You guys, I’m going to post some interviews that are going to appear in pretty “limited” publications. Most of it is stuff you guys know, but I thought I’d at least give you a look.
Here’s one from Vampirella Magazine (There’s a Vampirella Magazine?).
Can you give us a little background about yourself? Generic stats: Born, raised, family upbringing, etc. What do you do when you aren’t writing?
I was born in Ohio and grew up in small industrial towns. My father was a state patrolman and my mother sold appliances at a department store. I kinda of went to college, sort of, for a while, then I didn’t anymore. When I’m not writing I swim, surf, snorkle, mow the lawn, screw around on the internet, watch TV, read, and travel around talking about my books.
What does your work environment look like?
It’s a disaster area. Right now if I look at my desk, which is a big L-shaped monster, I have: four remote controls, a camera, two phones, two monitors, a laptop, three jars of wood putty, an electric fan, two flashlights, three cups full of pencils and pens, a stack of Post-its, a copy of Fluke, three computer catalogs, two vertical file holders, one in/out box, full, a wireless router, two firewire hard drives, a paper plate holder, two pocket knives, two pocket notebooks, two phone cards, a Wi-fi shotgun antenna, a roll of duct tape, a utility knife, a towel, a set of headphones, a flossing machine, a box of paper clips, two large plastic glasses, a cup of coffee, an electric fan, a halogen desk lamp, some puka shells, a LED head lamp, a pot holder, an inkjet printer, a box of envelopes, a set of computer speakers. And all this, given that I actually cleaned off my desk about an hour ago. I’m not kidding. Around my desk chair there are big binders full of CD-Data disks and a ton of other crap. I’m never going to be the guy with no stuff on his desk.
Can you describe an average workday?
I usually get up, have some coffee, watch the news for about twenty minutes, then I go to work on the book. I work for about four hours, then I’ll do e-mail and other administrative stuff, go to the gym and the store or go do something in the ocean, then in the evening I usually plan what I’m going to write the next day.
Was writing always foremost in your mind as a career path?
No, as I kid, I wanted to be a sailor, then a spy, then an actor, then at about fifteen I started thinking about writing for a living. A few years later I shifted my ambition to being a photographer because I didn’t think I could make a living as a writer. I got side-tracked by survival until I was about twenty-five, when I started seriously pursing a career as a writer.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Mark Twain, Carson McCullers, Billy Collins, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, Douglas Adams, Carl Hiaasen, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Dave Barry and David Sedaris.
From whom do you glean inspiration from (either literary or not)
I get most of my inspiration from life, from running across goofy situations while I’m traveling or while I’m just hanging out. As for literature, lately I’ve been inspired by the simple elegant wit of the poetry of Billy Collins.
Does humor come to you naturally or is it something you worked on through other venues/writing jobs?
I think it comes to me naturally. My father was a funny guy. He had a very high sense of the silly, as well as that macabre sense of humor one often finds in cops and emergency workers who have to deal with death and human tragedy on a daily basis.
Do you see yourself more as a humorist, satirist, something in between or some creature entirely different?
I think I do a little of it all. I think that comedy better describes what I do rather than humor or satire, simply because most of the funny stuff I write is based in the characters. I have no problem with all elements of humor, however. I’ve even been able to pull off some physical comedy in my books, which I wouldn’t have thought possible (it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, isn’t it) but when I wrote Coyote Blue, which featured the Native American trickster god Coyote, I was forced to write “visual or physical” comedy because that is really more of Coyote’s nature than is rhetorical humor. It worked.
Have you ever considered writing a “straight” book – one that doesn’t utilize humor?
I’ve considered it, but I don’t think I’m capable of it. I mean, I could probably write an unfunny book, but not on purpose.
Are you your worst critic? Have you ever finished writing and said “Geez, What was I thinking?”
Usually, when I’m about a third of the way through a book, I’ll walk around the house going, “Well no wonder it’s not working, it was a stupid idea to begin with.” By then it’s usually too late to turn around, so I just stagger on, finish the book, then get nauseated for a couple of weeks when I think about reading the manuscript. (I’m not kidding. My stuff, right after I finish, nauseates me.)
Given your abilities to write both humorously and with a fantasy bent, why do you feel it necessary to do extensive research when working on a book (EG, for Lamb I understand you traveled to the Middle East.). Why not just make things up completely?
I really want people to be able to identify with the characters. Even if they have extraordinary lives. I am going to be asking the reader to suspend a lot of disbelief, and the best way to do that is to give them reality in which to stay grounded. I also like the idea of my readers learning something in the context of the book, painlessly, joyfully. I’m not out there to lecture, but I think readers come away from my books knowing a little more than when they went in (I know I do). And I have to know a subject pretty well in order to write funny stuff about it.
Are you thoroughly upset that you didn’t have to pull a Salman Rushdie and go into hiding after the lack of Religious backlash from “Lamb?”
