Thursday, February 25, 2021

Christopher Laine Interview - Screens

Photo Content from Christopher Laine

Christopher Laine is a writer, software architect, and founder of several business and tech ventures.

He studied literature and writing at San Francisco State University. His interests include world mythology and religions, philosophy, science, cooking, and martial arts.

Originally from San Francisco, he is a world traveller who eventually settled in New Zealand with his partner Mary and two children.

"There's a lot to know about ourselves which art and literature, mythology and psychology have yet to teach us. I write from this perspective, that we are not at the end of our story as a species, but clearly just at its beginning."


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born and raised in and around San Francisco. About 18 years ago, my family and I bailed on SF and moved to Wellington, New Zealand, where my partner and I live to this day.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Getting the chance to talk about Screens is a big one for me. It’s been a huge part of my life for 5 years, so finally getting to talk about it feels great. After that, making my book trailers with talented artists and an amazing filmmaker was huge fun for me.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I love to read, and I love to read strange, creative, edgy things, so that’s what I like to write. I wrote my first novel because I wanted to write something I’d love to read.

Tell us your latest news.
Not much to tell. I am busy promoting Screens, as well as planning my next book. I am an avoid gardener, so I’m rebuilding a garden for some friends, and I’m enjoying NZ summer as much as I can.

Can you tell us when you started SCREENS, how that came about?
Screens was the next of my Seven Coins Drowning series, each of the series focusing in on one of the Seven Deadly Sins. I was up to Sin #4.

I decided to write it in late 2015. I was back in San Francisco for a conference. It’d been a while since I’d been back to the states from New Zealand. I hadn’t really been back to my hometown since 2008 or so. I’d passed through, but not really hung out.

So, there I was on this Muni train, when I noticed something. Everyone on the train was on their mobile phones. I mean everybody. Train full of people, and only me and this older lady sitting by herself were not. Everyone else was gawking into a screen. Eyes glazed; mouths agape. While I watched them, a shudder went up my spine as my messed-up muse came calling with freaky inspiration.

It was existentially unnerving, that little epiphany I had right then. It was a personal epiphany, a stranger-in-a-strange-land dystopian epiphany. I was surrounded by zombies, junkies, all of them totally absorbed in their devices.

“They’re all doped to the gills,” the junkie kid in me chuckled. “Look at them, dude. Look at how much they look like you did back in the day with your tabs and your powder.” And that voice come slithering out of my past was not wrong. That junkie kid I was decided it was time to return, all in the name of what we were seeing. Everyone was completely high, totally hooked. This one guy’s hand was actually shaking.

That was the genesis of it, that little Muni moment. That was when I felt the pieces of my life coalescing around this story I wanted to tell.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope they’re just looking around at our world today, seeing how we’ve sunk into this new way with our technology, an evolutionary cul-de-sac in which we have turned ourselves into addicts for our digital media. Our relationship to our screens has changed us, particularly in the last 10 years. We are very much sunk into a new ‘virtual’ world, which of course means a make-believe one. Not that there isn’t truth on the internet, but we live in an age where what we find online can be manipulated, twisted, turned, reshaped to meet this or that narrative. Plus, we have become obsessed with our devices and the content they provide. I simply want people to bear that in mind as they read, and hopefully get a sense of what the book is driving at on this subject.

Plus, I really hope people find the book scary, interesting, and fun.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
I love dialog. I love humour, even grim humour. When I get a chance to inject humour and good, realistic dialog into my work, I am thrilled. One of my favourite parts of Screens this monologue by a bike messenger about these family parties he attends and the guy he meets at them. I laughed out loud as I wrote it. The character was based on a couple guys I knew back in the messenger scene in the late 80s / early 90s, so reading it aloud had me in stitches, mostly because that’s how messengers talked.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d introduce my character Prof. Willingston Willingston to Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow, simply because of their arcane knowledge and time machines and their interactions with the Hounds of Tindalos. I do love a good mad scientist, especially one fighting the Old Ones and the Lovecraftian forces of evil.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
The Joe Job. I have a family to support, and bills to pay, so the day-to-day work I do to keeps us in food and home. However, it also kept me from dedicating myself to Screens. I am a solutions architect, so my job is pretty intense in the software world and requires a lot of thinking time from me. After a whole day of thinking hard about software design, sitting down to think hard for my book could often be a struggle.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Everyone should take a long period of time off if they can. We get stuck in our workaday lives and it can feel like that’s all there is. Taking a goodly chunk of time off gives us a chance to reflect on our lives outside what we do to pay bills and / or get by. It gives us a chance to spiritually reconnect with what matters most to us. Life is short and knowing thyself is the key to really enjoying our short, crazy lives. As my late mother said to me once “Christopher, no one gets to the end and thinks ‘If only I’d worked more’.” Truer words were never spoken.

