An Interview with Chris Everheart, author of The Delphi Trilogy

Delphi_Book 2_Book Cover

Chris Everheart is the author of The Delphi Trilogy, a gripping series about a teen and an ancient conspiracy. Here’s his bio:

Chris Everheart is a Moonbeam Children’s Book award-winning writer (for graphic novel Recon Academy: Shadow Cell Scam), an award-winning filmmaker, an actor in various independent productions and a former archaeological illustrator at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology where hours in the exhibit halls and collections rooms filled his imagination with the stories of people lost to time.

Chris recently began a boys’ learning-themed comic strip called “Reader & Guiness,” that approaches boys’ learning issues in a lighthearted way through the experience of the world’s most distracted middle-grade boy, Reader, who accidentally builds a robotic guinea pig named Guiness who is better-read than his creator.

A Minnesota native, Chris now lives in with his wife in the mountains of East Tennessee.

The second book in the trilogy, The Delphi Deception, just came out in September, and Chris has kindly answered a few questions about his series, his writing process, and his inspirations.

Q.: What do you enjoy about writing for young adults?

A. In many ways I still have the brain of a teenager, so I’m basically writing stories to my young self. YA books can move faster and be less encumbered by the detail and description that many adult audiences demand. I love to keep the story moving and explore feelings and identity along with the action and events.

Q.: The books in The Delphi Trilogy are chock-full of intrigue, danger and conspiracies. What inspired you to write them?

A. My wife is a conspiracy buff, so I’ve been programmed over the years to be a little suspicious and look for patterns in history and current events. Somewhere along the line that way of thinking blended with my love of ancient history and I started wondering how far back a conspiracy could go. Well, the Oracle at Delphi in Greece is one of the oldest known cultural sites and it has mystical qualities too. Add in the all-important “what if” question: “What if a teen came up against a 3,000-year-old conspiracy?” and The Delphi Trilogy was born.

Q.: How much work goes into creating an original conspiracy theory?

A. With The Delphi Trilogy it came somewhat naturally because I was exposed to conspiracy theories over a number of years and was also very curious about ancient history and had studied it. Sometimes when I hear a true-believer with a conspiracy theory of their own, I realize that they’ve thought long and deep and made some very unlikely connections to prove their point. I find those fascinating and also think, “Wow, they put a lot of work into that!”

Q.: Delphi is an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece. What compelled you to use Delphi in the books?

A. I’m fascinated by ancient culture. They divined and used information very differently from us. The oracle was said to go into a trance that allowed the god Apollo to speak through her, giving supplicants insight into their now or predictions about the future. There were many similar sites, but Delphi stood above the rest. It was the most important Western cultural site for almost 2,000 years – not in spite of, but because of its mystical qualities. In modern times, though, its importance is thought of as a result of old-timey superstitions. The place is real – and its power was real to the people of those times. Because of all those factors there’s enough mystery and possibilities to open a thousand story points. It seemed like a natural theme for a conspiracy thriller.

Q.: What did you find most intriguing in your research of Ancient Greece?

A. Archaeologists and geologists have found signs at the Delphi site that there was a spring beneath it that emitted a gas called ethylene (read more). In modern medicine that gas has been used as an anesthetic to knock people out for surgery. But in lower doses the stuff causes the “symptoms” the Pythia (the woman in the role as oracle) demonstrated – trance-like states with incoherent babbling. Descriptions of the Pythia’s preparation rituals are quite detailed, leaving the impression that the people of the temple knew they were dealing with powerful stuff and had to be careful with it (think of the doctor’s orders not to eat anything the night before surgery). Although there’s some dispute about the ethylene theory, there’s no doubt that people who visited were treated to a truly mysterious and dramatic event. What I find most intriguing is that they took it all very seriously. Important decisions were made by what the oracle “said.”

Q.: You were an archaeological illustrator for the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. How did that experience influence your writing?

A. I spent hours in the collections room at the museum and doing research. I got to use my imagination to reconstruct how people lived based on the evidence – sometimes very little – that was available. It really stretched my imagination and got me further into the lives of people from way back then.

