Author’s Spotlight: Chris B. Ripley Interview

Chris B. Ripley, author of Extinction Horizon and Extinction Horizon: Apocalypse Rising

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

I’m Chris from the UK. I live in North Yorkshire, within driving distance of some of the most beautiful countryside England has to offer. Some of the best fish and chips too!

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

I’ve recently published Extinction Horizon: Apocalypse Rising. It’s the sequel to my first book, Extinction Horizon, and continues the story of Mike Cordero, a soldier trying to survive in a near-future world where unregulated corporations have torn open a doorway to the Cretaceous. Obviously, carnage ensues.

I’m a huge fan of creature feature horror films such as Jaws (Spielberg, 1975) , Jurassic Park (ibid, 1933), and the Alien franchise (Various, 1979 to present), and I write what I love. My stories are full of weird and wonderful monsters, and the hapless humans they prey upon.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Mike Cordero was a bit of a bland everyman in Extinction Horizon. He was the by-the-book commander who learned the hard way that, sometimes, the book needs throwing out the window. His collected competence made him less interesting to write than some of the other larger personalities in that book. But he provided a valuable window into the book’s world.

I modelled him on Schwarzenegger’s Dutch from Predator (McTiernan, 1987) ; in that film, the rest of the cast have fun quirks that make them stand out. Arnie’s just being Arnie – which is great, but not really a character trait.

By the time of Apocalypse Rising, Cordero is riddled with survivor guilt and teetering on the edge of alcoholism. Worse still, his employers have him murdering civilian anti-corporate activists that get too popular. It’s work that leaves a bad taste in his mouth. Circumstances provide an escape route, but one that brings him face-to-face with the dinosaurs again.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

There’s a scene in Apocalypse Rising where Cordero’s ship is under attack from an angry Mosasaurus. At the same time, he’s learning a few home truths about the people he’s working with. It took me a few attempts to balance the action with the dialogue – I like to keep my action scenes moving at pace, and this interaction kept slowing things down – but I really didn’t want to move the revelations to elsewhere in the book. Eventually I think I managed it pretty well, and it turned out to be one of my favourite scenes to write once I’d found my groove.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

Extinction Horizon was published by Severed Press, an indie publisher who specialise in short books about sea monsters, dinosaurs, Kaiju, zombies etc. I wrote Extinction Horizon specifically to fit their brief.

Apocalypse Rising was written both to continue the story and try my hand at a sea monster tale. Severed had first option but didn’t pick the book up, which worked out well for me as I’d been looking at trying my hand at self-publishing. Apocalypse Rising is my first experiment in self-publishing!

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

I’ve written little bits and pieces all my life, but it wasn’t until the Covid lockdowns that I decided to take it more seriously. I sat down and wrote a novel. It was terrible, so I wrote another. And another, until I had a book that I was willing to share with the world.

Those early novels taught me a couple of important lessons. The first is that writing a book is a slow process. You have to sit down to write every day for weeks at a time and will need a way to maintain that without losing interest. For me, it was by thoroughly plotting each book beforehand. I’m a planner, so sitting down at that keyboard knowing exactly what I needed to achieve in that session was a real motivator.

The second lesson I learned is that your first draft is going to be garbage. Throughout my life I’ve given up on so many books because I wasn’t able to perfectly articulate them the first time. It took me a while to learnt that nobody sees your work until you choose to share it.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Currently I only have two books and a short story out. The two books are both in the Extinction Horizon setting and I feel there are more stories to tell in that universe.

My other love is military science fiction – I’m a bastard child of Verhoeven and Heinlein! – and am working on a series in that genre. Ultimately, I would like to have a few ongoing series to work on. But that’s a longer term plan!

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

When I was a child, my uncle collected those Reader’s Digest abridged novel collections. I remember spending hours combing through those shelves, looking for a book title that jumped out at me. Seven years old was perhaps a little young to be reading man-eating creature horror stories by authors like Peter Benchley and John Henry Patterson, but my uncle let me read whatever I wanted so I indulged that childhood fascination with monsters.

Getting older, I discovered the Alien and Predator franchises (Various, 1987 to present). Before I ever saw the movies, I was devouring the Steve Perry Alien tie-in novels and Dark Horse Aliens vs. Predator comics.

Then Spielberg’s Jurassic Park came out, and blew my mind!

There’s a primordial horror that I believe we all share of being trapped in the dark with something hungry hunting us. It’s a situation I find endlessly fascinating, an intense pressure that brings out the best and worst in people. Those are the type of stories I never tire of reading, so those are what I write!

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

Oh man, I hate marketing! It’s an entirely new skill that I’m having to learn when I would much rather be working in my writing. It’s also something I am still learning, so apply a huge caveat to my opinions about it!

I’ve found Amazon Ads the most effective way to attract new readers. Other services are hit and miss, in my limited experience. That said, my advertising budget is tiny!

To maintain a link with my readers, I produce a regular blog that I share on my social media. Amy Ryan at ‘Product in Heels’ helped me out a lot by using my site as an example in a great article on product management for authors. I would highly recommend checking it out!

I feel that connecting with other authors is an excellent way to learn about marketing. Twitter’s #writingcommunity has been a fantastic resource.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

Aside from the very common dislike of Mary Sue characters, not really. I consider myself an equal opportunity reader; I will give anything a try! Even the much maligned second person tense is fine with me, I suspect due to all those Steve Jackson Fighting Fantasy books I read as a teenager! N. K. Jemesin’s The Fifth Season is a fantastic example of second person done well.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

Before I published, I always told myself I would ignore any reviews, but when they started to arrive the temptation to read them was too strong!

I wish I could say that I love receiving feedback of any kind, positive or negative. In truth, however, I do have to sit on negative reviews for a few days before they lose their edge and I can think about them critically. Which I think is natural; our books are our little word babies! So, although I don’t love receiving negative reviews, I do eventually find them valuable.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I am definitely a plotter! Each of my books begins with me checking off a ‘Save the Cat’ beat sheet! Of course, things change as the manuscript progresses, but I find having a thorough plot means I can make the most of the writing time I get.

I’ve tried listening to music while writing but find it too distracting. I’m one of those people who really needs to be in their headspace to focus; any external factors throw me off. Most recently, I’ve been listening to white and pink noise through my headphones as I write. It doesn’t distract me and shuts out the rest of the world, allowing me to concentrate on hammering out those words!

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

Terry Pratchett once said: “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” That’s a quote I wish I’d heard when I was much younger!

I’ve wasted so many hours – years, really, when I think about it – trying to make my first drafts perfect. They never were and inevitably I would give up on them. Thankfully, I’ve finally learned about the magic of editing and, as a result, have actually written a few books!

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I’m currently working on another book. This one’s not for sale though. It’s a gift for my partner.

After that, I’ll probably set to writing a military sci-fi series. I’ve been hankering to try the genre for a while. I just need to figure out how to include dinosaurs in it!

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

Extinction Horizon and Extinction Horizon: Apocalypse Rising are available on Amazon and can be read for free through Kindle Unlimited.

You can find me at my blog where I provide updates of my work, review things I’ve read and share short stories.

You can follow me on social media or email me. I appreciate all feedback (eventually!)

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

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