Archive for July, 2013

Meet Harry St. John, crime writer

In my last post, I hinted about a new pen name and an upcoming release of mine. I guess I should let you know what the hell I’m talking about.

Towards the end of last year I finished the draft of a little novel that came to be titled Leave Her Hanging. This one’s a bit different from my other work. There are no superheroes or reality-twisting magic powers here, but what it does have in common with my other books is the influence of classic hard-boiled and noir fiction.

Leave Her HangingLeave Her Hanging is the story of an obsessive seventeen-year-old boy investigating the apparent suicide of his ex-girlfriend and his descent into darkness. Set in Auckland’s dark underbelly, the novel follows our protagonist as he traverses a web of violence, love, and illicit sex in his search for justice.

While I’m here, I’m going to think out loud about some of the challenges I think I’m going to face with this book. For better or worse, I think this is the book that has the most of “me” in it. But the nature of the book has left me conflicted about the best way to get it out there. Categorizing this book has been a challenge. Make no mistake, this book is dark. It leans more toward noir than hard-boiled. Noir fiction has traditionally been part of the wider adult crime fiction genre. But the protagonist and several of the main characters are teens. I feel like the voice of the main character belongs in a young adult novel. So that begs the question: is there a market for noir young adult fiction?

Modern YA books can be dark, but how dark? Bad things happen to the characters in this story, but the mark of noir fiction is not just that bad things happen, it’s that the protagonists end up doing bad things themselves. In noir fiction, even if the protagonist wins, it usually comes at such a cost that the reader may question whether anyone really won at all. Even dark YA books tend to have a spark of hope in them. But noir fiction ties cement blocks to hope’s ankles and tosses it in the river.

I love this book, but I know it won’t be for everyone. People may find it nihilistic or just plain nasty. Some may think it’s inappropriate for teens. Then again, what the hell do I care? The thing is, I do care. This is the sort of book that I would have loved when I was sixteen and developing my cynical, curmudgeonly personality. I think there are people out there who this book would speak to. But how do I reach them? This is always a challenge for any book, but I think the nature of this book makes it even more difficult this time around. The market for dark crime fiction for teens seems to be relatively small. On the other hand, adults who enjoy noir fiction may be put off by the YA voice. The question of how to get this book to the right audience is something I’m still struggling with as we get closer to its release.

I’ve also been debating with myself about what name to publish this novel under. Most of you are probably aware that Chris Strange is a pen name. But I don’t think that the sort of readers who enjoy, say, Don’t Be a Hero, are necessarily the same readers who would enjoy Leave Her Hanging. Then again, I didn’t want to hide the fact that I’ve written this book and deny those of you who would be interested in it from finding it. So in the end I’ve decided to publish Leave Her Hanging under another open pen name, Harry St. John. In time, Harry will  publish other dark crime novels and short stories as well. That way, people who buy a Harry St. John book will know they’re getting a dark, perhaps even grim, crime novel, while those who buy a Chris Strange book will know they’re getting some sort of fantastical urban story, perhaps with some geek flavoring. Harry will have his own website and Facebook, but they will both funnel back here, so this blog will soon expand to include books from both Strange and St. John. I think that’s an appropriate compromise that will keep my split personalities under control while also helping readers decide whether or not one of my books is right for them.

So that’s a new book and a new name, both coming soon. I’ll have more information on Leave Her Hanging, including a release date, as we get closer to the time. Until then, you guys stay awesome.

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A quick update and a question for you all

Another semester of challenging postgraduate work has begun, so naturally I’m procrastinating. Here in the Strange office (that’s the tiny nook in my apartment containing my computer, a few dozen posters of vintage sci-fi movies, and of course, my Gamera figure to keep me company) I’m gearing up for a new release that should be hitting virtual shelves within the next couple of months. There will be more about that in my next post, but until then I should get you fine folks up to speed on recent happenings.

You may recall that my superhero novel Don’t Be a Hero was nominated in the Best Novel category of this year’s Sir Julius Vogel awards. Sadly, I didn’t take home the award, but I want thank everyone who nominated or voted for the book. You guys are awesome. And I want to extend a huge (belated) congratulations to all the other finalists and award-winners. It was a pleasure and and an honor to be in such great company.

Writing continues on as always. I’m in the middle of drafts for two different novels at the moment. One work in progress is another superhero novel, while the other is something a bit special I’m keeping under my hat for the moment. I’m plugging away, although never as fast as I’d like. I’ll have more information on those books in a few months when they’re closer to completion. In addition, I’ll hopefully have a superhero short story set in the same universe as Don’t Be a Hero out before too long. The story itself has been done for a little while, so now we’re getting the cover and formatting worked out. It’s a fun little story that I hope will keep you guys sated while you wait for me to hurry up and finish more novels.

Before I sign off for today, I want to ask you guys a question. For the most part, this blog has been a way for me to keep you updated about what books of mine are out and other bits and pieces of news. It’s intended for those of you who have read something of mine or are interested in doing so. I don’t really write posts hoping to get huge page views or draw in random people from the Internet. (Although, if you have stumbled in here from the ether, welcome! Grab a seat by the fire, watch out for the spiderdogs, and don’t drink anything anyone offers you.) But since I’m soon going to be sharing this space with another pen name of mine (more on that in the next post), I thought this would be a good time to ask you all what you want out of this blog.

Are you happy with it as it is, with me posting occasionally when books are coming out or when something related to my writing has happened? Would you like me to discuss a greater range of topics, such as my writing process or movies/books/games I’m currently enjoying? Would you like to see me doing vlogs (video logs)? Should I post the bad poetry I wrote years ago? (You don’t want this one. Trust me.) Should I get personal and give you insights into my real life, warts and all? Are you guys interested in peeking behind the curtain?

Let me know. This blog is partly for me but it’s also for you. I love you guys. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment below, Facebook me, or email me at

All right, that’s enough for today. Stay awesome, folks.


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