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Author/Musician Christopher Hopper (Part 2)

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Christopher Hopper is a well known Christian author and musician. He has written the White Lion Chronicles and co-wrote The Berinfell Prophecies with Wayne Thomas Batson. The Christopher Hopper Band is currently hard at work on their 12th album.

I was recently given the opportunity to interview Mr. Hopper for Teen Ink. We spoke about his music, The Berinfell Prophecies and his upcoming projects.

Rachel – So are you a fan of fantasy?

Christopher Hopper – Very much so. After that book, I became an avid reader and I am to this day. [I] feel very fortunate that a friend pretty much coerced me into reading. It opened my eyes. I finally understood why everybody was so passionate [about reading]. You know, I'd see somebody on a train with their head buried in a book, and [be] like, “What are you doing? That's such a waste of time!” Now I'm like, “Hey, what book are you reading?” {laughs} I get it! I get it.

RH – Who are your favorite fantasy authors or books?

CH – Well, for sure, Mr. Stephen Lawhead. He'd be number one, if nothing more because he opened my eyes to that world. But I think he's a fantastic writer! He doesn't just write what I would consider “candy fiction.” Certain books I read because they're easy to read and they're fast-paced and almost predictable. [Mr. Lawhead] writes in a way that really conveys the epicness [sic] of life. So when someone's taking a long journey, he actually describes the whole journey over a long period of time. It's kind of boring to some people, but I think it builds to the credibility of the story. So I love Mr. Lawhead!

I always found it fascinating to discover that the source of inspiration for both C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien was a man named George MacDonald. I enjoy reading George MacDonald, although he's very difficult to read because he's from a different era. (I'll read two pages and have to take a break because my brain hurts from paragraph long sentences.) So I really love George MacDonald.

Who else?

My dad got me hooked on Clive Cussler. [He] probably fits more into the candy genre, but it's just fun, adventurous fiction. I really like Clive Cussler.

So there's a couple!

RH – How was the writing process different with The Berinfell Prophecies since you co-wrote them with Wayne Thomas Batson?

CH – Well, certainly co-writing anything, as we did with The Berinfell Prophecies, requires almost double the amount of work. Not from the sense of writing the chapters—because we tend to divide those up pretty equally—but [writing is] not just you daydreaming anymore. It's you and somebody else daydreaming. That process requires a lot of articulation. For instance, I don't have phone calls with myself when I'm working on one of my own stories. But I have to with Wayne when we're developing the plot structure.

Because of that, it tends to pull more ideas out of you as you're talking about them. Likewise, those ideas spur on the other person. They respond to what you said with additions that are obviously not yours; they're the other person's. So you come away with really creative, if not outlandish, stuff at times.

We also had to create a new way of writing. It's not just good enough that I have my own Word document open, but we had to have something that we could both collaborate on. So the first two books we wrote with a program called Scrivener and that's a fantastic program. But even in the course of time that we've written these three books, technology has advanced, so the whole concept of having something stored on a Cloud is even more beneficial to people like us. So we are actually using a free application called Evernote. We have files that we share and upload in real time. That way we're seeing each other's work build progressively just by having it connected to a Cloud that we both have access to.

So those are some of the facets of how we've written The Berinfell Prophecies.

RH – Are you two still working together on any projects?

CH – We are. We are actually currently writing book three of The Berinfell Prophecies. Our publisher for the first two decided not to take the option for a third book, which was rather strange. They decided that there wasn't enough following for the books, yet our forum has over 10,000 users on it. {laughs} So that was kind of interesting. [Wayne and I] were both scratching our heads a little.

But we actually feel it's a huge blessing because I have since retracted all of my contracts with publishers and I'm actually self-publishing completely now. Wayne is moving that direction as well. We've started a entity called Spearhead books which is kind of a guild of self-published authors who can work and grow together and produce material.

We are currently writing book three of The Berinfell Prophecies for Spearhead books. That's a really cool process because, unlike working with a publisher, we can do whatever we want. {laughs} We're not answering to anybody else on the creative level. It certainly puts more responsibility and weight on you, but because we've both written a number of novels now, we'd like to think we know what we're doing. It gives us a lot more flexibility and freedom.

RH – What can fans expect from the third book?

CH – A whole lot of twists, turns and surprises.

Then there's some rumbling on the Underground, which is our forum, that people are really upset that the Spider King was killed off. (I thought they'd be happy!) But it's seems that he was kind of a lovable villain of some kind. {laughs} They're also really upset that Jett died and [I've heard] a couple people say, “I don't know if I want to read anymore!”

I could just tell you, Rachel, that what's coming is monumental and pales the other two books by comparison! As we were discussing these plot developments, it was almost like how can we antagonize the reader even more and yet keep them hungry for more? So out of that desire came these really crazy plot twists, and “Hey, what if we did this?” “Oh, that's a good idea! But what if we add this, too?” “Oh, that's so good!” We've had a lot of animated phone calls.

I think the readers will be very pleasantly surprised and shocked in the third installment.

RH – Those are always the best books!

CH – Yes! I agree!

RH – So, going back to an earlier question, how does an author who wants to self-publish join Spearhead?

