I’m honored to be part of Christopher Kokoski’s Dark Halo tour today. I love stories where the fantastic bleed into reality, plus being a Midwest gal, myself (who lived in Southern Indiana for a big chunk of time), I love books that are set in that area. So not only can I share this mesmerizing title with you today, but I have an interview with the author, as well!
First, let’s all get acquainted with Christopher.
Christopher was born in Kansas, the son of an Army Ranger and Black Hawk pilot. He grew up in Kentucky and Germany, and graduated from Murray State University in 2002 with a degree in Organizational Communication. He spent the next three years laboring over his first book, Past Lives, while getting married to his college sweetheart, having a beautiful daughter, and more or less finding his stride in life.
He currently lives in Southern Indiana and works in Louisville, Kentucky as a national trainer. He has presented at local and national conferences on a wide spectrum of topics including communication, body language, cultural sensitivity and influence. Other notable activities include writing articles, short stories, novels and training materials for national and international audiences.
Christopher continues his passion and dedication to writing by working on additional novels, including a sequel to the Past Lives series. His most recent book is the standalone paranormal thriller, Dark Halo.
SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?
CK: I rigidly outlined my first novel. My second novel, Dark Halo, flowed moment-by-moment from a (very) loose framework of an idea. While I enjoyed the structure of plotting and the freedom of writing where the story and characters took me, I have found that I like a blend of the two extremes. For my current projects, I plan ahead, work from a basic outline and adjust the story as it progresses on the page.
Since my motivation and creativity are strongest in the morning, I rise early to write. In those dark, lonely hours while everyone else in my household is fast asleep, I sip coffee as I type on the same laptop I’m using now.
*Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?
CK: You must have hacked into my laptop camera because I actually wear a cape WHILE I offer my sacrifices…Sadly, there is no cape in my pre-dawn writing routine. As for sacrifices, I’m not much for blood in real life — I leave all the violence and gore for my stories! Ok, down to the real answer. If I have a quirk, it’s probably that I write at a painstakingly slow pace. After much trial and error, I discovered that the slower I write, the better I write. Therefore, it takes me a long time to finish a first draft, although I do save time in the revision stage.
SJ: Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?
CK: A little of both. Most of my ideas seem to come out of nowhere, from that ethereal fog of creativity common to all artists. Sometimes I’ll hear a story, read an article or glimpse an image that provokes an idea. Other times the idea bubbles up out of my subconcious while I’m doing something else. In truth, over the years, I think I’ve trained my brain to filter nearly every experience through the question, “How can I make this a gripping story?”
Most of my ideas seem to stem from the answers to “What if?” questions. For example, “What if a town’s guardian angel fell from grace?” The answer became my latest novel, Dark Halo, about a father struggling to keep his family alive in a town besieged by shadowy, demonic forces.
SJ: bonus question – If your muse had a physical manifestation, what would he or she look like and how would she or he act? Is it a sexy superhero version of Callisto? A sharp-tongued rogue? A reptilian alien? Do they have a catch phrase?
CK: This is a great question. My muse shows up every morning at 6 am with a cup of coffee ready to work, so I think he’s probably a square-jawed ruffian with a voice like Liam Neeson in Taken.
SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?
CK: My favorite book is always the one I just finished or the one that I’m going to write next. I really like the characters in Dark Halo, especially the fallen angel. I also enjoyed writing all the descriptions, playing with figurative language and dramatizing a broken family fighting for unity and survival. The themes of second chances and redemption threaded through the story are also very important and personal to me.
SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?
CK: Paranormal thriller, hands down. I love to read the genre and most of my story ideas involve at least some otherworldly concept, character or plot line. If Cthulhu was feeling especially generous, my second choice would be the spy thriller.
SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?
CK: Writing is a passion, gift and calling to me. I am overjoyed that I get to do it everyday because of how often it feels cathartic, calming and healing. My two published novels are simply icing on the cake. Most of my frustrations center on timing. I’m always pushing the naturally (and helpfully) slow process of writing, revising, reviewing, revising again, publishing and promoting. I know it’s better if it goes slow, when thought and time and energy pour into each step, but I so often struggle with wanting it to go faster anyway.
SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?
CK: If I had to choose, I’d say Dark Halo. Angels and demons I can wrap my mind around, but the reality of reincarnated serial killers in my Past Lives series would be a bitter pill to swallow. I can really identify with Dark Halo’s protagonist, Landon Paddock’s, desire to rescue and strengthen his family. Plus, I love the idea of hanging out with powerful, supernatural beings. As for my enemies, I’ll leave them to the reincarnated serial killers… 😉
SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?
CK: Yes, although it might depend on the definition of success. I strongly believe there is a sure-fire way to write a great story, and an endless number of variations on that formula. I think the process of success is also pretty straightforward. Read a lot and write a lot. Study the masters and emulate their techniques in your work. Seek honest, critical feedback. Keep writing, reading and writing some more. While I don’t think there is a strict, color-by-number plan for making a story a bestseller every time, I think there are techniques, concepts and patterns every writer can follow to find a measure of success.
SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?
CK: I would probably say, “Welcome. I wish you swift, satisfying success. However, even if it doesn’t come as fast you want, I hope you stick with it. Writing may not be the easiest career choice, but I think it’s worth it. Let the successes motivate us to put in the hard work that often precedes mastery of any craft.”
SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.
CK: Personally, I’m a big fan of cheap entertainment. Admittedly, I’m biased since I think all stories are worthwhile. Like anyone else, I prefer some genres over others, but I do read widely to glean insights into different forms of writing. What I value most about the genre of paranormal or speculative thrillers stem from how this genre activities the imagination, compares and contrasts humanity with “superhumanity”, while providing some darn good yarns. I also think the stories of the past such as Shakespeare, Homer, Frankenstein and many, many more reveal the lasting value of supernatural elements.
SJ:What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?
CK: Perhaps it’s cliche’, but I’d like readers to think of really entertaining stories. Above all else, I want my writing to entertain, to provide a visceral and emotional escape. If my stories also happen to enlighten and inspire, even better.
SJ: Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!
My latest novel is a standalone, speculative thriller titled, Dark Halo. Since I already described it above, here I’ll simply say that it revolves around angels and demons fighting over a small town. I’m really proud that it has been #1 in a specific sub-genre on amazon.com. I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what you think.
Dark Halo by Christopher Kokoski
genre: paranormal thriller
In a town besieged by shadowy, demonic forces, a father races against time to save his family.
Thirty-five-year old Landon Paddock has deserted his wife and daughter, abandoned his business, and secluded himself in his late parent’s southern Indiana ranch. But he’s barely lapsed into a drunken coma when a mysterious, winged stranger appears during a violent lightning storm, chasing him out into the maddening night with his estranged 15-year old daughter.
As layer after layer of reality is dissolved by a series of violent encounters, the only way to survive might be for Landon to band together with the family he destroyed to make one last stand against a sinister army of unthinkable magnitude.
Social Media Links
- Author’s Website https://christopherkokoski.wordpress.com/
- Author’s Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/Ckauthor.com/
- Author’s Twitter https://twitter.com/Eric_Shooter/
Thanks to Chris for such great insights and an intriguing look into a fantastic book! You can check out the rest of Chris’s tour HERE