Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Interview with Chris H. Stevenson, author of Luck be A Lady

Today it gives the Speculative Fiction Showcase great pleasure to interview Chris H. Stevenson, whose new release Luck Be A Lady we featured on January 23.

What drove you to write an urban fantasy novel about the Goddess of Luck set in the present day?

I’d originally listened to the song Luck be a Lady sang by Frank Sinatra. I wondered why such lyrics. Why would a woman have something to do with luck? I happened to Google luck, or something similar, and that’s where I found the history of Fortuna, the Roman Goddess of Luck. Apparently, she was a real deity worshiped by the masses. What if she was real in today’s society? I thought it would make an interesting fantasy read. 

At the beginning of the story the hero, Mason Hart, is out of luck in every sense. Then he meets Felicity Fortune and his luck changes - for now. Tell us about Felicity and her less pleasant daughter Beshaba...

Well like I said, Felicity (my own name for her) was the Goddess of luck for the Romans. (Tyche was for the Greeks). Fortuna is often depicted with a gubernaculum (ship's rudder), a ball or Rota Fortunae (wheel of fortune, first mentioned by Cicero) and a cornucopia (horn of plenty). She might bring good or bad luck: she could be represented as veiled and blind, as in modern depictions of Lady Justice, except that Fortuna does not hold a balance. Fortuna came to represent life's capriciousness. She was also a goddess of fate: as Atrox Fortuna, she claimed the young lives of the princeps Augustus' grandsons Gaius and Lucius, prospective heirs to the Empire. In antiquity she was also known as Automatia.

Beshaba is the Maid of Misfortune, who was the daughter of Fortuna. The dark side. Her symbol is a rack of sharp-pointed black antlers on a red triangular field. Her divine plane is the Barrens of Doom and Despair, and she is the evil half of her mother. She’s chaotic and mischievous, brings bad luck and causes accidents. In my story, I put her directly at odds with her mother’s generosity and good personality. 

In these troubled times, why do you think the imagination turns to figures from myth and legend?

Times were much simpler then. Yet almost all of the beliefs were based on superstition. They had only to pray to an idol and rest assured that their dreams would eventually come true. Or at least, their questions would be answered. If you stop and think about it, it’s kind of a lazy way out of a predicament. How fortunate we would be today if we had the help, power and support of a true God or Goddess. It’s no wonder why we identify so much with our famous comic book heroes who have all of these extraordinary and magical abilities. 

You have a prolific and well-established career as a writer in more than one genre: science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, young adult (your specialty), thrillers and horror. Tell us and your readers about that.

I first began writing in 1987. Almost instantly, I published in many slick magazines and wrote two very popular and best-selling non-fiction books. I won an award in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. I wrote some novels at that time too—three SF novels and two thrillers. I got a huge agent right off the bat for one of the SF books. Truth be told, my book Dinothon was beaten out by Mike Crichton’s Jurassic Park, and never saw print. But I was on my way. After three years I took a very long hiatus in writing and resumed in 2005

I vowed to myself that I would write in all genres and test my talent. I was convinced that the book that sold the most copies would be my genre, my niche, and I would remain and concentrate there. Funny thing happened: All of my different genres sold about the same, straight across the board. So, I kept it up, never specializing, looking for that massive breakout novel. It never came. I only tried the YA genre about five years ago. That’s where I started winning many awards and making some better sales. Primarily, I’ve stayed there except for publishing some re-prints. But I’m still a Jack of all trades and a master of none. Which has plagued me for about the past 15 years. 

You have a blog Guerrilla Warfare for Writers in which you blog about the perils and pitfalls of life as an indie author. In October 2020 at the end of a dismal year for publishing and the arts, you penned a blog with the title: Quitting Writing? Tell us more about why you wrote that piece and the call to action it contained.

I’m a staunch writer advocate and industry watchdog, rivalling (at times) the tantrums of Harlan Ellison. I am for, and about the writer. Devotedly so. That article post that you speak  of came about when I read a farewell message in a writing group. This writer/author had no sales, no reviews, no fans, mentors, love or support. He had written about six or seven books and published them to Amazon. His story broke my heart and brought me to tears. Oh, did I ever know how he felt and the impact of failure. I had read other such stories. I have suffered many more years and books than he, but I had forged on by sheer doggedness. I knew I had to write a piece that would somehow convey a ray of hope for all those writers who thought that they were failures and untalented hacks. Coming from a vast history of thousands of rejections myself, I knew I had to set the record straight with this hurt and lonely crowd. 

I’m glad to say that you have not quit writing and Luck be A Lady is your latest book, though you have suffered serious ill health. What keeps you going?

