Christopher S. Bell has been writing and releasing literary and musical works through My Idea of Fun since 2008. Modern Hobbies is his 14th published book to date, and 10th novel overall. His sound projects include Emmett and Mary, Technological Epidemic, C. Scott and the Beltones, and Fine Wives. My Idea of Fun is an art and music collective based out of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. (www.myideaoffun.org) . Christopher’s work has recently been published in The Broadkill Review, Mobius and Fringelit.com. He is also a contributor to Impression of Sound.
He describes his latest release, Modern Hobbies, as the tale of accumulated memories tied to the staying quality of inanimate objects. Lawrence Thorne stands firm as one of the last survivors of a non-digital age, inevitably imprisoned by a thickened experiment meant to propel the human race forward, while still taking them two steps back. Amongst his jilted ego, a frantic rebel resides waiting for the inappropriate moment to lash out on society before his insides do so first. The subsequent consequences are beneficial albeit crippling to the fading mementos meticulously catalogued on his shelves.
This novel will appeal to fans of Kurt Vonnegut, Phillp K. Dick, Anthony Burgess, Hunter S. Thompson and George Orwell.
Who are your influences?
On this particular novel I was most influenced by the works of Kurt Vonnegut. Something like Player Piano or Slaughterhouse Five, which contain very significant Science Fiction elements, but are still highly focused on character interactions, no matter the time or place. That’s kind of how I approached Modern Hobbies, while Orwell’s 1984 is like the mold for any dystopian novel. That book still gets under my skin, but in the best of possible ways.
When did you begin writing?
I would definitely scribble endlessly in middle school. Most of my later English teachers were pretty good at inflicting standard arthritic pains from daily journal writing. Towards the end of high school, I really got into writing screenplays. I did that consistently through college, which certainly helped me write dialogue, not to mention plotting from one point to the next. Towards the end of college, I tackled my first novel and have pretty much been writing those or short stories ever since.
How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
Usually I’ll get the first of many ideas when I’m stuck somewhere, not so much forced to be quiet, but not feeling the necessity to talk. I think most writers’ brains run endlessly, no matter their current situation. From those initial sparks, I’ll build up little plot elements as they come to me, occasionally jotting something down here and there.
Months could pass before I finally sit down and plot out the entire work. Names are usually pretty easy. Pulling together different combinations from the phonebook or many indexes online, seeing what really suits the character. It has to be something you live with from that point forward, so you should go for the gold. Locations are usually based on some semblance of where I’ve already been, with the occasional added element. Like anything else, writers have to pull from life.
Do you work from an outline?
Yes. I usually have most plot elements worked out in some degree before I begin. The way these same elements change in the course of writing is usually the best part about the experience.
Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
There are obviously quite a few, but in this particular case, the climax still stands as my favorite. Without giving too much away, it’s the point where Lawrence reaches his breaking point, every element both outside and in, organic and synthetic, failing him before starting a new. There’s a flood happening, before an unlikely confrontation. I realize I’m being vague, but it’ll all make sense in-between the lines. At least, I hope anyway.
Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
I try to write every day, or at least do something in the context to writing every day. Being regimented in this particular case is never a bad thing. Just to set aside some time every evening during the week to write and listen to a record is very therapeutic for me at this point. I tend to get out a great deal of my frustrations this way, in addition to the occasional choice phrase.
Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
While Modern Hobbies is Science Fiction, my other books run the gamut. A lot of my earlier works are more youth based, pulling together elements from college and high school to tell a cohesive story. That’s not to say those works don’t also have an occasional WTF moment in them. I think it’s good to stretch out as far as you can with your writing. My recent short stories are all pretty standard literary fiction, nothing like this book, but still one could easily find a similarity in there.
Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share?
Unfortunately, nothing comes to mind. It’s funny because while I know a good amount of people who write or work creatively, most of our anecdotes are about other things entirely. I think good writing comes from the truth in the most awkward and often rewarding of situations. It’s something I do alone with the exception of songwriting, which can be highly beneficial with another person around to give it their all.
All of Christopher’s works are available at http://www.myideaoffun.org/chrisbell/