Wednesday, September 22

Interview 20 – Chris Roy

He was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 18. Now he is an author and a tattoo artist while living at the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

1. You are in prison? How did you get there? How long have you been there? And how long is your sentence?

Yes. I was in the drug business with a Vietnamese street gang and had a disagreement over money with a ranking member. We were both teenagers, and not very bright ones. A fistfight occurred and he died from injuries. I’ve been incarcerated since January 6th, 2000, over half my life. I’m 18 years into a life sentence that gives me parole eligibility when I turn 65 years old.

2. Explain to me the process of writing your book?

Story ideas come to me from conversations with people. Usually during banter that includes sick humor, fun threats of violence and crime. My characters come to life as the story develops, fashioned to carry out the tale. I write my outlines and first drafts by hand, a hasty blast of illegible pen strokes over plain paper given to me by a priest. Then I’ll type it on my phone, in Google Docs. When I’m happy with it I’ll move on, scratching out the next section on paper before typing it up.

Sometimes I share my progress with others to see if they are feeling it. Is it unique and bold? I want it to hit you between the eyes and steal your focus. Bouncing story ideas around also helps me create and omit, streamline and strengthen. When the story is finished I’ll proofread and polish, then find a few test readers that don’t pull punches. The final product is submitted to publishers.

3. How did you start doing tattoos in prison?

When I went to general population in 2003 I met a tattoo artist that was a pro on the street out West. He was a real asshole. We got along great. His brilliance with tattoo art – building machines, mixing ink, designing the tattoos – was a pleasure to witness. Not long after meeting him I was doing my own thing, had a line of art collectors ready for me to ink them at my convenience. I get paid in cash, Paypal, and Nutty Bars.

That was so long ago! So many tattoos on so many criminals. My old mentor would be a real asshole to me if he knew I was recently published in Rise Tattoo Magazine and ATC Tattoo Books.

4. Is it difficult to do? How do you come by getting the materials?

I can’t go into my studio and open a tool box, grab a machine and assemble it. I have to dig out each piece – motor, tube, needle guide, needle, tip, etc. – from multiple hiding places. In my cell. I clean the parts with soap and hot water, then boil everything in a microwave before assembling.

Motors are salvaged from old tape players and, lately, from DVD players. Ink is made by burning plastic and collecting the soot, which is dissolved with alcohol and mixed into a paste in a soda bottle cap. Needles are made from springs taken from cigarette lighters or ink pens. The body/tube and needle guide and tip are fabricated from parts of ink pens.

Then comes the fun part – tattooing through cell bars while keeping an eye open for officers, captains or wardens. Most of the building staff is cool with tattoos, though some aren’t and take no chances with their jobs. I will go to the customer’s cell and stick my arms through his bars or, if they are allowed out (this is a Death Row and High Risk unit, all Long-Term Segregation), they will come to my bars to get inked.

5. What advice would you give to the next generation?

Whether you want to become a writer or a tattoo artist, seek out the best in the business. Learn from them. Shut up and listen to them. Work for them. What are they doing that makes their work sought after? What are they doing as a business that gets attention to their work? What could you do to improve on the model? Work harder than anyone else and you will be the best.



Chris Roy is the author of Shocking Circumstances, Sharp as a Razor, and Her Name Is Mercie. He is a published tattoo artist (Rise Tattoo Magazine, ATC Tattoo Books app) and the illustrator of two children’s books. Raised in South Mississippi, he lived comfortably with the criminal ventures of his youth until a fistfight in 1999 ended tragically. Since January, 2000, he’s been serving a life sentence in the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Nowadays he lives his life of crime vicariously, through the edgy, fast-paced stories he pens, hoping to entertain readers. When he isn’t writing, he’s reading, tattooing or looking for prospects to train in boxing.

You can find Chris on Twitter @AuthorChrisRoy and on his Amazon Author Page:

For more info on the author, visit:

Reviews from the Her Name is Mercie blog tour:

Chris Roy on Off the Chain Radio:

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