Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Writer Wednesday: Christie Stratos

In life, we're all allowed to pick our favorites and from what I've read up to this moment, Christie Stratos is the author of my favorite indie book, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart. If it were just down to writing, that'd be more than enough, because that is one hell of a story. But apart from that, she is extremely engaging in her social media accounts, hosts a writer podcast with panels with a variety of authors, and is in all estimations a wonderful definition of the term good people. That said, she's also my friend and someone whom I appreciate for her commitment to excellence as well as for having a wonderful heart that is capable of amazing levels of kindness as much as it is capable of pumping dark psychological thrillers for your reading enjoyment. So I had some questions and she was kind enough to give some answers.

1. My thanks for taking some time to answer a nice slice of random questions, Christie. So let’s get to the first Q, who is Christie Stratos and what can you tell us about your writer journey?

According to Oxford Dictionaries, Christie (n) is “a sudden turn in which the skis are kept parallel, used for changing direction fast or stopping short.” That’s pretty much how I write, but not on skis.

I’ve been a writer my whole life, ever since I was capable of writing. I started out with poetry when I was very young, then moved on to novels in middle school and high school, and finally wrote short stories in college and afterwards. Now I write everything. I’ve never felt 100% happy unless I was writing. There was a period of my life after college when I didn’t think there was a point to writing – where would I go with it? And in that time, I felt a lack of direction, even a lack of worth. My job back then wasn’t fulfilling either, so altogether I was pretty unhappy. Until I started writing again. It came back to me easily even after a couple of years without it, and I’ve written consistently, setting my own goals, ever since.

2. Your work, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, is honestly a wonderfully dark piece of historical fiction; what influences do you have and how did it feel to bring to life such a beautifully dark work?

Thank you! I didn’t actually foresee my debut novel as being quite as dark as it turned out. I’m heavily influenced by Shakespeare, specifically Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and Henry IV parts 1 and 2 as well as Henry V. Those plays had a huge impact on my writing and on figuring out what I like to read the most. I’ve been reading Poe for a very long time too, and that darkness is something I love and appreciate as a reader. If you combine the two authors, you can see their influences in my books.

There was something defining about writing Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, as if it needed to come out and tell me, “This is the way, this is the direction you need to head.” And I loved every second of it.

3. You do seem to have a lively fixation with the Victorian Era, what draws you to this era and what topics do you explore and would like to explore further in your work?

The Victorian Era is most often portrayed as gorgeous and wealthy and dramatic, but if you research it, it wasn’t so glamorous – at least not for everyone. Bringing some darkness into something that’s known for its visual appeal is a very nice contrast in my opinion. On the outside it’s one thing, on the inside it’s the opposite. I find that fascinating.

One thing you’ll find in Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and in Locke and Keye that will also continue into future Dark Victoriana Collection works is the concept of a gray area. Who’s right and who’s wrong? It’s hard to tell when everyone has contributed to a situation. And is a crime so wrong if it saves a life? The theme of gray areas is an absorbing one that I will continue to explore.

4. The Dark Victoriana Collection is set to be a collection of 5 stories, but they’re not connected in the usual lineal manner. What can you tell us about this concept and how did you develop the idea behind such a rich world?

It’s turning out to be longer than I thought! It started out with the intention of two novels and three novelettes. One of the novelettes already turned into a novel, a main character from Locke and Keye wants his own book (that’s definitely happening), and I have a couple of additional short stories I want to add. So it’s going to be quite the collection in the end!

The original idea was to have Anatomy of a Darkened Heart as a standalone book, but then I started thinking about how much I would love to write a book based on each shop mentioned in my first novel: Locke and Keye (locksmith shop), Love’s Bloom (florist), and one not mentioned by name, Mrs. Dodd’s Doll Shop. Then the final book would be from the perspective of the Whitestone’s maid, Ashton, harkening back to Anatomy, giving us a totally different view and brand new, never before released scenes in the same house and the same time frame. All of those books are still happening, but now with more in between. The Dark Victoriana Collection has become far more in-depth with more distinct perspectives, and I’m even more excited now than when I first decided on making it a collection.

5. I’ve seen that like many of us, you and chocolate get along brilliantly. So tell us, what would a Dark Victoriana candy/chocolate bar have and what would it taste like? (here you can even include a wrapper like the wall paper if you think that’s cool lol. As you can see, I’m enthusiastic lol)

CHOCOLATE ENTHUSIASTS UNITE! If the Dark Victoriana Collection was a chocolate, you would unwrap its black-and-white damask wrapper and bite into its very dark chocolatey-ness, but as you chew it, it bites back with a lot of spice. Obviously I’ve included some Scotch bonnet peppers in there, some of the hottest. So you think, “Oh, a lovely, smooth chocolate”, but then your taste buds burn away.

