Christopher X. Shade is author of the novel The Good Mother of Marseille (Paloma Press, 2019). He is co-founder and co-editor of Cagibi, at cagibilit.com, a journal of poetry and prose. His stories and book reviews have appeared widely, and he has won story awards including the 2016 Writers at Work fellowship competition. He teaches fiction and poetry writing at The Writers Studio. Raised in the South, he now lives with his wife in New York City. His website is christopherxshade.com.
1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?
Villain: The plague sweeping Oran in Camus’s The Plague! And Boo Radley in Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
Protagonist: The disenchanted cop Fabio Montale in Total Chaos, the celebrated neo-noir novel set in Marseille—a book that was one of many influences from literature for my novel The Good Mother of Marseille. And Tom Wingo in Pat Conroy’s The Prince Of Tides, and Binx Bolling in The Moviegoer.
2. When did you know you were a writer?
I was writing at a very young age, and can’t pin down a definitive moment. I feel incredibly fortunate to have always known that I would write. Very few people, it seems to me, come up in life with a clear and urgent understanding of what they can do with all that they feel strongly about. So I’ve always been a writer. And there were other modes of artistic expression, like painting. I’ve done a lot of painting — but there were moments in my life when I felt compelled to choose to do less of other things like painting in order to devote more of me to writing, because to do the work of writing well requires tremendous perseverance. This word perseverance, from the Latin, meaning “to abide strictly,” of course means to persist and to sustain and to maintain focus, but it also means to do less of other things, to sever distractions.
3. What are you currently working on?
A new novel that reaches back into a family’s Civil Rights-era past. In this story, a man returns to the small Alabama town of his childhood to visit an older family friend, who is in hospice with cancer. Like The Good Mother of Marseille, it is a story about coming to understand each other.
Also, a book of poems I’ve been writing during a series of visits to a monastery, to come to terms with the loss of someone in my life.
4 How has your writing process changed over the years?
I trust my instincts more; I doubt less. I give myself more permission to experiment. I still write mostly by hand, with a pencil on unlined paper.
5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.
Philip Schultz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and founder of the Writers Studio, said of my novel, “Shade’s sensitivity toward his characters is infectious, and, quite frankly, unforgettable.” I opened here with The Plague by Camus, so I'll go with the one-word sentence: "Infectious."
Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.