Thursday, 14 November 2013

Interview: Chris F. Holm, author of The Collector series

I'm so thrilled to received today Chris F. Holm! 

I've met him at the QuebeCrime festival last year. I was too shy to go meet the authors that were there so I was hanging with another volunteer. We had so much fun that Chris came to talk to us, telling us we had too much fun not to share it with others! He merely talked about the others, telling us how incredibles they were, what a great story they had, how great writers they were and wondering why he was invited. 

I must say that I didn't know him at the time so I asked about his book. Well, he got me when he explained it was a crime fiction mixed to fantasy! I told him I'll read his book because it seemed to be my kind of reading. I'm not sure I convinced him at the time but it really was the book I wanted to read... and the first I've read after the festival. And oh boy! what a book! Dead Harvest is the first one in the Collector trilogy and one of the best books I've read last year! His two other books The Wrong Goodbye and The Big Reap were as good and no wonder they're still in the top 5 of the most seen books on my blog!

Chris is one of the most humble and kind author I know and also one hell of author and he's accepted to answer my questions that I'll let you read now! 

Will you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Uh, sure. I’m tall, but not too. Skinny, but not as skinny as I used to be. I’m fond of small talk and small kindnesses. Of pie and punk rock and tattoos. I’m a damn good parallel parker, and a horrible – if enthusiastic – singer. Try though I might, I can’t pull off hats. But every now and again, I can write a half-decent sentence. 

So Chris, knowing that Sam was born from a doze-off... any other "dime-a-dozen" lastly? 

It’s strange – I don’t often take inspiration from dreams. Mine are usually so nonsensical, or filled with such lame horror-movie clichés – they’re of limited narrative utility. The opening scene of DEAD HARVEST was, until recently, my sole exception. But a month or two ago, I had this vivid nightmare that caused me to leap out of bed and jot down everything I could remember, and I’ve been noodling at the idea ever since. It looks like it may turn into a sprawling post-apocalyptic horror novel in the vein of THE PASSAGE or THE STAND. But I’ve got another novel or two I need to write first. 

How do you manage to combine work and writing (and tweeting and blogging and running...) 

My friend Julia Spencer-Fleming likes to joke that writing, for her, is a hobby that’s gotten out of hand. I feel much the same way. When I started out, I wrote a couple hours here and there on weekends. Now I work a few hours every day at least – and way more than that on weekends. That means I’ve had to scale back on lots of other things – cooking, cleaning, movies, television, guitar, socializing, reading – to make room. I don’t mind; I love my writing life – and since my wife is a book reviewer, we’re often working side-by-side, which is nice. Truth be told, the only thing I really miss is having more time to read. 

Which subjects are more difficult to write about? 

My books contain their share of violence, but that violence is particularly difficult when it touches the lives of innocents. In fact, one death in DEAD HARVEST – those who’ve read it will know which – affected me so deeply, I wasn’t sure I could keep it in the book. I was worried I’d crossed a line. My wife insisted I hadn’t. For what it’s worth, I must not have, since I didn’t get a single letter about it. And more recently, one of the storylines in THE BIG REAP required me to put myself into the head – albeit briefly – of one of the most despicable figures in human history. I thought I knew what I was in for, writing that bit – it’s not as if I painted this person favorably, after all – but it was far more disturbing than I imagined it would be. Oh, and sex. Any writer who tells you sex scenes are easy is either lying or delusional. 

Which events will you attend in the next months? 

As I write this, I’ve just returned from a weekend at Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, which was my last book event of the year. Now comes the long, quiet stretch of winter. But in March, I’m headed to Left Coast Crime in Monterey, California. I suspect it’ll be a nice break from the snow. 

What are you reading now? 

As I mentioned, my wife, Katrina, is a mystery reviewer. As such we wind up with lots of ARCs in our house. Rarely to I ever sneak a peek at one before release – even when she’s got a copy of something I’m dying to read – because it feels like cheating. I’m a big believer in paying for books to support the authors I love. But recently, Kat came into possession of the new Hilary Davidson novel, BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS, and I couldn’t resist. So far, it’s fantastic. When it comes out, I’ll buy a few copies to make up for my transgression. 

