Interview: with Christopher McMaster
I'm Christopher McMaster and I'm a writer and educator living on a beautiful beach in the North Island of New Zealand. I currently teach on a Pacific Voyaging double hulled canoe operating on the East Coast named Tairāwhiti. Dream job? Yeah. When not sailing I am writing, both fiction and non-fiction. But to be honest, I find fiction funner, and freer, so I'm focusing on the fun and freedom more and more.
Hi Chris, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I teach on a Pacific Voyaging double hulled canoe operating on the east coast of New Zealand. Dream job? Hell yeah. I have published eight academic books, with a couple more in the over, and over a dozen peer reviewed articles, but I have vowed not to write any more stuff people don’t read. So, I am concentrating on fiction. I recently received my first book contract from an indie publisher in the USA (Dreaming Big Publications), and have followed that with two other novels (well, I’m finishing that third one now) to complete that trilogy. Unless folks want more, ‘cause I’ll give them that. All going well, everybody’s Christmas pressie next year will be my first novel!
Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing?
There’s routine, and then there’s ritual. Routine gets the writing done. But any rituals … nah, guess I’m pretty boring that way.
What books are beside your bed right now?
A sci-fi by Lois McMaster Bujold (no relation), a text on the period 300 BC to 300 CE called The Closing of the Western Mind (definitely a must read—its my third time), Lila by Robert Pirsig (which is sooo hard to finish. It is no Motorcycle Maintenance, that’s for sure. I need to remember who I borrowed it from so I can return it), Paradise Lost by John Milton (the way he turns Christianity into just another world creation myth! And that wasn’t even his intention. Funny.), The Tibetan Book of the Dead translated by my favourite Tibetan monk, Chögyam Trungpa (to be ready for when that happens, as well as material for my novel), and an empty notebook for dreams and ideas. All piled up around a little stool. My wife has the cabinet and all the space on her side.
Published or unpublished, what's the hardest scene you've written?
I had a scene in my first novel where the heroine is confronting her therapist. He is hypnotising her to travel to the future, and while there she finds out some truths about the guy. I had a rough plan for the scene when I started writing it, but then I just let the characters take over, let them do it their way. When I finished, I read what I wrote and smiled. They did a fine job, switching places by the scene's end, creating a real shift in the power balance between the two characters that fuelled the remainder of their relationship in the book. They did it much better than I could have!
To what degree do you feel everything has already been written, in some form or another?
There are core human themes, sure, and these underlie our stories. But there are so many stories to be told, and retell. We are a story telling species. As long as we’re around, there’ll be stories to write, even if it’s a retelling for a newer generation and a changing culture.
Have you ever started writing a story, only to discover someone has already written it?
I had a cracker of an idea of clones being housed somewhere who were unaware they were clones. And then the movie The Island came out. I was very disappointed that it degenerated into a chase film! The idea had potential. Maybe I’ll develop that theme sometime in the future. Imagine—you’re not really what you think you are. Kind of Matrix-y.
What are your thoughts on indie publishing in Australia/New Zealand?
Indie publishing really opens up the field to writers and publisher. Just like craft beer. I came from the UK and the US where there’s a microbrewery in every town. That’s really developing here is NZ at the moment. Indie publishing is similar. The doors don’t have to be closed because the corporate show doesn’t want to print it. We can do it ourselves, and with the new technologies, such as e-books and print on demand, we can also reach that target demographic. What are we waiting for? Let’s create a publishing company and celebrate the genre! We’re writers and editors and type setters and computer geeks and marketers. Who’s keen? Let’s do it!
Sounds good, Chris. Who else is keen?