I was terminally ill and then up-graded to critically ill. I’m on heavy meds and oxygen. I was given two years to live four years ago. I have nothing but a rented room and a computer. I keep me going. All I have is writing. Nothing else. My agent keeps me going. My fans and friends keep me going. Besides fame, friends and eight-by-tens, I want to leave a lasting legacy before the big editor in the sky calls me home. My last dream is a book-to-film deal. I’m in the beginning processes of that now. Screamcatcher: Web World has lifted a few Hollywood eyebrows. It will be a long journey for me to realize that dream. I won’t stop until I reach that mountain top.

You have had a long career and not just as a writer. Your bio says that you have been (and I quote) a newspaper editor/reporter, astronomer, federal police officer and part time surfer. How have your different jobs influenced your writing and where did you fit in the surfing?

I was born and raised on the beaches of California when long-board surfing was the hottest thing around. My law enforcement background has always helped me with police procedurals and thrillers. I was an auto mechanic for 25 years, and that has helped me explain mechanically technical scenes and plots. Astronomy brought me the stars and helped with the science fiction books. Any experience in my life translates to the page in some form or another.

You say you have been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Tell us more about what got you started...

My actual writing period full time amounts to about 18 straight years. That means eight to 10 hours every day. I arrived late in my writing life. I was not much of a reader at all. It’s when I was 26 years-old that I read a short story in Twilight Zone magazine that hitched my star to literature. I was flabbergasted upon reading such a great, gripping tale. I thought I could do that too, and maybe even better! Oh, the things we imagine when we know next to nothing about the honorable craft of authorship. Honestly, it was that short that did it, and I can’t even remember the title. 

What do you read and have you any favourite authors, past or present?

I’m still partial to science fiction or fantasy. I love to write YA fantasy. But my tastes are all over the place—Poul Anderson, Joseph Wambaugh, Ann McCaffrey, Peter Benchley, Clive Cussler, Alan Dean Foster, Robert Heinlein, J.K. Rowling, Nolan, Phillip K. Dick and other golden era SF authors. 

Over the last year we have experienced a world-wide pandemic. How has this affected you and your writing?

It actually hasn’t affected my output and publishing, as well as marketing, promoting and pitching for reviews. I’ve been a lockdown way before the pandemic hit. I’m your real latch key kid. I am used to absolute solitude. 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...” Apart from the problem of funding for the Arts, has the pandemic enabled an increase in creativity?

I have to say that I have not written any new books or have a WIP. What I have done is sell just about my entire (last) inventory of books to two publishers, plus rewrite several out-of-print books and see them off to print. I have made huge revisions and extensive editing on eight books in the past 20 months. My agent is holding on to three books she wants to continue to submit to the Big-5 (soon to be Big-4). As far as worldwide creativity during this pandemic? I think we’ve added untold huge numbers of new writers to the craft.    

You also write under a pseudonym. What prompted you to do that?

I simply wanted to separate my YA from my Adult fiction. I took on a female gender pen name for my YA. Please don’t even ask me why I did that. It’s complicated.

You have won several awards, including being a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. Tell us more about that...

The Hubbard award was for a YA short story which got me a finalist position (Things that go Clump in the Night). Since then: Grand Prize Winner for best Book in the Entranced Novel Writer Contest (The Girl They Sold to the Moon): Best YA Book of the Year in the N. N. Light Awards (Screamcatcher: Web World): The bronze medal for YA horror in the Reader’s Favorite International Awards contest (Screamcatcher: Web World), plus the five-star review badge, and a finalist position in the N. N. Light Awards (Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers). 

Will there be a sequel to Luck be a Lady?

I hadn’t planned on it. Only the fans would motivate me to push out a sequel for that one. Either that, or it becomes a break-away best seller. That would change my mind real fast!

What are you working on now? Do you have a Work in Progress?

The only work in progress I have is a book I shelved 10 years ago. It was the sequel to Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars. My publisher politely declined it because it wasn’t pure space opera like the first one. I never sent it out or let my agent see it. I just recently asked that publisher if he wouldn’t mind if I published that sequel (with the characters intact) to another house. He told me to let it rip. I did not want to cross any contractional agreements with him about reusing character identities or likenesses. I was quite surprised that he let me go elsewhere with it. I can probably use the main title and give it a different subtitle. It’s called Planet Janitor: The Omega Wars. I’m starting a stem to stern rewrite and edit on it right now. My agent does want to see this one. That’s where I stand right now.   


About Chris H. Stevenson:

Chris H. Stevenson, (pen name, Christy J. Breedlove) originally born in California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009. His occupations have included newspaper editor/reporter, astronomer, federal police officer, housecleaner and part time surfer. He has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Today he writes in her favorite genre, Young Adult, but has published in multiple genres and categories. He was a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, and took the first place grand prize in the Entranced writing contest for The Girl They Sold to the Moon. Other awards include YA book of the Year in the N.N. Light Novel Writing Contest, and bronze medal for YA horror in the Reader’s Favorite International Book Awards Contest. 

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