Does travel play in the writing of your books?
Travel plays a big role, mainly because stories are about “turns,” which means going from one emotion to another. Turns advance a story—facts don’t. In other words, to describe a character or a setting, which can be important, still does not move the story forward. Action and revelations do. What drives readers is “What happens next?” not “Did she play ‘Stratego’ as a kid?”
We read for emotion. When characters go through change, we experience feelings. To move from one spot to a new one, such as from outside of Hogwarts to inside Hogwarts for the first time, can transform emotions, so “travel” can be significant. Also, usually going to another place is required to get something that the protagonist needs.
For a character to travel to a new city or country can be eye-opening because it can throw the person. For example, in my novel Love at Absolute Zero, my protagonist physicist Gunnar Gunderson, who has rarely traveled outside of Wisconsin, goes to a foreign country for the first time. It’s Denmark. He is crushed at first by all the change. What a character does when in a strange new place reveals a lot.
Tell us about your current release.
After my first two short story collections and my first two novels books essentially used up my biggest, most influential experiences in life, I had to look outside myself. Crime novels interested me. After all, they reveal both the good and the bad of what people do under pressure. The new book, A Death in Vegas, and my previous one, Blood Drama, are crime novels—but far from the usual kind. My protagonists are ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances.
A Death in Vegas brings us to Patton Burch whose company sells beneficial bugs for organic gardening. At a trade show in Las Vegas, the model he hired to be a lady bug for his booth turns up naked and dead in his hotel suite. He didn’t kill her. The police think he did. Who framed him? Why does the FBI get involved? What does his wife think? These and other questions unspool. I’ve designed it as a page-turner.
What does your wife and family think of your writing career?
Very supportive—starting with my late mother, who was a voracious reader, and loved when I started writing. If I could get her to laugh, I knew I was on the right track. My wife is a librarian—and I’ve made her collection. She usually reads the last draft before it goes off to be published.
I’ve also come to teach creative writing in college, which was a huge leap for me because I’d panic if I had to speak in front of people. Still, I’ve learned a lot as a writer, and I’ve wanted to save others time and pass it on, so I’ve overcome stage fright. In fact, I enjoy teaching. It’s the perfect balance. I can’t be locked up all the time writing. Teaching helps keep me connected to people. It also keeps me in tune with our culture. I learn a lot from my students that way.
How do you describe your writing style?
I love dramatic writing, yet long ago, I learned the absurd and the humorous creep into my stories. It’s just the way I see the world.
What are you passionate about these days?
I’m passionate about a lot because passion must infuse one’s writing. People like reading characters who feel things. No one wants to read a monotone book. I try to live my life similarly—and I’m not saying with crazed emotions or seeking problems. I get caught up in photography is one thing. After being a yearbook and school newspaper photographer in high school, I’ve kept it up. The way the sun catches my wife’s hair, or the way our teenager can scowl or laugh—these are the things I see through my lens. I love traveling, reading, and diving into politics at times.
How do you react to a bad review of your book?
Early in my career, I’d been a book reviewer for a few newspapers and a theatre critic for nine years with Daily Variety. It was a way to immerse myself in literature and drama—to see and contemplate the good and the bad. I admire and revere good reviewers because I know how hard it is to write a comprehensive review. Customer reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are important, but those are not intended to be comprehensive. They’re more about what a person expected and got.
As a professional reviewer, I found very few books or plays were stinkers, and also few were completely magical. I analyzed deeply to figure out what worked, what didn’t, and why. I learned a lot from reviewing, and so what I write, I can picture someone reviewing. I hope to surprise reviewers and all readers, get them involved.
I also know what a subjective field I’m in. It’s not math but about emotions. You can’t please everyone. All I hope for in reviews is the same care I put in writing my book. Reviews with grammar problems or problems in structure or specificity come with the territory. I try not to dwell on less-than-enthusiastic reviews but more revel in things that explain a story well. I’ve learned from top reviewers.
New York or LA? Why?
I live in L.A. and love it for its weather and its people. My wife and I find New York fun, a Disneyland for adults. I wouldn’t want to live there for its weather, but it’s a great place to visit.
Is the rest of America just “fly over?” I’ve lived in Minnesota, Colorado, and Alabama. Those places had friendly people. When I lived in Alabama, my California plates gave me away, and people would see them and shout “California,” giving a thumbs up. Sometimes I wondered if they missed the beauty of where they lived.
You asked about travel earlier, and places outside of LA and NY interest me.
Describe what it’s like to be an author in three words.
It’s about discovery.
What one word best describes you?
Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?
The surprise and joy in a good story is unlike anything else—perhaps the closest thing to feeling our lives have meaning. Come find the unique qualities, the entertainment and truths, in my stories.
Published by: White Whisker Books
Publication Date: August 15, 2014
Number of Pages: 176
Synopsis:In A Death in Vegas, the president of BenBugs, a company that specializes in beneficial bugs for organic gardening, discovers a young woman dead in his Las Vegas hotel suite. She had worked as a sexy lady bug at his convention booth—and he had nothing to do with her death. While that’s being investigated, the FBI raids his booth on a money-laundering scam that he knows nothing about, either. Soon, the coroner doesn’t have good news. The police and FBI are against him—and his wife cannot be found. He flees to find the answers.
PRAISE FOR A DEATH IN VEGAS:
“With his tongue planted firmly in cheek, Christopher Meeks spins a charming and surprisingly sexy tale of murder, betrayal, and the importance of beneficial insects.”
– Mark Haskell Smith, author of Baked and Raw: A Love Story
“I've never, ever wanted to go to Vegas. I don't care if what happens there, stays there. But Christopher Meeks makes me want to go so I can find out who done it. A fun, exciting read, with Chris's usual wonderful writing and great sense of humor.“
– Jessica Barksdale Inclan, author of Her Daughter's Eyes and How to Bake a Man.
“Christopher Meeks had me at page three. I couldn’t wait to find out how Patton Burch was going to explain the naked body he woke up to in his Las Vegas hotel room – first to the cops and then to his wife.”
– Sam Sattler, Book Chase
Read an excerpt:
Author Bio:Christopher Meeks has four novels and two collections of short fiction published. His most recent novel before this was the acclaimed thriller, "Blood Drama." His novel "The Brightest Moon of the Century" made the list of three book critics’ Ten Best Book of 2009. "Love at Absolute Zero" also made three Best Books lists of 2011, as well as earning a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist award.
He has had stories published in several literary journals, and they have been included in the collections "Months and Seasons" and "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea." Mr. Meeks has had three full-length plays mounted in Los Angeles, and one, "Who Lives?" had been nominated for five Ovation Awards, Los Angeles’ top theatre prize.
Mr. Meeks teaches English and fiction writing at Santa Monica College, and Children’s Literature at the Art Center College of Design. To read more of his books visit his website at: www.chrismeeks.com.