Interview With Christopher D Abbott: Songs of the Osirian — A New Genre!
Another prolific writer I’ve known for some time is Christopher D. Abbott, whose UK-set, drawing-room mysteries (“Dies” series) gathered a sizeable reader base almost as soon as they were released. His writing style has always been immediate; pulling the reader right into the scene, deftly manipulating the recognizable and the unexpected to enlighten and delight. When I heard he was focusing upon the beginnings of a new fantasy novel between his guitar gigs, I was sure it would be a great hit and score him many new readers. I was also fortunate enough to be brought into the project to design the covers and collateral graphics.
Richard: We’re glad you could spend a few moments with us, Chris. Your schedule is so jammed, it’s a surprise you even have time left to eat! Today, let’s talk about your inspiration for your new novel, Songs of the Osirian, available now in Kindle eBook format and in print. What led you to combine all these ancient, mystical threads and weave them into a rousing story of discovery and redemption?
Christopher: Hi, Richard. It’s a pleasure to talk with you again. These last few months have flown by, I can’t quite believe we’re in July already! The inspiration for Songs of the Osirian came from a few factors. Dr. Keith Chawgo of Media Bitch Literary Agency in the UK asked me to write a short story for (Beast: Genesis – A Dark Ethology) a themed collection he was putting together, and the only scope I was given was it must be animal related. I thought long and hard about it and started to sketch out ideas, but nothing really grabbed me until he sent me the cover of a lion sitting in the foreground of a ruined city. My animal–Beast–was born.
But who was Beast? What was his motivation? Why had he destroyed the world? And how had he done it? The aspect of the picture made him seem larger than a normal Lion, so I began to research pre-historic cats. The South American species Smilodon populator dwarfed the largest lions on Earth, weighing 300kgs (661lbs) on average and reaching up to 500kgs (1102lbs) when fully grown! I considered this as a template but I wanted him larger – and a Lion. It was obvious at this point he had to be alien and once this was certain, I began to create the mysterious all powerful Ardunadine race. A group so far evolved they no longer had physical form, and their means of communication through phonological chorus–song. These beings gave birth to our universe and through mystical songs, sowed the seeds of all life–an element woven into the traditions of the greatest mythologies and cosmologies of our time–and so a concept of gods was born that led into the Ancient Egyptian mythology and directly to the Osirian pantheon, which has fascinated me for as long as I could remember.
Richard: I like the idea of a really big kitty. We both know they are all-knowing and all-powerful, at least when dinnertime approaches…
At the beginning, one of your main characters seems to be caught in a catastrophe. Can you describe your main human character and what she is facing? In your other work, you make the setting as much of a character as the actors. It seems to be even more active a consideration in Songs.
Christopher: When I made this allegorical world, I wanted it to begin on Earth, as we understand it. I felt strongly from the beginning the world of Beast, not of man, should be born from our world, and not just a new one. It had to be a place we knew, and therefore, something to mourn once gone. The shape of this world would then develop through this malevolent entity with seemingly godlike powers, leaving it devastated and partially destroyed with unrecognizable continents filled with strange, hideous creatures unlike anything ever seen. But there would be survivors … so we find Mary Wilson, former archaeologist.
Mary is one of the survivors who unwittingly helps bring about this devastation. Her story starts with a curiosity leading her to make decisions that further her human desires to become famous above any other consideration. And in a way, the entire story follows this notion that man sees himself as supreme, taking advantage of those weakest to further his own desire to become rich, or famous, or to be a king, or president, or any other number of things we see around us every day. Where growing material things and destroying our world in the process is justified as a necessary evil … In the words of Beast:
“Son of man, for thousands of years I’ve watched as you’ve fought your own brothers and sisters for lands upon which you’ve laid specious claim. You have slain one another over primitive paradigms, over Delphic abstruse beliefs and spiritless objects, valueless things … for what is life’s worth when compared to gold, or land, or anything else? You wrap yourself in abstract blankets of values and deceitful well-meaning principle, engorging in cornucopia as your own kin writhe and die in wretched penury, and you do nothing but fatten in response. You are fleshed in falsehoods, men of dishonored mendacity and corruption … you dare preach to me about morality?”
