Chris Dougherty - Author With a Knack For Writing About Regular People in Extraordinary Situations
Chris Dougherty lives at the edge of the Pine Barrens in rural South Jersey, an area as mysterious as her books. In this interview we chat with Chris about her unique approach to writing, what it is that draws her to the horror and sci-fi genre, and about Pine Barrens lore.
What is Born Lucky all about?
On the surface, it's a story about a young psychic who has to go and try to help find kids who have disappeared in the Pine Barrens. But beneath that is a story of a young man trying to come to terms with a gift he didn't ask for and that can have real, physical consequences for him. It's about JD conquering fear.
What is it that draws you to the horror, thriller, sci-fi and paranormal genres?
I like writing about regular people in extraordinary situations and horror and sci-fi allows you to put people in some pretty tight spots. I just like to see what they'll do, I guess.
Tell us about the title. Why "Born Lucky"?
This, too, has two levels. The first level is JD's backstory of supposedly being blown clear of a massive explosion when he was an infant. The other meaning is that, as much as he hates his abilities, they are what he was born into and it is lucky that he has those particular gifts. Lucky for other people, mostly, but there will be things that will make JD glad he is made the way he is. If not so much in the first three books, the fourth will be a much more personal quest for JD.
You live at the edge of the Pine Barrens in rural South Jersey, how much did the environment influence this book?
The environment of Born Lucky is all Pine Barrens lore. There are many pervasive myths and legends based out of the Pine Barrens, including the Jersey Devil, UFOs, military base secret missions...all those things figured into my childhood. Also, the entire region has a very rich Native American Indian history.
JD is not only an interesting character with a unique gift, but also very likeable. How hard is it to create a protagonist that is unique, but still relatable to readers?
I think it's easy to like JD because his humor, fear, uncertainty, loyalty, and complexity make him someone you could picture being friends with. He has a power, but he's not a superhuman by any stretch of the imagination. I like his doubts and hesitations. I think he's very real in that way.
Throughout the book you keep readers guessing about what is going to happen next. Did you have the whole story planned out from the start or did you introduce new twists and turns while writing?
I'm not much on plot. Most of the books come from a small idea and I just start writing. It's a scary way to write because who knows when it will end? When will the story stop? What if it stops before the end of the book? But maybe that feel of un-settlement works itself into the manuscript, too. Maybe it lends to the tension.
Who was your favorite character to write about in this book and why?
JD is one of my favorite characters across the board. I love his 'skinny pup standing his ground' brand of bravery and I love the fact that he wears his doubts so clearly. He's no hero, but that makes him even more likable. Just the fact that he has to try so hard makes me like him more with every book.
You have a talent for scaring readers, what is it that scares you personally?
I'm afraid of losing the people I love.
What is the hardest part of writing in the genres that you prefer?
I guess just the criticism that as a writer you should write something more substantial; some kind of literature. I think these genres are seen as just a little tawdry and junky.
You write short stories as well as novels, which do you enjoy more and why?
The short stories are satisfying because they are such a quick sprint to a finished product while the books, obviously, take a lot more time. I like both for different reasons and generally write a few shorts in between novels. The short stories help to kind of clear the mental decks.
What are you working on now? When can we expect to see Book Two?
There are actually three books available in JDs story right now...Born Lucky (1st), Lucky Sucker (2nd), and Lucky Lady (3rd). There is a fourth started and a fifth that I know about right now. After that, I'm not sure. I'm not psychic enough, I guess. :)