The business of writing often requires an author to cast out nets in more than one medium. Christopher J. Moore started his writing career in screenwriting, working on successful TV shows, but soon realized he wanted his stories to reach a broader audience. After adapting several of his screenplays into stand-alone novels, he embarked on a new YA series, The Switch Family.
Name: Christopher J. Moore
Book Title: The Switch Family
Publisher: Clairvoyant Books
Expected Release Date: Available now!
Genre/Category: Young Adult, fiction, fantasy, thriller
Previous Titles: God's Child, Waiting for Mr. Right, and The Five Steps of Mr. Washington
About The Switch Family: Kelly and her sister Emily are living in sunny California, going to high school, when tragedy strikes. They have to regroup and move to North Carolina to live with family they did not know even existed. They later learned that this was for good reason. These family members were not only strange but could possibly be witches. Their world would never be the same as they are haunted by the secrets of the Switch family, and end up taking a wild and mysterious adventure they never could have imagined.
Tell us about your writing background?
I’ve always been a huge fan of movies. My mother used to take me and my brother to the drive-in theater when we were little, all of the time. So movies were everything. I read books here and there, but I didn’t start reading more until college. I eventually took a film class as one of my electives, and it changed my life. I didn’t even know that making films could be a career. I then took a screenwriting class, and that was the beginning of my writing career. I loved writing and became obsessed with it, and I’ve been writing every day ever since.
Later in my career, I even went back and got two Masters in Screenwriting, from Cal State University, Northridge because I loved the craft of writing so much I wanted to teach it as well. But looking back, I would have to say my professional career began when I won the Nickelodeon fellowship award in the year 2000. What I did differently than most screenwriters, I turned my screenplay that I won the fellowship with into my first novel, God's Child. That was the beginning of my duel career as not only a screenwriter, but also an author.
I’ve been a member of the Writers Guild of America, West since 2004. I have written for several major producers in Hollywood, sold screenplays and written for TBS hit shows like House of Payne and Meet the Browns. The show House of Payne, debuted as the highest rated comedy series in cable television history and the #1 TV show in African-American households. In 2008 and 2009, the show won three and four NAACP Image Awards, including Best TV Comedy Series both years. After my stint on House of Payne, I sold screenplays to major producers in Hollywood. I also have three bestselling novels, God’s Child, Waiting For Mr. Right and The Five Steps of Mr. Washington, which were all best sellers. Now I have The Switch Family to add to my body of work as my fourth novel. I also worked on an overseas animated children’s show, Boing, The Play Rangers and completed three produced episodes of my own sitcom that I wrote, co- created, and am the executive producer of called Mi Casa Mi Casa. Currently, I co-executive produced an independent TV pilot drama, titled, Beyond The Badge which was an official selection in SeriesFest 2019. I also have a thriller feature film in preproduction with Tracey Edmonds, titled End of The Road. I am also teaching TV writing at USC and Chapman University. So, I keep myself pretty busy.
What prompted you to write this book?
Ideas come to me all of the time. I don’t control that. But when it’s a really great idea, I can’t ignore it, so I have to write it. When I came up with the idea for The Switch Family, I was very excited to tell a story that young people could love, too. My other books are for a more mature audience, but this was something young people could enjoy. Kids need to read. It's so important for a young person's development. There is nothing like being young, and letting a book take you away to another world. Don’t get me wrong, older people are loving The Switch Family, too, it just doesn’t have the cursing and sex in the book. So, now my kids are actually able to read one of my books without me ripping out random pages!
What screenwriting skills helped you when writing your novels?
All of my screenwriting skills helped me. In screenwriting, you are trained to write with brevity, while structure is paramount. Character and plot is a skill that screenwriters must possess. We are also trained to write, keeping the story moving, which assures the reader will not get bored, while making sure there is always a sense of urgency and conflict. And in most cases, show it, not say it. I think it wouldn’t hurt for every author to read a book on how to write screenplays.
What are the differences between screenwriting and novel writing and did you find it liberating or harder to overcome?
Books take more time, in my opinion, because you’re not just telling a story, but language is so important when you’re writing. You have to convey everything to a reader that needs to be conveyed. With screenwriting, there’s typically room for interpretation, and in the end, it’s about what the director wants to do. With writing a book it starts with you and ends with you. I do think getting my degree in Psychology helped immensely with writing my novels. I dive a little bit deeper into my characters, giving depth and layers, while creating an arc as the stories progress. Storytelling whether in film, TV, or books is all about character, conflict, and most of all structure, which is consistently pounded into most screenwriters. But with a novel, you don’t have to adhere to any of the rules of screenwriting—three-act breaks, hitting certain marks on a particular page, knowing producers will be looking for those beats in your script, and having (at most) 120 pages to tell your story. So, I had to make the adjustment and that was definitely harder for me. I am a natural screenwriter at heart. Screenplays come much easier to me than writing a novel, but writing a novel is much more gratifying.
What’s your writing process?
I wake up, take the kids to school (sometimes), answer some emails. Take a walk or go to the gym. Write for a couple of hours. Outline if needed. Go to the coffee shop and write with fellow writers for three or more hours (more talk than writing sometimes). Then come home and be with the family. Write more when everyone goes to bed. But that can change if I have other things to do, then I just make sure I get my writing in at night.
Writing YA is a far cry from your work as a screenwriter. Why did you decide to switch genres and what challenges did you have in doing so?
It was kinda right up my alley to write YA novels. I have sold screenplays that were thrillers, and written for cartoons. In most of my books, which were screenplays first, there is romance. So, writing a Young Adult novel with, fantasy, thriller, romance, is perfect for me. I just have to tap into my inner child, and write about what young people are into. What’s cool about YA novels, is the teenagers in the story are in a constant state of discovery. They are experiencing things for the first time; first love, friendships, honor, loyalty, good and bad people, being brave for the first time, having power over someone, learning compassion, and learning about the world. These YA books are where young readers learn some of their most important life lessons.
Tell us more about The Switch Family and the characters?
It’s about a young teenaged girl name Kelly who just happens to be adopted and is living the good life with her family in sunny California. Their world as a family is turned upside down when there is a terrible accident, and they are forced to go live with their relatives down South, who Kelly and her sister Emily didn’t even know existed. But once down there, the girls learn that they just might be living with a family of witches, and their lives, along with their mother’s, will never be the same.
Since this book is a first in the series, how far out in the series do you plot?
I have all three novels plotted out, however, things are subject to change as the story evolves during the writing process.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope readers will be entertained, in suspense, and learn to embrace our differences in the world and not let our differences pull us apart. I love using fantasy fiction to teach our youth things that will shape who they become in the world, while having fun in the fantasy world of magic and supernatural powers. There is also something exciting about young readers reading your books, because you feel like you have a stake in their development as readers. That makes me smile.
Other than The Switch Family, is there something new you’re working on?
I have a film that is getting close to getting made. It’s a thriller called End of The Road. So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that. Some TV projects are always in the works. I also have a new screenplay which is a thriller I’m working on. But people are loving The Switch Family so much, it’s keeping me focused on the sequel to that.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
To stay focused and write what you enjoy writing. Don't write for money or follow the trends of what might be selling at the time. Write something that you can not only be proud of, but also enjoy the process of writing. A successful career in writing typically takes too long to achieve to be writing something you're not passionate about. Write from your heart, and write what gets you excited to sit at your computer everyday. Most of all, make sure you have a life while doing it—exercise, teach, build, vote, explore, learn, grow, fellowship, and most of all, love. It will not only inform your writing but you'll also be a healthier person for it, mentally and physically.