Meet the Author Monday: Chris Jones

Chris Jones

It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Chris Jones, author of Headcase Book 1: Shock & Denial.

About Chris Jones:

Chris K. Jones is a former competitive athlete and coach. His experiences in his youth with professional athletes shaped his interest in understanding the minds of athletes. Trying to mimic his heroes, he ignored the messages his body was sending him. After a series of broken bones, an eating disorder, and mental health issues, he knew he had to change. Chris turned to Judo, translated as the “gentle way,” Buddhism, meditation, and intensive self-reflection to begin his journey to healing. This served as a pathway to understanding who he was, on and off the mat, and how to turn failure into success. Chris uses his imagination and suspenseful storytelling to raise awareness about generational trauma and mental health in sports. Chris splits his time between Tarrytown, NY, and Barbados.

About Headcase

Dr. Andrew Beck is the go-to sports psychologist for troubled pro athletes. There isn’t a head he can’t fix—except his own.

When his inner demons get the best of him, he misuses his insider access to athletes in a wager, which leads him down a path of blackmail, murder, and life-or-death bluffing.

His only way out is to go ALL-IN.

Author Interview with Chris Jones:

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  1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

In late July 2020, at the height of the pandemic, my attorney gave me a call and informed me about the Welcome Stamp program in Barbados which offered a one-year visa for remote workers. I had barely left the house since I shut myself in my home in Tarrytown, NY on March 10th and I thought what better place to wait out the pandemic than my favorite island in the Caribbean? I have been vacationing there yearly since 2014, and it was always a place for me to recover and heal from a stressful life as an entrepreneur. I packed my bags, said goodbye to family and friends via Zoom, and on September 23 when I left for my island writing retreat. Getting a COVID test in September 2020, to even board the plane was very difficult, and a whole other story of running around NYC trying to find a place and more importantly get the results in 24 hours. After I arrived in Barbados, I spent a week in quarantine at the Crane Hotel and then moved into a house on the beach on the south coast near Oistins. Every day I could stare out at the turquoise blue ocean just footsteps from my desk. Sometimes I would swim three times a day. But despite the distractions of sun, beach, and fun, I was highly motivated to write. I was fully aware and grateful, I was living every writer’s dream come true: to write full-time, not to have to worry about money, and writing on a beach on a tropical island. This came after 30-year career as an entrepreneur, with all the battle scars, ups and downs, losing everything after 9/11, and clawing my way back until I finally achieved success and sold a business so I could focus on my writing. I’m a three-time CFO of the year, a 40 Under 40 winner, and won the SBA’s Person of the Year. I’m proud of my awards and achievements in my business career, but writing is what I have had my heart set upon since I was 19. I hated being poor and those days in my twenties of deciding between putting gas in my car or eating that night. Pain and suffering can be excellent teachers, and it fueled the drive and determination that helped me dream that someday I would have the resources so I could write without worrying about how I was going to pay the bills. It took 30-plus years to do it, I made a lot of sacrifices, and the last ten years of my career as a CFO were pretty horrific, but in the end, now I get to write and live the life I’ve always wanted.  

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing energizes me, but editing can be exhausting, or when I cannot find the right descriptive words to properly describe the scene. That is frustrating – see writing kryptonite. 

  1. What is your writing Kryptonite?

When I can see the scene perfectly in my mind’s eye, but then I cannot find the right words to describe what I am seeing. That is frustrating. I find the only thing that helps is time. To do something else, go for a walk, focus on another scene, or exercise. But I have to stay engaged, I cannot turn on the TV; that won’t help. If I do any of the above, then the words come to me. I’m just impatient. But unlike my financial career, you can’t muscle a manuscript like I can a spreadsheet. The muse comes when she feels like it; all I can do is be receptive, patient, and wait.

