Author Interview: Chris Gill

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Here at Reads By Amanda, we love authors. How could you not? From our favorite series, books, moments, scenes and characters, there's a writer who created all those moments and decided it had to be written down and shared with the world. 

Click on to read my interview with Chris Gill!

What inspired you to write Shell: Surface To Air?

Well, Surface to Air is the first part of Shell, which is the name of the complete novel. What inspired me to write the novel as a whole? So many things. The general idea of the story came to me about five years ago, but I'd thought up the novel's main character, Red, even further back than that. She in particular was inspired by some of the strong females in my life. I wanted to live with the characters in my mind for a while before I started to sketch out the first draft. It's my debut novel, so I really wanted to take my time, get it right. 

There are so many themes in the story: oppression, patriarchy, the importance of individuality and the fight for freedom are just a few of them. I was very much inspired by what's been going on in the world over the last five years, from the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 to the London Riots. I was also inspired by the changes in technology we're seeing every day and the impact it's having both on our minds and our environment. Water, of course, plays a huge part in the story and I've been inspired by the ocean since I was a child. I knew I wanted the ocean to play a huge part in the story.

I found it really interesting that all the residents except the ruling president live underwater. At any point, the ruling power could basically drown the citizens if he wished. Was that power balance something you thought about while writing the story? 

Very much so, and you're quite right - they could do just that. But without giving too much away, you'll find out as the story progresses, why the ruling power wants to keep the people of The Shell alive.

In the story, the site Shareflow, run by Kyan Eisenberg, reminded me a lot of Wikileaks. What do you think about these sites in our current political landscape and whistleblowers who expose government secrets and corruption in general? 

I think they're crucial. We need people who are unafraid to stand up to the powers that be and expose hidden truths, otherwise we'd be left drowning in a pool of corrupt news outlets. I also think the presence of someone like Edward Snowden is paramount in this digital age we're living in. Most of us are guilty of putting our information out into the cyber stratosphere without giving our privacy much thought. That was something else that inspired me greatly while penning this novel: The idea of privacy and how precious it is. How it feels when our privacy is invaded. In many ways I feel we're living in The Shell ourselves as citizens of the modern world! So yes, kudos to Snowden and Assange. They have my utmost respect.

Will Shareflow and Kyan play a bigger role in the next installment of the series? 

They will indeed. Although my lips are sealed as to how big...

Who was your favorite character to write about, besides Red?

Lord Ivan Spencer, without a doubt. Since I was a child, my favorite characters, both in books and movies have always been the villains. I'm not completely sure why, I guess it's a human instinct to be drawn to darkness and intrigued by dark characters. I find them the most interesting. Another of my favorite characters to write about was mentioned briefly in S2A, but plays a much bigger part in part two of the novel. This is Ivan Spencer's daughter, Carmen...

I’m a poet myself and I find that writing fiction and poetry is a vastly different process. Do you find there’s a difference when you write fiction and when you write poetry?

Agreed, they are very different styles of writing. When I write fiction, I have to think about things a lot more logically, although it's still obviously an extremely creative process. But things need to make sense to the reader, no matter how abstract the idea. Whereas the more abstract the better when it comes to poetry! When I write poetry, it's like I let it channel through me - it comes from somewhere within me I'm not normally in tune with. So much so, that I often don't realize how I feel or felt about a situation until I've written a poem about it! So it can be very cathartic. 

That being said, I think poetry can be found in all languages to some extent, even if it's in subtle ways. From real-life conversations to fiction, I think a poet will always channel their poetry into their words in some way at some stage.

When did you first know you wanted to become a writer?

I guess I've always known, at least as early as I could pick up a pen. I was scribbling short stories from a very young age, although I rarely finished them. I always had an idea in my head for the next story which I would want to get started on right away! I think with something like writing, you don't choose to want to do it - it chooses you. I honestly couldn't imagine wanting to do anything else.

Last book you read?

The Painter by Peter Heller. Have you read it? It's a suspenseful tale about an artist trying to escape his past. It was quite a different choice for me as I usually read sci-fi and dystopian fiction, but I quite enjoyed it actually.

Are you currently reading anything at the moment?

I'm actually re-reading Orwell's legendary 1984 at the moment. I read it once before, when I was a bit younger, but am gaining a completely different perspective from it this time. It really has stood the test of time; a true dystopian classic.

What message do you want readers to take away from reading this series?

That's a good question. It's funny, I didn't really think about what message I want my readers to take away while I drafted out the manuscript for Shell, but looking at it as a whole I guess it's pretty clear. Tread your own path, ask questions and don't be afraid to defy.

Thank you so much for being here! Good luck on your future projects and I can’t wait to read the sequel to Shell: Surface To Air. 

Thank you for having me! I'm aiming to release part two of Shell before the end of the year, so stay tuned...

Shell: Surface To Air is available now! Check out my book review of Shell here

Follow Chris on Twitter and check out his website

Thanks for reading! 

-Amanda Leon
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