Apocalypsenovel Interviews: Chris Poirier

Chris Poirier is the author of Winter Rain, a serialized novel. He also runs WFG and provides reviews as an editor. Chris is a computer software developer and resides in Toronto, Canada. He insists he is a very boring person, effectively married, who lives in downtown Toronto, Canada. Chris does not drive a car and considers himself a democratic socialist and civil libertarian.

He tells us that "All of Tiergan's running and jumping and joy-of-motion--as well as his self-destructive tendencies--come very much from me."

He likes dogs and seldom gets along with cats.


Chris Tejeda: Let's talk about WFG first. How did it come to be?

Chris Poirier: Well, I started writing a story online (Winter Rain), and wanted to get it out there. I initially submitted it to Pages Unbound, but, well, after several weeks and no approval--during which I paid for a lot of ad spots that didn't work--I thought I might be able to do a better job of things. Sarah (Suleski, of Alisiyad/Queen of Seven fame) had already joined a group Eli had started to come up with a replacement for PU, so during a conversation with her, we registered a domain name and I started working on a design for the site.

I wrote an article for Novelr shortly after we opened that goes into more detail, and is full of naïveté and hope, if you are interested.

Chris Tejeda: A little about you as a reviewing editor--I noticed you have done 26 reviews, and only one has received 5 stars. What do you look for from an author and why did .fictions. by ljones catch your fancy?

Chris Poirier: It's funny--I swore to myself I wasn't going to be stingy with the 5 star rating--and have argued against such stinginess in the admin group--but I do seem to give it out so very seldom, don't I.

I guess I'm just waiting for that work that drags me from cover to cover, without ever letting me stop to critique the writing. Things like Rowling's Harry Potter, or Zusak's The Book Thief, or Hopkins's Crank.

I haven't found any of those, yet, I guess.

Chris Tejeda: Well, you did give .fictions. by ljones 5 stars.

Chris Poirier: Yes, well, I sort of don't count .fictions., because it is a collection of vignettes, instead of a novel. But I think my review does explain the rating--Laura's first person narrators are just intense and vivid and I have trouble figuring out how much is truth and how much is fiction. Every time I read one, I learn something about writing, and that's a treat.

I always write first person, so, it's something I can appreciate.

Chris Tejeda: Please bear with me on this long question: Your story, Winter Rain, is character driven--You term it "A story about life at the bottom of the pack". I found it hard to categorize--a coming of age Michael Corleone falling in love with a woman he cannot have set in a strange land filled with strange occurrences . . . . How would you categorize it?

Chris Poirier: Oh dear. Well, for me it's just a story about growing up--of coming into one's own, I guess. That's a bit of a theme with me. As with most of my writing, I didn't really set out to do anything specific--in fact, "part 1" was just a vignette I wrote in response to a challenge from Laura (of .fictions.). But the voice was strong, and I'd been wanting to write something a little darker--and a lot more tense--than my regular stuff, and I'd had this idea to do something with Lady Wilde's wolves for a while, so it kind of just came together.

Hmmm, rereading, I don't think I answered your question.

Hard to say. Which is perhaps why I didn't answer your question the first time. For me, the story is about Tiergan. He's the only element that matters, he's the only thing I have to have in every installment. I invent the plot only as I need to, and it always takes second place to him. So, I guess, it's a character study, with a good dollop of action and conflict tossed in for good measure--to keep things from getting boring.

Chris Tejeda: Why did you choose the very-difficult-to-do-well present tense to convey your story?

Chris Poirier: Well, it never really occurred to me to write it in anything else. Present tense eliminates time for reflection--it is (by definition) in the moment. Using it makes everything feel immediate and important; it keeps the risks real, because even the narrator doesn't know how things will turn out.

That's what I love about present tense.

Of course, it's a serious pain in the ass, sometimes, and, rereading the story over the last few days, I've let it slip a few times--"turned to the camera", if you will. Fortunately, it does mostly seem to hold together.

Chris Tejeda: Do you see much of yourself in your fearful underdog protagonist Tiergan? Is that why you write in the first person?

