Christopher Moore's Blog

Miscellany from the Author Guy

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Tanning tips, Paris Hilton, and research questions.

May 10th, 2005 · No Comments

Heeeeeeeeee’s back, with answers to most of your damn questions.

Lib writes:

Is there a reason that I don’t tan? If so, what???

Dear Lib: It is hard to say, since I only met you once, but from that experience, I think the main reason is that as a child you ate more than a healthy amount of paste. As swell as that may have seemed at the time, it overloaded your developing immune system with “pasty white” cells. The only known cure is to eat equal amounts of dirt along with the paste in order to counteract the pasty whites. It’s not known if this will work retroactively, but if you decide to try it, please send video so I can post it on the Blog. It’s for science, after all.

Unc axes: So why is Paris Hilton famous? Why does anyone anywhere care about this skank?

Dear Unc: I’m as disturbed as you are about that, but consider this, if the answer is “because she’s rich and had sex on the internet anyway” then you have to address this, much more frightening question: Why is Donald Trump famous and who cares about his nasty ass anyway?

odie 718 writes: My question is about Practical Demonkeeping. Just curious if there is any reason you picked Clarion, PA as the hometown of Travis?

Dear odie: I used to go camping in that area of Pennsylvania with a friend who had family in the area. It was a great little college town and I always had fun there, but it is sort of remote and I imagined that in the 1900s when Travis is growing up there, it was very much “the boonies” as far as farm towns go.

HRH Gracie asks:

I totally get that Fluke required a ton of research, but do you really spend 6 months of research time on most of your books? I mean no disrespect, but could you give me an example of something you researched for say Stupidest Angel? Ok, well, now I am remembering the DEA stuff, I guess that would require some work, how do you go about that? Oh yeah, the sword stuff and the bong stuff. ok. never mind. I guess that is a big part of your talent. You make it seem so effortless.

Dear HRH:

When someone asks about research, or how long it takes to write a book, it’s a general question, and every book is specific. When I say it takes me six months to research a book, that doesn’t’ mean I go into the library, shut the door, and come out six months later. It means that I’m reading books, thinking stuff up, seeing what works and what doesn’t in a story. Books like Lamb and Fluke required a lot of reading, and the latter a lot of on-site research.

Stupidest Angel, on the other hand, I wrote specifically because I wouldn’t have a do any research on it. I wrote the book in about five months. Start to finish. That’s fast for me. I did end up looking up some stuff on antique Japanese swords, but that’s about it.

Each one is different and requires different commitments. I couldn’t’ go to Crow reservation in the winter for Coyote Blue, so I was over a year in the research phase. I took showers and went to movies and stuff during that time too, I wasn’t researching every second.

For Fluke, the researchers are only in Hawaii from December to March, it didn’t really matter if I started reading in August, I wasn’t going to get into the field with them until January. The Marine Mammal Science convention happens once every two years, in the fall. I wanted to attend that to get cutting edge science. Obviously, I had to wait until they held that.

In short, it’s not a term paper. Very often you don’t know what you’re going to need, so you read a lot more material than is necessary. Usually that’s the case. Other times you don’t find out until the book is finished that you missed some things. And just getting it down on paper isn’t enough. My stuff has to be funny, so often when I’m dealing with things like 1st century Judaism, or evolutionary biology, the funny stuff doesn’t come immediately to mind — it takes time for it to bounce around in my head until it hits something funny.

Stupidest Angel, as well as Practical Demonkeeping and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove were all set in a town that very-much resembled the town in Northern California where I lived for 20 years. I chose this setting on purpose, because it specifically didn’t require me to travel for research. For Practical Demonkeeping it was because I simple couldn’t afford to go anywhere, for the latter two, it was because I was under deadline and didn’t have the time to go somewhere to research. If I had set Stupidest Angel in Chicago, or Boston, for instance, I’d have had to spend a lot of time in those towns to get the characters and the setting right. That, I guess, is the part that you don’t see. When I set Bloodsucking Fiends in San Francisco, I spent a month up there, just walking the streets, riding the busses, watching people, eavesdropping on people. A trip like that requires a fair amount of planning, and again, you want to do it when the weather will allow you to be out and about. Virtually every character in Stupidest Angel, or any of the Pine Cove books, is a representative of an archetype, or an actual person I met or knew of. I had a friend who flew helicopters freelance for the DEA, I knew sheriffs, artists, blues players, bartenders – I even know a retired scream queen, although she’s not the complete bedbug that Molly is. I’m not sure if I get to count that as research, but I certainly picked the setting because it seemed that the research was already done.

Lamb took me nearly three years to research and write, and I was stuck for months right after the section where Biff and Josh leave Galilee for the East because I had no idea what was going to happen, and I didn’t know a goddamn thing about Taoist alchemy, which I had to learn to do Balthazar’s character.

So the answer to your question, in short, is: on average, it takes me a year to write a book and six months to research it.

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