Today I am interviewing Chris Panatier, author of the new science-fiction novel, Stringers.
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DJ: Hi Chris! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?Chris Panatier: Hi and thanks for asking me. I live in Dallas, Texas, with my family and the clown show of dogs who have joined us like camp followers. I write books and short stories, illustrate album and book covers, and also practice law going after companies that do bad things to people.
DJ: What is Stringers about?Chris: I knew someone would ask me this eventually 🙂 Okay. I’m just going to give you a beefed up version of the short back cover copy, because it’s the best boiled down take without being too spoilery: Ben is NOT a genius, but he can spout facts about animals and wristwatches with the best of experts. He just can’t explain how he knows any of it. He also knows about the Chime. What it is or why it’s important he couldn’t say. But this knowledge is about to get him in a whole heap of trouble. After he and his best friend Patton are abducted by a trash-talking, flesh-construct alien bounty hunter, Ben finds out just how much he is worth… and how dangerous he can be. Hopefully Patton and a stubborn jar of pickles will be enough to help him through. Because being able to describe the mating habits of Brazilian bark lice isn’t going to save them.” So that’s basically it. I will say that in talking about the book I’ve undersold the heart and poignancy that much of this story carries with it. It’s funny, yes, but this is about a group of people in a difficult situation and how relationships between them are born and tested.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Stringers?Chris: As for the premise, only my wandering mind. For better or for worse, I haven’t seen this premise as a trope just yet. (A Stringer is someone with partial access to the consciousness of people long dead. But not in the sense of reincarnation.) But as for structure, it’s a space opera with some legit hard science thrown in–I didn’t want to be too hand wavey on things like faster than light, etc.–so I owe a lot of my development in those areas to a mix of books by John Scalzi, Nnedi Okorafor, Patrick Tomlinson, Becky Chambers, and James S.A. Corey. There are lots of others, of course, but those are ever present in my brain. Hitchhikers Guide was informative in helping me understand how far to take nonsense. Apparently there is a line.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them?Chris: There are two main POV characters. Ben: He’s our primary Stringer that the story begins with. His entire life has been a never-ending search to discover why he is the way he is, and has him in a permanent rut. He works in a fly-fishing shop with customers who don’t buy anything, where he applies his vast knowledge of post-coitus fish to create brilliant flies. He doesn’t love this job and isn’t passionate about it. He’s just stuck. He’s haunted by all of this strange knowledge. Then he’s abducted. Naecia HyRope: Naecia (“Nay-shuh”) works as a pipefitter on a faraway planet called Vask. Alone, she is trying to support her family who live on a different planet entirely, refugees from civil war. She too is a Stringer, but for her it isn’t bugs and chimes, but rather knowledge about a machine that her brain compels her to build. She doesn’t know what the machine does. Also abducted.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why?Chris: Most people have reacted with a lot of enthusiasm toward Ben’s bestie, Patton. Patton is a career stoner and Ben’s most loyal (and only) friend. I really enjoyed writing Patton because he’s got such a natural arc in the story and there are a few teary moments involving him. Another favorite is the shit-talking flesh robot bounty hunter, Aptat. What they do is truly abhorrent, and yet it’s hard not to find yourself rooting for them. They’ve got a compelling backstory and it’s one I might explore later in a longer form work.
DJ: What is the world and setting of Stringers like?Chris: It all takes place in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Aside from the planets where the Stringers are taken from, the world of this book is the state of nature of interstellar space. Ninety-percent of the story occurs on one of two ships, Aptat’s Silent Child and the Timelance, home to the Scythin, who are Ben’s ultimate purchasers. One of these ships is a “conventional” spaceship in the sense that it has wires and engines and a bathroom. The other would fit nicely on a spectrum between a Laconian navy ship from The Expanse and something out of the mind of Kameron Hurley.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Stringers?Chris: Layering in the reveals about why these people know what they do, and how these realizations move the plot. It was tedious work that took me a long time to structure. So for people who like big, satisfying reveals and penny-drop moments, this story has them.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?Chris: The damned jar of pickles. 🙂
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Stringers? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?Chris: I started writing this in 2017, shelved it, and picked it up again, finishing it in the first months of 2021. The last 4-5 years have been especially hard on a lot of people and I was hoping that maybe I could write a book that created a happy escape. My goal all along was to hopefully make people laugh until they gagged but also to walk away from the story fulfilled by the story of the people at the center of it. It’s about friendship. Even though this is science fiction, and kind of bonkers, I wanted the characters to land. I wanted the readers to feel they knew them and pull for them. I hope I’ve done that.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Stringers that you can share with us?Chris: I’m going to give you the two lines that literally got this book sold: “The world had altered so drastically that I was unable to process it. Twenty minutes before, I had been driving the Subaru, anticipating the chance to finally get answers. Now, I was cuddling a jar of pickles on a bounty hunter’s spaceship, and all I could think about was the temperature of my best friend’s balls.”
DJ: Now that Stringers is released, what is next for you?Chris: I’m working on a story that has stalked me for two years. I love the premise, but successfully executing it has been elusive. I’ve re-written it three times, trying to get it right. Think, Monsters Inc., but instead of monsters it’s angels, and instead of collecting screams, they eat people’s prayers. Not a kid’s book.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Chris-J.-Panatier/e/B01F4R6XWW?ref_=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Stringers that we haven’t talked about yet?Chris: It will change your opinion of footnotes.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?Chris: Yes, I have the best editor in the world and her name is Gemma Creffield. She edited Stringers and my first book The Phlebotomist.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!Chris: Thank you as well for helping to boost the visibility of books and their authors!
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***Stringers is published by Angry Robot Books and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Goodreads
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