Advice from IRDA Winning Author Chris Yee: “Be your own fan. Write the kind of story that you would enjoy.”

Metal Chest was the winner in the Science Fiction category of the 2019 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.

Following find an interview with author Chris Yee.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Metal Chest was published on June 10, 2018.

What’s the book’s first line?

Silas pressed his hand against the weathered surface of his metal chest.

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

Metal Chest is a tense post-apocalyptic adventure that follows Silas, a timid robot, as he navigates a war-ravaged world in search for a new home. His destination is New Valley, a place that has become a safe haven for all robots affected by the war. On his way, he meets Deacon, a human scavenger. Together, they travel across the country, overcoming their differences and fighting to stay alive. Metal Chest is packed with exciting action, but at its heart, it’s a story of friendship.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

I drew from two main inspirations when I was writing Metal Chest. The first was a post-apocalyptic video game called The Last of Us. The game deals with zombies and all of the typical tropes that come with them, but where the game really shines is it’s focus on a blossoming father/daughter relationship between two complete strangers. I wanted to capture the same heartfelt relationship and build a believable connection with my own characters. The second inspiration was old western television shows like Bonanza and The Rifleman. When I was younger, my dad and I would watch these shows together and they’ve always held a special place in my heart. I wanted to pay tribute to those westerns while also putting my own sci-fi twist on it. Melding together the relationship dynamics of The Last of Us and the nostalgic theatrics of old westerns, Metal Chest was born.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

The most distinctive thing about Silas is how human he acts, even though he is a robot. I wanted to blur the line between the behavior of robots and humans. Even though they are physically different, a human and robot and get along and become friends. The story follows Silas as he grow in confidence with encouragement from Deacon. It is a coming of age story of sorts.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

You’ll come for the robots and westerns style. You’ll stay for the deep characters and complex relationships.

If they made your book into a movie, who would you like to see play the main character(s)?

Silas is a robot, so I suppose someone with a lot of experience with motion capture, like Andy Serkis. For Deacon, I would love to see Aaron Paul in the role.

When did you first decide to become an author?

I’ve always liked creative writing, even as a little kid. When college came around I moved more towards math and science. It wasn’t until after college, around 2015/2016 that I got serious about writing again and decided to self-publish my first book.

Is this the first you’ve written?

Nope. I published my first book in 2016 and I like to think that I’ve learned a lot since then.

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

I’m a bit of a busy bee. I currently work full-time as a structural engineer. On the side, I have a podcast called Absurd Hypotheticals, where my co-hosts and I answer silly hypothetical questions with science. I also have a Youtube channel that focuses on video games.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

It varies a lot depending on how busy I am with other things, but in general I spend about 1-2 hours a day writing.

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?

I’ve always supported independent creative efforts. I love the idea that everyone has the tools to do something creative. The hardest part of being an indie is balancing the creative aspects with the business side of things.

What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?

Be your own fan. Write the kind of story that you would enjoy. It makes the writing process so much more fun and the end product will be that much better.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why?

I wouldn’t rule it out as an option, but I also wouldn’t pounce at any offer. It would have to be with the right publisher and the offer would have to be fair. Working with a publisher can be very beneficial as long as they’re not exploiting you. The relationship should be symbiotic.

Is there something in particular that motivates you?

I just love any form of storytelling. It’s the reason I like TV, movies, and video games so much. The medium is almost trivial to me as long as there is a compelling story. The great thing about books is that the barrier to entry is so low compared to other forms of media. Almost anyone can type up a story if inspiration hits them.

Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?

Douglas Adams. I love his sense of humor and his willingness to be weird.

Which book do you wish you could have written?

In line with my admiration for Douglas Adams, I wish I could have written The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It varies a little from the typical genre I write in, but it’s exactly my type of humor. I took a shot at the humor genre once and I like to think I did a decent job.