Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Chris Durston, a talented writer from the picturesque South West of England. Chris is not just a writer but also a devoted dad with a passion for storytelling that has been with him since childhood. While he’s been writing for as long as he can remember, it’s only in recent years that he’s taken a more serious approach to his craft.
Chris’s writing journey has seen him explore various genres, from second-world fantasy tales to fantastical stories set in almost-real-world settings, often infused with witty humor. In this interview, Chris offers a glimpse into his creative process, the inspiration behind his work, and the challenges he’s faced on his path to becoming an author.
He also hints at exciting upcoming projects and something mysterious on the horizon. Join us as we uncover the world of Chris Durston, a writer who believes in the magic of storytelling and the power of staying true to one’s creative vision.
Meet the Author
Hi Chris! It’s wonderful to have you here. How are you doing today?
Hello! Thanks for having me. I’m alright, hope you are too!
Could you take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers and share a glimpse of your background as a writer?
I’m Chris, an autistic writer, and dad of a toddler from the South West of England. I’ve been writing for just about as long as I can remember, but I only started taking it more seriously a few years ago.
What genre do you primarily write in? How did it come about? Why are you drawn to the genre?
I’ve switched the primary genre a few times. When I was younger, I almost entirely wrote second-world fantasy stuff, but then I got very much into the vibe of fantastical things in a mostly-like-the-real-world setting. I also often lean into dialogue-heavy stuff with silly humour, if that’s a genre.
What has been the most memorable event in your journey as a writer? Why’s it special to you?
Probably the first time I got paid for writing. It wasn’t so much the money itself, although that’s always very handy, as the little twinkly feeling of actually earning something from doing what I love.
“[…] Some creative endeavours require you to just be authentic and not worry about the rules, or even not know them!” — Chris Durston
Why did you want to be an author? What sparked the interest?
I just read a lot as a kid. I wasn’t great at outside stuff or social stuff, so I spent most of my time in my room reading fantasy novels. Kind of inevitable I’d end up writing my own, I guess!
Your blog mentions co-writing a fantasy novel at the age of 14 with your friend. Can you tell us about it? How do you reflect on it now?
Ha, yeah. It was a very formulaic fantasy story about two brothers who needed to find four items and bring them together to stop an ancient evil, if I remember right. It was probably terrible, but it was worth doing. If I hadn’t done that, I don’t know if I’d have believed I could write more later in life.
Tell us about your debut novel, Each Little Universe! What’s it about? Why does it connect with you personally? Why did you decide to write it? Has it brought change upon you in any way? If so, what is that? How does that make you feel?
Each Little Universe is probably not a very good story in a lot of ways. It doesn’t have much of a structure and it’s paced weirdly and it meanders around a lot, but I wouldn’t change it. This is the weird paradox of starting out with writing: I think you have to do things your own way for a bit, or you won’t love it enough to keep going.
I can’t write Each Little Universe again now, because I’d be too concerned about doing it in a more traditional and sensible way. It wouldn’t be the same book and that’d be sad. I think I’m a better writer now, but some creative endeavours require you to just be authentic and not worry about the rules, or even not know them!
Anyway, it’s a story about a girl from the stars and the two nerds who teach her to be human in the only way they know how: by being giant nerds. A lot of neurodivergent people seem to get on well with it. It was only after I’d finished it that I realised the whole thing was probably just an elaborate way for me to try to make sense of my own autistic brain.
What made you decide to do something with your stories? Was there a driving force of any kind?
It sounds a bit tragic, but I got to the point where I was just unbearably sad about the idea that I’d always wanted to be a writer but wasn’t really… writing. I kind of just had to say, “Right, I need to do this. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done this, and that’d mean accepting I’m not going to be who I wanted to be.”
Inspiration and Creative Process
How do your personal beliefs and emotions find their way into your fictional narratives? Is there a specific instance you could share? Why do you feel that instance is important?
I’m sure they do all the time. Each Little Universe, as mentioned, was sort of a fantastical examination of my own mind, which included a bit of wish fulfillment in allowing me to spend time just hanging out with these people I’m sad not to know in reality.
Generally, one of my axioms in life is that I’d rather be a bit too trusting, a bit naive even than be cynical and shut off. I think humanity sucks sometimes, but individual people are very often more interesting than we assume.
That came out in Chronicles from the World of Guilt, which has a space whale apocalypse as its premise. It spends a lot of time depicting how small groups of people continue to find hope and beauty in spite of everything. I think that’s important.
Has there been a moment in your life where a seemingly ordinary experience sparked an extraordinary story idea? Any thoughts on how that might have transpired?
I don’t think I exactly have a process, but what you’ve said describes the closest thing to a process I do have. I’m always noticing little details, and eventually, I have enough of those collected so that I can pull out some of them with similar themes that might make for an interesting story.
That’s kind of an involuntary thing, and not always helpful when I need to be focusing on other things! Or when I don’t have access to note something down, since my memory ain’t great.
Are there authors whose work has left a big impact on you and your writing? Who are they? Why did they leave an impact on you? How did you come across these authors?
My formative years included a lot of David Gemmell, Christopher Paolini, Trudi Canavan, Brandon Sanderson. More recently, Neil Gaiman, Jeff VanderMeer, China Miéville, and a whole bunch of indie writers. Tolkien will always be up there with my favourite things to read, but I don’t think he’s notably impacted my writing. I also get a lot of inspiration from storytelling in other formats, such as video games, music, and role-playing games.
Writing Routine and Habits
Do you have any habits that help you get into the writing groove? Why are they effective for you?
