Books And Bites: Congratulations on the publication of “The Pineville Heist”! Tell me a little about it—what’s your pitch?
Lee Chambers: Thank you and thank you for having me on Books and Bites.
Okay well, The Pineville Heist is a good fun, fast paced thriller with twists and turns and on-the-edge-of-your-seat action.
It is about 17 year old Aaron, an everyday high school teenager, facing the everyday challenges of growing up and fitting in, with the added pressure of being the rich kid in town. He and his father share a fractious relationship, especially after the death of his mother.
Trying to prove himself to his father, Aaron stumbles into the aftermath of a $5m bank heist gone wrong. Hiding under a canoe, Aaron witnesses the murder of one of the robbers. In the chaos that ensues he escapes with the money and heads straight for the closest place of safety, his high school. Terrified, Aaron tells his shocking tale to his drama teacher, Amanda Becker. However it doesn’t take long for one of the psychotic robbers to show up and in the locked down school the pair are relentlessly pursued in a quest to get the money back and wipe out the evidence.
BAB: No two authors seem to take the same route to publication, but almost every author has an interesting story about their journey. Care to share yours?
Lee Chambers: What is an unusual approach, The Pineville Heist commenced life as a screenplay I co-wrote with Todd Gordon and is currently in the funding stages of being developed into a major movie, with Booboo Stewart (Seth Clearwater from the Twilight series) having signed on to play the lead role of Aaron Stevens.
As the movie process can take a considerable amount of time, I decided to adapt the screenplay into a novel. As a filmmaker it has kept be energised and passionate about the story and also allows me to share the story and build a fan base with readers, rather than having it collect dust.
BAB: How did you get the idea for your novel?
Lee Chambers: The idea came about from a time when I was about 10 years old. I was at an elementary school summer camp and we were playing hide and seek. I hid under a canoe and could see all the action going on from underneath my hiding spot. I was never found.
I am a notorious note writer and came across the note several years back and thought, “What if a kid witnessed a murder while hiding underneath a canoe”, that is how the idea came about and I developed it from there.
BAB: Do you have another book in the works?
Lee Chambers: My second novel, The Sum of Random Chance was published in July of this year. The story was developed from a script I co-wrote with Kris Ketonen and is more of a magical mystery story, with a touch of romance.
I am also in the process of adapting another screenplay I worked on about 10 years ago with Olly Perkin and Ra-ey Saleh into novel. This one is a comedy and good fun, which will be a good change of pace and genre for me.
BAB: Your current novel, “The Pineville Heist”, is marketed as a young adult novel. Did you originally set out to write a YA novel?
Lee Chambers: The original screenplay had quite a bit of swearing in, so we made the conscious decision to tone it down so that the story could be marketed to both the Young Adult market and the New Adult market. There is violence, although not gratuitous, and there is sexual tension, which doesn’t cross the line, so the story appeals to all markets.
BAB: How did you get the inspiration for Aaron/Amanda/Mike/Chief Tremblay/Gordie/etc?
Lee Chambers: What about Carl and Chuck? I just love Chuck!
The inspiration for Aaron came first, the story started off as a short story, a long time ago, of someone being murdered and him witnessing it. The other characters then developed from there, each with their own uniqueness and also their different relationships between each other; such as the relationship between Tremblay and Aaron, or the relationship between Carl and Amanda, they each have their own defining relationship and character.
Each character is kept as separate as possible, but the closeness of the relationship between them all and how the effect of a $5 million robbery has on them is developed. As a writer, poof you invent something powerful, an event to give each their own voice and their own motivation and their own life.
BAB: Who is your favorite character? Why?
Lee Chambers: You’ve gotta give the edge to Aaron. He’s the main character who goes through the most growth. He goes from a kid who can’t stomach hunting deer with his father to having to fight for his survival and that of his teacher. He’s also on that journey of growing up, a journey we can all relate to, no matter how old we are, as we are currently experience it or have experienced it. He’s the living breathing piece.
We all love our villains too, they are always fun and we need them to give dimension to the story and the other characters.
But Chuck well he is a favourite!
BAB: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
Lee Chambers: I have always loved telling stories, it’s my passion. There are always different stories and ideas going through my head. Although as a director, and having created many award winning short films, I portray stories visually and tend to see them in screenplay format, which is more like an architect’s blueprint or plan. It was quite a challenge for me to get my head around the craft of novel writing as it was a format I hadn’t experienced before, but am enjoying the challenge.
BAB: In writing “The Pineville Heist”, what was your most surprising discovery?
Lee Chambers: I’m not sure if there was quite a surprise discovery, but maybe some advice for other writers; write what they like, so as a writer you have something good, maybe not great to start with. Then rewrite, redraft, make the story better by polishing and filling in potholes, times and events. Listen to advice, but don’t necessarily accept all advice. Spend time making your draft remarkable; it is time consuming, it takes energy but embrace the challenge in order to finalise your story and make it go from good to great.
BAB: What’s your writing routine? Do you write in the mornings, nights, daily, or when the mood strikes you?
Lee Chambers: When it comes to writing, I can definitely be a procrastinator, it’s a bit like doing housework, it’s to easy to put off if you let it. So I have a strict routine in that I set myself a target to write so many pages a day and before I know it, the novel is completed.
BAB: There are many beautifully written scenes in the novel; one that I particularly liked was when Aaron was running for his life back to the school, with the image of Steve preying on his mind. Would you care to share any of your favorite scenes from the novel?
Lee Chambers: All of them! I’m biased, l can’t have just one, I want all of them.
One thing about The Pineville Heist is it isn’t like most books, the scenes are action packed, it is also a quick, concise story that doesn’t deviate or go off tangent or track, everything is there in the scenes.
BAB: What experience did you have with your publisher? Good? Bad?
Lee Chambers: Ahhh well I would have to say good… I published through my spinoff company MISFP Publishing.
While I would have loved to have gone traditional publisher, I received dozens of regret letters after submitting The Pineville Heist, and then I was finally accepted by a publisher…. Cool beans! Except then I was told there would be a four year wait… huh? That wasn’t going to work for me, so I decided to go down the self-publish road.
Interestingly, when I was presenting at a Canadian lit festival back in June, I got talking to two of the writers there that have traditional deals, and they admit the advances are getting smaller and both were quite envious that I am able to control my books 100%. There are pros and cons with being both published and self-published, although having a publisher would be good!
BAB: If you had to pick one author as your favorite, who would it be?
Lee Chambers: I would say Betty Woodcock, she wrote a book called The Pram. She is also my Aunt, from the UK and I’m really proud of her.
BAB: Finally, thank you for taking part in this interview. Before you go, what message would you like to send to your fans?
Lee Chambers: Live long and prosper…. No wait that’s been taken… hmmmm…
Enjoy reading, brush your teeth and get a good night sleep!
(Oh and if you are after a good fun thriller, get yourself a copy of The Pineville Heist)
Also available from Lee Chambers:
Title: The Sum of Random Chance
Author: Lee Chambers
Publisher: MISFP Publishing
Hardcover: 192 pages