Charlotte Cross’s intense and peculiar novel ‘Strange Days: Vol 1’ has been daily feature with Needle in The Hay over the past week. Charlotte generates suspense in such a way that will leave any reader curious as the characters collide with one another in the lonely American countryside. As you begin your journey through the world of Strange Days, be prepared to be intrigued, startled and satisfied. Continue reading for Charlotte’s thoughts on everything to do with writing.
Interview By Daniel Norrish
At what point in the writing process did you decide that you wanted ‘Strange Days: Vol 1’ to break away from traditional structure?
I’ve had the idea for strange days for a while but it was from talking with Martin and some of the other staff at NiTH that that we decided to do a collaborative set of novellas with a few different authors set around ‘Strangeness’. Martin set me the goal of writing chapters that didn’t exceed 1000 words (which is mostly the case with Strange Days) and then when it came time to publish we decided to do a 1 chapter a day structure to promote the story in a way that seems to go well with the general vibe at Needle In The Hay. I had the idea to present with some nice chapter headings, which really makes it stand out. It is also something you might be less likely to do in an eBook, as publications with images cost more to host, and therefore to sell.
Why have you set this piece in America?
Having spent a lot of time traveling through the US I always wanted to write about being on the road and the different areas that I’ve traveled through. I didn’t want to do just another ‘On The Road’ style story. I wanted there to be some mythology and I guess weirdness and fantasy elements to it but I wanted to keep them in the background for the most Park. I really wanted them to feel like they were part of the everyday experience for some of the characters and for the others kept in the periphery and only really revealing themselves at key moments.
The United States is a really beautiful place and has some of the most amazing natural environments that you can see and really great roads so it’s easy to fall in love.
Where do you find inspiration to generate your characters?
I try to think of people I know, but I kind of get idealized versions of them, so the characters might be not just better, but also kind of worse in their faults or more poetic in their behavior. A lot of the characters in Strange Days are based on people that I’ve met, people that I know but heightened in their behavior I guess. I want my characters to be like friends, but also to have an edge to them that you don’t quite get in real life
Is there a particular author or book that has influenced you and has this had an impact on ‘Strange Days: Vol 1’ in particular?
I couldn’t pinpoint one in particular but definitely On The Road had a big impact. I really think that American Gods by Neil Gaiman probably had an impact as well; even though it’s not necessarily my favorite book, the ideas in that novel really interested me. Also the writing of Cormac McCarthy (which I think probably is something most writers would say these days) is something that played a big influence on how I write and edit… Thinking about the structure of paragraphs and sentences as well.
Music is also a big influence. Strange Days has kind of classic rock n roll feel to it, some of the chapter names even come from song names.
What did you find most challenging about writing ‘Strange Days: Vol 1’?
The hardest thing for me was keeping the chapters brief and focusing on the essence of the story. I tend to go along in my writing which is how I actually got into Needle In The Hay, submitting stories for a couple of awards that went way over the word count. The editing I got from NiTH helped me keep the chapters trim and exciting… I hope!
How would you like the reader to react to the strangeness of ‘Strange Days: Vol 1’?
Mostly I want the reader to enjoy the story and want to keep reading. There are some themes about following your own path in life etc, But I don’t want to be too heavy handed or preachy about them. The ‘strangeness’ is like a leak in the story, slowly seeping through as it goes along getting weirder and weirder… I want to suck the reader in without revealing too much too quickly.
What’s writing like for you at the moment, where are you at, where do you want to be?
I write something every day. I don’t set too many limits just enjoy the process, and be creative. When something catches, or when I’m offered an opportunity like with Strange Days, I focus on it until it’s done, but I think the most important thing is to stay creative.
What’s life like as a writer where you live?
Right now I’m in New Zealand doing a bit of travelling. For me, writing is the same almost everywhere. It’s something people feel compelled to do and I’m one of those people. I don’t know if I’ll ever make a fortune writing fiction, but it makes me happy so that if I could find a way to do it for the rest of my life, I would!