I have a block of time that’s just for writing time, and that’s about all I’ve got! It took me a long time to work out that that was really the only thing that actually made a difference for my writing brain.
How do you find a balance between your writing schedule and other commitments in your life? What advice do you have to share with other authors on this?
I’m very lucky in that my wife supports me in writing every day, so I guess the big thing is being open with the people you have commitments to. Hopefully, they’ll be able to understand you need time or even help you find it.
Do you have a preferred writing environment? Why do you prefer it?
I just sit on the sofa, ‘cos it’s all I’ve got!
Challenges and Overcoming Obstacles
“If I do the old thing of just making myself do it for two minutes, I often find I can then just keep going – the hard part was just starting.” — Chris Durston
What were some initial hurdles you faced when you started writing? Why were they challenging to you? How did you overcome them?
I’m very easily distracted. I still haven’t fully solved that problem, but I do the time-tested things of just putting potential distractions out of reach if I can, and that seems to help.
How do you tackle writer’s block?
It sounds unpleasant, but I just kind of make myself start. Once I start, it’s usually easier to keep going. If I do the old thing of just making myself do it for two minutes, I often find I can then just keep going – the hard part was just starting.
How do you keep yourself motivated to finish a story? Is there a special process you have?
Historically, I’ve not done too well at this; I have a lot of stuff lying around half-done!
A bit of external accountability seems to be the best thing for it. If I’m collaborating, I can’t very well leave my part unfinished – the fear of letting others down is a good motivator. If it’s a solo thing, I can try to build a bit of external motivation by setting up a little calendar or something like that, since I’m not great at motivating myself just with my own thoughts.
Lately, I’m using a site called WriteTrack to say “I want to do this many words by this date,” and it’ll show me whether I’m on target for that each day.
Current Projects and Future Plans
“You should see a desert fantasy comedy novella from me pretty soon, which’s set in a world thirty strangers created together for an anthology called Achten Tan: Land of Dust and Bone, as well as a couple of novels attached to larger multimedia projects.” — Chris Durston
Can you tease a bit about I Am The Chosen One? What’s the story’s essence? Why did you choose to have a novel and a stage play for it?
I Am The Chosen One started as a stage play. My friend Michael Cook and I wrote it together while we were at uni, sort of as a way of maintaining a connection with each other when we were in different cities and not doing great at just keeping in touch. It did eventually get performed at Liverpool University by a bunch of very cool, very talented people, so that was an added bonus.
Michael and I still live in totally different parts of the country, so we recently thought, “Well, doing I Am The Chosen One worked alright for giving us a shared project once, so why not do it again?”
The play is about a very isolated village (I mean, it literally doesn’t exist beyond the boundaries of the stage) where a baby is born with a tattoo reading “I Am The Chosen One,” but nobody knows what she was chosen for. Much later, when she’s, let’s say, unavailable, the villagers have to pull together to try to solve whatever problem the Chosen One would’ve solved, except they still don’t know what that is.
It’s very farcical, very silly. The novel perhaps even more so, since for some reason we decided it’d be fun to frame it as a novelisation written to accompany a fictitious film version of the play.
Are there any other projects under progress that your readers can anticipate?
The short answer is yes! You should see a desert fantasy comedy novella from me pretty soon, which’s set in a world thirty strangers created together for an anthology called Achten Tan: Land of Dust and Bone, as well as a couple of novels attached to larger multimedia projects.
I can definitely tell you there’ll be a novel called Entanglement that serves as a prequel to the Cthulhu Dreamt role-playing game from Action Fiction and Fable Factory. I’m not sure how much I can say about another project, but I can probably hint that something similar is also on the horizon for next year.
Is there any current writing goal that you’re aiming to achieve? Why do you set this goal for yourself? Why’s it important to you?
I need to finish the other thing I just vaguely mentioned, which is important to me because I’m sort of contractually obliged to! But I also have a bunch of other ideas I’d really love to work on, purely because I like them and it would make me happy to see them come to life.
That’s always the struggle, really: taking the infinite things I could be creating and filtering it down to the small number of things I can actually get done given, y’know, the constraints of time.
Final Thoughts and Closing Remarks
What advice can you offer to those who write stories but have yet to take the step of publishing any?
I mean, publishing in any form isn’t for everyone, so if you just write for yourself and for the love of it then that’s fantastic and you should keep doing that. If you want to get your stuff out there, just be aware there are more options than you might think: there’s traditional publishing, which a lot of people see as kind of the biggest and best option but which does have its downsides, self-publishing, and then there are indie publishers or collectives.
There are pros and cons to whatever you do, so just make sure you do a bit of research so you’re sure the path you pick is the right one for you. Talk to people who’ve been down the paths you’re considering.
For those eager to dive into your books, where can they buy them?
I’d recommend heading to chrisdurston.com, where there’ll be links to things. My two currently published solo fiction books, for ease of convenience, are on Amazon at mybook.to/EachLittleUniverse and mybook.to/WorldOfGuilt.
Is there a message you’d like to convey to your readers?
Well, if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, thank you very much! If you’ve ever reviewed anything of mine, thank you even muchier. Whether you know me or not, I guess I would just encourage you to look for the little bits of hope and happiness if you can. It’s worth it, I think.
We’ve had the pleasure of delving into the creative mind of Chris Durston. His dedication to storytelling, spanning various genres from fantasy to humor, reflects his evolving creative journey. Notably, his debut novel, Each Little Universe, defies convention but holds a special place for its authenticity.
With exciting upcoming projects like I Am The Chosen One and more on the horizon, Chris’s dedication to staying true to his creative vision is evident. We look forward to seeing where his writing takes him next and eagerly anticipate his upcoming works!