But what if this greed was planted in our genome with a purpose? Mary is one of those characters who sees what has become of her world, and later, as the years roll by, finds herself lost. Those born after the destruction, protected by the Osirian, live in peace with each other. Their needs are met by the land and each other, they adapt technology to benefit everyone, and each of the protected countries trade commodities for commodities. In essence, man has found peace and prosperity, with none of the things left from the old world. And these new people do not understand the desires of people like Mary Wilson, who despite the inequality and injustice of her time, would give anything to set things back as they were.
You’re right about my settings being characters, too. I write to bring life into them or make them seem larger than life, but this book became something different. I found myself lost in the imagery of the world I’d created, and I really enjoyed the depth to which my imagination would allow me to see it–allow it to take shape. Take this scene for example:
With only a few hours of what passed for daylight in the heart of the blackest lands, they rested. The dark chased away light, bringing with it heavy, unnatural noise. At length they set out on horseback over the eastward arm of a hardened slag covering a once fertile terrain. They were always more comfortable at night, their hearts lighter for the dark enveloping them. For many miles the white-blue eye of the moon seemed to gaze upon them as they continued onwards. The craft of men from previous times could be seen embedded in mounds of metallic-like rock, jutting out from murky pools of water. Here and there, they observed grotesque twisted crumbling masonry in nondescript stonework, along with vast heaps of barely distinguishable misshapen metal carcasses, unnatural and artificial by design. The immense towers of scrap could only have been gathered and erected by Faulgoth. Possible shrines to their devastation of the land, the king mused as they passed by.
And a little further on …
For many miles they rode. Horses steaming, their bits covered with foam. They traversed roads cloven through felled cities, deeper and deeper into territory that was unknown and undiscovered, except to the Faulgoth who henceforth strode. In the deepest part of Blackenridge, two-hundred miles east of the port, the land was plagued with lurking unnatural things. They were aware of hideous monstrous animals, tortured and disfigured, mutilated by foulness and filth choking the land, hateful viscous ooze they named Shadow-Venom or Faulgoth-Blood. It followed alongside terrors unseen emerging from pits under the earth. Its slow, progressing touch tainted everything as it leached and crept through ruptures in the membrane of the earth. They avoided contact with it, which often meant long detours.
Richard: Truly nasty and onerous. I’ll bet it smells to high heaven. Not a country for old… or any men, or women.
Are there any well-established fantasy authors who have inspired you? I know I can probably trace all my own work back to Papa Tolkien or Robert Heinlein.
Christopher: As far as inspiration goes, there’s obviously a huge Tolkien influence here, especially around the creation of my universe. H G Wells’ War of the Worlds has been another huge influence on me throughout my life, ever since I heard the Jeff Wayne musical adaptation my uncle, Barry Richardson, played on an old record player in the early eighties. You cannot imagine the effect this had on a boy of 7 or 8.
Other fantasy / sci-fi authors I’ve been influenced by: Paul S Kemp, Troy Denning, Kevin J Anderson, Mary Stewart, Peter David, Stephen King, Terry Brooks, Terry Pratchett, R. A. Salvatore… the list is endless.
Richard: It sure is a sizeable list! But together, it reveals a broad base of unique circumstances that force normal humans to find ingenious ways of coping and succeeding. Our species has taken many wrong turns over the ages, but we’re here because they could always find ways to think out of the box. I hope we can keep that ability alive.
Another topic we spoke about during the conceptual phase of the book cover design was your connection to well-known actress Chase Masterson of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fame. She’s written an outstanding foreword for Songs which should help bring your book to the readers who would most appreciate it. How did you meet?
Christopher: Chase and I met at TerrifiCon in 2015. Let me tell you. I have been a Star Trek fan all my life, but I’d never really met any of the cast or crew and so here I was with a friend, Carol Ann, going to a convention with no knowledge of what to expect, and we turn the corner and I see Chase. I froze. My friend was concerned, but she soon recognized what was happening.
I mean, look, I was 41 and suddenly confronted by a cast member from a series I have been repeatedly watching for the best part of 30 years –and there she is– sitting behind a desk like a normal person! So, I had to go and see her. I did not know the protocol. What do you say? “Hi, erm, Leeta? … no wait, Chase? Erm … Ms Masterson? … Oh, get a grip … gee umm, can I have your autograph, please …” It was ridiculous. Me, the man with an iron jaw, who, if they entered talking in the Olympics, would win gold, couldn’t string a sentence together. I regressed back to a child. And you know what, as soon as she spoke, I was instantly aware that she wasn’t just a “character”, she was intelligent and empathic, and of course, she recognized in like so many before and after, that I was a little star-struck. But I took my picture home–and this is hilarious because just minutes before I was saying with disdain, ‘I really don’t understand this need to buy a signed picture of someone who was in a TV show’–and found her on Twitter, sent her a message and she responded.
