Welcome to the first interview done exclusively for Viking Reviews. I am honored that Chris Sarantopoulos took his time and answered some of my questions. For those of you who do not know, Chris is the author of The Man Behind The Bar, that was featured on this blog too. Make sure to check out his Amazon page!
- V: Who is Chris Sarantopoulos? What can you tell us about yourself?
C: I was born in Athens, Greece and learned to speak English almost at the same time I started using my native language. At a time when I still had hair on my head (near the end of the end of the last century – actually the last millenium), I went abroad and studied Geology and Petroleum Geology in Scotland, picked up a few words that I can’t get rid of (like aye for example), then returned to Greece and did a Masters in Service Management. During that time, I was offered the chance to do a PhD, started working on it, but it didn’t work out.
- V: When did you start feeling the urge to write?
C: The really strong urge, the uncontrollable kind, started back in 2013. Until then, I often felt the calling, but didn’t dare following it. The reason for not starting it earlier was due to poor academic skills at school when it came to essay writing, a mandatory subject throughout school life here in Greece. So this feeling of inadequacy gave birth to a little voice at the back of my head that kept telling me that I could never write anything longer than my name.All this changed when, during a casual conversation with a friend of mine about books and the poor quality of some, he simply suggested that I should have a go at writing. I don’t know what changed, but that afternoon I went home and wrote four pages (the world’s worst written four pages ever) of a story I had in my head. And everything felt right. It was as though my life was a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces of my life were wrongly fit together, and suddenly someone knocked the whole thing over, pieces flew up in the air, and miraculously those pieces landed where they should have been originally. Everything in my life made sense after that.
- V: We have met you because of your short story. Are you planning on writing a whole book? Maybe a collection of short stories?
C: I have completed two novels, which are yet unpublished. They will most likely remain unpublished until I can gather the necessary funds needed to hire a good editor and cover designer. The economic crisis Greece experiences at the moment isn’t helping much. The thing is, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to writing and I don’t want to publish something that is below the quality I would allow myself to read.However, this does not mean I will never publish them. I write not only to satiate my inner need to tell stories, but also to have those stories read from others. So they will come out, eventually. For the time being, I intend to publish my short stories (The Man Behind The Bar is my first self-published), some of which have previously been published in literary magazines.
- V: Do you write your stories with a pen or do you use a computer to do it?
C: As a student, I used to write all my assignments first with a pen, then transferred everything to a digital medium. Thankfully, now I use a computer for all my writing. Can you imagine writing up a 120k-word story by pen, then type everything? Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.
- V: Let us focus on your stories. I take it you have a small mountain of ideas, but what are the deciding factors that make you write the idea down in a story?
C: Usually it’s either a theme, a setting, or the idea of a specific conflict that entices me to develop an idea into something more. From there I create characters that will fit into whatever madness I have come up with. I brainstorm and start trying out plot ideas. For short stories I use the 7-point system, but for novels I use a modified version of the Snowflake Method. If everything seems okay at that level and all the pieces fit, then I proceed and draft the story. If not, then I shelf the idea for a later time.
- V: Let us talk characters for a second. Are your characters based on people you have met in your life, or are they made up all the way?
C: Characters are made up. I may borrow traits, mannerisms, and quirks from real characters but nothing more. Usually I develop my characters (their fears and their desires) based on what the setting of the story is all about. For instance, if a story takes place in a dark room and it’s a horror story, I’ll create a character who’s uncomfortable in closed spaces or one who’s afraid of gloomy places.
- V: How about themes? What kind of themes can readers expect from your stories? Are the themes based on real life events or something you are passionate about? Maybe giving people food for thought?
C: I’m told I have the tendency to kill a lot of my main characters. It’s true, though not all the time. So that’s something readers can expect from me. If the story demands it, then that’s what will happen. But if it happens, it won’t be until the very last page. Sometimes I consciously choose not to have a clear-cut ending and let the reader decide.What this means is that a typical theme may very well be death. Another theme I use in my novels is family. I’m also drawn to cyberpunk settings, not for the high-tech part of the genre, but for the low life aspect of it, which allows me to explore social structures and statuses in possible future scenarios for our world. A dark fantasy epic story I have in mind and intend on working on at a later time deals with similar themes.As you can see from the above, I tell stories that are pessimistic rather than the happily ever afters, which I find to be too unrealistic.
- V: How about yourself, what kind of books do you enjoy?
C: My favourite books are those that deal with darker settings and more realistic outcomes, even if they are set in futuristic worlds or medieval kingdoms. Favourite writers are R. Scott Bakker, Stephen King, Margaret Weiss, Tracy Hickman, Peter V. Brett, and Richard K. Morgan among others. As far as genres are concerned I like reading horror, dark fantasy, epic fantasy, sci-fi, and of course cyberpunk. I have a soft spot for noir-style narration, so I’m open to suggestions.
- V: Let us say that you were given a magical pen. The first word you wrote down would immediately influence all people in the world. What would that word be? Why?
C: Common sense. Sorry it’s not one word, but I feel this concept needs to be in everyone’s mind. Nearly every problem in our societies could be resolved with a bit of common sense. Wishful thinking, huh?
- V: Finally, can you let us in on a secret? Is there a new story coming out soon?
C: Let’s see. A few months ago I self-published my short story titled The Man Behind The Bar, a suspense story about a man who leaves his past behind him for the quiet life of a bar owner, until a young man enters his establishment, demanding old debts be paid. There’s another story coming out on July 30 titled At Horizon’s End, a horror story our gracious host has agreed to review (*Chris leans close to Viking’s readers and motions them closer* I’m quite anxious to read it and see if he liked it). If you really want to know secrets and stuff, you may want to either check my blog or sign up for my newsletter.
Thank you Chris!