Thursday, September 1, 2011

Interview With Author Chris Eboch

Today, I get to interview Chris Eboch, who has written a variety of fiction and nonfiction for middle-graders, including a humorous ghost-story series called Haunted, and a new historical mystery called The Eyes of Pharaoh (are we sensing a mystery theme here? :)) A versatile writer, Chris has also done biographies, adult fiction under the name Kris Bock, and the subject of today's interview, a new writing book titled Advanced Plotting.

Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer: you've finished a few manuscripts, read books and articles on writing, taken some classes, attended conferences. But you still struggle with plot, or suspect that your plotting needs work.

This book can help.

Learn to identify and fix plot weaknesses, flesh out an outline, get off to a fast start, prop up a sagging middle, build to a climax, improve pacing, and more. Read the book straight through or dip in and out at random -- however you use this book, you'll find fascinating insights and detailed tips to help you build a stronger plot and become a better writer.

MH: Thanks so much for joining me, Chris. Why did you decide to write Advance Plotting?

CE: Well, like you, Marcia, I'm a writing teacher as well as a writer. I teach through the Institute of Children's Literature and also edit private clients and trade critiques with professional writer friends. I see how even experienced, published writers can struggle with plot, especially when it comes to novel-length work. It's just too hard to keep the entire big picture in mind while you edit page by page. And although I've seen plenty of books and articles covering the basics of plot -- beginning/middle/end structure and so forth -- I didn't see anything that covered many of the techniques I was learning through trial and error.

I developed an exercise called the Plot Arc Exercise to help myself take a step back from the work and see it as a whole, in order to identify flaws such as missing pieces, weak spots, and repetition. I tested this exercise with other people in a novel revision class. I felt it was successful enough that I wanted to make these techniques available to a larger audience.

The book also includes expanded versions of a dozen articles I've written about plotting techniques, covering everything from the promise of the first chapter to cliffhanger chapter endings. I teach a popular workshop called "What I Learned From Nancy Drew," and turned that into a couple of articles for the book as well. 

To make the book even more valuable, I invited other authors to share essays on plotting topics. I even have a long essay from my brother, a professional scriptwriter who wrote Sweet Home Alabama, on plotting like a screenwriter. Sharing these other voices gives readers a broader perspective.

MH: Where can people get the book?

CE: It's available on Amazon in paperback for $9.99, or as an e-book for $2.99 on Amazon or Smashwords. People can also check out excerpts this month on my blog.

MH: Chris, what else have you been up to lately?

CE: My latest book for young people is The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery set in ancient Egypt. A temple dancer and an apprentice toymaker get drawn into a world of intrigue when their friend, a young soldier, disappears. I loved ancient Egypt when I was a kid, and still do. My first historical novel, The Well of Sacrifice, is set in 9th-century Mayan Guatemala and is still in print and used in many schools. I can only hope The Eyes of Pharaoh has a similarly long life. 

I've also started writing romantic suspense for adults under the name Kris Bock. Rattled is my first book, a treasure-hunting adventure set in the wilds of New Mexico. 

MH: How do you build a career when you're writing in different genres under different names?

CE: It's a challenge. I have two websites, one for Chris Eboch and one for Kris Bock. I have to promote the work separately, targeting different audiences. But I have an agent who is supportive of my decision to start writing for adults, and I'm starting to network with people in the romance and mystery fields. The decision was really a personal one. I wanted to try something different. If I'm always learning, I don't get bored. And if I'm having fun and making discoveries along the way, I think that fun infuses the work and reaches the reader.

Thanks, Chris, for sharing your time with us. Best wishes in all your endeavors! And thanks for sharing what you've learned about plot with writers everywhere.


Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for the interview, Marcia. This sounds like an useful book!

Bish Denham said...

Great interview Marcia. And Thanks Chris for offering up what you have learned. I know I struggle with plotting and am sure I'd find your book very helpful.

Kris Bock said...

Glad to be here! And right now the e-book is just 99 cents. When I wrote this post, I'd planned to raise the price, but haven't yet. See excerpts from the book at

D.E. Malone said...

I'll be getting that for my bookshelf. Thanks for the interview, Marcia.

angela cerrito said...

I really enjoyed reading this! Thank you Marcia & Chris!

Nancy Thompson said...

Well, so far I haven't had any plotting problems, but it never hurts to have a resource like this. Thanks for the info and interview.

(BTW, I'm a new follower via Jeff King's Author's Union blog.)

Kris Bock said...

Thanks everyone who stopped by!

Marcia said...

Andrea -- Very useful!

Bish -- I never thought I was a great plotter either, but I've studied the subject and gotten better. Chris's book adds to our plotting resources.

Chris -- Thanks for that added price info!

Dawn -- I'm sure you'll find it helpful.

Angela -- Glad you enjoyed, and thanks for stopping by!

Nancy -- Yes, I've found that even studying your strengths helps. And thanks for coming and following!

Chris -- I'll second that!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Great interview, Marcia! It sounds like Chris has written a really helpful book. :D

Mary Witzl said...

This realyl does sound like a useful book. I do much of my plotting on taped-together scrap paper, using a timeline with arrows going back and forth and scribbled in bits at the top and bottom. I could obviously use some organization, and Chris's book sounds like a good place to start.

Dr. Cheryl Carvajal said...

Sounds like a really good book for me. On one of my drafts, I actually forgot about two characters completely halfway through the novel. They just disappeared.

I don't think I'd want it on e-book, though. I'd want to mark pages for reference, I think.

Anonymous said...

Great interview, you two. I'm always on the lookout for plotting techniques.

Marcia said...

Sharon -- Thanks for stopping. I'm always interested in new approaches.

Mary -- My stuff ends up looking that way too, sometimes. I suspect it's more what happens in our brains than on our papers when it comes to plotting, although some kind of organization helps a lot.

Shakespeare -- Yup, those characters CAN just disappear, or plot threads get dropped. I'm not sure what the options are for marking e-text, but they'd be worth exploring.

Medeia -- Me too, as I never considered plotting my strong suit. I love craft books. :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Wonderful interview. Thank you! I don't think writers can read enough about plotting and technique. Or, at least, this writer can't.

Stephanie Theban said...

Great interview! Sounds like a very helpful book. I love reading books on writing. I always find something that sinks in and helps. I've put this one on my wish list.