Interview with Joe Chianakas
What inspires you to write?
I love creating. Simply put, it gives me great joy. I love writing, and it stems from a long love of reading. As a child, I'd stay up late, always pushing curfew, needing one more chapter. The first time I stayed up all night reading-- sunlight sneaking through my windows and surprising me-- I knew I needed to be a writer. I wanted to entertain and inspire others the way that reading has and continues to inspire me. I try to write in different genres, too. I'm known best for horror, and I choose horror for two main reasons: 1. It allows us to escape the real horrors of reality and 2. It helps us understand those horrors, too. At my core, I simply love to be entertained and to entertain, but when I can provide something deeper-- perhaps an answer to the age old question "why do bad things happen to good people," then I've added more value to what I do.
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
My current project is titled Darkness Calls, and it features multiple main characters, each with something incredibly unique. Here is a glance at a few: Christina is a tortured soul who was forced to do terrible things as a child-- unimaginable acts of terror. Essentially, she was forced to kill, and now as a teen she struggles with her past. Lawson is a teenage boy carrying two big secrets-- one that he doesn't even know himself. Unraveling his secrets is part of the story. Angelica and Teddy, two other main characters, have to face the loss of a loved one at a young age. It brings them both a strength and vulnerability most people don't have. Together, these secrets and vulnerabilities add to multiple layers of conflict and terror. It's a wildly fun story.
How does your antagonist create conflict?
The chief antagonist is the Darkness, a mysterious force full of monsters that collects children. When the story opens, several children have gone missing, but we don't know why the Darkness needs them. Worst of all, it can possess and control others-- making anyone a potential threat, and forcing people to hurt the ones they love. It's absolute evil, and our protagonists will have to learn how to fight it, not just to save the lives of the people they love, but to save the world. It's the darkest thing I've ever written, but it's also filled with great hope. It contains as much beauty as it does horror, and I can't wait for people to read it.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
I am a huge fan of routine. I need to wake up early but refreshed. I need hot coffee. And I need a good hour to myself. When I'm writing, I eat a quick breakfast and take my coffee to my computer and go. After about an hour, I usually have to go to work. But on days off-- if I'm extra inspired-- I write, then pause to take Bailey, my Australian Shepherd, on a long walk. I like to move and think. Sitting is for writing. Moving is for thinking. Moving inspires fresh ideas. So, I'll walk and think about what I've written and where I'm going with the story. Then I'll come back and try to do some more if I have time. If not, I take notes on any ideas that came to me from my walk.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself that the real work-- and the real art-- comes from revision. I love editing. I love seeing a story become what I had always hoped it would be. But I have been way too impatient and impulsive in the past. I've thought first drafts were much better than they were. I take pride now in my revisions and in my patience. I write a draft, then I put it away for a month. Then I read and revise. Then I give it to friends who read and critique. Then I revise again. Then I find an editor-- and we do another round of revisions. I would tell myself: "No matter how great you think this project is, you need to do all of that at the bare minimum, and probably more before you even dare think of publishing it."
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I always tell new writers to read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Stephen King. Those two books are full of wonderful ideas and advice. From there, read a lot. Writers must be avid readers. Also, know that this is a business of patience and persistence. You can't give up, but you also have to know this is about a journey. If good things take time, great things take even longer. Enjoy the journey.
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