Welcome, Christie! Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started writing?
I’ve been a writer since the time I could write, and I’ve always loved writing and reading, but I actually started out my college education majoring in music education!
I didn’t think I could get anywhere with an English literature degree, so I started out in music; I played French horn all through high school and was in every group, pit orchestra, and competition I could manage. I figured that the time I spent on French horn should be put to good use, and since it’s nearly impossible to make a solid living with a music performance degree, I chose music ed. It really wasn’t for me. So I went back to the thing I always loved and majored in English lit.
I knew right away I’d made the right decision. While in college, I won a couple of writing awards – one for poetry, another for a social sciences essay – and I loved every lit class I took. Funnily enough I never took any writing courses. I didn’t know if anyone would appreciate my style, even with those awards behind me! So it took me quite a while to come out of my shell.
To this day I have a hard time telling people face to face that I’m a writer. And yet it’s the number one thing I love and want to do for the rest of my life.
Anatomy of a Darkened Heart (AoDH) is my first book but not my first published work. I’ve had poems and short stories published in literary magazines and journals, but my dream was always to be a novelist. And now I am!
I have a 10-year publishing plan, so there’s lots more to come, including four more books in the Dark Victoriana Collection. Almost all of my writing is dark fiction except my poetry.
What genre is it and what is it about?
AoDH is dark psychological historical fiction. It’s a mouthful of genre, but that covers it. AoDH is a multi-layered novel that explores which is stronger: people’s assumptions of a person or their own understanding of themselves. If everyone believes you’re a horrible person, that you’re evil, do you become their assumption? Is it enough to know that you’re not what they say you are? There are gray areas to everything, and AoDH highlights the gray side to every situation.
What inspired you to write this book?
Music always inspires me, and I think of lots of ideas to different pieces of music or even the same piece of music. In my mind’s eye, I saw a Victorian girl who was torn between her true self and others’ assumptions about her. I could see it all written on her face.
The whole book evolved from that vision, and it grew and changed quite a bit from my original extensions of that vision. I also wanted to bring out the fact that not everything in Victorian times was beautiful and elegant. There are many other facets to the 19th century.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
eBook Launch designed AoDH’s cover and I worked very closely with the designer. I had a vision that was so tough to define with words that I actually drew a picture (I’m no artist, I’m a chicken scratcher) to show what I was trying to accomplish.
The most important thing to me was that every single thing on the cover meant something. From the wallpaper to the stairs to the dress to the flower and beyond, everything represents something important in the book. I wanted not only to represent the book properly but have serious meaning behind the images so that as the reader comes across those particular things in the book, they have an “Ah ha” moment about the cover.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m writing Locke and Keye, the second book in the Dark Victoriana Collection. It was intended to be a novelette at about 10,000 words, but it’s now over 30,000. It’s officially a novella, and I’m not done yet!
Locke and Keye is not a continuation of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart. Instead it takes place in the same town and occurs parallel to part of AoDH, so we see some scenes from AoDH from another perspective and in more depth.
Locke and Keye is the name of the shop the story centers around – a locksmith shop that appeared twice in AoDH. The employees who work at Locke and Keye are hired by the owner, Mr. Locke, for some very specific reasons that become clear as the story progresses.
Just remember that when you make the lock, you own the key, and Mr. Locke owns the key to every secret in town.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
Always, and as a matter of fact, I’ve always felt very low when I don’t write for too long. For a couple of years after I graduated from college, I had a feeling of uselessness, regardless of how hard I worked at my full-time job or what else I accomplished.
Until I started writing again, I felt an emptiness that I couldn’t put my finger on. It turns out that if I don’t write, that’s what happens! Needless to say, I write a lot now.
What do you wear while writing?
Pink cupcake pajama bottoms and a Spiderman t-shirt. That’s my favorite thing to wear, but sometimes I’ll deviate – to another pair of pajamas.
Do you have a pet or pets?
I have a sweet little dog who just turned six, a mix of Havanese and Bichon = Havachon. She’s my little sweetheart but she’s got some chili pepper personality in her too. I love having a dog, and she’s the perfect match for me. I don’t know if any other dog could match me as well!
What is your favorite snack food?
CHOCOLATE – chips, chunks, melted, squares. I don’t care what form it comes in, I just want chocolate. Although if you offer me ice cream, I’ll eat it.
Christie Stratos is an editor and award-winning writer who holds a degree in English Literature. She is the author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, the first book of five in the Dark Victoriana Collection. Christie 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. www.christiestratos.com
And don’t forget to tune in to listen to Christie live in an interview on ArtistFirst radio Wednesday at 7:30 pm Eastern!