Chris Rosser is an indie author based in Melbourne, Australia. Originally from Wales, he moved to Australia as a child, where he was educated and has mostly lived, albeit with several years’ worth of travel. Today, he’s married with three kids and toils away his days as a technical writer for a multinational financial services company. And did I mention he’s a great friend, confidant and co-conspirator I originally met on Twitter?
Hart: Tell us a bit about yourself, Chris.
Chris: I’ve been writing stories as long as I can remember. Yet, for much of my youth, I chased the dream of being an archaeologist. Eventually, I realised that what attracted me to archaeology and history was a love of story and narrative…so I righted the ship, painfully but for the better.
In addition to my books, I run a modestly successful blog over at chrisrosser.net, where I write articles, app reviews and the occasional tutorial – basically whatever takes my fancy.
You can also find me on Twitter, where I spend half my time with the #WritingCommunity and the other half trolling Australia’s rotten politicians. I have a lot of fun doing both!
H: What genre or genres do you write in? What attracted you to that genre? Do you read more books in that genre, or do you indulge in genres outside your speciality?
C: I write fantasy—it’s my first and most enduring love as a writer. While I lean towards gritty realism and dark themes, I don’t know if I’d label my work as Grimdark. I’m not shy of swearing or including sex scenes where necessary, so I don’t think I qualify as YA either! I’m something of a romantic and have long been enthralled by tales of high adventure and magic, things which are exceedingly scarce in our own world—but I’m not afraid to make my characters’ lives bloody awful.
As a reader, my tastes are generally broad, and I read much less fantasy than I used to. I’m also just as likely to listen to audiobooks as sit down and read one made of paper. I love contemporary thrillers, historical fiction, sci-fi and British murder mysteries.
I’ve dabbled in writing other genres. A year ago, I wrapped up the first draft of a modern techno-thriller set in Chicago. I’m also sitting on a historical adventure novel set in 17th Century Italy. Both are gathering dust, and I haven’t decided what to do with them.
H: Do you schedule time for your writing? or do you just grab the odd minute or hour?
C: Being a dad of special needs kids, and working full time, makes it really hard to schedule time. Last year, I tried Sunday afternoons, but life kept throwing obstacles in my path. So, I mostly snatch the time when I can, and usually, that means on the commute into work (if I can get a seat on the train) or into the night after my kids have gone to sleep.
H: What research do you find absolutely necessary to keeping your story authentic?
C: I studied archaeology and history as an undergraduate, which helps a lot when you are writing historical analogues as I do in my fantasy setting. I learnt that much of our assumptions about historical societies—particularly the middle ages—are wrong and based mostly on stereotypes portrayed in film and television. I spent a lot of time reading and analysing primary sources by classical and medieval writers, and it did wonders to build up a picture in my mind of how societies really worked and how people thought.
Unfortunately, these days my time is too limited to spend hours lovingly researching and world-building, so I tend to rely on accumulated knowledge, or I make things up on the fly. It hasn’t hurt my setting, but I admit if I were writing historical fiction, I’d have to dust off those sources again. Then again, that’s one of the reasons why I love writing fantasy—I don’t have to be a slave to facts.
Still, research is essential because if you don’t know what you are talking about, a reader will see through it immediately. So when I do research, it’s usually on subjects of which I have little personal experiences, like sailing or horse riding.
H: How do you see the role of women in fiction these days? How do you promote women in your work?
C: Fantasy has long had a problem with women. For a long time, women were either written as tired clichés—spoilt princesses, warrior maidens, whores—or they were omitted and marginalised, like in Lord of the Rings. Books were always about men on quests, or boys becoming great heroes—a place for young men and boys to live out their fantasies by proxy.
I hope it’s changing. I see strong women abound in novels and their TV adaptations. But part of me feels there’s still an element of objectification to women in fantasy.
George R.R. Martin did wonders to break taboos in the genre, but since HBO got their hands on the series, sex, violence, and sexual violence in particular in the genre have exploded.
I’m by no means a prude, and I certainly explore sexuality in my books, but for many authors and screenwriters rape has become a staple of female character development, and quite frankly I find it abhorrent.
Fortunately, I spent a lot of my formative years reading books by women, and about women—stories like The Mists of Avalon and The Clan of the Cave Bear. They’ve really stuck with me over the years for their portrayal of the world through a woman’s eyes.
As for me, my stories reflect my real life experiences. I’ve been surrounded by amazing, talented and wonderful women for most of my life. When I originally wrote Weaver of Dreams back in 2004, it was meant as a present for my younger sister, so I chose to make my protagonist a young woman. Not only did it challenge me as a young writer, but it tested my assumptions about the genre. It taught me I could write epic fantasy, with all the action and magic that lovers of the genre expect, but I could do so with a vulnerable young woman at the helm who doesn’t have to morph into a Xena/Red Sonja clone to be a strong character.
Ever since, I’ve tried to make my female characters every bit as rounded and exciting as the males — perhaps more so, because I have to work a little harder.
H: Do you have a current release you’d like to promote?
C: I’m juggling a lot at the moment. As you read this, I’m very close to publishing my second book, Cadoc’s Contract, and launching a new podcast.
Cadoc’s Contract is actually set before my first book, The Weaver’s Boy—blame the muse. It tells the story of how Cadoc became the Lord of Skeinhold. He’s a veteran limping home from a bloody crusade and is struggling to adjust—not least because he’s got a dark secret and owes a blood debt to the gods. I’m really proud of how the story’s turned out, and I think it will make a great prelude to the series.