What do you look for in a good book? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished (or to throw it with great force as advocated by Mark Billingham lately)? 

What I look for most is voice. If I fall in love with a novel, it’s almost always on account of voice. I want it to grab me. To transport me. To knock me out of my critical, writerly mode of reading and make me believe. If it does, I’ll keep reading, regardless of the subject matter. If it doesn’t, I’ll likely put it down. My threshold for doing so is pretty low, actually – life’s too short to read a book I’m not enjoying. 

If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be? 

What a wonderful – and difficult – question! It’s tough to narrow it down to one, but if I had to choose, I’d say THE THIN MAN by Dashiell Hammett. It’s a wonderful novel full of sparkling characters rendered in clean, crisp prose, but it also packs a wallop of a twist that still holds up some eighty years later. I’d love a second chance to be duped by a true master. 

What's next for you? 

I’ve recently put the finishing touches on a creepy little tale about the murder of a poor high school student in small-town Maine. It’s equal parts crime novel and ghost story, and I’m really proud of it. I’d tell you the title, but I’m not yet sure it’s gonna stick – my agent and I have changed it a couple times already. With luck, you’ll hear a lot more about it soon. 

Why so serious questions questions:

What would be your desert island read? 

Just one? Sheesh. I suppose I’d go with JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL by Susanna Clarke. It’s long enough to entertain for days on end, and rich enough to provide a fresh escape each time I read it. Plus, maybe reading about the chilly English weather will keep me cool. 

Your favorite villain? 

There are so many to choose from – but I confess, the books I love best don’t tend toward heroes and villains in the traditional sense. So instead, I’ll pick one each from television and movies. My favorite TV villain is Alias’ Arvin Sloane. He’s so oily, so cruel, and so smart, he provided a lovely foil for the heroic Sydney Bristow. And my favorite movie villain would have to be True Romance’s Drexl Spivey, the white pimp who thinks he’s black. He’s vicious, feral, and – thanks to a brilliant performance by Gary Oldman – unbelievably funny. You can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on-screen, for fear of what he’ll do next. 

Whose hero do you wish you had created? 

I’m going to go a little outside the box on this one, and choose Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter Morgan – in part because I think the idea of a serial killer who hunts other serial killers is lightning in a bottle, and in part because I think both the books and the television series (while entertaining) squander some of that character’s potential. Obviously, questions of morality are front and center in my own writing, and I think I could push Dexter in some interesting philosophical directions. It seems a better hypothetical use of my time than imagining myself writing subpar Philip Marlowe or Sherlock Holmes novels, don’t you think? 

Sam (who truly loves studying) or Dean (who truly loves pie) Winchester? (I always found some similarities between the Winchester and Sam and I'm not the only one as it seems...) 

I’m going to use this question to get a little something off my chest. I used to watch Supernatural, back in its monster-of-the-week days. But then I stopped – not because I didn’t like it, but because they started telling stories that had a lot in common with this book of mine called DEAD HARVEST that my agent was shopping. Fast-forward a few years to when the book finally comes out, and all the sudden folks everywhere are saying my book sounds a lot like Supernatural – or the TV show Reaper, which also debuted after I finished it. The fact is, we all got to the same place via different routes, with no knowledge of what the other writers were getting up to. Maybe now that I’ve got a few Collector novels under my belt, I can go back and catch up. 

Back to your question, I’ll say this: I’d rather hang out with Dean Winchester, but I’ve got more in common with Sam. Sadly the things we have in common don’t include good hair or impressive-for-a-bookworm musculature. 

More importantly: which kind of pie ? Oh, I love all kinds. But if I had to pick a couple favorites, I’d say pumpkin, rhubarb, blueberry, buttermilk (which is really more of a tangy lemon curd), and key lime. 


To follow Chris on Twitter or his blog

About The Collector series: Sam gave away his soul to save his wife. Now he's collecting others' soul. But he remembers what it's like to be human and what were his values so he follows his instinct more often than his orders, which puts him in situations where it's difficult to know what's right to do and who he can trust. 


  1. What a great interview Vanessa. And Chris never fails to entertain with his sense of humor.

  2. Thanks Kristopher and Sean! And it's true, Chris never lacks of wit!