Author Interview: Chris A. Jackon

Author interview with Chris A. Jackson

Author bio: 

Chris A. Jackson fell in love with the sea the first time he set eyes on those majestic waves. As a youth, he spent summers working on his father’s fishing boat in Oregon. Trained as a marine biologist, he was sidetracked by a career in biomedical research, but regained his heart and soul in 2009 when he and his wife Anne left the dock aboard a 45-foot sailboat to cruise the Caribbean and write fulltime. His acclaimed Scimitar Seas nautical fantasies won three consecutive Gold Medals in the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards. His repertoire also includes six more fantasy novels, and several short stories published in anthologies. Shooting from the sea to the stars, Chris now has a triad of science fiction/humor novellas available.


Hi Chris, welcome over to The Book Plank and thanks for taking your time to answer these few questions for us. 
A: My pleasure!

Q: First off, can you tell us a bit more about who Chris A. Jackson is? What are your likes, dislikes and hobbies?
A: I’ve been a fan of SF/Fantasy since I was a kid, and have been playing tabletop RPG’s for about 40 years. I also grew up in love with the sea, even after it tried to kill me a few times. After a twenty-year career in biomedicine research, in 2009 I decided to take time off and to sail and concentrate on my writing career. This change was intended to be temporary, but has become my lifestyle. Sailing and writing are working together nicely, the latter paying for the former, and the former spicing up the latter. I’m lucky enough to be making a living doing what I love. Writing while cruising in a sailboat isn’t always easy, but it’s always interesting.  My wife writes a sailing blog of our adventures and ports of call, so please drop by and enjoy. As far as dislikes: narrow minds, willful environmental ignorance and destruction, bigotry of any sort, and glitchy software updates top the list. I would add bad weather, but it’s hard to get mad at Mother Nature; we’ve been treating her like a landfill for centuries and she’s finally getting fed up.

Q: You have been writing for a few years now, what made you pick up the pen in the first place?
A: Years of game-mastering taught me storytelling, world building, plotting, and characterization. As it turns out, this isn’t an unusual evolution for budding writers.  I tried to write short stories in college, but didn’t care for the methods of the professors I interacted with, so I gave it up and didn’t try again for quite some time.  In graduate school, I ran an RPG campaign for some friends and my wife-to-be (that’s how we met, actually) that lasted two years.  When it was finished, I had a huge stack of source materials on the world I had created, and decided to novelize the story they had played.  The first attempt was very rough, but an excellent baptism in churning out thousands of words. Once you’ve written about a half-million words, you’ve got your style down, and have proven to yourself that there is no barrier to big projects.

Q: The books you have written so far are quite a mix of original fantasy, gaming books, and tie-ins. Do you feel any limitations regarding to the latter two that you write original fantasy.
A: There are many restrictions to writing in someone else’s world that I don’t have to deal with in telling my own tales. Those limitations are hugely dependent on the publisher. Paizo, the publisher of Pathfinder Tales, gives their authors a lot of creative license, as long as we don’t break their gaming rules (without permission, I should add) or their toys (e.g., destroying significant world elements or killing iconic characters). I enjoy writing the non-epic, “small character, big story” themes that the Pathfinder Tales editors prefer. Other publishers work differently, providing me with established iconic characters and even plots they want. I dearly love creating characters, and find writing someone else’s character difficult, especially when there are disagreements between publisher and writer about who, exactly, the protagonist is.

Q: One of the tie-in/gaming series you are involved in is the Pathfinder series. Can you tell us a bit more what it is about?
A: The Pathfinder Tales are set in Paizo’s signature gaming world of Golarion.  This world is richly developed, with numerous countries of varied theme, from gothic to diabolic, fledgling democracy to corrupt plutocracy, and even an entire nation of undead. Some of these nations are in constant conflict with others, or have long histories of devastating war. Paizo is currently publishing six Pathfinder Tales novels per year, teaming up with Tor for distribution.  The theme and style of the Pathfinder Tales vary from author to author, but they all have in common the wonderful world and gaming rules of magic and pantheon.  I was lucky enough to step into a niche that had not yet been filled. Paizo had put out several pirate-themed products, but nobody was writing nautical fantasy for the line.  The editor and I clicked, and we’ve been working well together ever since.

Q: Your latest book Pirates Prophecy takes place in the Pathfinder series and is due to publish this February. If you would have to sell the book with a single sentence how would it go?
A: Mission Impossible meets Master and Commander in a desperate attempt to neutralize a devastating secret weapon wielded by the diabolic nation of Cheliax.

Q: The books you have written in the Pathfinder series all have something to do with pirates, does this reflect your passion for open waters and boats?
A: Very much so, but it took me some time to go there.  I fell in love with the sea quite young, when my father changed careers to become a commercial fisherman. I learned to respect the sea during the years I worked on the ocean, first on the deck of the fishing boat off the Oregon coast, then on huge commercial vessels in Alaska. Now, living and cruising on my own sailboat, I’m still learning about and loving the sea. I am continually awed by the power, beauty, and unfathomable diversity of her denizens.  My early novels were decidedly non-nautical. At the time, pirate stories were a dime a dozen due to the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and I didn’t want to get labeled as a “PotC clone” writer.  Consequently, in my first nautical fantasy novel, Scimitar Moon, I deliberately made it as different as I could from that template, casting pirates as the villains of that series.  With the success of those novels, I proved to myself that I could do justice to the theme of magic and the sea. Since then, I’ve enjoyed creating pirates as more-likable protagonists.