Q.: The book’s main character, Zach, returns to his hometown after his parents’ deaths and discovers a lot more than what he was looking for. What drives Zach?

A. Zach wants to know who he is. He’s a teen seeking his identity, but in much more intense circumstances than the average teen. His mother created so much mystery and uncertainty in his life that he craves a connection to something real. He thought his mother was insane, but he learns that she was right to take him away and that maybe he should have stayed hidden and safe.

Q.: You started writing books for reluctant readers because you profess to have been a reluctant reader—who helped you discover a love of reading?

A. My high school humanities teacher deserves the credit. He was in command of his classrooms and passionate about art, theater, history, and culture. I really responded to his direction and my interest in all those diverse subjects made it worth putting in the effort to read. It made me feel connected and pulled me out of a dropout spiral. I owe teachers and librarians a great deal. I’d be nowhere without them. Also, I’ve spent a lot of my adult life ashamed and silent about my reading problems. Now that I’m talking openly about it, I find so many more adults and kids who are struggling. If sharing my experience can help anyone – especially kids – get past the pain and embarrassment of reading struggles, I want to bring my message to them.

Q.: How has being a reluctant reader affected your writing process?

A. Probably the most notable effect is that I don’t have the patience to read long books (unless they are exceptional) and, honestly, I don’t have the patience to write long books either. The Delphi Trilogy, for example, could be one 1,000-page book – it’s written with cliffhangers at the end of books I and II. But I can’t keep the story straight at those lengths and it takes the fun out of reading and writing. So I try to keep it short, tight, and leave the reader (and the author) wanting more!

Q.: What are some features of your books that will appeal to reluctant readers?

A. I still have the mind of a reluctant reader so I write that way: sentences without the $50 words; short chapters; cliffhanger chapters; fast character and plot development; lots of action.

Q.: You also write and direct independent films. How does that influence your work as an author?

A. Screenwriting is different from novel writing in that you have to be very spare with settings and the dialogue has to be very concise. Writing scripts has taught me to leave out the stuff that really doesn’t have to be there. I trust the reader’s imagination to fill in the “blanks” – setting, details, etc. – with what’s meaningful to them. They actually participate in telling the story if I stay out of their way.

Q.: In a blog post on JA Konrath’s A Newbies’ Guide to Self-Publishing, you wrote about how you prefer offline to online marketing. How are you planning to promote The Delphi Deception, the second book in your series?

A. I have set a goal to visit 100 community and school libraries by the end of the year (read about here). I am also visiting library and teacher conferences to get to know the educators and how I can help with their reading programs. I owe librarians a lot and I want to repay that by giving of myself and getting kids excited about reading. I do school and library programs for young readers and writers that really activate the kids and the librarians and teachers. I’m finding that, in the digital age, it makes a huge difference for them when I meet them face-to-face. And the way librarians and teens respond to The Delphi Trilogy tells me that my instincts for writing and for in-person contact are right on.

Q.: What writers have inspired you during your career?

A. John Steinbeck is my favorite; Charles Dickens; Ray Bradbury; John Grisham; Anthony Horowitz; Rick Riordan. There are more – and filmmakers and their films have influenced me tremendously too.

Q.: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

A. Two words: “Writers write.” It was a command by one of my mentors to stop talking about writing and start doing it – that’s what makes a writer. I can sit here for a year and talk about the book or screenplay I’m going to write and in a year I’ll have nothing but the same talk. If I sit down now and start writing – even if I do it badly – in a year I’ll have some version of a book or screenplay.

Q.: What can readers expect in the next book in The Delphi Trilogy?

A. Book I: The League of Delphi was about Zach coming home, discovering the conspiracy, and trying to beat it. In Book II: The Delphi Deception he has to face the worst consequences of what he’s done – and it does not go well. In Book III – which will be out next year – Zach must save the people he’s drug into this mess and resolve the question of his identity once and for all. Let’s just say that for Zach triumph and tragedy go hand-in-hand.

Q.: Where can readers find more of your work?

A. Please visit me at ChrisEverheart.com and DelphiTrilogy.com. I have a lot more books coming out for young readers. And please get in touch with me. I love chatting about books and readers and hearing your feedback.

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