I first met Chris at my book club around 3-4 years ago when he had just published his first book Entanglement of Fate. I went on to become his BETA reader for his next two books in the Elliott’s Register Mysteries Entanglement of Revenge and Entanglement of Deceit.
Chris has very kindly offered my readers the opportunity to win a signed copy of the first book in the series Entanglement of Fate. All you have to do is follow me: @lifehasafunnywy and Chris @chrisbrookes2 and retweet the pinned tweet on my twitter page containing this interview. A winner will then be randomly selected on the 19th December.
Read on for reviews of all three of Chris’ books along with a fantastic interview with the man himself.
Entanglement of Fate is Chris’ first book inspired by the true story of Walter Stanford. Set in Sheffield in the 1900s the novel opens with an exciting police chase across the rooftops. The opening chapter is deliciously descriptive truly bringing the readers senses to life. The intial few chapters were quite hard to get into but they soon speeded up as the plot took many unexpected twists and turns. Pretty soon I couldn’t put it down! Wonderfully written and imaginative this is a story of dark crime and horror mingled in with drugs, prostitution and secrets. The subplot was very imaginative as well involving trips f far off countries, a struggle, out of body experiences and dabbles in the spirit world. In the end despite the many different layers of the story it was all brought together perfectly and despite its complex nature it was very easy to follow. I recommend this book to anyone who loves Historical Fiction, crime fiction or supernatural genres.
Funnily enough, this book actually has my face on the front! This was the first book I read as a BETA reader for Chris and I guess for my own reasons its my favourite of the trilogy. In EoR we return to Sheffield this time to 1916 and a pit disaster. Following a harrowing night, the next morning a seemingly ‘mad’ woman is found on a colliery spoil heap. Elliott and Tom feature once more as they explore the world and the power of the very rich and uncover a years old mystery and a world of hidden secrets and revenge. Just like in EoF there are many twists and turns to the plot and what you think you know is usually the opposite. But just like in the first book everything comes together in the end and leaves you reeling.
Entanglement of Deceit is the third and most recent of the Elliott’s Register Mysteries and this time juxtaposes between Sheffield and London where the Sharpe’s are now living. It’s been a year since the events in Entanglement of Revenge and the characters are in the throws of the First World War. Once more the characters are plunged into the middle of a mystery but this time espionage is the order of the day. With Chris’ usual cryptic style the book starts with a devestating twist and then goes back in time leaving you with no choice but to race through to the end to find out the truth. It’s a story of obsessive love and dangerous alliances. Engaging and interesting throughout. It’s a killer of a novel.
I caught up with Chris recently to see how things are now that book 3 is complete. The biggest question on my mind being whether this is the end or will we be seeing Elliott and Tom again?
So Chris, before we get to the burning questions. Why don’t you fill us in on your background and how you got into writing?
I started working as a theatre production manager in the 1980s and from there went on to produce many touring shows. Working in that environment brought me into contact with many talented and creative people, some of whom I ultimately got the chance to work with on a regular basis. One such person was director Mark Kenyon, who was also a screen writer and was responsible for feling my interest in writing. He taught me all the basics, and more, of character development, effective description and how to thread plots with anticipation and create cliff hangers. All of Mark’s teaching I still use today in my writing.
What are your ambitions for your writing?
Obviously I would be lying if I said I didn’t want my writing to bring me fame and fortune. But my many years in the industry have taught me that only the lucky few ever achieve anything beyond being recognised in their local village fete. As for being rich from writing – how much disappointment do you want? No, seriously my ambitions for writing are merely to continue to publish stories and scripts that I want to write and that people enjoy reading. I consider myself a storyteller more than a writer, if that makes sense. Long ago I learnt that my writing wasn’t about to dance in literary circles. There isn’t language with deep philosophical passages or hidden messages in my prose. When I sit down to write I do so with the aim of entertaining through strong characters engaged in twisting plots with differing layers of complexity, and often with an unexpected conclusion.
Which writers inspire you?
I admire many writers for the way they can craft their stories and draw the reader in. From the old school there is obviously Agatha Christie or Dorothy L Sayers, further back still, I love to read the Jacques Futrelle mysteries. I also have an affection for John Buchan’s work. Modern day authors I will happily read, include the likes of Stephen King, James Herbett, John Grisham and James Patterson.
How did you come up with the ideas for the Elliott’s Register Mysteries? What was your inspiration?
The idea actually found me – I think! About ten years ago my father-in-law Bill, then a church warden recounted a story to me about a couple who had approached him looking for the gravestone of a local man called Walter Greenway, a character who had supposedly led a most adventurous life during WW1. For reasons that later became obvious Walter’s grave couldn’t be found. However, Bill continued to do some research and, sure enough, he unearthed the tale of a most fascinating person along with sketchy events of his life. I was absolutely hooked and began doing my own research. The more I did the more I became immersed and wanted to tell Walter’s story. The by chance I came across the writings of Robert Holmes, who had written about his time spent as a police court missionary. I was amazed and delighted when I found references dedicated to detailling his actual encounter with Walter.
