A while ago I was interviewed by Carol(ina) from Genre of the Month. I had fun with the interview and asked her if I could reprint it here.
Chris Rettstatt is the author of the sci-fi & futuristic new series Kaimira (first book, The Sky Village).
1.) What made you start writing?
When I was eight, I read Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, and I immediately began writing poems. Within a few hours I’d filled up a notepad with poems. And since then, I never stopped writing.
2.) If you weren’t an author what would you be?
I sometimes joke that I’m a children’s book author who wishes he was a linguist. That’s because I love language and grammar, and I love studying foreign languages. I also like making up my own languages, which I’m doing with the Kaimira Code. But that’s mostly a joke, because as much as I love those things, I love writing even more.
3.) How did you choose you character’s names?
My wife’s nickname is Longmei. She was born in the year of the dragon, which is “long” in Chinese. Adding “mei” which means “sister” in Chinese, makes it into a nickname.
When I first started developing Rom’s character and his tribe, I was drawing inspiration from Romani cultures (sometimes called Gypsies). And then ROM has a techie meaning as well, as in CD-ROM, and so I just kind of liked it.
4.) What’s the best thing about being an author?
No matter what I do, whether traveling to other countries or standing in line at the supermarket, it’s all research.
5.) What’s your ideal writing spot?
I do a lot of writing in coffee shops, particularly when I’m traveling, but I’d have to say my favorite spot is my desk at home. I’ve got everything I need there and plenty of room to pace around.
6.) How did you come up with the idea of The Sky Village?
I was sitting outside, trying to imagine this strange future world I had just started to create. What would my characters see and hear? I looked up at the clouds, and the idea just hit me — a village made of hot air balloons.
7.) Why YA?
I don’t think so much about the age borders around books. When I was in my teens, and even before, I read whatever looked good, and even now I have a hard time remembering which of those books were technically written for young adults. So I just write for the sort of reader I am, and the sort of readers my friends tend to be. And lately, a lot of the best books that fit my personal taste happen to be YA books.
8. Do you ever come up with play lists for your books? If so, what are the songs?
I did have a playlist while I was working on The Sky Village. The songs included:
- If I Give My Soul, by Johnny Cash (cover)
- Various songs by Faye Wong (especially Ni Kuai Le, Suo Yi Wo Kuai Le)
- It Isn’t Easy Being Green, by Kermit the Frog
- This Woman’s Work, by Kate Bush
- Don’t Give Up, by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush
- Fight Club Soundtrack, by The Dust Brothers (the whole thing)
- Where Is My Mind, by The Pixies
- Gypsy Caravan (compilation by Putumayo)
9.) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I believe my best advice can be drawn from my playlist. It’s somewhere between “Don’t Give Up” and “Where Is My Mind?”
Ok, my actual advice comes in two parts. On the one hand, you have to know the business of the business. You have to become familiar with what books are being published and read lots and lots and lots of them. Pay attention to the publishers. Subscribe to newsletters that keep you updated on publishing trends. Join your local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Think of yourself as a partner in the publishing process.
On the other hand, you can’t let the business steer you. Stay flexible, and listen openly and humbly to feedback you get. But at the end of the day, it’s your story, and you have to trust your creative instincts. If you aren’t fiercely loyal to your creative vision, nobody else is going to be.
10.) Which character are you most like? (Can be from any book)
When I was a teen, I wanted to be like the Motorcycle Boy from Rumble Fish. But wanting it didn’t make it so.
11.) If you could collaborate with any author dead or alive who would you pick?
I’m not sure I like the idea of collaborating with a dead author. But assuming he wouldn’t be a zombie or vampire, I’d have to choose Dostoevsky. Not that he’d be all that pleasant to work with, but I could just sit at his feet and try to soak in some of that brilliantly layered characterization.
12.) Do you have any upcoming books?
Kaimira is a five-book series, and I’m currently hard at work finishing up #2, which is called The Terrible Everything.
13.) What is your favorite food or snack to eat when you’re writing?
I can’t say that I snack much while I’m writing, but I do drink a lot of strong coffee before lunch and then a lot of green tea after lunch.
14.) What were some of your favorite books when you were younger?
Lord of the Rings, The Dark Is Rising, A Wrinkle In Time, The Outsiders
15.) Do you have any pets?
Right now I travel too much to keep a pet, but I grew up with all kinds of pets running around. My dad used to rescue stray animals and bring them home, everything from hungry dogs to a pig that fell off a truck. My most recent pet, before I moved away from home to go to college, was a ferocious kitten named Grendel: Slayer of Grasshoppers.
16.) Does writing cut into your family time?
It helps that I’m a morning person, and I get my best work done before anyone else wakes up. But my twins know that I can’t resist playing with them every day, even when I’m under deadline.
17.) Do you have any hobbies other than writing?
I absolutely love traveling to other countries and then trying to figure out how to cook the food I eat there.
18.)What are some of your favorite movies?
Raising Arizona, Rushmore, Man On Fire, Miller’s Crossing, Spirited Away, Harold and Maude, A Clockwork Orange, Princess Mononoke, Oldboy
19.) What’s your favorite ice cream?
I call it Twin Can Ice Cream. You need a small coffee can and a large coffee can, ice, rock salt, and ingredients for home-made ice cream. Put the ingredients into the small can and tape it shut, put the small can into the large one, surround it with ice and rock salt, and tape it shut. Then give the can to a pair of energetic twins to kick around, throw, roll, or whatever for about a half hour. At the end, you have some delicious home-made ice cream.