Monday, September 9, 2013

Is this the most adorable fan family EVER? An interview with self-published writer of the week Chris Hager

Chris and his wife Tricia in Star Wars cosplay. All photos courtesy of Chris Hager.
I'm very excited to introduce this week's self-published writer of the week, Chris Hager. Chris resides in Kansas City, MO with his wife Tricia and his baby daughter, and he's a huge film and television buff. That passion has fueled his writing. Not only does he write screenplays and create films, he is also working on "Atlantia Rising," which is an unofficial Battlestar Galactica novel. With recent news of Amazon opening a fan fiction publishing branch and news of fan fiction turning into blockbusters (E.L. James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" pops up into minds), I thought it would be great for an avid member of the fan community to share his story. 

TL: First off, thanks, Chris, for stopping by the blog. You have written screenplays and now you are venturing into fan fiction with your new work "Atlantia Rising." I was impressed that you loved writing and the show so much that you would devote time for a venture that was not-for profit. So the question on some people's minds is why write fan fiction? What inspired you to do so, and what do you hope to accomplish with it? 

CH: I think fan fiction is a great way for fans to connect with the story universes they love! Most of us will never have the opportunity to be involved with our favorite franchises. By creating unique characters and stories for those much-loved worlds, one is able to leave a personal mark on them, even if only in their own minds.

“Atlantia Rising” began as a story line for a fan-based space combat game; it was the opportunity for me to contribute to a project that melded one of my favorite shows with one of my favorite video game genres. While the story and characters I developed would ultimately not find life in that project, years later I still found the characters and core story so compelling that I had to do something with them. The story had become canon in my mind; it belonged in the Battlestar universe. I felt it was good enough that others may feel the same, so I decided to write it and share it with other fans.

The term fan fiction has earned a stigma over the years, over-generalizing the efforts of fan writers. While it is true that many fan-written stories are rehashes of series plots, what-ifs regarding existing characters or this-is-how-it-should-have-ended stories, others go beyond the source material with new characters and situations that expand the universe in which they are based. In these cases, fan fiction can be as robust, authentic and enjoyable as officially-published expanded universe novels you may find in the bookstore!

My goal was the latter. Rather than rely on existing characters I chose to view the events of the Battlestar Galactica pilot miniseries through a completely new set of characters. I wanted to tell a new, self-contained story that, while connecting to the television series in some ways, also stood on its own and respected the subject matter enough to be an organic addition to the universe. I feel that I have succeeded!
"Most of us will never have the opportunity to be involved with our favorite franchises. By creating unique characters and stories for those much-loved worlds, one is able to leave a personal mark on them, even if only in their own minds."
TLOn your blog, Theunreadableblog, you have a section called "Star Wars Nursery," which showcases your Star Wars-themed nursery for your daughter. Is your wife also a huge sci-fi fan like yourself? Besides Star-Wars what other shows/movies/comics do you two both love? 
"Ahh... father. Powerful Jedi was he. Powerful Jedi."
CH: As a matter of fact, the nursery theme was my wife’s idea! I mentioned it jokingly early on in the pregnancy; when the time came to make the choice, that was her pick! I think I sort of brought out the nerd side in my wife; while she liked Star Wars before we met, she found a renewed love for it during our annual New Year’s Star Wars saga viewings!

After introducing her to Babylon 5, Star Trek and discovering Firefly together, sci-fi is undeniably a mutual love. More than anything, a strong story and compelling characters draw us to the shows and movies we like to watch. I find strong dramas like Homeland, United States of Tara and The Unit just as enjoyable as straight sci-fi shows. Similarly, movies like Lost in Translation, Moulin Rouge and Drive all captivate me with their own unique style and approach to story-telling.
Super cute baby, she is. Chris' daughter is being groomed to be a Star Wars fan like her parents.
Chris and his family inside of the Star Wars nursery.
TL: You are an active volunteer at Kansas City's PLANET COMIC-CON. Last year, you moderated a panel, and this year you greeted media and celebrity guests. What has been your favorite experience at Planet Comic-Con and why?

CH: Without a doubt, moderating Adrienne Wilkinson’s Q&A panel at Planet Comicon 2012 has been a highlight. Interviewing an actor who has had considerable and unique contributions to the sci-fi and fantasy genres was a pleasure. It is an opportunity few are offered and I hope I get the chance to do something like that again!

TL: Do you have any tips for newbies who want to start going to conventions?
Chris with Edward James Olmos at Kansas City Planet Comic-Con 2012.

CH: As a matter of fact, I did a write up on just this topic a couple years ago; you can read it over at SciFi4Me.com! The main thing to remember, if you are attending a con in order to meet your favorite actors/writers/artists/etc, is that they are indeed people too. It is very easy to get star-struck the first few times you meet people whose work you have enjoyed; I know I did.

But remember, you are not meeting Captain Malcolm Reynolds; you are meeting Nathan
Chris and Tricia meet Firefly's Jewel Staite at Tulsa's Trek Expo 2011.
Fillion. They like meeting new and interesting people just like anybody else. They enjoy a pleasant conversation just like anybody else. They enjoy talking about what they are up to now, just like anybody else.

Chris and Tricia meet Babylon 5's Mira Furlon at Kansas City's Planet Comic-Con 2010.
There is nothing wrong with asking these guests the questions you’ve been dying to ask when you have the chance. Just be sure to take the opportunity to connect with them as people also. A little research on where they are now will go a long way and set you up for a more engaging conversation than one centered solely on that one show you saw them in ten years ago. You will find the encounter much more rewarding as a result!

TL: Anything you would like to add?

CH: The best writing is that with which the reader finds a connection. Talk to any talented (commercially successful or not) writer and I believe that, almost universally, they will tell you the same thing: the best writing comes from a very personal place.

Becoming a better writer has required me to become aware of not only my character strengths, but also my flaws. This has been a painful process at times, and certainly humbling; few of us willingly seek out and recognize the darker parts of ourselves. The fact is, these faults exist within each of us and we all struggle to face and overcome them. By focusing on those conflicts that we all deal with but that no one else ever sees, a writer will find a connection with the reader. In so doing, they are in effect sharing in the human experience for a brief time.

OTHER POSTS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

Self-published writer of the week: Peter Shapiro
What are some good websites to self-publish?
Should I self-publish?
Self-published writer of the week: Gregor Southard

I'm a huge advocate of Do-It-Yourself, and I'm looking for other DIY-ers to share their stories. If you're a self-published writer, blogger, independent filmmaker, Youtube star, whatever, tweet me and I may feature you on my blog! 

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