When Chris Patchell isn’t hiking in the Cascade Mountains or hanging out with family and friends, she is working at her hi-tech job or writing gritty suspense novels. Writing has been a lifelong passion for Chris. She fell in love with storytelling in the third grade when her half-page creative writing assignment turned into a five-page story on vampires. Even back then Chris had a gift for writing intricate plots that were so good her father refused to believe she didn’t steal them from comic books.
Years later, Chris spent long afternoons managing her own independent record store and writing romance novels. After closing the record store and going to college, Chris launched a successful career in hi-tech. She married, had kids but amid all the madness, the itch to write never really went away. So she started writing again. Not romance this time – suspense filled with drama, and angst, speckled with a little bit of blood.
Why suspense? Chris blames her obsession with the dark on two things: watching Stephen King movies as a kid and spending ridiculous amounts of time commuting in Seattle traffic. “My stories are based on scenarios I see every day, distorted through the fictional lens. And my stories come with the added bonus of not having to be restrained by socially acceptable behavior.”
Recipient of the 2015 Indie Reader Discovery Award for DEADLY LIES
What’s your favourite part of the lifestyle of an Author?
I absolutely love spending time, staring off into space while I work out story lines. I find this one of the most creative parts of the writing process. Finding clever ways to bring plot lines together, or deepening a character arc in some kind of meaningful way really gives me that jolt of creative inspiration. That’s what keeps me going when I’m knee deep in the edit process and just want to burn the manuscript. Or kill myself. Or both.
What made you start writing?
My teacher made me do it! I fell in love with writing in the third grade with my very first writing assignment. It was the one thing in school that came easily to me. I wrote on and off through my teens and early twenties and then discovered it again in my late thirties, when I was looking for a little part of myself. I’ve been writing ever since.
Is there an Author that you consider your inspiration?
I’ve had a few great mentors along the way. Bestselling author, Erica Bauermeister read my first book early on and gave me the encouragement I needed to keep going. Bestselling thriller author, Kevin O’Brien is always there to answer questions and offer advice when I need it. I’m lucky to be writing in the Northwest. The Seattle writing community is a wonderful place to be, filled with authors who are generous with their time and quick to offer help and support.
What’s your number one tip for an aspiring Author?
Write what you want. Don’t follow trends. Don’t let other people’s criticism significantly change what it is you write. I’m not saying don’t take feedback—getting feedback is a critical part of the process. But if the feedback is seriously at odds with your own instincts, go with your gut. Agents said the heroine in my first book, Deadly Lies, was unlikable and while I can’t fully disagree, readers connected with the story. If I’d not published the book or significantly changed Jill based on their feedback, I wouldn’t have been true to myself or my story. Likewise, a writing instructor criticized the prologue for my second book, In the Dark, citing the point of view as problematic. I wrote three other prologues before going back to the original one. I’ve never regretted that choice. The prologue pulls you in and has a great reveal in the end that catches readers by surprise. Exactly the thing you want to do when you write suspense.
What type of book do you like to read and does this differ from the genre that you prefer to write?
I enjoy good stories with interesting plot twists and great characters. These books come in many forms. Though some are in the same genre as mine, suspense, I also like legal thrillers and mainstream books. I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan. My husband introduced me to these books before the television series and I devoured them. Believe it or not, I also love, Jane Austen. She wrote the kind of books I want to read on a bright summer day while I’m floating down the lazy river on an inner tube.
Which one of your characters would you most like to spend time with?
Seth Crawford, the detective from In the Dark. He’s smart, thoughtful, analytical, and intuitive. And I’m sure he’s got a ton of fascinating cop-related war stories to tell. He was fun to write (and hopefully read).
What’s been the hardest edit that you’ve had to make?
Oh, man. This is a great question. During the second major revision of Deadly Lies, I realized that I needed to change the ending, and in order for the new ending to work, I had to rewrite a major part of the book. So, I ripped things out, put new things in, edited, smoothed out the lines. It took a long time. I mean a long, long time, but the results were worth it. Throwing chapters out wholesale is a tough thing to do, but if your gut says they’re not working, you have to be willing to do what it takes to change things.
If you could live in a book, which one would it be?
I don’t know. If the Buddhists are right about reincarnation, I want to come back as a pampered house cat with nothing better to do all day than find a sunny window to perch in and spend countless hours daydreaming about mice.
We all know the phrase “the book is always better than the film.” Which film would you like to see remade as a book?
The Sixth Sense by M. Night Shyamalan. This movie had such a brilliant reveal, I would love to study it more closely to see how it all comes together in print.
Can you sum up your life story in ten words or less?
Shy Canadian girl finds unexpected success writing suspense.
What’s exciting you about your next project?
I’m editing my next book. The Farm is a sequel to In the Dark. The Holt Foundation has its second case—the disappearance of a pregnant woman. And they’re failing.
What I love about this story is the deepening of the cast of characters introduced in the last book, and the motivation behind the woman’s disappearance is fascinating. I’ve been channeling the late great, Michael Crichton on this one.
And finally, you have one quote to be remembered by, what is it?
Great things take time. As an Indie Author it’s easy to get hyper-focused on the minutiae (like sales). It’s easy to get discouraged, especially early on. While that stuff is important, I think it’s more productive to think of the journey as a series of stepping stones—each one opens new doors. So set goals, yes. But don’t cling so tightly to your goals that not fully achieving them demotivates you. DON’T QUIT. Great things take time. I’ve grown a ton on this journey—both professionally and personally. And there is still a long way to go.
For those interested in finding out more about Chris Patchell, you can find her around the web: