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Indie author Christopher Patterson talks fighting 'nerdy' stereotypes

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Christopher Patterson | The Daily Wildcat Christopher Patterson smiles during a book signing of "Shadow's Fire: A Chance Beginning."

In each adventure story Christopher Patterson wrote as a kid on his grandmother's typewriter, she would insist on titling it "The Next Great American Novel." 

Though he is happy and feels fortunate to have such encouragement from his family, that is not the kind of story he is going for. Patterson, a Tucsonan, will be on hand for the Tucson Festival of Books this Sunday March 11 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Indie Author Pavilion.

"I don't want to write the next 'Moby Dick' or 'Great Expectations'," the author of the Shadow's Fire trilogy says. "What I do want to do is write genre fiction that people who aren't into genre fiction like." 

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The local Tucson author first planted his roots into writing when he transitioned from a classical guitar performance major to studying literature and creative writing at the University of Arizona. It was there where he wrote a collection of short stories that would become his first Shadow's Fire trilogy, using his influences of Dungeons & Dragons, J.R.R Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, and more to guide him into the fantasy/ sci-fi genre he always loved. 

Despite having released two books of the Shadow's Fire trilogy (with the third installment coming this summer) mostly by himself, Patterson says he did things "backwards." 

"I definitely published before I should have," Patterson admits. 

Originally, Patterson was picked up by a traditional publisher who published his first book of the series (which he regretted the horrible naming of: 'Trial By Fire'), but they had a falling out due to differences. Since the changes of the first book, Patterson explored trial-and-errors as a self-published indie author. 

"Twenty or 30 years ago, if you self-published fiction it was because you weren't good enough for anyone to pick you up — no publishing company wanted to work with you, no agency wanted to work with you, so you self-published," Patterson explained. "The idea was that is you had sub-par quality, but that is just not the case anymore." 

Similar to musicians who can make professional-sounding music using their own software, Patterson noticed that authors like Dawn of Wonder's Jonathan Renshaw could still produce great stories, or like 50 Shades's E. L. James, could still find huge popularity self-publishing.

"The independent artist is becoming more and more legitimate, and I think that's what is cool about the Tucson Book Festival who is willing to highlight us independent authors," Patterson said.

Unfortunately there are still  negative notions toward self-publishing in the industry despite very successful indie authors, and Patterson agrees that sometimes having 'self-published' (like Amazon's CreateSpace) attached to your book could be the reason why someone buys or don't buy your book.

That's why Patterson is glad to be working with the nationally recognized publishing company Wheatmark for the first time. 

Wheatmark can publish under their own name, or help authors create their own publishing company — which is what they are doing for Patterson — to give them more credibility. They are also tweaking his books' design, and introduced Patterson to a professional editor.

Patterson had been using his friends to help edit his stories in the past. 

Patterson was resistant to seeking professional help before (preferring to do it on his own after his first experience), but found the partnership with Wheatmark improved his stories. Even though it cost $3,000-$4,000, which Patterson and his wife budgeted for, he said it is worth it. 

Currently, Patterson also works with IngramSpark, a massive book distribution company.

The reason why Patterson started writing was the same reason why he was trying to compose songs as a guitar major. 

"I loved listening to a good song, I loved playing a good song, and always thought it would be cool if someone to listen to my song," Patterson said. "Same with stories. When I write a story, I control everything, it's my story... I always thought it would be cool for someone to experience my own imagination."

One of the most interesting things that Patterson observed about books like Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, or Chronicles of Narnia, is that people who aren't usually into fantasy can still pick them up and enjoy them. 

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"You have to battle this stereotype that Fantasy and Sci-Fi are nerdy," Patterson said. "The idea that it's the guy with the tape around his glasses in the corner, playing Dungeons & Dragons, who doesn't talk with anyone, is the only person who reads them."

While he was not developing himself as an author, Patterson also coached football and wrestling, and taught English, Government and Economics in high schools. He is currently a health teacher and the Head Wrestling Coach for Cienega High School in the Vail district.

'Breaking the Flame,' the final book in the Shadow's Fire trilogy, is planned to join the first two books -- 'A Chance Beginning' and 'Dark Winds'in the summer of 2018.


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