I’m not upset, but I’m a little surprised. People, especially people of faith, have been overwhelmingly positive about Lamb. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that people “got it”, and that gave me a little faith in the intelligence of my fellow Americans at a time when I thought that they’d abandoned intelligence for Jingoism and knee-jerk Patriotically Correct responses to everything. There are a lot of bright, tolerant, funny people in this country, and I had started to think that wasn’t the case.
Your next book is “The Stupidest Angel.” Can you offer a synopsis? (Spoiler free obviously) I understand it’s a Christmas tale, but do you think you’ve got another chance at pissing off the religious types?
The Stupidest Angel is, very simply, the story of an angle who comes to Earth at Christmastime to grant the Christmas prayer of a small boy, and because the angel isn’t exactly the brightest halo in the host, he completely screws up the assignment, thus putting the little village of Pine Cove into a Yule-tide battle with undead evil. It’s darkly cheerful, or cheerfully dark. Something like that. Oh yeah, it’s pretty funny too. I don’t think it will garner any negative reaction from religious types, but it does have a cute little cartoon angel on the cover, and a few people might buy it for a kid or their grandma, then be surprised when the get to the people boning in the graveyard and the cannibalism.
Seriously though, religion seems to be becoming a topic important to your writing. Is it close to your heart? Why so? Are you trying to convey some message to your loyal masses?
I play in the realm of mythology, and lets’ face it, mythology is just a religion that you don’t believe in. I like thinking about faith, the basis of religions, and the stories that come from mythology. There’s no real message beyond trying to recognize that as human beings, what unites us is our human frailty, from which faith often springs. Faith is the result of the human consciousness trying to impose order on chaos, storytelling is no different.
You’ve had fun writing about everything from Christianity and Native American lore to Vampires, Sea Creatures and marine biology. Is nothing safe from you?
As long as I’m interested enough in a subject to spend a couple of years of my life thinking about it, I’ll write about anything. I tend to be more interested in cultures than in hard science, in the human element, if you will , but as long as something is interesting and I can find a story in it, I’ll pursue it.
Now that “Angel” is close to release, any thoughts as to who’s or what’s next in your line of literary sights?
I think it’s time to write about Death. In the last couple of years I helped care for my dying mother as well as my dying mother-in-law. I got a very close look at death and dying and the experiences gave me some perspective I didn’t have before. We tend to ignore death as a part of life, when, obviously it’s something we all will go through. It’s time to explore the archetypes of this under-examined human experience, and make fun of it.
Do you have a secret deal with Stephen King to have as many books set in Pine Cove as he does his in Castle Rock?
I tend to write about Pine Cove when I am either out of money or out of time. Pine Cove is based on Cambria, California, where I lived for twenty years (until I recently moved to Hawaii). Since I didn’t have to travel to research Pine Cove, whenever I was up against deadline, I would write about the little town. My first book was set there because I couldn’t afford to go anywhere to research. I like writing about Pine Cove because there is a dynamic in a small town, where every ripple will effect everyone else. I probably learned the (small town) multiple point of view construction of a horror story from Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, so I suppose I need to give him props for that.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews the possibility of a sequel to “Bloodsucking Fiends” (it really does scream for a Part 2). Other than that, however – are you not a fan of sequels? Do you find them too anti-climactic? Is it a matter of “Been there, done that”?
I’ve never wanted to do the same book twice. It probably has as much to do with my own short attention span as anything else. That said, Bloodsucking Fiends was always meant to have a sequel. The problem was that my publisher at the time, sort of dropped the ball on the release of Fiends, and they put a hideously ugly cover on it, so the hardcover didn’t do that well. You’re not going to get anyone to pay you to do a sequel to a book that didn’t do that well, so I went on to other projects that didn’t have that negative track record.
Now, after ten years, the paperback has stayed in print and has done consistently well, so my current publisher has agreed to release a sequel to Fiends. This one is called YOU SUCK: A Love Story, and it opens up the day after the last book ends. I’ll start it sometime next year, and if it does well, I may even do a third one. I really enjoyed writing the characters in that book, Tommy and Jody, who were both smartasses. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with them again, as well as hanging out in San Francisco again, which is my favorite city and a great setting for “gothic” stories.
Some of your books have been optioned for movies. Are any closer to coming to life than others, or has Hollywood bureaucracy driven you crazy? Maybe they need a lesson taught with a book about them?
The Hollywood book is not a bad idea, but to be honest, I learned early on, when there was a big splash when my first book, Practical Demonkeeping was bought for a film, then nothing happened, that it was just best to keep pursuing my career as a novelist and generally ignore what was going on in Hollywood. As of now, all of my books except for Stupidest Angel have been optioned, but no one has gotten past the script stage. Meanwhile it’s nearly fourteen years since Disney bought Demonkeeping. I would have gone nuts if I’d tried to keep my hand in the mix in Hollywood. I like writing books. I have a lot more control over my destiny there.
What’s immediately next for you? And I mean **immediately** (in the next five minutes. Quick!)
Thought I’d get another cup of coffee.