Interview with Chris Holm, author of The Killing Kind

05 Nov 2015
Tell us a little bit about your new release, The Killing Kind.

THE KILLING KIND is the story of Michael Hendricks. Once a covert operative for the US government, he now makes his living killing hitmen. For ten times the price on your head, he’ll make sure the person sent to kill you winds up in the ground instead. It’s not a bad way for a guy with his skill-set to make a living, but it’s a great way to make himself a target.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Boy. That’s a tough one. On the one hand, that kid was an idiot, but on the other, I’m pretty happy where I ended up stumbling blindly through life without a clue. I suppose if I could tell him anything, it’d be, “Drop the cynical act. It’s nothing more than a flimsy mask to hide your fears and insecurities. Once you admit that to yourself, your life’s gonna get a whole lot more interesting.”

What’s the last book you read?

In its entirety? Michael Koryta’s LAST WORDS. It was a damn fine thriller, chilling and evocative. Right now, I’m in the middle of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS. It’s taking me forever because I’m editing my own book in parallel, but it’s a gorgeous novel. Spencer-Fleming is a masterful writer, capable of delivering white-knuckled thrills and quiet character moments that never fail to ring true.

Say you’re the host of a talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

Oh, god. I’d make a terrible talk-show host. I’m an obsessive consumer of pop culture (books, music, TV, movies) but I have no interest whatsoever in the private lives of celebrities. I’d probably wind up asking the sort of nerdy, deep-dive questions that’d make my guests uncomfortable, and bore the crap out of my audience. But since we’re in hypothetical territory, this Twin Peaks fan would likely have as his first guest David Lynch and a vial of truth serum. That man does not give up his secrets lightly.

What’s rocking your world this month?

I’m not really a musical theater guy. My wife’s nuts about them — she used to act in them herself — but they’re just not my cup of tea. But I just finished listening to the cast recording of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, and it knocked me flat. It’s an inspiring, heartbreaking tale, beautifully told.

Do you listen to anything while you write? If so, what’s your audio of choice?

I find it difficult to listen to music when I’m writing. I used to think that was odd, since I’m a huge music geek, but I now realize those two facts are complimentary. I’m incapable of tuning music out. When it’s on, I tend to give it my full attention. On the rare occasion I do listen to music when I write (usually to generate energy on the page when I’m feeling uninspired), it has to be instrumental, or the lyrics interfere. Benny Goodman, MONO, DJ Shadow, and The Budos Band are all go-to’s when I need a jolt.

Who are your literary heroes?

That’s a loaded question. How long’ve you got?

Megan Abbott. Lawrence Block. Raymond Chandler. Susanna Clarke. Michael Crichton (yes, really; the man knew his way around a high-concept thriller). William Gibson. Dashiell Hammett. Frank Herbert. Madeleine L’Engle. Tim Powers. Donna Tartt. Donald Westlake. P.G. Wodehouse. Just to name a few.

What’s your favorite quote or scene from The Killing Kind?

Hmm. My favorite moment in the novel would probably constitute a spoiler. Have me back for the next book, and I’ll tell you what it was. In the meantime, I’ve always been partial to this line from the opening chapter: “By the time you hear the gunshot, the bullet’s come and gone.”

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

I’m a cautious, introverted person by nature, but I try not to let that rule me. I’ve forced myself to get comfortable being uncomfortable. To never say no to an experience out of fear of embarrassment, of pain, of failure. Frank Herbert’s “Litany Against Fear” from DUNE has proven handy in that regard:

“I will not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

That carries over into my writing life, too. I have a typewriter tattoo, around which are the words “WRITE BRAVELY.” It’s a constant challenge, a constant reminder. (And as a writer, it amuses me to have an adverb on my arm. We writers are awfully hard on the lowly adverb, when really, adverb abuse is a failing of the craftsman, not the craftsman’s tools.)

 

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Chris Holm is the author of the new book The Killing Kind.

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