Like the great American buffalo, the Chris Keys’ brand of writing is diminishing. Times were when writers would spend months, years even, hunched over the typewriter turning out a manuscript that would be as close to perfection as the human eye could make it. But now, more often than not, the scene is that more and more writers turn book after book out within weeks. The market is flooded; and just like that buffalo, the traditional writer is a rare breed.
J.W .Northrup lives in Utah. He lives in a relatively middle class area with a warm and loving family to call his own. He wanted to meet the elusive Mr Keys and I was happy to go along for the occasion. It isn’t everyday that one gets to spend time with two of the most important, explosive and traditional writers of our age.
As the first glasses of wine are poured, Chris poses a question to the ever-serious Mr Northrup. “I loved The Gold Slaves. How is it doing?” J.W. shrugs and with a smile takes his first sip of a fine white from the nearby state of California. “It’s doing its thing… Climbing up a bit further everyday.” Chris settles back and nurses the glass in his hands. “I thought it was one helluva book.”
J.W. is a new breed of traditional writer and can write almost any way he wishes. I have seen him turn out a manuscript in days, and I have seen him spend hours working on one sentence. It’s hard to know what you will get from J.W. Northrup–he is as unpredictable as writers can be.
“What’s your latest release, Chris?” Keys has been working on his new book for a long time. It is called One Mistake and shows a new side to a writer many thought they already knew. “One Mistake just came out–” Chris replies with a chuckle, “I am currently having problems with Amazon– they won’t let people review the damn thing.”
J.W. nods in agreement, “Amazon are one slippery fish at times. I think they have been trying to curtail reviews. I don’t think they believe that people actually want to review books.”
The interview started shortly after as the two started on a second glass.
Nick: So, let me start by asking you something, Chris. The main character in One Mistake is a guy called Tyler Stone. He creates the perfect murder to rid himself of a wife who wants a divorce. Do you really think the perfect murder is a real possibility?
Chris: I don’t think you can plan a perfect anything. You can only project so much then you have improvise, and that’s where it gets real interesting.
Nick: Interesting answer, Chris. J.W. in his book The Gold Slaves writes about the slaves creating the ‘perfect’ environment. J.W let me ask you this– as writer of the book, do you believe that the slaves believe that they have really created perfection?
J.W: Well I wouldn’t say perfection, and that is not really their purpose. But they approach it much closer than we do. I think absolutes are unobtainable.
Nick: Another interesting answer. So, let’s say that perfection is unobtainable– what imperfection destroys Tyler Stone’s ‘perfect’ murder?
(At this point, I was called from the room, but left the recorder running…)
J.W: So, what does screw up the perfect murder, Chris?
Chris: You can have a perfect outcome but not a perfect plan. Tyler doesn’t want to get caught so he tries to plan it perfectly and his ego thinks he did–only he finds the plan didn’t work and never can because there are always outside factors. Tyler gets caught in outside factors and that something you can’t control. Let me ask you something, J.W– what factors really keep the gold slaves in their underground prison?
J.W: Actually two things: 1) their religion (not to be down on religion) inhibits them from looking; and 2) 2000 feet of earth. Their religion is very “real.” Imagine offering gold to gods and in return receiving food. They don’t believe food comes from anything but gods. So you really don’t want to mess with the gods.
Chris: It’s brainwashing at its most evil. Did any of the slaves ever mess with the gods?
J.W: The Gold Slaves once sent some non-conforming members up the mine shaft (that connects the two worlds). They came down dead. So they didn’t mess with the gods again. But let me make this absolutely clear, their civilization despite this is far superior to ours. That is the paradox. They just have that one big blind spot!
Chris: It’s working for them only because they don’t know any different. It’s a clear comparison to some world political and religious systems that keep the information that is distributed to the masses limited to the ideology of the elites.
J.W: Yes, it has many parallels with our society. After all, we offer our “gold” to the IRS.
Chris: Never question the government!
J.W: The Gold Slaves never question the gods. In the same way, we are afraid to question the insane system set up by the government out of fear. So we accept it.
Chris: That’ s true, J.W. Too many Americans either are afraid or simply don’t care unless it directly affects them. It’s almost like the frog in a pan of water on the fire. The frog will swim around and not try to leave until it’s too late because the heat rose so slowly he was boiled before he realized it, and we’re acting a lot like the frog.
J.W: True. Not really. They simply can’t see their predicament from 2000 feet underground. Let me ask you, Chris– how do you start a fiction story?
Chris: I start my stories usually writing about an issue or situation. For example, I started writing One Mistake for fun about a guy digging a hole and it grew from there. But would you say our everyday lives and the way the media covers the news out of Washington is sort of the symbolic ‘2000 feet of earth’ between our lives and what is being done to our future?
J.W: Yes, Chris that’s exactly it. I think that if people can simply “see” what they’re being conned into, they will no longer be conned. That is the whole point of the book. AND hopefully YOU will see how you are being conned when the Gold Slaves look at our world from their viewpoint
Chris: I find it interesting that you’ve chosen to make current social commentary using a story that borders on fantasy much like the great stories such as 1984, and Lord of the Flies.
J.W: It was definitely inspired by them! My goal was to create a unique viewpoint (Gold Slaves) and give people the idea that viewpoints can be very limited and you need to “step out of the box.”
Chris: You express this point subtly. Do you think most readers will catch the references?
J.W: If they read the book, they will. It is difficult to present it in a page or two or an answer or two.
Chris: I agree there is a lot of interesting social commentary in your book, and I wonder if the current crop of readers are capable of catching the concepts and metaphors.
J.W: I can only hope so. I wasn’t trying to be really “deep.”
Chris: Far too many people I know just seem to want to vegetate rather than have deal with anything beyond housing, food and entertainment. I coined a phrase about those people. Book smart, street dumb. So, J.W., will you be writing a sequel to the Gold Slaves?
J.W: Yes, a prequel and a sequel. Lots more to tell. We gotta shake these people out of the apathy of not confronting anything beyond their smart phone.
Chris: I’m looking forward to them. Not just because we have a lot in common in our thinking but because I’m interested see how you move the story forward and what you see as having led into the current situation. I’m reminded of HG Wells and the Morlocks when I read your story.
J.W: Thank you so much for the comparison. So, Chris, do you have any more mysteries in the works?
Chris: Absolutely! The next three books I’ll be releasing this summer are mysteries. One by One-a tale of revenge; Apollo Road-what happens when a serial killer decides to become your best friend; and my next release Pirate’s Plunder-an older, disabled hack writer falls into the role of crime fighter and find himself drawn into having to solve the theft of a huge sunken treasure in the Florida Keys.
J.W: That sounds fascinating! I think some of the greatest adventures are in the mind! And they’re free.
Chris: I will drink to that….
J.W: Me too. Cheers, Chris!
As you can see for yourself- it was an exciting conversation and I am just sorry I missed the chance to grill these two together… Although, I think they did a pretty good job of it all by themselves!
J.W. Northrup can be found here!
Chris Keys can be found here!