An interview with Chris Panatier

stringers

Chris Panatier’s new novel, Stringers toes the line between intellectual science fiction and bat-shit crazy fun. It also features one of the best friendship duos akin to Sam and Frodo.

Chris is someone I have looked forward to chatting with since his debut novel, The Phlebotomist. And I wasn’t disappointed; he is a fascinating man with his hand in many pies: lawyer, artist, and author.

chris panatierCheck out the below conversation that Chris and I had via email.

[GdM] Hey Chris, thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us!

[CP] Thank you so much for having me, Beth. What a treat!

[GdM] You are a lawyer by day, an author of some wildly cool science fiction, and an artist of album covers. What attracted you to law as your day job? How did both being an author and an artist start?

[CP] I have a bit of a reverse story from a lot of writers, I suppose. Most would-be authors I hear seemed to know they were going to write early on. Not me. I was too lazy for that. I had to write a 30-page paper in my third year of law school and considered it a great affront that anyone would be required to put down so many words. So, long story short, my desire to be a trial lawyer came pretty early and I’ve done that for twenty years. I like to find the story in the case, then speak it to juries with an aim to holding companies responsible for doing bad things to people.

As for art, that started in childhood, but (due to laziness) I didn’t really get serious until around 2007 when I started trying to draw album art and bands started to find me.

Writing hit me like a bolt of lightning. In 2015 I was struck by the desire to write a novel—probably because it suddenly dawned on me that the marriage of writing a story and a reader reading that story is this very magical thing. That you can write words that lots of people will read in the same order, but the story as it manifests in one reader’s mind will never look like it looks in somebody else’s brain. There was a beauty to that idea I couldn’t shake. After that, I started writing. Badly. But I wrote every single day for years until my work began to find homes.

[GdM] Is there a story that was very influential for you? If so, how?

[CP] I think it depends on the day and influential in what way, you know? But on this day, the stories that comes to mind are some that my mother read to me when I was very young. A Wrinkle in Time fascinated me. I think maybe that planted the little seed that hatched so many years later. As for modern stories, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer has been something I’ve aspired to in terms of pure beauty and story execution. Ask me tomorrow and get a different answer!

[GdM] I read on an AMA you did a few years ago that you furiously wrote The Phlebotomist in 70 days. The story was at the forefront of your mind. Did you have the same sort of burst of writing with Stringers?

stringers[CP] Stringers came in two parts. I’d actually begun the book that became Stringers first. I remember that the early version of it was kind of fizzling out on me. I put it down and wrote The Phlebotomist. When I resurrected Stringers two years later, I got the first draft done in three months. Sometimes all you need is time.

[GdM] You released The Phlebotomist in the middle of the pandemic and released Stringers recently. Has anything changed between releasing your first book and now your second?

[CP] It definitely sucked super hard to have a debut come out when it did. On the other hand, my publisher, Angry Robot, was so supportive and organized lots of on-line events for me and other writers. I have enjoyed being able to do in-person events now in support of both books. Most of the time I feel like a little cave dweller yearning for human contact, so I try to get to any events I can. Readings, cons, what have you.

[GdM] You are both an artist and a writer. Each of these disciplines requires different parts of your creative faculties. But process-wise, would you say that you approach both similarly? For instance, if you are a pantser, do you go into an art piece and create whatever feels right at the time? Or do you have a set of criteria that you want to hit?

[CP] Great question! The longer I write, the more the two crafts seem the same to me. It may be different for others who do both things, but for me I never know what I’m really working with until I start writing/sketching. I may have a broad idea, such as a premise in writing or a compositional structure in drawing/painting, but I usually just need to start and see where the art takes me. Pantsing in both endeavors is a process of discovery for me. Before I ink a drawing I’ve probably sketched and redrawn aspects of the piece dozens of times. Same goes for writing. Leave what works, bin the rest.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that art and stories come together in much the same way—both paintings and books go through an ugly phase and you just have to remember that more often than not, you do come through on the other side!

[GdM] What are some album covers or art pieces that you genuinely admire, and why?

[CP] There is so much good album art. I’m hugely inspired by anything John Baizley has done. Some of my favorite work by him is the cover of Skeleton Witch