My name is Christopher Mahan. I was born in France, in the 1960s. I came to the US in 1985, and have lived in Los Angeles since 1993. I’m a software developer in a large US bank. I am married to a Japanese woman and have a ten year old son.
I go by Chris. My mom calls me Christopher, when she calls.
#FP: What do you love most about writing? What drew you to it specifically? What spoke to you?
CM: Writing, at first, was for making stories I wanted to read, stories I could not find anywhere else.
I also found that the exercise of writing was both calming and exciting. It was a selfish thing, really. I liked to write because I liked to read, and I enjoyed reading what I wrote. Sometimes I go read stories I wrote years ago and find it a distinct pleasure.
Later, more recently, I began writing with the intent of being read by others. That’s been less satisfying, to be honest.
I really enjoy telling stories to my son and to his friends, and they like that. I thought I would write these down, but that’s also less satisfying than just telling them as they come to my mind. I’m not sure where I’m going with that.
#FP: So, what have you written?
CM: Short stories, poems. I put many of my stories on my web site, but not all. I started working on a novel 25 years ago, but I stopped because I thought I wasn’t mature enough to tell the story as it should be. I’m getting closer, but not quite yet.
#FP: What are you working on at the minute? Tell us a little about it. What was the inspiration for it?
CM: I’m writing a kid’s story called Joe the Pirate. It’s from a story I told to my son 4 years ago. The telling took two hours, and I remember it well. I’m about 1/3 into the writing, and I’m writing it with more details. It’s a fantastic story, and I want to do it justice.
#FP: What draws you to this genre, to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?
CM: I look at #FP as performance art, as storytelling around the campfire, to be thought, shared, and the words themselves shortly lost to the stars above.
It’s also a formidable writing exercise, as it forces the writer to put intense meaning in few words and generates near real-time feedback.
I also think the kind of people who participate in #FP are more likely to be supportive and understanding when the tweets border the taboo or the strange. I appreciate that.
#FP: Why do you write? What inspires you most about it?
CM: It’s both an instrument of self-growth and expressive art. Self-growth because it helps me explore the self, memories, assumptions, fears; expressive art because I find I can paint images, feelings, sensations directly into another human being’s brain. It’s like magic!
#FP: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?
CM: Pantser, definitely, but I dislike the term, because it implies rushed. I like to think of the stories in my head, to let them germinate and grow in their own time. When I feel they are ready to be harvested, I sit down and try to let them out as fast as possible.
#FP: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
CM: I like to have 4 hours uninterrupted. It’s so hard to find these days.
I also try to write better, so I challenge myself to write things I’m not familiar with, and sometimes I write about things that get uncomfortable. It’s hard to force myself to complete, because this means I have to push through my own issues.
#FP: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and … why? What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning?
CM: “Train your Brain.”
For the great majority of people, writing is a mental exercise. We all have access to the alphabet, ten digits, and a smattering of punctuation. There are no rules. You can arrange theses any way you like, on paper, on computer, on sidewalk with chalk, on buildings with paint (legally, please), on bar napkins, whatever. Your only limitation is what you’re willing to commit to the medium, what subjects you’re willing to broach, what experience you want to audience to have.
When the going gets rough, when the stars stop aligning? I seek solitude, then contact with loved ones, and then I think of my dreams, such as the house in Japan I want to have, on the coast East of Fukuoka, with three BMWs in the garage. Then I trace a trajectory and adjust the sails.
#FP: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?
CM: You don’t have to show the work to anyone. If you’re afraid someone will see it, write next to the shredder and shred it.
Write with pen and paper if you’re worried someone could be hacking your computer.
Read a lot, and read what you like to read.
One exercise that works wonders for me is to hand-write passages I find especially well-written or inspiring, even if multiple pages. It does something good to my brain—not sure what, but good.
#FP: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?
CM: Love, passion, kindness. Also, leadership.
As far as genre, I like sci-fi, war, history, business, philosophy.
In the FPs? Romance.