The mystery of both Walter and Robert Holmes consumed me and I found myself entangling facts with fiction. Suddenly, my idea born – to create a police court missionary character and write entanglement stories based on the experiences of people listed in his registers. And what better place to start than with Walter – this most intriguing man whose experiences stretched from Sheffield to the war zones of Mesopotamia and included many acts of heroism.
So the big question! What are you working on at the moment?
All sorts – from theatre scripts and script editing to a fourth story in the Entanglement series, which has a working title of Entanglement of Consequence. I am also wanting to write some more modern stores of suspense which have been swilling around in my head for a while. I have lots on my ‘to do’ writing list, but true to John Lennon’s words, “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”. Thankfully these days I tend to be able to just go with the flow.
Which of the three boks is your favourite? Was it harder or easier to write?
Good question! I guess the truth is that each book was my favourite at the time of writing it. They have all brought me very different emotions. Fate was my first novel so obviously holds a special place in my heart, Revenge I certainly enjoyed writing the most, Deceit was definitely the hardest to write and the most difficult to pull together at the end.
Who is your favourite characer from the books?
I’m fickle so it keeps changing. Sometimes, when I have a need to go back read passages from my books, I think yes, Elliott’s my favourite, but then another day I fall in love with Mary or Louise all over again and they become my favourites. Other days I want to have the sophistication of Tom or perhaps the daring and charm of Walter. One thing I can tell you you is that writing about the nastier more harrowing characters I find easiest to do. Probably because they are usually fairly one dimensional in their feelings.
What genre would you describe your books as belonging too?
I really wish I could give you a definite answer, it would save me a lot of time too when target marketing my audience. My books are being branded as historical mysteries, but they do have more than an element of romance running through them, as well as elements of adventure, suspense and usually a harrowing crime. Once a reviewer said of my books that they had an identity crisis. ‘It’s a mystery, no wait, I am a paranormal book.. no, I am a WWI drama… I’m the English patient… oh I am a mystery.’ Probably a fair assessment.
How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes?
Unless its script work, which is done to deadlines I usually write in phases. Sometimes I’m constantly on the keyboard and in the zone, which can result in around 50k words over a month. Other times, I lose interest and get easily distracted by just about everything. Setting myself a word target is akin to ignoring a cheesecake on the table in front of me – it doesn’t happen!
Why did you choose the self-publishing route and would you recommend it to other writers?
I’ve done both and they each have their merits. Ultimately though, as an unknown writer my experience of traditional publishers was that very little was actually delivered, so I still had to do most of my own publicity. Sales were also generally disappointing. That said, if one of my books had the commerical appeal of ‘The Girl on the Train’, I dare say it might have been different. In reality, most new authors will not get the opportunity to have a publisher anyway, therefore, they will be forced to go self published. This is no bad thing for the ones who are switched on and can work in co-operatives with other athors. There is a lot to be said for having total control over your books – setting your own pricing, cover design, exclusivity, etc. is quite liberating.
How do you market your books/ What have been your marketing successes and failures?
If you’re serious about writing, becoming your sole source of income, you need to learn fast how to market your book in a very competitive space. There are two self-publishing guru’s out there offering courses that I trust. Nick Stepehenson and Mark Dawsnon. The amount of knowlesge and proven techniques to sell your books in their courses and closed facebook groups is invaluable. However, it is not cheap at about $397 per course, but they are certainly worth considering. Marketing is all about learning from your peers what is and isn’t working. Personally, I am always trying multiple marketing techniques, I advocate making your first book free or creating a short story as your reader magnet for people to join your mailing list, then market your list once you’ve established trust and value. I also advertise with targeted facebook ads, do cross newsletter promotions with similar autors, do joint giveaways, to name but a few. The truth is, when it comes to getting your books discovered and selling them, it is a constant learning curve. Be prepared to be inventive.
If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why?
I guess I would have liked to have written The Birds by Frank Baker. Although it was Daphne Du Maurier’s 1952 short story that was officially adapted for the screen, it is felt that Baker’s novel more closely resembles Hitchcock’s movie. In particular I like the complexity of a fantasty where creatures are sent to deal with ‘marred’ humanity. Perhaps my biggest wish though would be to have been able to collaborate with the genius of Bernstein, Sondheim, Laurents and Robbins on the musical West Side Story.
What are your views on bad reviews?
Get used to them because you’ll always get a few. Of course it’s never nice to hear stinging critique of your ork but everybody has a right to express their views on your work if entered into the public domain. I do have a problem though, with the so called trolls who operate and leave bad reviews for the sheer hell of it. But my advice is to simply report it and then move on. Life is too short!
If you’d like to know more about Chris and his series of books you can reach him on the following social media sites:
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chris-Brookes/e/B00EV6FSRE