelving it for a year or so, and trying it again later. So I put it away for a while. Then after much thought and research, I decided not to wait. I didn’t NEED a big publishing company to get my book out there. I could do it myself. So I decided to self-publish, and went with a print-on-demand publishing company. In less than two months I had my finished book in my hands. Of course 100% of the marketing is also in my hands, and that has proved to be more difficult than writing the original story.
Who is you favourite character? Is there a character in the book you think the readers will hate?
I like strong women characters. Too many women in fiction are meek and wait around for their hero to “rescue” them. I’ll take the strong female character who makes things happen on her own every time – my character of Lisa is one such woman.
Tito is the character every reader will hate. He is a self-centered, mean, obnoxious bully that is used to getting his way. Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t work out quite that way once he meets Lisa.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
I think the challenge for me has been psychological. I have two, 2 year degrees in unrelated fields… but I’ve never taken a writing class. I took the required English Comp classes in high school & college…but never an actual writing class. So the biggest challenge was convincing myself that I really could write a good story.
Looking back now, I think my lack of formal writing classes has been a wonderful advantage. I learned to write by reading. As a child I read everything I could get my hands on, from Hardy Boys Mysteries to First Aid Handbooks, I was never without a book in my hands. So I guess maybe I learned through reading how to put sentences and stories together. Many of my writer friends have struggled with their writing because they worry about how they are supposed to write. I just write what sounds good to me – and so far that’s worked.
What was the hardest part of writing the book?
The hardest part of writing – for me – is finding the time to write.
Who designed the covers of the book?
I had little to do with my book covers creation. I mean, I can barely draw stick figures! Design a book cover? I didn’t have a clue how to even get started. Then an online friend – Tirzah Goodwin – offered to help me out. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted for a book cover, title and name of course, but other than that – absolutely nothing came to mind. So…. she took my brief story description (back cover blurb) and designed the cover for This Time You Lose without even having read the book. (She has since read it.) And it is perfect!! She totally captured the essence of my story, and I get a lot of great comments on my cover. I am forever grateful to Tirzah, who not only works full time, (in an unrelated field) but designs book covers in her spare time. She is the reason my book cover rocks! Here is a link to her page.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Writing is the easy part, and the most fun. Editing is hard. Getting published is tough – even with an agent. Marketing is by far the most difficult part of the whole process.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
I don’t think I would change anything in the story itself. However, I would try to have a specific time & place available to me for the purpose of writing, editing, etc. A nice private island with a palm tree would be perfect! 🙂
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Was there somewhere in the book you felt stuck?
It’s the descriptive details that I find most challenging. I dislike books that are heavy on description, and I don’t want any of my work to turn out that way. I don’t want my stories to get bogged down with so much narration, or so many details, that the reader loses interest and puts it down. So deciding which details to leave in and which ones to take out is always a challenge for me.
What are your current projects? When is your next book coming out?
I am currently spending most of my spare time marketing This Time You Lose. However, I do have my next 2 books planned in my head. One will be another suspense thriller, with a writer as the protagonist. The other will be an anthology of real life stories – more of a humor collection.
What book are you reading now? Which are your all-time favourite authors / books?
I love suspense thrillers. I grew up reading Stephen King, still love to read him, but I also really enjoy James Patterson. Overall, I tend to read a little bit of everything – except vampires – don’t care for vampire stories. I am currently reading Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James.
Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you, something you could not read just about anywhere.
My favourite color is blue. I enjoy bicycling. Public speaking terrifies me.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to readers?
This Time You Lose is an intense read. It will raise your blood pressure, cause you to put off your household chores, and keep you up late into the night. Don’t start reading This Time You Lose unless you have several hours free; it’s the kind of story you won’t want to put down.
about writing psychological thrillers
The book seems like a psychological thriller. How hard is it to write a good thriller?
I read a lot of psychological thrillers and always have. I guess the “how to” part of writing a thriller has been ingrained in me through years of reading them, as I didn’t find writing a thriller particularly difficult. But don’t ask me to write something in the romance genre – I wouldn’t even know where to begin!
What is the secret sauce in getting a thriller just right?
My ‘secret sauce’ recipe is as follows: Mix equal parts fear, believability, suspense and fast pacing. Let simmer. Stir in a few “holy sh*t” moments. Pour evenly over drama, and serve. J
Do you like writing the good characters more or the bad ones?
Bad characters are a lot of fun to write, but I prefer writing the good characters – particularly the underdog type of hero.
Do you plot your book first or do you let the book develop organically?
I did no plotting ahead of time with This Time You Lose. I had a very basic idea of the beginning and the end, but no set path on how to get from one to the other. I simply sat down and started writing. I did find myself wandering off on a few tangents and had to back track a bit now and then, but I enjoyed following wherever the characters took me.
How do you get into the minds of the characters? Is there anything which helps you best in doing this?
To get into the minds of my characters I like to sit in a quiet room with my eyes closed. I then visualize the scene as if it were playing on a movie or TV screen and try to put myself in each of the characters places – envisioning what they may do or say. Then I change up the scene in my head to see how the characters react to a new setting or circumstance. When I am happy with the reactions, I write them down.
ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
Paperbacks, although I’m learning to like my new kindle. 🙂
Cats or dogs?
Coffee or tea?
Coffee – lots of coffee!
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?
What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Keys, phone, sunglasses, chewing gum.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I prefer to do my writing sitting at the computer, in the early afternoon.
In reality…I write whenever and wherever I can. Much of this book was written in the car, in the stands at my kids sporting events, even in the bathroom. (the only room in the house with a lock on the door!)
If you were deserted on an island, who are 3 famous people you would want with you any why?
- Wilderness survival expert Bear Grylls – for obvious reasons.
- Writer Stephen King – I’d love to spend time talking with him.
- Actor Colin Farrell – He’s nice to look at.
About author Chris Stralyn
Chris Stralyn never intended to be a writer. Short-order cook, security guard, safety officer, childcare provider, and teacher were all titles she’d worn – but never writer. Then she entered an essay contest for “The Worst Vacation Ever” and won. Writing became her new hobby, and soon she had several articles in print with local publications. This was followed by a short story, The Khaki Pants, which was published by RDR Publishing in an anthology that went on to sell over a million copies.
A suspense thriller was her next undertaking, and in 2008 This Time You Lose was named a finalist in the TNBW Strongest Start Novel Competition. Four months later it earned the distinction of being a TNBW Readers Choice Top Ten Novel, and has remained on the Top Ten list ever since.
Chris Stralyn continues to put pen to paper in her endeavour to appease the Muse within. She lives in Michigan with her husband and family.
You can find Chris here:
About This Time You Lose
Lisa Kaamp, operates a small childcare business out of her home in the sleepy little town of Nogeksum, Michigan. Highly respected and known for going the extra mile for her daycare kids, Lisa thought she had handled every daycare emergency possible.
But nothing prepared her for the nightmare she now faced. Lisa awakes one morning to find herself bound and gagged, four strange men in her home, and the daycare children being held hostage in the next room. Terrorized by her captors as the authorities work to meet the ransom deadline, she tries negotiating with the men for the release of the children, and soon realizes that at least one of them has no intention of letting anyone go. With the deadline quickly approaching, Lisa must do the unimaginable to protect the children and get everyone out alive.