Life in Writing
This was a fun interview. C.M. Halstead has lead a colorful life full of all kinds of interesting adventures. In this interview we talk about his life as an army brat as well as his time as an active duty marine, his role as a father, and his influences as an author. Continue reading to find out what he had to say.
Q. Where are you from?
A. Everywhere! That is the best answer I have come up with over the years. . .I am a military brat and former military. I spent the formative periods of my life on military bases, both as an Airforce brat and as an active duty Marine. Although I was born in Hamilton, NY, I am told that by the age of one we were on the move. New Jersey, Upstate NY, Alaska, Michigan, England, and South Carolina to name a few.
Q. Do you have a job other than writing? What do you do?
A. I am a half time dad. Fortunate enough to have my 10-year-old boy every other weekend, all school holidays and all summer, I schedule all other aspects of my life around the ability to camp, travel and teach my son self-sufficiency and independence to truly excel in life. It sounds like a mission statement doesn’t it! I see parenting as the toughest job I have ever loved, and I’ve had some tough jobs.
I also volunteer through several organizations, the Sedona Foodbank, and Boys To Men organizations are two ways I currently give back to the community. I have a long history of giving back and giveaways (I have worked with men’s organizations and veterans organizations in the past)
I also mentor and teach others in various capacities, from helping them step through fears, to empowering themselves to write.
Q. Why do you write sci-fi and fantasy?
A. Because it is fun! I write sci-fi because, at its core, anything goes. I set the rules and the boundaries of the worlds I create. I like to use technology that is arguably feasible. I believe time travel to be possible and only our fears of the past (our past) and the power the ability-to-change-the-past brings, is what people fear most and makes them “disbelieve” it is feasible to do so. Some call this denial.
I also love the sci-fi medium because cultures seem open to the lessons they provide without the inherent natural resistance some truth that a plethora of human beings seems to have.
Q. What are you currently working on? Tell us a little bit about it.
A. I just released Book Two of The Tripper Series, titled ‘Kangal’. I am learning the ins and outs of internet marketing that go with publishing a book series and being an Indie Author. Marketing is harder for me than the writing process.
I am about 15,000 words into Book Three of The Tripper Series. In book three, we will get to know our seven main characters a little deeper; we get to see what Rosa and Miokel do while locked away in their apartments which gives us a better idea of what makes them tick. Recovery time is everything when it take five days to recover from what the trippers call a “tram ride.” The current team’s third mission sharpens the rookies and gives others more experience leading them. Training newbies is a job in itself!
Sometime this year I will take a second look at a thriller I wrote during last November’s NaNoWriMo. It was my second time participating in NaNoWriMo and my second win! Two for two baby :) I learned a lot about cranking out words and self-discipline as a writer both times. The book I wrote this year, book one of a thrillagy (I may have made that word up) is yet to be titled. The story focuses on a third year FBI agent and her first case at her newly assigned Phoenix location. She is handed a pile of dead cases as a test and passes with flying colors as she gains ground on an unsolvable case.
I also am in the final stages of the book mentioned above, ‘Earned Innocence,' a stand-alone, cathartic, military fiction piece written in the first person. The journey from American teenager to warrior to civilian is not always a survivable process. Things must die in order to return home.
Q. When will your next book be released?
A. I just released my second book March 1st; I’ve learned a tremendous amount about being a self-published author and entrepreneur since I started this process two years ago. Enough to know not to give a more specific date than “this fall.”
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A. In high school I wanted to write, I even wrote a few things, moments and poems detailing what I was going through and what I was feeling about life and events that happened before my teenage years. Then all the mindsets forced into my brain “art is cool, but you can’t make a living off of it.” “Go get a job” “learn a trade” stuff like that took over my thinking. Two years ago, at the age of 42, I chose to move beyond all that and do what I was possessed to do, write! I got out of my way and am now writing the rough draft of my 5th book. It is amazing how that one decision is all it took for me to put my head down and write, write, write. I have always been good at what I have chosen to do, imagine the possibilities if I love what I am doing!
Q. Where do you get your inspiration on what to write?
A. Wow, this is a tough one, I could write a dissertation on this question alone.
Sometimes it is from an intangible source. I am sitting and thinking, and an idea pops into my head. Many other ideas are inspired by a line in a show or a conversation with friends about technology or things in the world. Others, like The Tripper Series, come from the container. The container? What is the container you ask? Even though after high school I joined the military and did what I was told I was supposed to do, I still gathered story ideas, for twenty years plus, I gathered ideas on scraps of paper, note cards, and business cards. I put them all in several safe locations and after a lifetime of jobs and experiences decided to draw three ideas out from the glass jar and turn them into a story. Hence the birth of The Tripper Series. The seven book, seven character epic came from three ideas not originally attached to each other.
