Christianmichael Dutton is a writer who knows how to weave a dark tale of fantasy. He also writes under the pen name Hui Lang (Chinese for “gray wolf”). With tales of woe, fantasy and heroes and heroines with bite, Christianmichael isn’t afraid to step into the realms of the world of pirates, demons, and private eyes, exploring hierarchies and relationships with a dark twist.
Hi Christianmichael, thanks for answering a few questions about your writing journey. First of all, are you able to tell us what first drew you to writing?
I always felt since I was a kid I had stories to tell. I didn’t get into reading until after I got my first set of Dungeons and Dragons (because I couldn’t find anyone to play with me). So, I started reading fantasy books. My first real book that I fell in love with reading was the Dragonlance Chronicles: Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I knew then I could write a tale (hopefully) like those authors could.
What kind of books do you like to a.) read and b.) write?
I like to read fantasy (just about all types); however, my favorite kind of fantasy is “gonzo” fantasy where you have many different types of vocations among characters (warrior, assassin, wizard, sorcerer, cleric, etc.), different races (human, 500 different types of elves, lizardman, some Cat-girl, some Wolf-girl, etc.). However, when I beta-read for fellow authors or if someone wants a review, I’ll read any genre at any rating.
I tend to write “grimdark” fantasy (where morality is a very loose term among the characters, good doesn’t always win and does so at the expense of other good characters, and tragedy at every corner).
What was the first story you wrote?
My first book was a fantasy story when I was 14 years old. I don’t have a title for it, but it’s a quest fantasy about a warrior who has to stop an evil wizard as he seized the reins of power. I mixed in a lot of 20th century weapons with the fantasy.
A lot of your books delve deep into dark fantasy. What draws you to writing for such a genre?
My writing reflects real life. Those who have power stay in power. They are cruel, malicious, and throw away the weak as if mere playthings. This trickles down all the way into our inner cities where predators prey upon the elderly and children, where everyday men and women don’t have control over their lives, the pressures of day-to-day surviving causes them to snap. These are my stories, but I put them in a fantasy backdrop. If I’m not writing about the power players, I’m writing about their victims and their struggles.
I understand, when you can fit it into your busy schedule, that you enjoy beta reading for other authors. What do you tend to get out of this process?
There are three things I like about beta-reading. The first is that it exposes me to other genres that I don’t typically read or write. For example, your work was the first urban fantasy / police procedural work I’ve read. Never read anything like it before. The second thing is that I enjoy helping other writers improve their craft, particularly if I see typical problems such as taking the story from Point A to Point B with no twists or real development in between. I enjoy helping other writers expand their story to tell a more complete tale or push their characters to an 11 on the dial. The last thing is when a writer loves the feedback they’ve gotten from me and they are revamping their story. They aren’t following me word-for-word, but they appreciate the criticism I’ve given them and fixing problems.
Tell us more about your stories you have published.
I’ve written eight and am working on a ninth. However, I have a few short stories. I write under the pen name Hui Lang (Chinese for “gray wolf”).
The first is Malicyne’s Puzzle. It’s set in my fantasy world for my Rise of Evil series. It’s a pirate adventure with a switch on gender expectations and a twist at the end of the story. It’s in the anthology Shadows of the Sea edited by J.E. Feldman.
The second is Thela’s Angel and Daughter of Darkness in Shadows of the Fallen edited by J.E. Feldman. Thela’s Angel is currently my personal favorite as it’s about an abused woman in a cruel society who desires a son, but she is won by a new husband from a duel and her entire life changes.
Daughter of Darkness is about what is good, what is evil, and the question of nature vs. nurture as a holy knight with an unknown past protects a baby born from a demon.
The next story is Down the Wishing Well for the anthology Chasing White Rabbits due out October 2018. It’s a retelling of Alice Adventures in Wonderland with an African-American Alice in a fictional town of Truthdale, Alabama in 1956.
The most recent story is The Mark of the Spider for the anthology All Dark Places. It’s a pulp noir horror story set in San Francisco 1925. It follows the story of a private eye Marlo Price as he’s brought into a high-profile murder case.
