The Ten Spot: Chris Kuhn

The Ten Spot: Chris Kuhn

(The following Q&A was featured on the book/author-focused blog THE DAN O’BRIEN PROJECT in January 2014 as part of his regular feature, “The Ten Spot”)

 

 

THE TEN SPOT: CHRIS KUHN

 

Tell us about your most recent release.

THE MUSE UNLOCKED is my first novel. It’s a contemporary romance mostly set in Los Angeles and on the set of the latest film for the lead characters, a 38-year-old woman who is a successful author and screenwriter and a 28-year-old TV actor and breakout star, only recently making the transition to film. I’ve been a professional writer in some capacity all my life and I had started writing books before, always nonfiction, but I never continued them and I couldn’t figure out why until I began working on this book. In the past, I wasn’t “in love” with my subject matter. THE MUSE UNLOCKED is a bit of a love affair for me as much as for my leads Cate Mullen and Oliver Sand, and for the readers. I genuinely love these characters, as well as the other supporting figures who weave in and out of their lives. I think to write a book and truly plant yourself in the world you’ve created, you’ve got to be head over heels about it, so this book was born out of that love. It follows one woman’s journey through navigating some choppy waters and though she’s been trying to charter a course, she hasn’t quite found the right tool or people to help her do it. She’s like a lot of us – professionally, she’s got her act together but personally, as far as her relationship and her own self-esteem, well, she’s lost faith. In the concepts of love and marriage and in herself, so she invests more of her heart and whatever faith in love she still has left into the words she writes rather than into her own life.


Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?
Yes, it is not necessary to be a fan of the romance genre to enjoy THE MUSE UNLOCKED. I’ve actually had quite a few people who read my book out of interest but who were either not familiar with the genre or had a genuine dislike for it, who have come back to me after diving into the book raving about how much they enjoyed the experience. I also want readers to know that they may be surprised at all that they get from the book as it is a multi-layered work and not “just a love story.” Readers are going to discover a lot of my favorite things in the book. I love strong lead women characters. I love movies. I love music. I love art and pop culture. I love humor and old-fashioned, sexy banter from the classic films, that sharp, fast-paced dialogue you simply don’t read or hear anymore. So I’ve attempted to wrap all of that within the pages of THE MUSE UNLOCKED. I got swept up in the contemporary romance genre a few summers ago but as much as I enjoyed what I was reading, I wasn’t identifying a voice that I wanted to hear: mine! A woman closer in age to me and someone set in her career, not trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life but trying to understand herself and the people in it. Most of the time, the love stories I read revolved around a young twentysomething fresh out of college or still finishing school who was unsure of herself and some thirtysomething man who would come along, whisk her away to rescue the damsel. I didn’t like the recurring theme I kept seeing. I wanted to see a strong, empowered woman make mistakes but find her own way with the support of a good man, sure, but not with her success completely hinged upon his presence. I think readers will find THE MUSE UNLOCKED a refreshing take on the genre and I also hope that they will be pleasantly surprised to learn that yes, these romance novels can have some wit within their pages. This genre isn’t usually all that funny and I wanted mine to offer some humor, because after all, sex is funny. People having sex, thinking about sex, talking about sex – well, it’s funny, because it can be such an awkward and vulnerable situation, and humor can lighten it up. Readers of the book may also find it interesting that I chose to change up the usual “formula” of romance books by featuring an older woman and younger man rather than the reverse. I’ve gotten quite a few “thank you” comments for that.


How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?

So far, the feedback has been largely positive, I’m happy to say, but if readers express that they didn’t enjoy their experience as much as they would have liked or that they didn’t relate to the characters, I listen and take note of their reasons and keep that in the back of my mind as I continue developing these characters for their next story or as I embark on other unrelated stories. Negative feedback never feels good, let’s be honest, but you really can take away something from it if you can just temper your ego long enough to listen to it. And while privately I may be flogging myself for not making everybody happy, because I am a diagnosed people pleaser, I do believe in constructive criticism so if someone takes the time to give me specific reasons why something didn’t work for them or better yet, offers suggestions for what could have made it better for them, I can gather enough strength, confidence and backbone to read it, digest it and thank them for it.

 


Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

More than you know! Some of them are probably obvious. If you like to keep moving, then you’ll have to get creative because it’s quite the sedentary line of work. It can be lonely for those who like to socialize on an hourly basis as in a more traditional job. But you can build that into your day by scheduling calls with people or lunch dates with colleagues to avoid feeling completely alone. I personally am a bit of a loner, so it doesn’t really bother me all that much but I will say that by the end of the week cooped up in the house, you are definitely itching to chat with the UPS man! Your sleep patterns are likely to be a mess because you have to write when inspiration hits and unfortunately, it doesn’t always arrive between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. And it’s scary because it opens the door to that dreaded and frightful F-word…(whispers) feedback. More than any other work I’ve done (and I’ve written a lot of stories, profiles and content for magazines, newspapers and websites), this is the most personal of my work. THE MUSE UNLOCKED is my baby, metaphorically, and no one wants to hear that someone doesn’t like his or her baby. So one hazard is you cannot go into this world expecting everyone’s going to stroke your ego. You have to be prepared that someone somewhere is going to tell you that your baby is ugly. You have to quickly learn to deal with that potentially harsh reality.