Best date you've ever had?
Oh, gosh. I’ve not dated in so long, it’s hard to remember dating. I’d say the best I can recall was meeting my date for dinner, and then both of us realising we were way more into dangerous things than either of us imagined. We ended up getting pretty out of control that night. It was amazing for the immediacy of the moment. We only went out that one time, and in many ways the ephemeral nature of that one night only made it especially poignant. We spoke again, but never got to go out again, and then they moved away. Ah well.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I’d go back and tell younger, 20-something me to relax, to calm down, to stop taking everything so seriously, and just enjoy life more. I am a pretty chill guy now, but younger me was an absolute mess. He could have used someone to explain to him that life is about living, not about fretting about it. I’d go back to San Francisco when I first moved out on my own and live it with less anxiety, be more connected with who I am and what matters to me, not what others expected or wanted.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
This one is easy: My tattered but still intact Zo bag from the 90s, my canteen (yeah, I carry a canteen), my notebook for writing/drawing, my book or kindle.

Oh, and a pack of smokes.

First Heartbreak?
My first REAL heartbreak was in my early 20s. I’d had pain in breakups before, but those were all rather prosaic, the usual pain one feels when a relationship ends. It wasn’t until my 20s that I had my first crazy love. You know the one: That love where you’re obsessed with someone who is not obsessed with you. The one where you throw yourself too far into the game and end up getting addicted to the other person. She got bored of me and my obsession, and then bailed on me. I lay in bed for a couple months feeling woe and anguish and all that guff. That was when I realised one person can love another person TOO much, that love can be unhealthy if not tended carefully.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I was a teenager in the early and mid 80s. I will say one thing. Any sugar-coating of the 80s as an ideal time to grow up, especially for teenagers, is a crock. It had its good moments, but it also had plenty of racism and sexism and homophobia and nerd-bashing. In Screens, I talk about what it was like growing up in suburbia back then, and it was no paradise if you were different than the classic white male jock / white female cheerleader type. People my age babble on about how awesome it was. Fuck that. I refuse to play the old person game and rose-colour my youth. It was good and bad, like any youth.

I think if I was to pick a time / place I’d have like to live, it’d be the late 50s / early 60s in major cities. That time and place would have been pretty cool, given my love of the counter-culture and avant garde. Early on, during the beatnik times, I bet it was pretty awesome. The counter culture was small and unheard of by most, which is when it is truly amazing. Once the 60s rolled into the Summer of Love, all the goodness would have been drained out. It was commercialised, turned into just another consumable. But in the beatnik days, the early days of that counter-culture and the civil rights movement, that would have been a bad ass time. I’m not romanticising it at all. I know it was grim in many ways, but it was a time and subculture of change in a society hell-bent on conformity and pushing dead-end social norms. People were into new ideas, poetry, art, literature, film. People saw the power of being artistic, intellectual. Plus, they were all super into espresso, which suits me just fine.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
Ha, well, that’s an interesting one. In Screens, I talk a lot about time travel, especially the idea that any change you make on the ‘timeline’ only splits the timeline in smaller and smaller timelines, more and more universes. If you travel to the past and change things, you end up splitting the universe into two universes: the universe where you changed things, and the universe where you didn’t. I posit the idea that you cannot change the past, only cause it to fissure into more and more universes, all with tiny variations. You can CHECK this out as part of my answer.

If I could do one thing differently, it would be to work less, and spend more time with loved ones, especially those who are gone now. We have no guarantees. Life is far more temporary than we tell ourselves. Be with the people you love while you can. Life doesn’t go on forever.

Where can readers find you?
You can check me out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Medium. My handle on all of them is ‘domingoladron’.

Better yet, biff over to my WEBSITE. I am trying to create a fun writer’s site, one which has content and stuff which helps give my audience that little bit more from my fiction

