Author Christopher Meeks reads selections from novels and short stories in Orcutt

Author Christopher Meeks is very comfortable being interviewed for a newspaper article because he knows what to expect.

"I started out as a journalist," he said. "I was a freelancer at first and then specialized in interviewing authors. I got hired by [California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)] to interview artists of all sorts." 

On Nov. 10, Meeks will present a selection of readings at CORE Winery in Orcutt. It's a night normally reserved for poetry, but with Veteran's Day around on the corner, organizers thought Meeks would be an interesting choice based on some of his previous work.

click to enlarge Author Christopher Meeks reads selections from novels and short stories in Orcutt
MYSTERY MAN: Christopher Meeks’ body of work includes several short story collections as well as A Death in Vegas, a mystery about a convention in Las Vegas that goes deadly wrong. The author will present a reading on Nov. 10 at CORE Winery in Orcutt.

Meeks, who teaches at Santa Monica College and the Art Center College of Design, wrote for the CalArts quarterly for 13 years. He has written several collections and novels, including The Chords of War.

The Chords of War was co-written with Iraq war veteran Samuel Gonzalez, a former student of Meeks'. It's a fictional work based largely on Gonzalez's experience during the war. After 9/11, an young unruly teenager named Max Rivera enlists in the United States Army after his punk band kicks him out. The story revolves around the young man struggling to adapt to life in the military and touches on battles such as the surge in Baqubah.

"He was one of my top students from the Art Center College of Design," Meeks said. "He told me about his experience in Iraq and it was really intense. It led up to him asking if I'd like to write a novel with him based on his experience." 

Meeks said it was one of the best writing experiences he had ever had, because it was as if his protagonist was standing in front of him and he could ask anything he wanted. Gonzalez, who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), would explain in detail how he felt in certain situations or how he would have acted or felt in scenarios the character was presented with.

Gonzalez told Meeks many heart-wrenching stories, including the time he watched a friend die in front of him after his vehicle exploded. It wasn't an easy process for the veteran.

"I brought him to tears sometimes with my questions," Meeks said. "I felt so bad. But he wanted to get the truth out. Somehow working on this really helped him with his PTSD."

In addition to The Chords of War, Meeks has written two collections, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea and Months and Seasons. Meeks' novels include The Brightest Moon of the Century and Love at Absolute Zero as well as the crime thriller A Death in Vegas. The idea for the mystery novel came to Meeks when friends who own an organic bug company (which uses bugs instead of pesticides) invited him to attend a convention in the gambling hot spot.

Author Christopher Meeks reads selections from novels and short stories in Orcutt
PROSE POSE: Author Christopher Meeks and poet Joe Milosch will read work at CORE Winery on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. The winery is located at 105 W. Clark Ave., Orcutt. For more information, call (805) 937-1600.

"I didn't have any more major life stories of my own," Meeks said. "So I began to 'what if.' Death in Vegas stems from when I thought, 'What if my friend was at the show and he went out of his hotel room one morning and there was a dead naked woman?'"

The idea launched a novel about a woman who worked at a convention booth in Las Vegas and winds up dead in the hotel room of the man she was working for. The man's wife is also missing, and the FBI and police are both working against him as he tries to solve the mystery. 

"Someone has set him up and he has no idea why," Meeks said. "The police are about to arrest him and he escapes and tries to find out who is after him and why. It's very fun."

At the local event, Meeks plans to present a reading from The Chords of War, as well as a short story and a few poems. He's also focused on a new series of short fiction works for Amazon's Short Reads series, which have garnered rave reviews from readers.

"I started out as a short story writer," he said. "And after these novels, I'm going back to short fiction. I love this. Most people don't really love what they do and I do. It's a fun living." 

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose stays in Vegas. Contact her at [email protected].

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