"I always wanted to be a writer. I first finished Rosehaven a few years back. When I hit save on my first draft I thought it was a masterpiece. It was the second book I had written but my first decent one. lol. I sent off a query email and synopsis to a major literary agency. Within hours I got a response back saying they liked what they saw and were interested. Eureka! I sent them my complete manuscript...and got rejected.
"Upon hindsight I had made the mistake of sending them a first draft I had not let anyone read it to give me any feedback and it was pretty raw. I did 3 more drafts but after that all my query letters fell flat. Truth be told I'm not very good at the whole query letter thing. I spent the next few years getting rejections for Rosehaven and I hated putting together a new query packet. So eventually I stopped.
"Rosehaven collected a lot of dust. Well this year I decided to give it another shot. Let's see what was out there. Perhaps the winds had changed. I joined writing groups and tried to figure out the best approach. I was really surprised by how much the writing market had changed. There are many variables and the online market was changing the dynamic of writing. Numbers were changing. I contemplated self publishing for a while. It may work for some but for me I decided against it. Primarily for 2 reasons. The first was that I wanted an editor. I wanted a second reliable pair of eyes looking over my work. The second was that at the end of the day I wanted someone to see value in my work and say...we want to invest in you. But I was finding a bit of frustration in the writing groups. They were mostly filled with posts from people saying "Buy my book" or "someone help me get published." I saw people who were self publishing like crazy. I became a bit discouraged. I started to think what's the point in pursing this anymore. I told myself I'd try a couple of more queries then call it a night for good on the writing dream. So in one of these writing groups I came across a post from this publisher called JEA. I decided...here's one of my last attempts.
"I sent them a query and...I got an immediate response. They liked my work! They were gonna give me a shot!
"I was super excited. Just that quickly my writing fortunes had changed. And they didn't sit on their hands which was great. I didn't have to wait 10 months before I was looking at my book moving forward. We worked on it and before long it was out. since then I've had some great experiences and most amazingly is I've even made a few fans along the way.
"In a book group recently someone was asked their favorite authors. They said Stephen King, and Christopher St. John Sampayo. I didn't ask them to say this...they don't work for JEA, and they are not a family member or co-worker. It totally caught me by surprise. But man it totally made my day. JEA has opened some doors for me and given me a lot of exciting opportunities. I try to be a cup is half full type of person but since starting with JEA it seems as if my cup is overflowing. I wish my fellow authors and everyone on the staff of JEA the best success and look forward to seeing what we all accomplish in the months and years to come."
Next, I asked Christopher to answer a few questions. These were his responses:
- Author: Christopher St. John SampayoBooks/SS: Children of Rosehaven/Ghosts of GlassLinks to author pages and websites and Amazon page: www.cuckoojohnfilmbabel.comWhat genre(s) do you write in and why? I enjoy Horror novels and Urban Fantasy. To me I like to approach horror almost as if the stories are modern day Fairy Tales about magical kingdoms and the evil creatures the live in them.What is Children of Rosehaven about both on the surface and down deep? Children of Rosehaven is about a small town that had a tragedy occur in it and the long shadow that tragedy has cast. For me the book is about being haunted. How sometimes the past follows us. It changes us and gives us a different perspective.What inspired this? The book is actually about an urban legend in San Antonio about a train that hits a school bus that kills the children on it. I wondered what kind of legacy this would leave on a small town generations after the event.Who is the main character? My main character is a teenager named Justin Tolbert who has just moved to the small town of Rosehaven and is learning about its history.What was difficult about penning this? The hardest part was letting all the pieces fall into place to form a coherent narrative. I received some valuable feedback on it from others and that was very helpful.What is difficult for you as a writer? I kind of have to think of a story that I fall in love with. Something that I can’t help but want to type out. So inspirations like that don’t come along as much as I’d like.What is the best part about being a writer? It’s just a good mental exercise. The first time you write something it doesn’t come out just the way you want. But you keep reading it and rewriting it to make it stronger to better articulate your thought. That’s the fun for me.How did you begin your career? I started writing plays for a local theatre in San Antonio called the Renaissance Guild. It taught me a lot of disciplines I needed to learn.What advice do you have for new writers?First is do it for the love. I’ve been involved in film and theatre. Acting and Writing. Do it for the love. The fame the fortune…it may come. It may not. But if you are able to do what you love and others respond favorably to it than that is its own reward. Secondly be open to constructive criticism and remember that others don’t always know the nicest way to give a critique. Some critiques are not meant to hurt your feelings(even though they do at times) and when you step back you can really gain a lot of insight from them.