  • “By the summer of (2016), all posts on the internet, as well as all comments or queries to the Manuscript had been wiped from digital existence. Anyone known to have any association with these posts, the Manuscript, or even claiming to have communicated with one of its readers have disappeared or been killed under strange and suspicious circumstances.”
  • “I'm a nobody who's long dead, an anonymous statistic on an obituary you'll never find. I'm John Doe, a white chalk line on a murder scene floor. I doubt you could even find a trace left of who and what I was, no matter how many times you asked Google or Siri or Echo to find me. I am untraceable, a departed soul across an anonymous VPN. I do not register on your monitor, your search screen, or your smartphone. 404: narrator not found.”
  • “I sank into the dark intellectual life of San Francisco. It was the latter part of the 80s, and there was nothing one couldn't do in that haunted place. The 60s and 70s were long gone, so any hippies or swingers were rapidly bloating into middle age. San Francisco had fallen out of favour and was largely ignored by the world. It was the fucking best.”
  • “Let me not hear THEM coming for me. The breathing. That awful breathing, it is everywhere.”
  • “Look at you, Chumley. What are you addicted to? Maybe look at that mobile phone in your hand, that screen you’re gawking into. How much of your life is wrapped up in that digital bong hit? How many binged episodes a week does it take before you start calling it an addiction? A shit ton, apparently. How many likes and shares did your posts get this week, I wonder. You better go check.”
  • “I will never recover from Daniel Vela. I will do my job, and I will hunt this killer with all the rest of the police, but I pray every night to my dying day that I never again see what I saw that night.
  • Daniel Vela comes to me in the night as I sleep. It hunts me in my dreams, slavering blue from its rotten mouth, and eyes set ablaze in hellfire.”
  • “Was going insane supposed to be so full of scientific jibber-jabber?”
  • “We are, in due course, becoming a civilization of addicts. While many of my peers were quick to dismiss my concerns early on as scaremongering, with time, most have come to concur with my findings, if only in private. Our nation, and yes, our world, is slowly being consumed by a quickly rising state of perpetual and widespread addiction. I can see of no other way to categorize our current state.”
  • “(The anarchist bookshop) was just how I remembered it. The place smelled like old newsprint and pretension. Something approximating music was lolling from overhead. Images of Emma Goldman, Leo Tolstoy and Che Guevara glared at me from the walls. Anarchist and communist pamphlets and books, all of them badly printed or poorly bound, lined shelves. The front wall was an orgy of fliers and pamphlets, photocopied manifestos, you name it, on the “struggle” and every variation thereof. Nearby was a book section on feminism, LGBT, misogyny and sexism. Across from it, there was a section on government conspiracies, Noam Chomsky, the Illuminati, corporate greed. Row after row of bookshelves greeted me with every lefty concept under the sun. If it had a liberal agenda behind it, it was in there. The place was every conservative’s nightmare, a Bakunin Barnes and Nobles. Everyone browsing looked pasty and pointedly vegan. Everything from anti-globalization meetings to radical poetry readings to save the freaking whales accosted me from all sides.”
  • “Imagine the universe splintering again and again, each quantum-level decision tree branching to more and more branches. Imagine the universe not as a single thing, but as field of infinitely diverging sibling universes, all of them similar but for one quantum variant, and continuing to vary again and again from there. The cosmic constant is not a number, but fission, an ever-branching radiation of realities which flood away from one another, creating even more variance, even more diversity.”
Deleted Scene from SCREENS
I have one deleted scene in particular in mind. I loved the scene so much that though I removed it from the final published version of Screens, I later published it on MEDIUM.

The chapter is a story in and of itself, about an insane asylum spinning in an alternate reality. The lunatics have long since taken over the asylum (and we are led to believe why the asylum is trapped in this alternate universe), and now live in a horror show in this burnt, ruined madhouse which will tumble through time and space forever.

I loved the feeling of it, the allegorical nature of a madhouse lost in oblivion being run by psychopaths and delusionals. It struck me as a fitting piece for the rise of authoritarianism around the globe, and how people are dealing with the post-modern world in such a delusional and horrific way.

It was deleted from the book because it ended up being too jarring a transition in the novel. It worked on its own, but just didn’t work as a transition from one part of the book to the next. While I loved the writing, the piece itself just didn’t quite fit in as I’d hoped it would. As a writer, you have to accept this. You may love something you wrote, but that does not mean it’s meant for the novel for which you wrote it.

“You’ve found this, Chumley. Good for you. Now take my advice and put it back down. This manuscript isn’t meant for you. You don’t have the stomach.”

Sometime in 2016, dark web posts began appearing about a document known only as “the Manuscript.” Originally created with a manual typewriter and impossible to digitise, the Manuscript can only be read by those who can procure one of its precious few copies. It is said that the Manuscript contains horrific knowledge, and those who have read it have immediately disconnected from the internet, vanished off the digital grid, never to return.

In short order, all online posts regarding the Manuscript were gone without a trace. Everyone with any knowledge or connection to them has disappeared or been gruesomely murdered.

Something horrible is happening. Something unspeakable is coming.

And yet you can't seem to stop from staring at that television, that computer, that mobile phone. THEY have you, and for all your justifications and bravado, you never can turn away.

Why are you still looking?
THEY are watching you...
You can purchase Screens at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CHRISTOPHER LAINE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Screens: Seven Coins Drowning by Christopher Laine.


  1. If I could go back and change one day it would be that I did not get pregnant.