Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chris Johns, Author of Four

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Today we are interviewing Chris Johns, as part of the blog tour for his novel, Four.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in a diverse and interesting neighborhood.  I love to travel and to experience different places and cultures.   Have traveled a fair amount in Europe as well as the U.S. and a few other spots like South America and Nepal.  I guess for me, life is about exploring and learning. 

Describe the plot of your new book, Four, in a few sentences.

Tom Bianco, a biologist and environmental advocate, is distraught at the damage to the natural world from over-population, pollution and climate change, and becomes convinced that politics and modern commercial industry will only accelerate the damage and kill off the non-human world and eventually kill off humans.  From his neighbor and best friend, Josh Maladif, who is a research oncologist, he learns of a deadly disease caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields through phones and computers.  Tom enlists the help of Rusty and Wycliffe to devise a plan to spread the disease and nearly wipe out humans to save the planet.  But in the end, can Tom go through with it?  Can each of them go through with it?

Who do you think would most appreciate Four?

Good question.  I’m interested to see.  My guess would be those who are drawn to literature that pulls from, and engages characters in, contemporary social and moral issues, and an end-of-the-world suspense.  But I hope people are drawn to the individual characters and plot, too. 

What inspired you to write a book about a group going to extreme levels to address human population growth?

The original idea was simply:  what would happen if someone turned computers and technology on people.  It started more as computers being the “bad guy.”  But as the idea stewed for a while, and I researched about diseases that computer EMF could cause and about environmental crises, a character (Tom) evolved who wanted to use the destructive power of technology to do good, and, with him, the group of people who he could call on to help him.  So the “bad guy” became the “gun” the good guy uses to kill the bad guy.

Tell us a bit about protagonist, Tom Bianco.

Tom’s a good person, a nice guy.  He cares about his friends, especially Josh, his best friend and neighbor.  He cares about people and the world.  But Tom has become overwhelmed by what he sees happening to the world and decides to act to save it, with much soul searching and conflicting emotions and morals.  So many times in novels and movies the person who destroys the world is simple and just does it to be evil, or it’s an alien with no concern for the Earth. Tom is different.  He acts out of goodness and a desire to save, yet has to confront that good acts can require painful, even horrifying, consequences.  He struggles with that.

Who was your favorite character to write?

Might sound cliché, but the four main characters were all fun to write in different ways for different reasons.  Perhaps Rusty was more “fun” in the sense of his smart-ass attitude.  It was fun having him toy with Ratling, especially with his little comments about religion. 

What is the theme of Four?

As much as any author really knows his or her own “theme”…  the obligation each person has to the world — people, animals, plants, the land — to consider and respect others and the obligation to act on that morality, even act urgently.  But I love hearing the different themes and angles and perspectives readers have on the story and characters.  It’s great that different people have had different “take aways” from the novel.

How long have you been writing?

Since college, which was some time ago.  But poetry, except for a couple short stories.  This is my first novel.

Are there any authors who have influenced your writing style?

I’ve taken Rilke’s advice and not become a critic, especially as to my own writing.  Not sure if as to the novel I could name a literary stylistic influence; I just wrote it.  In style and use of technique, I’m a fan of El Greco’s approach in the portraits.  In themes, perhaps look to Hugo and Camus.

Can you tell us a bit about your creative process, from initial idea to finished manuscript?

As I mentioned earlier, the story for this novel started in fairly vague terms, then turned after some research into medical questions.  I started with a simple outline of the four main characters.  (I knew from the start there were four main characters.)  Then I started a storyline outline, feeling the story needed to be told in non-linear sequence.  (I imagined a photo collage at a wake, how it tells a story but it’s not linear.)  That morphed into a longer typed outline, which then got pushed and pulled and moved over the course of writing the novel, because of course the story takes different turns than you imagined and at points even tells you that what you thought would happen just isn’t going to happen at all, this other thing is.  That’s a fun and exciting part of writing.  The other day I pulled out the outline, which was covered in handwritten notes and arrows moving, adding and changing characters and actions and events. 

What do you have in mind for your next project? 

A novel set in the Amazon rainforest, with some US executives who go into the jungle.  I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil the story…

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book? 

To be honest, I’m more interested in learning what readers and potential readers think and feel about the book, its themes, characters and storyline.  I’d rather let them tell me what they see in it.  I hope they do.

More Information
Visit Chris Johns' website
Buy Four on Amazon
Follow the rest of the Four blog tour
Follow Chris Johns on Twitter

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for featuring FOUR and for the interview. The questions you ask writers you host are interesting, and felt like it gives us a chance to open up and discuss aspects of not just our book but writing.