 


What is your favorite bedtime drink?

If it is a night when I’m fortunate enough to have a little free time to curl up with my Kindle in bed and devour a new contemporary romance story by a favorite author like Sylvain Reynard or Colleen Hoover, then I absolutely prefer to accompany that relaxing experience with a glass of Ravenswood Merlot or Cupcake brand Red Velvet wine. If, however, I’m working, the wine only helps when writing the sex scenes. LOL. So normally, I find a good comfort beverage is helpful like a tall glass of chocolate almond milk. Mmm.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?

Honestly? How to type. I never knew when I was taking a general typing class in sixth grade on electric typewriters (kids, you can look those up on Wikipedia) how unbelievably important that skill set would be. Yes, it was helpful to understand basic math operations like multiplication and division and percentages, especially for future tip-giving and the value of reading is of course immeasurable. But typing? Wherever would I be in this world without the all-important home row of “asdf jkl;” being burnt into my long-term memory?

What are books for?

Books are for whatever purpose you want them to serve. Sometimes when people hear what I do for a living, they suddenly become apologetic and confess to me how they don’t allocate enough time to read more. It makes me chuckle, because why should people give a crap what I think when it comes to their reading habits? My opinion on the matter is completely irrelevant. Making the time to read is a personal decision, a hobby some choose because they get pleasure from it, or an activity others engage in because they find reading helpful to them, like a tool or resource to learn or do something else. I’ve heard from many romance readers, including some of those who have read my own novel, that reading the genre can be a wonderful channel for readers to get in touch with their erotic or passionate selves and that it often carries itself into other rooms of the house (namely, the bedroom). For me personally, books are an opportunity to let my imagination run wild. I enjoy immersing myself into a character’s skin and seeing what it feels like to be someone else for a few hours at a time (or a few days if I’m reading the book at a marathon pace!) Other times, it’s fun to experience a new environment. For example, my book takes place on a movie set, so I hope that people who love movies will enjoy references to the process and set throughout the book. Some authors take us to a foreign land or better yet, another world, and we can really let our imaginations jet into overdrive.

If you could travel to the past in a time machine, what advice would you give to the 6-year-old you?

I’d tell little Chrissie don’t be afraid. Yeah, they might laugh initially but if you feel inspired, do whatever you feel in that moment – sing, dance, act, paint, explore. Growing up, I always felt restrained, like I had to stay within the confines of the little box I was placed in and that extending beyond those expectations would shock or disappoint others. I was never encouraged to color outside the lines. I worried about what others would think – my parents, my teachers, my classmates, my friends. As you get older, you develop a courage that you only wish you had years earlier. Each decade, you become a bit braver until finally you recognize that life is far too short to waste time worrying about what other people think, and the benefit of listening to your heart is far more valuable. I wish I could go back in time and assure that young girl that if she embraces every bit of herself, her pudgier face and body, her humor and the performer within her that she’s hiding, that it doesn’t matter who teases, who laughs or who questions. It only matters that she delivers to the world exactly who she is and what she’s got to offer it.

When was the last time you laughed and what did you laugh at?

It probably was a favorite TV comedy show or a conversation with my husband. For me, laughing is like crying, I do it every day, and often, multiple times. Maybe that sounds extreme and no, I’m not an overly hormonal person. I just find tragedy and comedy in each day, whether it’s the slow mourning process dealing with the death of my dog or a maudlin tear-jerker drama that gets me weeping or on the other end of the spectrum,  catching a clever stand-up on Conan or watching a trio of squirrels traverse the fence, slipping and tripping each other and showcasing tremendous balance on the fence post canoodling and doing God knows what else… life is simply sad and funny, all at the same time. So I’m sure I laughed earlier this morning and I probably cried just before or after that. I’m glad that I’m emotional like that. It’s good to be able to feel all of life coming at you from every direction. It reminds us we’re alive and I’m so glad that I am not numb to it.

 

If today’s the end of the world, what’d you do?

I’d definitely gather all of my closest loved ones with me and we’d find a great spot to hang out on the beach, take in all of the elements – the heat embracing our skin, the sticky sand between our toes and the salty water on our lips. I might even wear a bikini since I’ve never worn one as an adult and on the last day on Earth, who the Hell cares what anybody thinks anymore, right? I’d sip wine (secretly, since I’m fairly certain that’s illegal in the state of Florida), stick my lawn chair at the end of the shore, my feet dangling back and forth enjoying the foam, bubbles and rush of the waves and wait for the sun to set, letting that sight be the final, beautiful image I take in before I crash on the beach (hopefully), the unfortunate (or fortunate) combination resulting from drinking far too much wine and getting heat stroke simultaneously. I want that final itty-bitty, teensy-weensy sliver of orange of the sun to be the last thing I see.
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ABOUT ME

I am a freelance writer and editor by profession, having worked in both the private sector and media to tell stories through marketing materials, articles, web content and social media. However, since I was a child, I’ve most enjoyed writing that allowed me to really explore my creativity as well as the kind of dialogue inherent in theater and movies, something that I think carries over into my more conversational writing style. I am married and live in the Tampa Bay area in Florida. In my spare time, I love to golf, watch professional sports, go to local museums and attractions and immerse myself in great film, TV, music, art and books.

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