Today we sit down with prolific author and fellow upstate NY native Christian Freed. He is going to tell us about his early ambitions as an aspiring author and share some of his work with us.
Please enjoy this installment of 20 questions.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I started when I was a little kid- drawing goofy comics and the like. I won student of the month in 11th grade for writing a really bad horror novel that I still try to find and burn every time I go home but my mom keeps hidden. My uncle is also a rather notable historian so I guess it runs in my blood.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
Once I get the idea it rattles around in my head for a few months. Usually it begins with a name or place and then the story builds. The actual storytelling takes between three and four months.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
The days all blend together. Mornings are filled with marketing and publicity. I crank up the writing in the afternoon and try to bang out 2-3000 words a day. Not that it always happens, mind you.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I need to be in a zone and if Iron Maiden is playing in the background my fingers fly.
Q5) How are your books published?
I began by wasting over a decade trying to land an agent or soliciting to the Big Six before the self-publishing craze erupted. Once that happened I put up my first two books on my own and was unhappy with the results for about a year before getting two contracts from two small publishers. Most of my novels are now published by one, though I have several shorts and anthologies that remain solely my property.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I have a background in the military- 20 years in the active Army with 5 spent in rather nasty places: Korean DMZ, Afghanistan, and Iraq- and I also have a MA in military history. If we take the time to look around, the stories are already there just waiting to have me put my brand on them.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
A long time ago in a galax…. My first full length novel was back in the late 80s when I was still in high school. Of course back then I had the goal of being published by 18 just like Mary Shelley.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have two Bernese Mountain Dogs who like long walks in the woods. Then there’s the gym with a little bit of quality bourbon and a great cigar to finish the day. Reading is also a fundamental aspect to the day. Writers need to read!
Q9) What is your favorite book?
I am a man of very few favorites, but I absolutely love the world Steven Erickson has created with his Malazan Book of the Fallen. But I do have a hefty collection of original Robert E Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and HP Lovecraft in my library.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
They think it’s cool and wish me luck, but I think my mom would like it better if I was more successful.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I would say that it would be the absolute depths of humanity, for good or evil.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
EDITING…do I need to say it again? EDITING!
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have close to 20 military fantasy novels out. My favorite to write would probably be Where Have All the Elves Gone? It’s a play on the evolving landscape of traditional fantasy. The novel happens in North Carolina, today. Elves and dwarves exist, but they look like us and we have no idea. I had a lot of fun with the concepts, from the giant who makes weapons and digs the Grateful Dead to the dwarf brothers who are bankers.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Follow through your ideas. Some work, some are scrap. I once made it 120 pages into a novel before I realized I didn’t like it and scraped the entire thing.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
Not in the beginning, but since my works are getting spread wider I am getting a lot more. Some of the feedback is good and helpful, the rest just get filed away in the ‘why did I waste my time reading that’ file. I’ve seen a slew of comments declaring how good the books are or how they intend on reading them with their children. It’s all very humbling.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
Surprisingly, not what I thought it was. I am discovering that more of my readers are women in their twenties, not headstrong, gung-ho men like I assumed. That’s kind of cool.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
There has to be an element of realism. I like to kill off a hero or two because, let’s face it, the good guys don’t always live. I remember reading somewhere that every story has already been told and it is how we retell it that matters. There must be the proper balance of dialogue, action, and pacing to keep me interested.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I can honestly say that in my early forties I have accomplished all of my life goals. I always wanted to serve in the military, and did. I wanted to go to war- don’t ask why- and did three times. My books are published. What more can I ask for?
Q19) Where can we find your books?
Everywhere! I am all over Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and listed on Ingram. You can also join me on Facebook and Twitter to learn more. I appreciate each and every one of you.
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
This is from my stand alone novel: The Dragon Hunters. Enjoy and as always, read on, my friends. Read on.
A pale wind kissed the fading winter day. Spring was but a few weeks away and the lands were still being assailed by an unexpected blizzard coming down from the Darkwall Mountains to the north. Massive snow drifts dotted the lightly forested plains. Trees drooped under the weight of gathering ice. Winds howled and screamed in tortured agony from canyon to valley. Even the skies, normally pale blue by this time, were sickened in a mottle of grey and black. Winter refused to let go.
Normally Fitch Iane would be nestled in his favorite chair built by his great grandfather, in front of the fireplace but this winter had been especially harsh on hunting and fishing. A record six storms all but crippled the lands, making it next to impossible for most to gather food or firewood. As he tramped through the woods on the way home, Fitch wished for the thousandth time that he’d been born some sort of royalty. Living in a warm, toasty palace with marble floors and dozens of waiting servants seemed the life. A sudden gust of wind sent ice and snow down the back of his heavy coat, forcing Fitch back to grim reality.
Still, it wasn’t all bad. His knapsack was filled with three cleaned and quartered hares and a handful of plucked grouse. Not too bad considering it was just for him and his wife. The thought of Shar, with her warming smile and long, flowing golden hair stirred his passions. How much he’d give to be lying next to her supple body under the down blankets right now. Fitch shook his head. That sort of thinking would leave a man dead quicker than getting cut wrong. Besides, he still had too far to go to get distracted with thoughts of what came next.
Fitch sighed and continued his trek across the darkening landscape. He couldn’t help but shiver at the unseasonable cold. The snow should be nearly gone by now and the land soggy from the additional moisture. A quick glance around and he figured it would be another six weeks before things got right. Six whole weeks. Fitch wondered how this year’s harvest would turn out. The farmers were all but panicking by now. As it was, this part of Thrae wasn’t known for outstanding crops or heavy farming. Most of the residents of Gend, Fitch’s home since birth, were miners. The kingdom of Thrae won ownership of the jewel mines after a fierce war with the Dwarves of the Bairn Hills nearly a generation ago.