Later I went to Long Island Who (A Doctor Who convention) and met Chase there again, and she recognised me. I was in a VIP event for actor Paul McGann’s birthday, and Chase and I ended up talking about her charity the Pop Culture Hero Coalition, and that’s when we really started to talk normally, and by that I mean, I was no longer the star-struck gibbering teenager–I admit to being a little star-struck in her presence, even now. I helped in a small way with some charity stuff. When I approached Chase with the concepts of the book, and asked if she would be willing to write a foreword for me, she was on-board from day one.
Let me tell you something about Chase, something that perhaps a lot of people who know her from her acting career may not realize. This woman never stops working. In the past six months, she has been all over Europe for conventions, and other acting work, flown back to America and gone straight into the circuit here and still finds time to catch up with me by email, or by conference call. We are currently working on a concept for joint venture between us for her charity that … no … I can’t give you any details as we are just hashing out ideas, but I can tell you, that it is an exciting idea.
Richard: Your upcoming project with Ms. Masterson is exciting news! I hope you’ll share when the time is right for it to be revealed. I suppose we’ll have to add the late, Gene Roddenberry to that list of influential writers. Now, without giving away any twists or climaxes, is there one resounding theme or lesson that Songs expresses best? How does it connect with our currently unstable world?
Christopher: Actually … I’ll let Chase answer that, from her foreword…
“The story deals with real world problems such as greed, hate, and domination of the weak –- but the message it delivers is of triumph through empathy, cooperation, and understanding. The story builds on the mythological concepts of Osirian Gods, and Chris deftly weaves a Science-Fiction element into their Pantheon. He gives vision to the idea that these beings have extraordinary abilities and are so far evolved; they are considered Gods by this understanding. Layered beneath a human tale of good vs evil are complex nuances of gray that delve into the desires and emotional conflicts each person faces on their respective quests; the story presents a dilemma, prompting deep introspection for characters and readers alike.”
Richard: Are there any ways that Songs connects with your earlier work? How does your well-established writing voice make room for such a genre sea-change?
Christopher: I think my earlier work helped me hone and develop my writing skill, but I have to be honest and say this book and its voice, are very different from anything else I’ve written. It really doesn’t connect–well, maybe in one way. My editor, Patti, laughed when she started working with me on the project. Her first question was, “What is this fixation of yours with Marys?” It seems I have a Mary in every book.
The primary connections establishing me as a brand are yourself and Patti Geesey–and that’s an important last point. Visually, my brand is born from the covers you generate that draw interest in my work–and this cover is inspirational. It might surprise you to learn that over 40k people have seen this latest cover and 700 people have liked it. Once the door is open, or the cover turned back, Patti takes over and through her my voice is heard.
Here’s an excerpt inspired by your cover design.
The great host parted leaving deep path into their ranks. The priest’s light fought to break the darkness, but failed, so it wasn’t possible for Pharaoh to see the fullness of his enemy or gauge their numbers. But the path revealed something of the depth of the legions of darkness and far worse; for at its heart amongst the fiery winged behemoths, a pair of luminous green eyes shone out of the gloom. As they moved closer, a colossal lion padded softly into view. When it reached the forward column the path closed and it roared. The sound so terrible all that heard it trembled.
Richard: Wow. That’s almost exactly what I envisioned during the early stages. Amazing telepathic connection… somehow…
Thank you, Christopher, for taking the time to share your insights and stories with us today. I’m so glad that my work on the project has helped to create something your readers will recognize, enjoy reading, and learn from, too. Of course, I’m sure that those who’ve read this interview will have comments and additional questions. Readers, please leave them below and Christopher will answer them, between gigs, restringings and the occasional Strat neck adjustments. flat pick searches… oh, and keyboard time: the necessary evil all writers must enslave themselves to.
You can purchase Songs of the Osirian at Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HX3V4O2
or Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01HX3V4O2
The Author’s Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Christopher-D-Abbott/e/B001JPAG2W lists his other work as well
Visit the author’s website for the latest news and posts: http://www.cdanabbott.com/
Connect with him on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cdanabott
and on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cdanabbott
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