On March 21, 2017, Chris stopped by author A.F. Stewart’s blog to chat about his books, writing crime fiction, as well as his upcoming projects. You can read his 9 Question interview here! We have also included it below in case his entry on the site is ever removed.
I’ll be 36 in June. As a kid growing up in Ocean Springs, Ms., I knew many freedoms. Some of them illegal.
I learned tools at a young age, repairing anything with wheels or an engine, and became a mechanic working at my uncle’s junkyards. At 17, I had to leave home and get my own place. I found a better job at a transmission shop. At 18, I attempted 12th grade for a second time, once more failing to earn my diploma. Not long after, in January, 2000, I was arrested.
Spent half my life in prison for a murder conviction. The appeal courts didn’t care that it was a fistfight between a couple of teenagers. Nor did they care about the ineffective assistance of my public defender. I considered escaping, but wasn’t committed to that idea until hurricane Katrina destroyed several homes in my family. My mom was living in a garage. Plans to leave, find work and help out were, on reflection, decisions of youth. I didn’t realize that until after I was caught. The second time.
I’ve been on High Risk in the Mississippi Department of Corrections since 2005. Housed with Death Row – first in Unit 32 Supermax, now in Unit 29 maximum security – I’ve adapted to extreme inhumane conditions. Segregation in Parchman is desolate and deadly, a criminal finishing school for most, and a mind-eroding dungeon for all.
I maintain good mental health with punishing physical exercise. Over the years the discipline has allowed me to develop creativity, in art and fiction writing. I’ve been an advocate for prisoner rights, a GED tutor, and a mentor. Writing a series of short stories in 2007 changed my life, renewed the hope lost with the appeals and failed escapes. New Pulp Press signed me for two crime thriller trilogies. Book I of Shocking Circumstances was released in January, 2017.
Learning to write polished blog posts is my present focus. I’m used to hard boiled noir, and unused to writing about myself.
Overcoming the difficulties of self-marketing from Parchman, as an author convicted of murder, would be impossible without the help of my team of volunteer supporters. Over the last several months they have been working behind the scenes creating a website dedicated to raising awareness to the unjust circumstances of my murder conviction, with the ultimate goal of obtaining legal representation for another appeal. The site will also serve as the central hub for my writings and latest news, and can be found at
www.unjustelement.com. Most of the marketing for my novels will be done through their various social media platforms. I’ll be available to write guest posts or do interviews with the Unjust group handling contacts.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?
Book I of Shocking Circumstances introduces Clarice “Shocker” Ares, a boxing legend that chooses to retire and develop her family and businesses.
An incident involving drugs, a major Mexican cartel and corrupt police officers results in her imprisonment. Losing her family, home and businesses was only the beginning of a 40 year sentence. The easy part.
She decides being a convict wasn’t for her, and becomes the Shocker once more, earning money in a prison fight ring to finance her escape.
How long have you been writing, and how many books have you published to date?
In 2007, I wrote a dozen crime thriller shorts about two physically gifted scam artists, Razor and Blondie, that eventually became a collection titled, By Hook or Crook. A friend and I self published it on Amazon in 2012. Two trilogies followed. I’ve written several other shorts, mostly crime fiction, though a couple were dark fiction. Marsh Madness was published by Near to the Knuckle in January, 2017.
Of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favourite?
Book III of Shocking Circumstances. It opens with a scene based on my second escape in 2006. That part of the trilogy comes to mind whenever I think of sharing excerpts.
Do you have a favourite character? If so, why?
Shocker’s coach, Eddy. He is the kind of person that walks into a room—or gym—and people instinctively look to for direction. He’s an obstacles-are-challenges guy, able to make you feel like a ten foot tall champion of the world. His manner and profession (boxing trainer) are based on my old coach, Fred.
Fred taught boxing lessons that he also applied as life lessons, expanding the limits placed on myself as a kid dreaming no further than the mechanic shop. He literally taught me the definition of ambition, and that I had enough to share. And I often do, talking to younger convicts about their goals and using many of his motivational phrases as he did with me.
Why did you decide to write in the crime fiction genre?
I didn’t decide on any particular genre. Never considered there were other choices, actually. I just knew I wanted to create a guy and his girlfriend that showed readers how to commit crimes—with smart, original style–and get away with them. I had plenty of material for those.
My personal experiences combined with crimes I’ve learned from others amount to a long list of reference material. After making an actual list I realized I could create an endless number of ways for my characters to do them without being caught. They were fun to write. Crook was written before I began studying fiction writing. Just picked up a pen and scribbled until my hand felt in danger of injury.
Creating the criminal acts. Writing out how to do a crime, as opposed to just thinking or talking about it, really lights up the innovative part of me. Thoughts aren’t fully realized unless they are written out. Imagination suffers. And what is life without imagination?
Designing lives filled with crime is a creative outlet I enjoy even more than drawing or tattooing.
What did you hope to accomplish by publishing your book?
Freedom. Doing life in Parchman gives a guy a little free time. And there are only so many things to do in lockdown. Writing is one of them, and we can do that all we want. One day while brainstorming with friends, we talked about writing books, getting published, and using the royalties to get back in court.
That was little more than a fantasy back then. Signing six books with New Pulp Press has brought it closer to reality.
What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
Now that I’m published? Marketing. Becoming mainstream would be like getting struck by lightning. Inside my cell. Cop shows and tough on crime ideals are an everyday bombardment. People will refuse to read my work after seeing my address in the bio. I want to do interviews like this so readers have a chance to learn something about me before judging the value of my novels.
What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?
I just received word from New Pulp Press, asking if they can release Book I of the Sharp as a Razor trilogy while Shocking Circumstances finds its niche.
I said, Absolutely! I’m excited about crime fiction fans getting to know Shocker and Razor. They are very different characters. It’s going to be fun learning what readers think.
Her Name is Mercie is a novella I’m working on. New character, new mayhem. Since finishing Razor, I’ve learned a few things from publishers that fit nicely in my writer’s tool box. Some minor style changes that I played with in a few short stories before drafting Mercie.
Those are current and upcoming works. Sorry, I don’t tell secrets.
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