  1. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Now I know what to expect. I’ve learned more technical skills and story-crafting techniques. My narrative still needs improvement, but I am very confident in writing dialogue, and it’s my favorite part of writing. I can visually see the characters engaging each other, and I hear their tones, accents, and voice inflections. Another key process to my writing is I keep detailed timesheets. I’m a bit of a nut, I know, but for most of my career I billed by the hour, so I was used to keeping track of time. I am a big fan of Peter Drucker who coined the term “knowledge workers” which as an accountant, included me. I’m constantly curious about the difference between how long I think something will take and how long it did. Timesheets capture that curiosity.  I took that discipline into my writing, keeping track of hours, words, and chapters completed per day. This served two very important objectives. I wanted to know how long it took me to write my 1st draft and the editing process so if a publisher or fan ever asked me, “How long will it take you to write your next book?” I could answer them unequivocally with data to back it up. By the way, the answer is it took me 714.5 hours to write the first book in the Headcase Series, from when I began writing the first draft in November 2020 to final edits in early December 2021. The other reason was less practical and more psychological. For 30 years, my inner CFO was “in charge” of my career, I measured everything in terms of value creation and long and short-term revenue. While this is a useful voice to help drive me to succeed in a world of start-up ventures, this can be crippling as a writer. Now that the artist is in charge, the CFO part of me, which really stands for Control Freak Officer, did not like not being in charge anymore and constantly bugged my inner artist about ROI (return on investment) on my time and when we were going to make money with this book writing thing. The timesheets satisfied that logical part of my personality to give the artist room to play, discover, and listen to my characters, and create a compelling story. In Buddhism, we believe there is 10,000 different states of mind and I was taught meditation and mindfulness techniques to understand the different parts of my brain better. I have learned what thoughts to hold to help counter when I am agitated. I am fortunate to have a lot of neuroplasticity in my brain, which means I move easily between left-brained (logic) and right-brained (creative) tasks and thoughts. I am left-handed but being surrounded by right-handed people I learned to play sports righty. The benefit is I have developed strong brain symmetry. Like most left-handed people our corpus callosum, the brain tissue that connects the right side and left side of the brain, is wider, which enables me to move easily from analytical to creative ideation. While writing is process-oriented, I’ve spent my career being very results oriented. I’m impatient, but writing has taught me patience, I know the words will come if I just relax and breathe. Sometimes just taking a walk helps. Going for a swim, listening to the birds chirping, or staring up at the sky and finding animals in the clouds. So for my second book in the Headcase series, I have so many more writing techniques to employ, I believe my skills are better, and I know my characters intimately. I’ve learned a lot from my two editors as well. I am a competitive person as a lifelong athlete. I’ve won two writing awards and my first book has only been out since March 2022. But that competitive fire in me wants to see not only if I can do it again but improve my writing to give the reader a better experience. I’m not trying a cookie-cutter approach. I will allow book 2’s process to be what it is, and I hope I have the patience and resolve to listen to my characters, tell a good, entertaining story and create a journey for my protagonist that is exciting, suspenseful, and a joy to read.  

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Hands down, my two editors. I learned so much from them, and I am a much better writer. Also, I recently did a cover redesign based on feedback from readers and friends, and the new cover done by Howard Grossman is amazing. I’m so happy with it.

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

I am fortunate that I do not need to rely upon my writing for my income. I took care of that with lots of hard work and sacrifice and a relentless pursuit of my business goals. So for me, literary success is for one person to come to me and tell me that because of my book they sought out help for their mental health or it helped them understand their own generational traumas. To have the opportunity to have a profound impact on another person due to my writing, for me, would be worth all my effort and time. For me, my mission is to invite readers to engage in a journey of self-discovery using entertaining storytelling infused with wisdom, knowledge, and experience so it will inspire people to heal themselves.

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

It’s very ironic. In all aspects of my life, I despise research, I can tell you so many funny stories of times I didn’t do any research, especially around vacations, like when at a charity auction I won a trip to a private island in the Grenadines, but I had broken up with the woman I was dating when I bid for the trip so I invited my best friend instead. It wasn’t until a few days before we were supposed to leave that I found out this was a honeymoon destination. I’m a knucklehead sometimes. But when it comes to researching for characters, their backstory, and locations where the story takes place, I am beyond detailed. And I will take untold hours researching the smallest of details. I think this comes from my innate need for authenticity. The characters have to look, sound, and dress how I see them in my mind. Also with Google, Google Maps, and Wikipedia you can find the most obscure locations and details. If you are a reader and you are taken out of the story because something in the story doesn’t make sense or a location is inaccurate, there is no excuse for that. Since I wrote Headcase Book 1: Shock & Denial during the pandemic and on an island, I could not do any location scouting for the actual locations in New York City and Greenwich Connecticut, where my story takes place. But with Google Maps and satellite imagery, I could find all the information I wanted on houses and buildings where my scenes take place. But now in Book 2, I keep an open word doc with every URL I visit and if I use a picture to inspire me I keep that picture in the document too, so if I need to go back, I can remember where the scene took place and what the characters were wearing, eating, driving, etc. Research for writing is the only kind of research I enjoy. But to answer the question, for the Headcase series I do research while I am writing. Unlike my historical fiction novel which I am also working on, I did months of research and reading before I started writing to get the time correct. Since the Headcase series takes place in pre-pandemic 2019, I can do research as I plot, as it were.