I wouldn’t eat the chocolate version if I were you, but reading the slow burn, crescendo books is definitely in good taste. ;) 

6. Anatomy of a Darkened Heart is rather dark, pardon the redundancy; will you be working on lighter fare in the future?

NEVER! Sometimes I’ll write a short story for an anthology, and those can be (sometimes) lighter. “Intent”, a short story I wrote for Gems of Gratitude, is the story of an Amazonian tribe going through a difficult transition. One of the Amazonians has to make a major decision that will impact her whole tribe, but instead of choosing one thing or another, she makes up her own path. That one is considerably lighter, in my opinion. That’s probably as light as it will get for my writing. Even works planned for the future that are completely unrelated to the Dark Victoriana Collection are dark and intense, regardless of the time period (and I have many planned!). The darkness is where I like to flicker a light just enough to see the demons hiding there.

7. You also offer editing services, what can you tell us about your experience as an editor and where people can get more information?

My editing business is called Proof Positive (, and it is wonderful to be able to use my extremely picky, overly analytical brain for something helpful to fellow writers. From word choice to character development (two things that are especially important to me) to those pesky plot holes, it’s a pleasure to find those things and help authors better their amazing works. We also do pre- and post-release publicity for books as part of any package.

8. You have an absolute love of journals; please tell us about that. When did it begin? How many journals do you have?

I have always loved notebooks and journals, how very different they all look and feel. Some call for medieval works, some need poems, and others want a completely unique work to be created on their pages. I feel the notebook itself can be just as inspirational as images or reading. The ambiance of the notebook has to be right, and I have a notebook for each thing I work on. Some notebooks can be dedicated to multiple works, while others really need their own space. I have a Dark Victoriana-dedicated one that I’m using for the whole collection; there’s a pink one with silver gilt page edges that I use for any Alice in Wonderland-related works; one of my favorites is a bejeweled notebook that I’m going to use for a visually stunning fantasy piece in the future.

As for how many I have, here’s a video of notebook love I once made, and here’s one that shows three I bought from Etsy stores last year. I have all those and bunch more. They’re worth every penny for the inspiration and motivation they give me just by being there, ready to carry new ideas.

9. You also enjoy writing haikus. What can you tell us of this and are there any plans for the future to explore haikus or poetry more in depth?

I do love haikus. My first writing award was actually for a poem I wrote called “Words Can Form”. I won the Poetry Society of Virginia’s Steven Barza Collegiate Prize in my sophomore year of college, which shocked me. At the time I wasn’t writing much, and I came across that contest, wrote a poem for it, and submitted it knowing I wouldn’t come close to winning. Then I won. It was the first hint to keep writing since I’d given it up after high school. And the poem was about writing haikus and poetry.

Nowadays I write haikus that I put on Instagram to go with an image, and I’m able to express a lot through them. There’s something about having to choose my words so carefully and in such an exacting way in order to express my thoughts and emotions that makes writing haikus and microfiction in general such a good release for me. I do plan on putting a book of haikus together in the not-too-distant future, so keep your eye out for it!

10. You do a wonderful job of keeping it varied on social media. Where can people connect with you and find more information on you and what you’re up to?

I have a lot of social media where you can keep up with me! On my general writer Instagram I post haikus and writing advice; I also have an Instagram dedicated to the Dark Victoriana Collection, which has (mostly) Victorian quotes, my own thoughts and writings, images that relate to my collection or the era, Victorian dresses as my story every day, etc.

I do writing advice YouTube videos along with tags and other writerly things. I’m also the host of The Writer’s Edge, where we have a livestream panel discussion the 4th Thursday of each month to talk about writing, publishing, marketing, and more.

You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads,
Pinterest, and of course on my own website. I also send out a newsletter to announce new releases and giveaways, so be sure to sign up!

As for my books, here are the links:

Locke and Keye


Anatomy of a Darkened Heart


Barnes & Noble


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Cheers to Miss Stratos from taking some time from her busy schedule to answer some questions. If you’d like to read my full review of her first novel, click here. As for Christie, she
 is an award-winning writer who holds a degree in English Literature. As we mentioned above, she is the author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and Locke and Keye, the first two books in the Dark Victoriana Collection. In addition, she has had short stories and poetry published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Andromedae Review, 99Fiction, and various anthologies. An avid reader of all genres and world literature, Christie reads everything from bestsellers to classics to indies. She's also good people and I highly recommend you check out her social media as well as her work. And if you do, tell her JD sent ya. 

As usual, below will be a prompt I’m sharing with Christie in which we'll see if we can collaborate or she can run with it as she sees fit. For now though, thanks for reading, dear frands.

Peace, love, and maki rolls.

PROMPT:  Two time-traveling friends meet for tea and chocolate. You are a time traveler from the Victorian era who uses a brooch as your means of travel. I am a pirate vampire. The idea is to show and share the sights and sounds of where we are and catch up.

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