When I was a kid I read a lot of war and sci-fi. This led to history and philosophy. When I started working for large US companies, I began to read about business, management, and leadership. I suspect, as I get older, I will read, and write, more about leadership, human motivation, and, well, the future.
#FP: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Is this my free-form section? *rubs hands connivingly*
When I grew up, my parents divorced. There was lots of uncertainty, and while I never went to bed hungry, the fare wasn’t always plentiful. There was lots of moving around. Different schools, friends coming and going, and eventually few friends. I disappeared into a world of fantasy, fueled by books of all kinds.
Where my shoes had holes and my second-hand jeans were slightly too long, I traveled along Roman legions in Tracia. Where my backpack held used school books and disorganized school paperwork, I rode along the Sherman tanks of the 2nd Free French Armored Division to liberate Paris from the Nazis. Where I spent my evenings grounded because of some forgotten infraction, I got lost in the craggy hills east of the Anduin along with Frodo and Sam. Where I had few friends to call my own, no girl to kiss, not even the calm assurance that my fellow countrymen were on my side, I listened to Chani ask: “Usul, tell me of the waters of your home world.”
I had been rescued. The world was an angry place, full of pain, rejection, and dashed hopes. I retrenched into my imagination, a world populated not by monsters and witches, but instead by dashing captains and ravishing ladies, by starships and robots, by societies among the stars where children were loved, even if their skin was green. I traveled along the Potomac with the rebels who took Fort Ticonderoga from the British army. The world became darker and darker in contrast to the magic and beauty I saw within, in my adolescent mind populated by wild and vivid characters.
I could see, if I just stopped paying attention to class, the dull light glistening on the wing of the Yak 1 piloted by Jean Tulasne in 1943 over snow-covered Russia. I could hear the growl of the engine as he executed a chandelle, straight up into the grey sky, in his hunt for German Focke-Wulf fw190s and their deadly pilots. While the eyes stared at the blackboard, the mind wandered over oceans, and with Jacques Cousteau, dove beneath the waves, bubbles escaping to the surface, and explored the dangers and beauty of coral reefs.
The world opened before me, the people I met, the challenges I faced alongside the protagonists became more real than the dreary daily. In my mind, through the spell of books, I grew into a formidable human, one capable of great feats. I no longer saw red marks on school papers; I saw cars and planes and space crafts, vast arrays of computers, and true friends and lovers.
When I came to America with my school with the foreign exchange program, something rather unexpected occurred: I saw the world I had imagined with my own eyes, and it was marvelous. In no time I made up my mind to live in the New World and forsake the old. Three weeks after my 17th birthday, I was on a plane, landed at JFK, and never returned, moving ever westward since.
Now, in Los Angeles, I live in the future. Tesla electric cars are everywhere, spaceships made in Torrance, just 60 kilometers from my house, fly to the International Space Station, and more are being planned to take man to Mars. At work, vast arrays of computers and thousands of seasoned professionals manage trillions of dollars. High speed trains, solar that displaces coal, and new companies that put customers first and make billions in profit. Ah, California, the land of opportunity, the place where dreams come true!
How did this poor French boy from a broken home find his way to the Golden State to live a life filled with friends with luxuries and the occasional dinner in a swanky restaurant in Beverly Hills, accompanied by his head-turning Japanese wife in very stylish dress and red glitzy high heels? He is still amazed…
Amazed that all this came from the books of childhood, from the stories that expanded my mind and showed me what was possible if only I would pursue it. Amazed that nothing really stood in my way, that all cheered and encouraged me along, seeing the grit that fueled my constant thirst for knowledge. Now I am still looking for the next opportunity, the next level, the next breakthrough.
I see boys and girls around me with their eyes and thumbs stuck to electronica, playing games and watching mindless and meaningless television shows, and I yearn to reach into their expanding brains and fill them with images and emotions and dreams, so their minds will be awash with the possibilities ahead, with visions of futures they can create for themselves.
Now you know why I really write.