Chris Poirier: I can't write a character that isn't made from pieces of me, but Tiergan and I are quite different people. We have things in common--things we would recognize in each other--but that's where it ends. But I like first person because I like personal writing. I don't write from a distance. I don't write beautiful words. I like to try on another personality, another life, for a while. I try to get into the head of my narrator--to be him--and then write from that perspective. A bit like Method acting, if you will. In the scenes where Tiergan is afraid, my heart is pounding while I write. In the scenes when he is angry, I usually have a tension headache by the time I'm done. In the scenes where he is running free, I can't stop smiling, and I usually have to go outside for some freedom, after, too.

For me, the joy of writing first person is in the communication--the revealing of the character through what is said, and what isn't said, through the things the characters thinks to talk about, to notice.

Chris Tejeda: Ph0R 0uR L337 R34d3r5, W0ULD J00 K0n51d3R j00r53LF 4 900d Wr173R?

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Chris Tejeda: Is your writing motivated by a need to write, your loyal fans, or potential hard publishing?

Chris Poirier: Yeah, that's a rather complicated question for me. I write because I like writing--even when I hate it (some of those <1000 word segments took over 12 hours to write). But I've got a half-dozen very time-demanding projects on the go (large software projects, mostly), so I always have more to do than I have time for. As a result, yeah, it's my readers' expectation that gets the writing up near the top of the list. If it weren't for them, I'd probably seldom get around to it.

In terms of publishing, well, it would be nice, but getting a book published is a job--and a sales job at that. Not interested.

Not that I'm saying Winter Rain is publishable. I don't think it is. It works in the format it is written for, but that's the web.

Chris Tejeda: Which book(s) are on your night-table for tonight?

Chris Poirier: Well, it is highly unlikely I'll be reading anything tonight, actually. I do have a number of half-finished books, though--stuff I'm enjoying, but just haven't made time for. I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak is on the top of my list to finish. I started Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, but I think it's going back to the library unfinished. I also have a copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road that my writing teacher recommended to me--haven't gotten to it yet, though. On the non-fiction front, I'm about halfway through Why God Won't Go Away by Andrew Newberg et al, and similarly so with Game Character Development by Antony Ward.

Chris Tejeda: Chris Poirier is my favorite WFG author; who is your favorite WFG author?

No laughing now.

Chris Poirier: Oh dear.

To be honest with you, I haven't had time to develop a favourite. I don't read very quickly (a standard paperback page takes me around 90 seconds), so, with all the reviewing, I'm not really having time to read anything for pleasure.

I did read Sarah's Dreamers for pleasure, when it was updating, and I read Lee Lowe's Mortal Ghost in a night and Kip Manley's City of Roses in a short period, too, so they'd probably be favourites. I still read Miladysa's Refuge of Delayed Souls and Drew's Winter's Mercenary when they update.

I think my reviews are fairly transparent about which works I liked and which I didn't. ;-)

Chris Tejeda: Where do you see WFG in one year?

Chris Poirier: Hopefully at webfictionguide.com. I mean, if it's moved to another address, it's probably going to screw a lot of people up.

Chris Tejeda: What one question would you ask yourself as a fan of Winter Rain? Would the answer surprise people? Why?

Chris Poirier: Well, I'm not sure I can answer this one. Winter Rain works by only disclosing information when it is needed--it's that way for the reader (because, as a reader, I hate info-dump) and for me, the writer (because it means I constrain nothing until I absolutely have to, leaving my options open for future ideas). So really, I know only a very little bit more about the story than you do, if you've read all 61 existing parts.

*After severe begging by the interviewer . . . *

Chris Poirier: Well, I have an idea of how the story ends.

Chris Tejeda: Do tell.

Chris Poirier: Um, no. :-P

Chris Tejeda: CMON!

You can't do that!

Chris Poirier: It's just that I often protest that I have no idea where the story is going until I write it, which I think unsettles some of my readers. So, they might ask me if I know how it ends. My answer would be "I have an idea about it". :-)

And then he shut up.

Chris Tejeda: Thank you, Chris.

Chris Poirier: Thank you.