What advice would you give any future writers?
My advice is three points. Firstly, practice a lot. When you hear the expression, “write your million words of crap”, that really means something. You got to get all the bad writing out of you and you need feedback on it, so you can continue to work on your problems. Secondly, get feedback. Get lots of feedback. Take the criticisms on your work to heart and fix the problems. If you get feedback from me, expect suggestions on how to fix your problems. I don’t tell you that your characters are flat and boring and then offer nothing on how to spice them up. Lastly, learn to love to edit. Editing is not about fixing your grammar. It’s about looking for opportunities to spice up your story. A lot of novice writers, chuck out a first draft and think they are done. No, not by a long shot.
Do you have any quirks, or processes you follow when writing?
I can write in just about any environment, but I need coffee. I drink a lot of coffee while I write. I drink so much that I can drown a fish if it was water.
Do you have a music playlist for when you write? If so, are you able to name a couple of songs that inspire you?
Yes, I a range of tastes, but here’s a few songs I like to listen to over, and over, and over, and…
The nightcore version of The Devil Within by Digital Daggers. I watch this version because of the picture of a demon who is crying. This is important to me because if I can capture a genuine emotion of a demon crying and make the reader sympathetic to their plight, then I’m doing something right as an author.
It’s a Sin cover by Hidden Citizens.
Anything from Eurielle, but I’m particularly fond of City of the Dead.
I listen to my music on YouTube, so here are the links.
What three things do you like about being an author?
Firstly, meeting with other authors and reading their works. I enjoy talking about their “babies”, and then get the opportunity to discuss my work in return. Secondly, getting feedback from my own beta-readers on how to fix problems with my stories. I love this because it makes me a better writer on each pass. For example, Thela’s Angel would not have been the powerful story it is if I didn’t get feedback on it. Lastly, reading good reviews on my work.
What three things do you dislike about being an author?
The market flooded with hucksters, fraudsters, and amateurs who think they are the next Earnest Hemingway, but can’t be bothered to hire an editor before publishing their work. The next thing is the sad fact that I’ll probably not make any money in this, but it applies to a lot of authors in this kind of environment these days. The last thing is the amount of time it really takes to be a full-fledged author (writing, editing, marketing, beta-reading for others, social media updates, blogging just to name a few of the things to do). The last statement particularly scares me because I feel like I may drive myself out of the market if I am unable to handle the commitments on my time.
Can you tell us which one of your characters you’ve written about is your favorite?
Currently, that would be the Tri-Headed Queen, the Goddess of Lust and Pain, the Mother Who Loves Her Children. She is not only one of the major evil goddesses in my fantasy world, but she’s also a personable goddess in that she’s not driven to be cruel for cruelty’s sake. She does carry an interest in other people so long as they don’t bore her (god help them if they do). The other thing is that she typically acts like the Faustian devil, offering a pact of selling one’s soul in exchange for money, power, sex, etc, which makes her more engaging in the affairs of the mortals.
What future projects do you have in the pipeline?
I am currently working on a ninth novel, but I cannot discuss the details. I can’t even reveal the genre. Sorry, state secret. However, I’m also working on a short story. The tentative working title is The Game is Still Not Finished. It’s a story set about thirty something years prior to the events of the Rise of Evil series about a grizzled lantern bearer and his elven sister-in-law whom he has a very antagonistic relationship with. Both of them are trying to find a way to free his wife (her sister) who is being held prisoner by the queen of the snow-elves; however, things take a turn for the worse when they end up in a ghost-haunted wood with an abandoned waycoach inn.
After I finish The Game, I have no less than four short stories I’d like to work on the anthology First Love by Dragon Soul Press. The working titles are When Children Play, The Black-heart River and the Siren, The Curse of the Medusa, and Jack’s Addiction. The first three are set in my fantasy world while Jack’s Addiction is a more contemporary story about a young man who is in rehab recovering from drugs and alcohol as he tries to get over the loss of his first love killed by a drunk driver.
Where can people or potential readers find out more about you and your works?
For Thela’s Angel and Daughter of Darkness:
A special thanks to you for having me.