CH – That's a great question and we've actually had that come up quite a bit. There's two answers to that:

One is we're working on developing kind of a school, if you will, to help—especially younger writers—develop their trade skills, their writing craft. [We're] recognizing that there are a lot more author's voices that need to be heard in the market than what's currently purported. I think that self-publishing is really going to help perpetuate that in a huge, huge way. Spearhead doesn't actually publish books so much as it connects authors and readers.

Meaning I'm overseeing the publishing of my own novels and I own 100% of the royalties that I make on them. However, I've consciously linked myself with Spearhead, so I pay a portion back to help the group as a whole. We want to make the same skill sets that we've developed available for others to learn.

So that's answer one. We're working on a school to raise up the next generation.

But on a more advanced level, if people want to start writing for Spearhead, we are currently drafting kind of what our expectations are; both for ourselves and what we see a Spearhead author being defined as. This is not concrete, but it's covering things like a really strong creative work ethic, willingness to be a team player, being an accomplished writer in that they have a strong voice and they've already started to develop their own fan base. A lot of people have these dreams of being a famous musician and all they do is sit on their bed and play their guitar, hoping that one day a producer will find them and make them famous. Well, that's not really how it works. It's like a good investment. People put money and time behind things that are already successful on their own.

So that's how we look at it authors. How well are you communicating to those who like your material already? That's something we'd be interested in.

So, while there's no official route yet, Rachel, I'm sure that we'll be putting together some sort of an application process for people who want to be connected.

RH – What other projects are you currently working on?

CH – Writing-wise, I've had a novel series idea for a couple years now. I haven't really released the name of [it] yet. (So it's top-secret!) Well, I will tell you it's a steam-punk trilogy! Things have just kind of gotten ahead of it. But I'm hoping to set in on it early summer. I'm really excited about it! I think readers will eat it up. My plan now is to tell it in a first-person narrative, which, in my mind, is the hardest voicing to write from. Going back to Stephen Lawhead, I love how he used to do that. Also, Suzanne Collins with The Hunger Games did a fantastic job with that narrative voice. But I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a different character tell each book. So that will really give it an interesting twist.

Music-wise, I just wrote the first song for what I believe will be my next worship CD. I finally felt from the Lord that I was supposed to start writing [it]. But that will be my second project, because the first music project I'm really committed to is a new CD for my wife, Jennifer. [She] is an incredible singer, if you haven't heard her. She really has kind of a jazz, torch singer, ballad voice, kind of like a Nora Jones or an Adele style. We're working on a record for her that is, not worship, but more artistic, more story-song oriented. She has a heart to go into really secular environments and share her gift and be able to dialogue with people about Jesus through her music. She's a very anointed singer and great writer. So I'm very excited for that because it will be very pop-jazz oriented.

RH – What advice do you have for aspiring authors and musicians?

CH – Wow. Well, they're gonna kind of be the same.

I learn best by immersing myself in good literature and good music. In fact, if I'm reading a poorly written book while I'm writing, I'll actually find myself adopting bad habits and regurgitating those onto the page.

Actually, believe it or not, as much as I love modern worship and pop and rock, my favorite two genres to listen to are big band and classical because I find that their melody structures and their layouts are more complex and therefore demand more of me mentally. Likewise, when I read George MacDonald, it's not fun reading for me. But, boy, it makes me a good writer!

Immerse yourself and digest good art, whether it be music or literature.

The second tip I give people is to make your art available for critique. A lot of people say, “Oh, I love to paint!” “Can I see your paintings?” “Oh, no, no, I can't show them to anybody.” Well, you're never gonna grow 'cause the whole point of being gifted is to bless others with what you've been gifted with. I really feel strongly about submitting work to people in your area that can give you good, first-hand feedback, whether it be musically or literature. A lot of people say, “Well, what if I don't have anybody like that?” I had the same problem here. I had no authors to go to in my city, so I started a writer's group. I announced [it] to my church and, low and behold, there were like four other guys in my area that were writing stuff. We started to get together once a month, then once a week, just to share ideas and get critique and feedback. That was really beneficial to me as a writer. I do the same thing musically. I have a broader spectrum of contacts musically speaking. But making my art open for feedback and critique...

I think there's a little caveat with that, too, Rachel, which is to recognize that you have to almost divorce yourself from your art. Now we can't fully, 'cause we created it, but what I mean by that is we can't take criticism as a personal attack. People aren't attacking you, they're trying to make your art better. So if you can keep that in the forefront of your mind, it will help you digest and receive criticism, rather than taking it personally. That's super important if we're going to grow as artists.

So those would probably be my two biggest tips.

Oh, wait! One last thing which kind of goes hand in hand. There's an assumption there which is you need to be writing! You need to be creating music. On my website ( http://www.christopherhopper.com/ ), I write everyday. Whether people read it or not, I could care less. Obviously I want people to read it and be blessed and I keep my audience in mind, but one of the main points for me is that I would discipline myself everyday to write. Ernest Hemingway made the same commitment. He wrote 500 words a day, no matter what. Even if it was on the back of a napkin describing how his French toast was, he would write. That one act alone, Rachel, has increased my efficiency with the English language tremendously.

So I would tell people you have to be writing. God can't publish what you haven't authored yet. Same goes for music. You've got to be playing a little something everyday, even if it's just a rudiment or a little guitar lick. Get something out. Sing something out. Be thinking constantly in that vein of production and actually produce something from your life.




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