Today we have thriller author, Chris Rakunas in the hot seat to celebrate the launch of his new book, The 8th Doll. Welcome :)
I currently live in Clinton, Oklahoma, with my wife, Darcey. When we’re not travelling or painting our new house, I enjoy scuba diving. I’m a native of Los Angeles, California, and have been lucky enough to spend some time on 5 continents. I love hearing from fans and am always available to chat through my FB site www.facebook.com/chrisrakunas
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
I actually spend a long time planning my books to make sure that they’re going to end up the way I want them to. After a 10,000 or so word outline, I get to writing. Whenever I’ve tried to just let things flow, I find that I either get stuck in the middle or I have a hard time getting to the final point I want the characters to end up.
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
Yes. In fact, sometimes I have to make sure that the characters don’t become so defined that I’m unable to get them to do whatever is next in the plot. I do enjoy when characters have a defined feel to them, as though you can guess what they’d do in a given situation. It just makes them seem more real which, in turn, makes the book more enjoyable.
What is your favourite food?
I have to choose just one? I enjoy food from all over the world, including Vietnamese pho, Carolina pulled pork, and sushi. But today is pretty hot, so I’m craving a traditional Lithuanian soup called saltbarsciai. It’s made with buttermilk and beets and looks fluorescent pink. You can’t beat it on a hot day.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Both. Who said the party has to stop?
Where do you dream of travelling to and why?
I have been very lucky in my life to have travelled extensively around the globe. I really enjoyed Mongolia, Lithuania, and Turkey and would love to go back there sometime. The 8th Doll was actually something I thought about while I was in the Yucatan in Mexico, so I value travel as a useful tool in writing. I really wanted to go to Morocco, but with all the unrest throughout the Middle East, I’m not so sure it’s good for an American to be wandering around there right now.
Do distant places feature in your books?
Do you listen to music while writing?
Whenever possible! There are a few albums, like The Highwaymen and The Killer’s Day and Age that I can turn on and just drift away. Music has an amazing ability to touch people differently from other media.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?
The 8th Doll is a fast paced thriller that is set in the Yucatan. It follows the investigation of a murdered geologist who was killed on the site of some ancient Mayan ruins. No one is sure if there is a tie to the 2012 apocalyptic prophecy or something more sinister. All of the architecture, culture, and geology in the book is factual, as are all of the locations I mention down to the restaurants and bars in Mexico.
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
Some people are going to love what you write and some people are going to hate it. There are millions of Harry Potter fans out there, but some people just don’t like that type of story. The same is going to happen with anything you write, and you can’t take it too personally. Now, when a publisher tells you they don’t like something, you have to listen. They’re not saying they dislike the story; they’re telling you they don’t think it will sell. There’s a big difference between the two.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I probably would have relaxed a little bit more. With self-publishing, just having a book published has lost a little bit of its oomph. Anyone can be an author now. It’s really about selling books and building an audience that sets apart Stephen King from Joe down the street.
Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?
The more I write, the more I realize that what I am trying to achieve are two things: first is to tell a good story, and second is to tell the story well. I really have started paying attention to other story tellers, whether they’re movies, songs, or even just someone in a bar who captivates an audience. I try to pick apart what it is about the story and about how they’re telling it and incorporate those elements into my writing.
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
Just keep writing and keep querying. I meet lots of people who say they want to be an author, and I tell them there’s nothing holding them back. All they have to do is write.
What are three words that describe you?
Loyal. Fun. Alligator. (I couldn’t really think of a third so I just said whatever came to mind)
What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
Hands down Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is the best book in the history of best books! I have a love for Hemingway and Fitzgerald, too, and a lot of respect for Jenn Lancaster. Yes, I just said Jenn Lancaster in the same sentence as Fitzgerald. I think she would have torn it up in Paris in the 1920’s. In the same way that Hemingway has a massive impact with tight sentences, I think Lancaster has an impact on readers with an easy, conversational tone. My wife kept telling me that “Bitter is the New Black” was a great book, and after I finally broke down and read it, I could see what she was talking about.
Blurb of your latest release or coming soon book
The 8th Doll
When the body of geologist Charlie Landry is found beheaded beside the cenote at Dzibilchaltun, Skips Kane does the last thing he wants to do — he calls his old friend Professor Alex Guidry to help solve the murder. It’s not that Skips and Alex have had a falling out, but rather that their last adventure together resulted in the death of Alex’s wife. The team begins to look for anything that might help explain the geologist’s murder, but their only clue turns out to be a small doll with the number “8” written in Charlie’s own blood on the front. Is it a reference to the famed Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltun, or does it have to do with the sighting of Ah Pukuh, the Mayan god of death, and the Mayan 2012 apocalyptic prophecy? The mystery of the 8th doll will take Kane and Guidry down the winding paths of the Yucatan where they will discover the answer to the age old question: what will happen when the Mayan calendar ends?
List of previous books if any
My first book, Tears for the Mountain, is about a 2010 medical mission trip to Haiti following the earthquake there. A portion of the proceeds benefits New Life Children’s Home, the orphanage in Port-au-Prince where we worked.
Thank you, Chris and good luck with all your endeavours :)