It was left to men like Fitch to provide for their homes and right now all he wanted was to get out of the insufferable cold. He could almost taste the stew and fresh baked dark bread. A pint of heavy ale would do nicely too. Fitch stumbled, snagged on a buried root. A tremendous roar shook the very ground as he dropped. His heart froze as a blast of freezing wind sliced into him. Fitch looked around but couldn’t spot the source of the fury in the gathering darkness.
“What?” he asked himself, hoping his mind could rationalize the moment.
Fitch looked up just then and noticed the entire eastern sky seemed as if it was on fire. He smelled ash and burnt meat. He wanted to believe it was just an illusion played by the setting sun. The first flicker of flames shooting up over the treetops changed his mind. He looked around. Everywhere he looked trees were blackened and dead. Fresh snow was dusty, charcoal splashed. What nightmare could have done such a thing? A tiny whisper in the back of his mind warned that the answers were much closer than he wished.
Then it hit him. A horrible, sickening thought all but crippling him. Fire. Smoke. Distance. Gend! His village was burning. Fitch dropped his sack and started running. The need to get home, to find Shar, overpowered all other thoughts and emotions. A nightmarish roar frightened the world. Fitch covered his ears and ran. Blood began to trickle from his nose.
When he got closer he could hear new sounds, sickening sounds of steel ripping human flesh. Women screaming. Children crying. Fitch suddenly grew very afraid. His body became lethargic. He found it difficult just to move. Shar. Thinking of her kept him going, but he was so afraid. A warm feeling ran down his leg. Sweat turned cold. His body shivered and trembled. He was no great hero, but neither was he a coward. What manner of demon can make me so? Fitch Iane gave in to his fears and collapsed. He used what strength remained to crawl under the boughs of a snow laden fir and cried.
The screaming quickly drowned out his sorrow. Fitch tried covering his ears. Tears streaked his frozen cheeks. Strength abandoned him. Fear dug deeper, gaining strength and crushing him. Jagged pieces of ice fell from the pine needles and cut his face. He didn’t care. His only concern was staying alive. Just to stay alive!
What must have been hundreds of booted feet crunching through the ice covered snow inspired new terror. Fitch reluctantly opened his eyes and had to cover his mouth to keep the gasp from escaping. He barely made out the huge, barrel bodied figures marching by. Watching the shadows move so stealthily through the forest reminded him of the ghost and ghoul stories his mother used to tell him and his three brothers when they were growing up. These apparitions were much more real. Fitch got a good look as they marched closer.
Garbed in black and grey, they had massive barrel shaped bodies and spoke in a gnarled tongue. The sound of their boots crunching made him cringe. Stomp, stomp, stomp. He wanted to break and run but couldn’t. The demons wore armor and had flowing capes of the purest black. Spikes jut up from their helmets. Axe and sword rested in their mailed hands. Some sang songs; cruel and wicked. Fitch saw hundreds of them moving through the forest. He’d never believed in demons before. They seemed so dire, menacing. Then he noticed the tiny rivers of crimson staining their armor. Blood! Demons or no, they were pure killers. Struggling to control his sobs, Fitch watched them as they merrily went about slaughtering every last man, woman and child in his village.
A pair of demons halted nearby, close enough for him to hear part of their conversation.
“…much longer?” snarled the first.
The second spit a wad of bloody phlegm. “Maggots take too long to kill. No honor. They run instead of fight.”
“The king’s army will come soon. We must hurry. Ramulus wants them all dead but we aren’t strong enough to fight an army.”
“One hour,” the second confirmed.
The demons stalked off, going their separate ways and leaving Fitch more frightened than before. He didn’t want to die. The thought replayed in his head over and over. He knew it was shameful to be so selfish but he couldn’t help it. Gradually, the slaughter abated and the demons returned to the shadows. Fitch was alone. The flames of Gend slowly faded. Night crawled back into the world. He nearly summoned the strength to crawl out of his self imposed prison when that horrible roar shattered the calm. A fierce gust of wind shook most of the snow from the branches. Fitch pulled his knees up as an immense presence sailed overhead. Wrapping his arms around his knees, he cried himself to sleep.
About Christian Freed:
Christian W. Freed was born in Buffalo, N.Y. more years ago than he would like to remember. After spending more than 20 years in the active duty US Army he has turned his talents to writing. Hammers in the Wind has been the #1 overall free book on Kindle 3 times in the last year and he is a holds a fancy certificate from the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.. He currently has sixteen military-fantasy novels in print, several more under contract, and has participated in another five anthologies. In his spare time he writes for a variety of magazines. His latest novel is a the beginning of a series of science fiction-fantasy novels where he attempts to tackle the issue of whether we need God in order for our race to continue to exist. Dreams of Winter is available now.
Many of the experiences and battle sequences in his novels come from his three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and a keenly developed understanding of military tactics. He graduated from Campbell University with a degree in history and is pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in Military History from Norwich University. He currently lives outside of Raleigh, N.C. and devotes his time to writing and to his family and their two Bernese Mountain Dogs. If you drive by you might just find him on the porch with a cigar in one hand and a pen in the other. You can find out more about his work by clicking on any one of the social media icons listed below. You can find out more about his work by following him @ https://www.facebook.com/ChristianFreed or @christianwfreed. A complete list of his works can be found here: http://christianfreed.wix.com/christianwarrenfreed