Friday, June 8, 2012

❤author: Chris Semal Interview and Giveaway!

❤ Today, as part of a fantastic book tour alongside JKS Communications, I'm thrilled to welcome author, Chris Semal, to the blog today. Welcome to ¡Miraculous!, Chris! Will you please share a short bio with us?

Sure. I’m a native New Yorker and have lived here all my life. Though I love to travel, I am always glad to come back.

I was a semi-pro musician, singer, and songwriter throughout the 80's and 90's: this led to lots of the experiences, good and bad, imagined and otherwise, that populate my novel, Trial of Tears. I’ve released a couple of CD’s under the lewscannnon heading and still play the occasional gig with my band, Three Way Crash.

I attended the University of Miami to study Music Engineering, and came back north to do the only obvious thing possible, becoming a municipal bond broker and eventually working as a consultant building financial models.

In the early part of the millennium, between consulting and band gigs, I wanted to expand on the 80 or so words used in writing song lyrics to the 80,000 I would need for a novel. In doing this, I discovered a passion for developing plots and characters. That brings us to my debut black comedy thriller set in New York City’s music industry, Trial Of Tears (available in both eBook and paperback from Cannon Publications).

Tell us little bit about it then.

‘Pulp Fiction’ meets ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ in this tough, funny, sexy and fast-paced story.

Pete Watts is a former undercover narcotics cop who got way too close to his job. He now runs a music rehearsal studio in which all manner of eccentric musicians come through. His soon to be ex-girlfriend is a talented singer with a sleazy manager who is in the habit of giving his clients drug habits, occasionally overdosing them to move their recordings up the charts, with the full support of the shady entertainment company for whom he works.

This universe of people is inexorably drawn into a war between two violent drug gangs, viewed through the perspective of the Napoleonic leader of one gang. He has recently signed on a strange, but beautiful ex-mercenary, who wears makeup in the form of multi-colored tears running down her face. These tears are, in fact, decals on which different poisons are concealed, hence the title. Some survive the Trial of Tears, some don’t. The story’s taut climax is set in a posh townhouse in which only the courageous will emerge unscathed.

While it certainly has its share of humor, action and suspense, it is also a story of friendship and redemption, as well as a love letter to New York City.

Sounds thrilling! Most interesting is how you write about what you know, what you're passionate about. What inspired you to write it and then how did you get published? Tell us your call story.

Music is my first love and I like nothing more than reading a good thriller, so combining the two was a natural progression. Having some of the book set in a music rehearsal studio enables interesting minor characters to move the plot and characterization along nicely. I decided to take publishing into my own hands after some years of frustration with the industry and starting Cannon Publications was the best thing I’ve done with it. This story doesn’t ‘slot’ well and this way it gets the personal attention it deserves. 

❤ How did you arrive at writing thriller and suspense? Is there any other genre you'd like to tackle in the future? 

I write in the style that I like to read: a fast-paced story with good dialogue and a certain amount of unpredictability as to what will happen to the characters. I don’t go venturing off into wildly unchartered territory and introduce characters in the last chapters that solve the mystery, but I don’t want the reader to be able to guess along too easily, either. The next book planned is the sequel to this story, so it won’t be a significant departure, but I have other ideas in the pipeline that won’t deal with the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll that is prevalent in Trial of Tears. The next publication will be my novella, Time Flies, which is more of a coming of age story. As a native, I do like to use New York City as a setting. It is a fertile ground for both narrative and characters.

❤ How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories?

I can’t speak for other writers, but there’s an aspect of my personality in every major character in my stories. None of them are me, but I can relate to the way each of them thinks and acts. Inhabiting them makes them believable. If this story was real, it would undoubtedly have been written from a jail cell. The friendship and dialogue between the two main male characters is loosely based on the relationship I have with my oldest friend. I like to think that my love of music shows up in the scenes in which the characters are either playing or listening, as well.

❤ How would you describe your writing style and tone?

It’s as if Stephen King, Nelson Demille, and Nick Hornby got stuck overnight in an elevator with a bottle of cheap gin.

Pure brilliance, then? :) Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

The first draft of the story should be read by no one but yourself. I know it’s a magnificent achievement and should be celebrated. Open up that bottle you’ve been saving for the occasion. Seriously, congratulations! This is no mean feat. Then let the manuscript sit for a week before you start to reread it. I know it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but don’t forget, no one has an ugly baby.

It’s the same thing with my music. Whenever I write and record a new song, it’s a magnificent piece of music that will surely cement my legacy in the pantheon of great composers. Hey, some of them still sound pretty good when I play them now, but at the first blush of conception, the less listenable sound just as good as the best ones. After finishing the first draft, do a bunch of other stuff for a little while that has nothing to do with writing and cleanse your palate. Whatever you do, don’t give in to everyone’s “Oh, that’s wonderful. I’d love to read it!” Believe me, what that story looks like eight months down the road won’t bear much resemblance to what you first put on paper. Hopefully, the story will remain more or less intact, though it’s malleable, too. What will improve drastically is the writing, especially if this is a first novel. I was so proud of Trial of Tears when I first finished it — I couldn’t wait to show it to everyone and send it out to agents. There’s a reason agents don’t want to deal with debut novels and novelists.

❤ Ahahaha. Enthusiasm of a prodigy, I suppose ;) What about you would surprise your readers?

That I don’t live in a padded cell. Seriously, the same way that actors who play effective movie villains get verbally assaulted in the street, don’t get the artist and his work mixed up. My stories are fiction. In real life, I’m a fairly laid-back individual, especially for a New Yorker, though I did have my moments when I was younger.

❤ What's a question you always want to be asked during interviews? How would you answer it?

How does it feel to be on top of the NY Times best-seller list?

Good, pretty f****** good!

❤ LOL. What’s the most interesting comment you have ever received about your novel?

One thing I am hearing quite a bit is that readers want to know a lot more about my female antagonist, Alice. She’s the inspiration for the cover and title of the book, but doesn’t make her entrance until the fifth chapter and then comes back for the balance of the story in the ninth chapter. In this story, I treat her a little like the monster of well-made horror movie. You don’t want to overexpose her early in the story. She’s a woman with quite a backstory and presence.

 What's next for you?

Later this year, I’ll be putting out my novella, Time Flies. Once I get done with the initial spate of publicity for Trial of Tears, I’ll get cracking on Reign of Tears, the sequel, which picks the story up a year later. I’m six chapters in and having a good time writing it. I’m fond of the characters that populate the little universe and it’s nice getting back in touch with them. I get a little sad when I have to kill one of them off. But what the hell, I can always come up with another.

Ahh the power of the writer. Where can you be found on the web?

News, links, and my blog can be found at my website.

Thanks to Chris and JKS Communications, we've got one copy of Trial of Tears up for grabs — winner's choice of eBook or print.To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Easy peasy. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour, (schedule found here) as well!
Giveaway runs through June 30thth, 2012 at 11.59 pm (EST).
Open to all readers, international included! However, international readers may only enter for the eBook copy.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!