  1. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Yes, it is for me. I see writing as an incredible process for seeing where my mind is at. As well since I am writing about how people’s trauma effect them, and my main character is a sports psychologist, I had to deal with many of my own traumas, and as my pro athlete characters talked about their traumas many of mine own came up and then it gave me the opportunity to process and heal them. 

  1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes!!! I have always had an incredibly vivid imagination. As kids, we were always building these worlds in space, fantasy, or pretending to be secret agents or pro athletes. But what I was perpetually frustrated with was I couldn’t draw the pictures in my head, but I could describe them, so I wrote. And also when it came time to dialogue, I was always the one directing my friends at critical moments, “Okay, when he holds the gun at your head, you say… and say it like that…” But it was in high school that my creative writing teacher Mr. Paul Buhtanic, inspired me and believed in me and that planted the seed for me to want to be a writer someday. When I was 19 in college my English professed said, “Chris, you are really talented, you should switch from Accounting to English to pursue your writing.” I answered, “I grew up poor, and I don’t want to be a poor starving artist, so first I’ll make some money then I’ll write.” Decades later, my dream came true.  

  1. What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Endure the pain of whatever job you need to do to pay the bills so you can write in your free time. Try to find something that allows you to work on skills helpful for writing, and if not, find work that is not emotionally and physically taxing so you have the energy to write. Be willing to make sacrifices to find the time to dedicate to your writing, which means staying off TikTok, NetFlix, and social media, which are all time sucks. Understand your mind, find out what motivates you, what (and who)sucks the life out of you, keep that list handy and do more on the motivation than the suck side. Carve out time every week as your writing time. We all have 24 hours in a day, what you do with that 24 hours is up to you. I was working 60+ hours a week as the owner of a fast growth company under a lot of stress, and I carved out Tuesday nights from 6 pm to 8 pm. That was my writing time until I could write full-time. We, including myself, all say to ourselves how we don’t have time, have too many obligations, or have to be in the right mood to write. Well, f%$k your mood. Turn off your phone and the TV and sit down and write your ideas.Go to your favorite cafe, a bench in a park, or even find a place in your house and create a sacred space for you to write. You can have your excuses or you can have your manuscript, the choice is yours. 

  1. What comes first, the plot or characters?

Characters, without compelling characters, for me there is no story.

  1. How do you develop your plot and characters?

I come up with the basics around the characters, but then I learned from Neil Gaimon, to shut up and listen to my characters. I ask them, who they are, what are their fears and desires, what was their childhood like, and who do they love and who do they hate? Then they just “talk” to me and I write what they say. I’ve also done interviews with my characters, I ask them, as me, interview questions, and they answer. It sounds somewhat schizophrenic, I know, but all I am doing is allowing the creative part of my brain to fire up and release everything that makes a character interesting. It also helps that I find people and their motivations very fascinating.

  1. Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?

Yes, I love to hear from my readers! I’m doing this to entertain them and hopefully raise awareness to generational trauma and mental health.

To learn more about Chris Jones, here’s where you can find him:

Twitter: @headcase_novel
Instagram: @headcase_novel
Facebook: ChrisKJonesAuthor

Meet the Author Book Promotion

Published by Kelly Schuknecht

Kelly Schuknecht is a marketer with a background in the publishing industry. She is passionate about all things related to books and loves helping authors navigate the world of social media for book promotion. She recently launched the course Marketing Your Book on TikTok.

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