Q. What are some of your hobbies outside of writing?
A. I am a serial outdoor hobbyist and explorer. I seem to do the same outdoor activity for a few years and then move on to the next one. The exception to this statement is hiking and walking. I have always been fond of walking, hiking; any long range movement is moving meditation for me and is mandatory for me to sort story ideas and regular life-stuff as well.
I have solo backpacked in the Adirondacks of New York, Glacier National Park, and the Coconino National Forest to name a few. I spent time in the professional outdoor guiding business, as a hiking guide, backpacking guide, and jeep guide, mostly in Northern Arizona, The Coconino National Forest, and the Grand Canyon National Park to be exact. I have returned to doing all those things for fun and no longer professionally guide, preferring to go out and play either on my own or with one or two friends.
I just finished up a few years of technical canyoneering in Arizona and Utah, Barney Springs, and Behunin Canyon are two of my favorite canyons while Woods Canyon is the only backcountry excursion that I actually “bonked” during, it is a story of an epic learning curve for me. Bonked meaning I pushed my body so hard, after neglecting it for a day or so, that I went into shock while in the middle of nowhere and still hiked out of my own fruition for a few more hours after the incident. One of my favorite things about backcountry exploration is there are only two ways to get home, my own human power and the helicopter ride of shame, and since quitting is not an option, it is all up to me and my level or perseverance to get me out and back eating cheeseburgers in town.
Q. What book are you currently reading?
A. I am reading ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts and ‘Skull Throne’ by Peter V. Brett. I am reading them for entirely different homework reasons (for if you are a writer, reading is mandatory, all the greatest writers agree!)
I am reading Shantaram for its deep story of one human being and the humans he encounters in his life journey. ‘The Tripper Series’ is as series of seven books written (or to be written) in a story style conducive to quick reads and a transition into movies or television. Each of the seven books are 45-55,000 words in length and designed to fit within the boundaries of screenplays. The classic heroes journey format.
Shantaram was given to me by a friend when we were discussing character development and “epic novels.” Shantaram is a book that has more story than a movie can hold, its main character has a lifetime of lessons and experiences, as do each of the main “side” characters. The book I am in the final stages of editing is called ‘Earned Innocence,' it is a story of a teenager joining the military and after intense training experiences the realities and traumas of war. The story is told in the first person with the intention of putting the reader into the shoes of the hero (or protagonist). The goal is to have the reader transition from a teenager to a member of a military unit to a hero, not yet all the way home, who must face their demons to live. If not, death of life is certain.
Shantaram is a great example of a human going through this growth process. Deep in character development and not afraid to race off in tangents in all directions, it is an example of a deep story, of the kind I intend ‘Earned Innocence’ to be.
‘Skull Throne’ I am reading because I like the way Peter V. Brett builds his worlds. Something I am willing to graze over, to keep the story moving. I am working on slipping one to two sentences here and there to help build “the Tripper world” over time. Mostly I am reading the series because picking up book one of the series got me reading for fun again! He created a world in distress entirely different than the one I am living in. It is great to escape and read classic storytelling.
Q. Who are some of your favorite authors?
A. Stephen King is one I owe a lot too. He has written his own style and stories since the beginning. One of the reasons he is so successful I think is because he stuck to his guns and wrote his stuff. No intention of being mainstream and yet he is one of the most famous.
In high school I read a tremendous amount of books written by returning warriors from Vietnam, I read so many I cannot begin to list the authors. I do remember loving being inside of the heads of individuals facing themselves and all the best and worst parts of the animal that is the human being.
Q. What do you do to market your books?
A. So far, utilizing social media, word of mouth, and a Phoenix Comi-con. My sci-fi series is perfect for that crowd. I will have to learn to develop other areas of my marketing prowess as I progress and release the cathartic military fiction piece as well as my thrillers. I think it is key to note here, that the number in my head for books to be written by C.M. Halstead is 50. Yes, 50! I have about 50 books in me, with five written. It is my goal to reach a tipping point where all book releases will spread organically through a following.
Q. Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite, and why?
A. I would have to skew my answer a bit and say the short story ‘The Tracker.' Not yet a full-length book, the 17,000 word short builds a great start to a long-term character. In my mind, ‘Earned Innocence’ could be a precursor story to the character that will someday become the world renowned tracker, the one that finds those that do not want to be found.
Q. If any of your stories could be made into a movie, which would you choose?
A. Besides all of them…I would go with ‘The Tripper Series’. I look forward to the day when I get to see someone’s visual depiction of the world of 2114, the main tripper team and how the filmmaker presents the theme of the series visually.