Q: Have you integrated any personal story events in the Pathfinder stories you have written so far?
A: Some of the heavy weather scenes and the “feel” of being aboard a ship at sea are straight out of my experiences aboard ship. I hope this gives things an authentic flavor.  I must admit that I have tried to emulate Patrick O’Brian’s style in the nautical combat sequences. One of the most difficult tasks for me is to pull back from the nautical jargon in describing the ships, rigging, and sailing tactics.  I relied a great deal on beta readers and my editor at Paizo to let me know when I stepped over the line.  Nautical terminology is rich and nigh undecipherable to the uninitiated. Whereas Patrick O’Brian pulled no punches in this regard, for this particular audience I try to hold back to keep readers interested.

Q: What has been the most difficult bit in writing the Pathfinder stories?
A: Writing for Pathfinder Tales has been a beautiful experience for the most part. The editors have given me a great deal of creative freedom, even when it came to dealing with gaming rules for ship speeds that, while they work wonderfully for game play, were unrealistic in the real-world applications of the novel.  That was the only time I can ever remember a tie-in fiction editor telling me to screw the rules and tell the story as I saw fit. That kind of confidence from your editor makes you feel good.  The only problem I’ve encountered was with a post-first-draft edit of story length that was on short notice and rather drastic. Cutting twenty percent of a finished story in two weeks was a tough chore. No hard feelings, of course, and I totally understand the reasons behind the request, but I would have liked more time.

Q: Besides the most difficult parts of writing, which scene, chapter or moment did you enjoy writing about the most?
A: Without giving too much away, the scene depicted on the cover of Pirate’s Prophecy.  A battle with a truly immense sea monster is something I’ve wanted to write in Pathfinder for some time.  The sheer desperation of fighting something so devastatingly powerful grips you on a visceral level, and I had a lot of fun constructing the scene. You’ll have to read the novel for more than that.

Q: Now that Pirates Prophecy will be published do you already have the next story lined up for the Pathfinder series?
A: Two, in fact. I’ve already submitted the manuscript for my next “Pirate’s” tale, and I’m working on another Pathfinder Tales novel for submission later this year. I can’t give any details on that one, other than the fact that I was elated to have the outline approved, and can’t wait to jump in.
Q: Do you have any other plans that you wish to pursue in the near future?
A: I’ve got quite a lot on my plate right now. I’m writing swords-and-planets short fiction for a third-party Pathfinder publisher, Legendary Games, and several novels for the newly established Ed Greenwood Group.  My novel Dragon Dreams, set in the EGG Hellmaw world (contemporary fantasy/horror), was released in November 2015, and two more novels will be released in 2017 and 2018. I’m writing a nautical fantasy for Privateer Press in their Iron Kingdoms gaming world that should be out in 2017. Oh, and I’m continuing my Weapon of Flesh magical assassin series with Weapon of Pain this summer, and Weapon of Mercy in the summer of 2017.  Beyond that, who knows where my imagination will take me?

Q: Everyone enjoys science fiction/fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about this genre?
A: The sheer imagination involved in creating worlds, characters, futures, and stories that stretch or shatter the bounds of the mundane have always captivated me.  Thanks to a wonderful librarian who pointed me in the right direction, I read the classics of Larry Niven, JRR Tolkien, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and others when I was young, and have never looked back. When I open a book and my belief in the real world is instantly suspended by the author’s immersive style, rich setting, and enchanting characters, they’ve got me.

Q: If you would have to give your five favorite books which would they be?
A: A hard list to make, because I’m leaving out so many, but… Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, Steven Brust’s Jhereg, Elizabeth Moon’s Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Larry Niven’s Ringworld, and Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Q: And just lastly, can you give a sneak peek or what will be in store for the reader of Pirate’s Prophecy?
A: Devils and witches and pirates, oh my!  Without giving too much away, each of the three main characters has a serious personal challenge to overcome in the story.  Yes, they have to discover and neutralize the “secret weapon” that could start a war, but beyond that goal, there are trials of faith, love, and morality. Throw in a smart-mouthed feline familiar, a seductive spy, and the captain’s venomous lover’s unreliable prophecies, and you’ve got a rollicking tale indeed.
Thank you very much for your time Chris, good luck with your future plans!
Thank you!  Please drop by to keep up with all of my new releases.
CHRIS A. JACKSON is the author of the Pathfinder Tales novels Pirate's Honor and Pirate's Promise. His self-published and small-press work includes the Scimitar Seas and Weapon of Flesh series, which have won three consecutive gold medals in the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year awards, as well as becoming Kindle best sellers. Jackson has also written a novella set in Privateer Press's RPG fiction line. He lives on a sailboat in the Caribbean.


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