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Virtual Author Tour: Chris Dolley

Chris Dolley (aka chrisdolley) was kind enough to interview me back when I did my Virtual Tour for Goblin Quest. Now Chris' first book is coming out in paperback, and his second will hit the bookstores a few months later in hardcover. So it's time to return the favor.

Your second novel Shift comes out this July. But Harry Potter 7 also hits bookstores in July. What are some good reasons to ditch the wiz-kid and pick up your book instead?

How about a serial killer with multiple personalities, an out-of-body detective and a page-turning mystery. And did I mention the extra dimensions?

Shift is a book set in an eleven dimensional universe. Not a collection of separate three dimensional universes but a 'fat' universe. A universe where we not only have length, breadth and depth but eight other axes of movement as well. And guess what? The human mind protrudes into some of these higher dimensions. We're more than our physical selves. We have a presence in higher dimensional space.

Cue Peter Pendennis - the serial killer with multiple personalities. His latest personality claims to be John Bruce - the first, and only, astronaut to pilot a craft into higher dimensional space - and appears to know things only the real John Bruce could possibly know.

Which is strange, seeing that the real John Bruce is alive and well and running for the Presidency.

Cue the arrival of our astropsychologist hero, Nick Stubbs. He's brought in by doctors at the secure psychiatric unit to examine Pendennis. And very soon wishes he hadn't. Someone starts killing people - using Pendennis's MO - and making it look like Nick's the killer.

Cue the many mysteries. Who's doing the killing, why and how? Who's running for President? And what exactly happened on Bruce's maiden flight?

There's only one way to find out. And it's a surprising one.

Your blog has some of the best kitten tales, complete with pictures. Come clean -- aren't these really some sort of alien supercats who pose for photos in exchange for safety from their evil dog overlord? What's the real story behind the felines?

Actually I come from a long line of watchers whose job it is to feed and clean up after International Kittens of Mystery. These brave felines are all
that stands between the planet and total annihilation. And someone has to clean their litter tray. Which, after some of the fur-raising missions they're sent on, is quite a task.

I have a fair number of writers who follow my blog, and you were the first writer to be plucked out of the Baen electronic slush pile. Tell us more about that process, the pros and cons, the ups and downs, the lefts and rights, and so on....

Okay, here's my 'how I got published' story. I was half way through writing Resonance and really excited. Then I showed it to my agent and ... he didn't like it. He loved my expat true crime memoir (Nous Sommes Anglais) which he was subbing around the publishers but Resonance ... no. This was when I found out that my agent didn't really like science fiction. He liked the Hitchhiker's Guide but that was about it. Couldn't I change Resonance into a medical thriller?

I couldn't. If I took the SF out of Resonance there'd be no story. So I was stuck. What do you do when your agent doesn't like your book? In my case I decided to park the book in Baen's electronic slushpile. It didn't cost me any postage and at least the book was out there.

I then forgot about the book. If my agent didn't like SF I'd try something else. So I dabbled in comedy and mystery. And lost an agent. Apparently the expat memoir bubble had just burst and every UK publisher had one on their list and didn't want another, thank you very much.

Time crept on and I decided that mystery was the genre for me. I had a detective, I had a novel and I submitted 'An Unsafe Pair of Hands' to Warner's First Mystery contest. A month later I received notification that my book was a finalist. Yay! I was a mystery novelist. Then a week later I awoke to find an email from Jim Baen. Only it wasn't to me. I'd been copied a letter from Jim to his commissioning editor, Toni, asking her to make an offer on Resonance. Except there was a problem. He hadn't been able to find me. All his emails had gone unanswered. He'd been trying for months.

No! And Yay! I swiftly entered a state of shock. It had been two years since I'd submitted Resonance. I'd forgotten all about it. And I could have been published six months ago! There was another email in my in-tray. From someone else at Baen. An internet wide search had been instigated to find me. Where was this mysterious author? Jim had just made his first selection from the electronic slush pile and the author goes missing!

I found a similar message on the Speculations site. I wanted to shout, "I'm here! I'm here!" And, to make it worse, there was, of course, a time difference. It was breakfast time in France. No one would be at the Baen offices for hours. Seven hours later I got through to them. I'm here! I'm here! And that's how I became a science fiction novelist.

I want to become a loyal Dolley fan. Am I better off starting with Shift or Resonance?

Either will do, both even better. Resonance is a highly original and quirky mystery where you spend the first half of the book trying to work out what's happening and just when you think you have, you realise that's only one small part of an even bigger mystery. If you like programs like Lost, you'll like Resonance.

Shift is a darker and faster read set in a different universe - an eleven dimensional universe. It also verges more towards science fantasy as much of the action takes place in the ethereal higher dimensional space. There are out-of-body sequences and when I say that the detective has to get inside the mind of a serial killer - the hard way - I mean it. Literally.

What's the best part about living in France?

The rural lifestyle, cheap housing, cheap alcohol. France and the UK are having a cunning exchange project at the moment. The young French move to London for the better career and business prospects while the older Brits move to France to escape the pressures of the better career and business prospects.

It's also interesting that France and the UK are on different cycles. The French are still moving from the countryside to the towns - depopulating the rural areas while the Brits have been there, done that and, fed up with city life, are looking to move back into the countryside - either as commuters or searchers for a rural idyll. The result: huge increase in UK rural property prices and a huge disparity when compared to the abandoned French farmsteads. So, us Brits are repopulating the French countryside and forcing the locals to play cricket :)


Jim C. Hines


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