Sunday 17 April 2011

Chris F Holm interview: 8 Pounds

8 Pounds by Chris F. Holm

Chris F. Holm wrote his first story at the age of six.  It got him sent to the principal’s office.  Since then, his stories have appeared in a slew of publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Beat to a Pulp, and Thuglit.  He's been a Derringer Award finalist and a Spinetingler Award winner, and also written two novels: Dead Harvest and The Angels’ Share.  Both are currently out on submission.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

8 POUNDS is a collection of shorts ranging from small-town horror to old-school, whiskey-slugging noir, with a touch of coming-of-age adventure for good measure.

How long did it take you to write?

These stories represent two years of my writing life, though I was also working on novels during that time.  In terms of word count, shorts come more slowly for me than do longer works; I’d say the stories contained in this collection ranged anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months a pop.

How much difference does a good cover make?

I think in the realm of e-publishing, a good cover makes a world of difference.  It signals to a would-be reader your work is to be taken seriously (or, at the very least, a slapdash one suggests perhaps it shouldn’t be.)  My cover was done by the very talented John Hornor Jacobs, and I’ve been told some folks bought my book solely on its strength.

How important is a good title?

For me as a writer, a good title is paramount.  I know many writers who can happily slog away at an untitled work in progress, but I find I can’t make any headway until I have a title in mind.  It seems to crystallize the story for me in a way I can’t explain.

As for how important a good title is to sales, on that I’ll politely demur, on account of I’m not sure whether I’ve cleared that bar.  Because this was a collection of previously published shorts spanning a multitude of genres, I had a devil of a time coming up with a title I felt summed up all of them.  Whether I’ve succeeded is for the audience to decide.

What makes you keep reading a book?

Voice.  Always voice.  If a voice is engaging enough, it’ll get you through damn near any topic.  And if a voice is lacking enough, it can suck the life out of the thrillingest of stories.

What's the best collection of short stories you've read?

In terms of bang-for-buck, my favorite would have to be RAYMOND CHANDLER: COLLECTED STORIES.  It’s a massive tome, jam-packed with absolute brilliance.

If I’m picking all-killer-no-filler, I’d have to go with Tim Powers’ STRANGE ITINERARIES.  As far as page count goes, it’s a little slight, but every story is perfection.

What are your views on eBook pricing?

Isn’t that a loaded question these days.  You’ll have to forgive me here for talking exclusively in USD, but that’s what my collection’s priced in, and God knows what it’ll equate to in GBP come publication of this interview.  It’s funny; the surge in popularity of $0.99 ebooks has caused a heated debate among writers – one that, by dint of pricing my collection at $0.99, I inadvertently placed myself in the middle of.  Some, it would seem, believe that writers pricing their ebooks so low devalues not only that author’s work, but the work of all those charging more for their fiction – that it creates a race to the bottom in which everyone loses.  I’ve even seen it said that the $0.99 price-point attracts the wrong sort of reader.  And for all I know, maybe those folks are right – I’m just a guy who writes stories, after all, and I’ve never claimed to have a head for business.  But it seems to me their arguments are rather reductive.  Selling fiction’s not like selling widgets – time and again the fickle tastes of the reading public have proven one book’s not as good as any other.  My guess is readers will always be willing to pay more for the stories and writers they care about, regardless of how many $0.99 ebooks flood the market.  And my personal experience has been that relative unknowns like myself can garner a lot more attention for their writing if it’s priced competitively enough for folks to take a chance on – which was precisely my intent when I decided to price mine at $0.99.

On the other end of the spectrum, I think (speaking as a Kindle owner and voracious reader of both print and ebooks) ebooks need to be priced aggressively to compete with print.  I, for one, have no interest in downloading an ebook that costs more than its print equivalent.  But I suspect that, on both the high and the low end of the spectrum, market forces will win out, and ebook pricing will settle into some kind of amicable ground-state.

Do you read outside of the crime genre?

Oh, very much so.  Crime fiction is my first love, literarily speaking, but I’m a big fan of fantasy, of old-school horror, of classic science fiction.  And I could easily spend a year reading nothing but Wodehouse, which is about as far afield from crime fic as you can get.  (Though old Bertie Wooster, it occurs to me, has certainly been pinched a time or two for stealing cow-creamers and the like.)

8 Pounds by Chris F. Holm


  1. Mr. Holm's collection is one of the finest of last year.

    I agree with his thoughts on covers. They are still extremely important in terms of showing the quality of the product.

  2. Thanks, guys. Compliments like yours mean all the more coming from such talented writers.

    And thanks to Allan for inviting me to participate!

  3. wodehouse and chandler
    hellz to the yeah
    oh and holm
    double hellz