Decater Orlando Collins is the author of Quitting the Grave and the owner of the blog The Chaos Factory , here is a link to his website:
Q: What is Quitting the Grave about?
A: Quitting The Grave ( http://www.amazon.com/Quitting-The-Grave-Decater-Collins-ebook/dp/B00TET3514/) is a mixture of contemporary suspense and historical fiction set on the Oregon Trail. A local reporter in Eugene, Oregon is investigating a series of grave robberies–in each case the corpse was that of a John Doe–and in the course of her inquiries, she discovers a link to when the town of Eugene was first founded. It then tells the story of the first explorers, trappers, and missionaries to settle in Oregon and the early pioneers who traveled over the Oregon Trail.
Q: What inspired you to write the book?
A: I lived in Oregon for several years, and I love the American Northwest. When I first came up with the idea for this book, it was an easy decision to set it in Oregon. As I learned more and more about the fascinating figures and events that shaped the region’s early history, the book really began to write itself. Because of the structure of the narrative, switching back and forth between modern day and historical periods, I really wanted to blend together the actual and fictional aspects of the story seamlessly, so you’re never quite sure what to trust. This matches the feelings of the characters within the story.
Q: What kind of research did you do for the book?
A: I spent more than ten years doing research, everything from the early explorers and settlers in the area to the kinds of wagons they used, the kinds of guns they would carry, and the clothes they would wear. I spent a lot of time focused on the Hudson Bay Company and the early Methodist missionaries. I studied the Native Americans in the region, and even researched the parts of Europe, especially Scotland, where these explorers would have originated from. I knew that I wanted to have the leeway to make up new characters and events to fit my narrative, and the only way I thought I’d get away with that was to get all the details as exact as possible.
Once the book was done, I then ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to produce a serious of documentaries on the Oregon Trail. I drove from Indiana to Oregon, interviewing historians, researchers, and National Park personnel all along the Trail, and compiled the footage into short videos that explain the actual history. https://vimeo.com/channels/857611
Q: What do you think is the key to writing entertaining and plausible historical fiction?
A: I think there are two main factors that go into successful historical fiction. First, you have to research. You need to make the reader feel like she is in that time period. And second, you have to bring the characters to life. Historical fiction is no different from any other genre in the sense that you have to make the readers feel invested. We can assume that their is at least a framework of a narrative based on the actual history that is compelling, because otherwise why would the author have chosen that subject matter. But if you don’t create interesting characters, whether they are based on historical figures or not, then readers won’t care.
Q: Who are some of your literary influences and how is it evidenced in your writing?
A: The most direct influence on Quitting The Grave is the novel Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I tried to give QTG the same gothic feel, with big, melodramatic themes and a narrative that keeps jumping from one time to another.
Other major influences, that get alluded to repeatedly in the text, include Don Quixote, Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, and the Iliad and the Odyssey.
More generally speaking, some of the authors I most aspire to emulate are Kundera, Kazantzakis, and Dostoevsky.
Q: What is The Chaos Factory?
A: The Chaos Factory ( http://entropy2.com/chaosfactory) is the name of my blog. It’s an attempt to capture all of my varied interests. I’ve always had a hard time concentrating on one thing, and am always bouncing from one idea to another. If I had started a blog on, say, film criticism, I would have quickly gotten bored. Chaos Factory allows me to write about whatever I’m interested in at that moment.
Q: You’ve dedicated several blog post to the subject of your hatred for Peter Jackson; why do you hate him?
A: Peter Jackson is the worst. I went into great detail how bad the Lord of the Rings trilogy was, from filmmaking and storytelling perspectives ( http://entropy2.com/chaosfactory/tag/peter-jackson/page/8/). I will be the first to agree that the movies look amazing, but they deviate far too much from the source material in completely unnecessary ways. Yes, the movies look good, and yes, the movies made a lot of money, but I contend that they could have also been great movies. Instead they are most suitable for 13-year-olds, and most of the best parts of the novel are changed, deleted, or directly contradicted.
Faramir becomes a jerk. Need I say more?
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it affect your creative projects?
A: I am a freelance editor and videographer in Beijing. I edit press releases and newsletters for foreign companies doing business in China. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been doing more and more video work, which I find much more satisfying. The best part of the editing work is it’s very easy and very mindless, and leaves me a lot of freedom to work on my own projects.
Q: You live in China, why did you want to live there?
A: I’ve lived in China for 14 years. I love China (and Asia) because of the food, the culture, the exposure to different ways of thinking about the world, etc. But most of all, I’ve stayed here for so long because it has afforded me plenty of free time, both to travel and to write. If I lived in America, I would have needed to work full time and I never would have gotten as much writing accomplished.
That being said, now that QTG is finished, I’m moving back to Portland, Oregon next month so that I can promote it and start working on my next novel.
Q: What is your cutest beagle story?
A: I adopted a beagle two years ago. His name is Bacon, and because his previous owner had abused him, he has a number of behavioral issues, but he’s really the sweetest dog.
One day I was out walking him near my neighborhood in this area where I could let him off leash. It was near the edge of a construction site, which was mostly abandoned. Bacon caught the scent of something, probably a cat, and went running under the barrier. Usually, Bacon won’t let me out of his sight for very long, so I waited from him to come back. But after a few minutes, he still hadn’t returned, and I went to look for him. However, I couldn’t get over the barrier. I could hear him barking about 100 meters down the way, so I followed the barrier to where the barking was coming from. I climbed up on a boulder and looked over the fence, and I could see Bacon was down in this shallow pit they had dug. He was barking up at me like crazy, but no matter how much I yelled for him to come, he wouldn’t leave the pit (which was just deep enough for me to only see his head, but not so deep that he should have had any trouble getting out).
Since he wouldn’t come to me, I had no choice but to walk about 500 meters down to the entrance to this construction site and then 500 meters back. When I got to the pit, I realized it was filled with mud, and Bacon had gotten stuck. He was buried in mud about halfway up his torso. I had to drag up out of the mud and then he was so happy to be free, he wanted to jump all over me. I had to walk him all the way back to the entrance and then back to my apartment and while he was half covered in solid mud. All the people that we passed looked at us like we were both crazy, and I guess they were right.
To this day, Bacon is too frightened to walk over any area that is even slightly muddy.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)