What writer(s) inspire you and why? I’m a big fan of Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. With my current book Ghosts of Glass that I’m working on with JEA you can really see their influences coming out which quite frankly I love.
What book(s) do you wish you have written? Probably Weaveworld and the Great and Secret Show. Even their titles are awesome to me.
Do you write for yourself or for readers? Well I write for myself mostly. At the end of the day I don’t even really know how much sense I’m making. But when readers respond favorably it’s extremely rewarding.
Do you ever use dreams/nightmares as a basis for writing? A bit. My upcoming book Ghosts of Glass deals very heavily with dreams and trying to understand what is real…the dream or the dreamer.
What is entertaining/scary/ exciting to you? I think what I find scary is that “what the hell was that!” moment in film. Like when Danny Torrance turns the corner and sees those creepy little girls in the hallway. There’s just something about that moment that your brain tells you isn’t right.
What is difficult/frustrating about writing or being a writer? Rejection, rejection, and….oh yeah. Rejection. They say you shouldn’t let it get to you but when your query letter rejections are piling up it is a bid of a downer. But when that one acceptance comes in…it really makes your day.
Have you had a strange fan experience? Not yet. But luckily I haven’t been pulled out of a car wreck and woken up in the guest room of someone’s house yet.
What have you learned from fans/reviews? I’ve learned how amazing fan support can be. Some people really enjoy your work and are supportive and It’s an amazing feeling. You wish you could just reach out and send flowers to all your fans.
How is your writing evolving? It’s becoming a lot more elaborate. I’m playing with more themes and in my next book I’m even experimenting with non-linear story telling.
What work of yours was enjoyable to pen? My next book. Ghosts of Glass. It’s very me.
What 3 words describe your writing? Analytical, thoughtful, hopefully.
Which actors/actresses would you love to see in a movie version of your works? Well…Oscar winners and nominees are always nice.
What is a genre you will never write in and why? I’m not sure I can think of anything that I wouldn’t do if an inspiration hit me.
Do you like to write a series or stand alones? Why? Probably mostly standalones. I kind of like an end of the journey feel to a novel. All good things, as they say.
Who, of your characters do you most want to hang out with? Michael. You’ll learn about him in Ghosts of Glass. How did Children of Rosehaven get its title? Well Rosehaven is based on a town I grew up in. It’s in Louisiana. It’s called Leesville. I wanted to make my tale about a fictional town but keep all that Louisiana charm.
How do you pick names for characters and which ones are you fond of? That’s funny. Honestly…I’m horrible with names. For Rosehaven I looked for names of college basketball players at the time. A lot of names from the ACC of the time were used when I wrote it.
Have you ever written real people into books? I sometimes base things at times on personal experiences but I never put real people in the book.
Do you outline and plan or wing a book? I have a lose structure which I write down then start feeling in the massive blanks.
Which of your works ended differently than you anticipated? Ghosts of Glass has a very nice ending in my opinion that I don’t think I really planned but felt right.
Do your covers matter? Well I hope to get my covers blown up into posters to hang on my wall. Don’t know what that says about me.
Does art/ music influence you? I love to listen to music for inspiration. Good lyrics are like perfect poetry and really fire the imagination.
How do you begin a novel? I brain storm a lot till I find a strong story structure.
Do you get “writer’s block”? Not sure. I think it’s just I haven’t found the right inspiration.
Will you be prolific/ are you? I don’t know. I wish. But I don’t think I have the energy of a Stephen King. He cranks out like 4 long novels a year. It’s amazing. I don’t know when he finds time to sleep.
What is your goal? Just to write and find some fans and friends along the way.
Do bad reviews bother you? Well I wish all reviews were super great. But all good in life comes with a little bad.
What do you wish to learn? I’d like to learn more about the publishing industry and the changes we’re seeing in it. This is a bit of a revolutionary time.
DO you research books? I try. I probably should more.
Probably some of the ones that ended in the shredder.
Thank-you Christopher for your time. Once again you have shown yourself to be a true professional and delivered 110% as always. I haven't read it yet but you have made me want to read Children Of Rosehaven now and I look forward to reviewing it at a later date!
LOOK OUT FOR ANOTHER AUTHOR PROFILE SOON.....
Until then, t-t-t-t-t that's all folks!