Q. If you could be friends with a fictional character (Including any from your own stories) who would you choose?
A. Interesting question!
I am introverted and reclusive, which gives me a small, close-knit friends circle. So whoever this character is they would have to be cool with me having my own space; strong, independent, outdoorsy, no bullshit kind of people do well in my world. I’m not a big talker either; I tend to spend lots of time zoning out, thinking about characters, plots and counting the hours until I get to sit in my writer’s cave again. Maybe Chewbacca from Star Wars would be cool to hang with for long periods of time. He would have my back, doesn’t say much and is used to long distance travel.
Q. Does your taste in movies and shows line up with your taste in books? If they differ, how so?
A. I seem to prefer more comedy in movies and shows, than in books the books I read. Interesting realization…
Q. Do you have a certain place that you like to do your writing? Does environment affect your work?
A. I write in my “writer’s cave.” Who knows who coined the term, I use it a lot, though. It is what works best for me, locking myself up in a small space, headphones on, music with no words playing in my ears. I do my best work. The curtain is drawn over the window on the left side of the small space over the wheel well in which I walled off, creating a space just big enough for a screen, a small surface, and a bench to sit on. No room for distractions or anything else except food and coffee of course. By the way, I said wheel well, and yes, I am mobile! My wife and I converted a 1980 school bus into a motorhome. We live in it most the time and like to live a different lifestyle than most. We prefer the tiny home and the lack of monthly outgo. It provides a flexible lifestyle and helps is be entrepreneurs.
Q. Of all the books in the world, why is yours worth taking the time to read?
A. Because they are different. I have heard this several times already in feedback from beta readers and reviews online. Even the way and reason I do time travel is different.
Each character in The Tripper Series is a unique individual with flaws and strengths. I present them as superheroes and remind you they are human. I think many of us can relate to that.
Q. What makes the main character of your latest book interesting to read about?
A. Well, there are seven of them. Seven main characters in the series, I think that is the beauty of it, the group dynamics and how they change depending on who is present in the scene, how who is in charge changes and the way the team members interact differently depending on who is present. Just like real life.
Grey, the team leader, is strong, experienced and no-nonsense. His second Miokel is a history nut and reclusive. Charles and Rosa hang like best friends, both of a similar mindset they team up frequently. The three rookies, John, Mackenzie and June round out the team with enthusiasm and fresh perspectives, although they are still wondering what the hell is going on!
Q. Leave the blurb to your latest book.
A. I will leave you with two blurbs, distinctly different from each other yet from the same book.
“John is swimming in a vast sea of gel, somehow almost being able to breathe it, he struggles for breath and tells himself to breathe. BREATHE. Breathe. BREATHE, damn-it!
Suddenly his body lifts a few feet in the sea.
“I think I was just zapped by an eel! What the f***?” His body tingles from center to extremes. Suddenly the gel goes thin, and thinner still.
He pops his eyes open to see Charles kneeling over him smiling a big mischievous grin. Charles' AED in hand he asks John, "Want another for good measure?"
Realizing his heart had stopped, John’s heart skips a few beats and speeds up. A frantic feeling overcomes him.
Charles says, "Now relax there, tough guy! It’s all good now. You've gotten your first death out of the way. Life is easier from now on." Charles grins even bigger.”
“Opening the man hatch built into one of the six by eight meter sliding doors of the structure, she pauses to listen and hears the sounds of insects by the thousands. Some are quickly buzzing by, en route to their food source while others are experiencing a slightly slower return trip with their loot in tow. She blurs out her eyes and focuses on the sounds, thriving on the stereo effect of the bees buzzing by, the birds chirping their afternoon songs in the cool fall air, and the water-like sound of the breeze in the leaves and branches. Being well past mating season, the birds chatted idly, testing out their voices and calling for friends before starting their journeys to warmer climes. Having no intentions of being caught this far north when the weather changes, their instincts are willing them to travel any day now.
That same breeze moves grasses and is rattling a few leaves, none of the dead ones already matted on the moist ground, just the multitudes on the limbs.”
This was a fun interview, and I really enjoyed hearing about Halstead’s life and various adventures. If this interview piqued your interest and you want to know more about this author, feel free to check out any of the links below for more information.
Website & blog: cmhalstead.com/blog
Goodreads: C.M. Halstead
Amazon link: http://bit.ly/cmhalsteadbooks
Daniel M. Quilter is the author of A Soul Divided. On this blog he'll interview other authors, review books, share nerd wisdom from popular sci-fi and fantasy, and occasionally share his insights on writing. See a list of his works or see what he's working on.
Are you an Author? Are you interested in doing an interview for this blog? Find out how by clicking here.
Interested in getting your sci-fi/fantasy book reviewed on this blog? Check out our submission guidelines
Do you write any flash fiction? Do you want to share it on this site? Click here to review our submission guidelines.