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Be at Peace

Because all your questions are about to be answered. Or at least most of them. Or at least the ones I felt like getting to before I ran out of time and wandered off to read comix.

No apologies for the length of this post. You asked ‘em.

Q: In what order, from least to most, let’s say, do you enjoy writing the following: blog entries, Twitter posts, short fiction, novels, and comics?

But it doesn’t break down like that. First, the act of make-believe is a hell of a lot of fun, so anytime I’m working on a new story, I’m probably enjoying myself, regardless of form. Sometimes, though, there are bad days, days when I discover an idea or a character or a scene isn’t playing out like I hoped, and then the job is more like real work.

Twitter is generally more fun than the blog.

Q: where do you get your ideas?

Schenectady. They have them on a shelf in a Mom & Pop on Route 147.

Q: What author( pick one dead and one alive) would you like to sit down with and pick his brain.

See, that’s tricky. There are several writers I admire who I would love to sit and have dinner with, but if I had the chance, I wouldn’t interrogate them about their process. That’s just… not me. For example, I got together with Robert Crais for lunch in London one day, and we bullshitted about baseball.

Q: If H.P. Lovecraft and Nathaniel Hawthorne got into a fight using broken bottles and lengths of chains for weapons, who would win?

Hawthorne. Lovecraft would find it beneath his dignity to fight.

Q:  (Paraphrase:) Would you say you’ve been deeply influenced by Neil Gaiman?

You bet. He shaped many of my ideas about what kind of writer I wanted to be myself (comfortable with fantasy, comfortable with a wide variety of literary forms, comfortable in my own skin).

Q: If cavemen fought astronauts, who would win and why?

Depends on the terms of the battle. Cavemen in the short term fight. Long term, the astronauts just nuke them from orbit.

Q: If your writing didn’t take off, what would have been the alternative?

I was going to make it take off, or go down in flames, riding my laptop all the way. My alternative to being a successful writer was being an unsuccessful writer.

Q: Wolverine vs. Harry Potter. Who wins and why?

Gabe says they kill each other and readers world-wide win. I can’t argue with that.

Q: I have a longing to be published and be read, but fear I won’t be good enough. Any thoughts on that, or am I just wackadoo?

I think if you enjoy writing, and you’ve composed a few stories, or a novel, or what-have-you, it’s natural to submit your work to the appropriate markets. Let an editor or an agent tell you if you’re good enough, and if they say you aren’t, assume they mean, you aren’t yet, and keep working. In the end, if your own writing pleases you, and scratches an inner itch, that’s the only reason you need to keep making stuff up.

Q: If you were forced to spend five weeks in a cabin, in the forest, on an island, in the middle of the ocean, what one item would you bring with you and why?

Beef jerky. For hunger. And hope there’s drinking water. Or rain.

Q: What’s your writing/reading schedule like?

I write 7 days a week; on the weekdays I go for a six-hour stretch with a break for lunch. On the weekends I’m more flexible, but I like four hours. If I’m facing a mess of deadlines, I’ll also sometimes go back and do a couple hours in the evening.

I try and read 20 pages a day and one comic. If I’m short on time, I skip the comic.

Q: What’s your current zombie contingency plan?

Go north.

Q: How many years did it take you to reach a point where you felt like a good writer/storyteller?


Q: What would happen if we, society as a whole, threw all our garbage in a volcano?

We’d get our ash handed to us.

Q: Was there a book that made you all nippley for research? If so, what was it?

I avoid research if possible. I pretty much just like to make shit up.

Q: What noise, if any, do giraffes make?

Chewing. Trust me. I researched it.

Q: Do you remember the exact moment when you decided you would be a writer? Was it epiphanic?

When I was 12, I sent in a Spider-Man script to Marvel comics. I got back a form rejection, but there was a personal note from then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter on the bottom telling me to keep writing (I think… his scribble was a little hard to decipher and it might’ve said “keep wiring.” It’s possible he was encouraging me to be an electrician). From that moment on, I was pretty much fucked.

Q: How much beer is drank in Germany per year per capita?

They drink a lot there, so I estimate the total annual beer consumption at 10,338,017 WEUs.*

Q: Will there be more stories set in the world you created in ‘Gunpowder’?

There will. The next is titled SLAVE GIRLS OF GUNPOWDER and will probably appear next year (I was hoping it would be ready for Christmas this year, but I’m not sure my schedule will clear enough for me to work on it). There will be four GUNPOWDER novellas in all. Yes, I know how it all ends.

Q: What’s your favorite country to visit and why?

I haven’t seen too much of the world, but of the places I’ve gone, I’d say the Amalfi coast, in Italy. My wife and I took our 10th there. Little wine, little sun, lot of walking in the lemon groves: I think that’s about what love is supposed to feel like.

Q: Is the new Locke & Key a six-story arc like “Welcome to Lovecraft?”

Sorta, not quite. HEAD GAMES is actually four-issues long, with a standalone prologue (“Intermission” or “The Joe Ridgeway Story”) and a standalone conclusion (“Army of One”).

I wasn’t asked, but I’ll say at this point the plan is for four more six-issue LOCKE & KEY stories, the next being CROWN OF SHADOWS in the fall/winter of this year. I had thought at one point we might go monthly, but now I think it might be wiser to do it in six-issue bites. The story as a whole is like working on a mural that covers the side of a building; you don’t want to spend too much time working up close. Now and then you have to step back and gauge the whole effect. Also, a plan to end the series with a standalone graphic novel has been scrapped. I’d rather go with individual issues: for me, crafting the story in discreet 22-page portions is the great pleasure of the thing, and I don’t want to abandon what’s working.

Q: How old should my daughter be before I let her read comics?

You can read them to her right now, no matter how old she is. Just don’t read her Locke & Key; she won’t be ready for that one until she’s about old enough to drive.

Q: (paraphrase) How does an issue of Locke & Key go from your words to the finished art?

This is the subject of a different, very long post, that will be forthcoming next month. Since it features a spoiler from issue 6, though, I have to table this question till later.

Q: What was in the briefcase?

Wallace’s soul.

Q: If it were possible, which of your father’s novels do you wish you had written?

I’d be proud as hell to have written any of those books; they’re remarkable stories, each and every one. But I don’t really want to tell someone else’s stories. I’m selfish that way: I only want to tell mine. So the proper answer to your question is all of them and none of them.

Q: From Universal mythology, which one is your favourite myth?

My single favorite myth is the story of Gimpel the Fool, an ancient, classic tale made up by Isaac Bashives Singer about 80 years ago.

Q: (paraphrase) Why are there so many bad fathers in your fiction?

Because someone has to be the bad guy, and as a dad myself, I feel like father-figures are fair game. Also, I have a loving, happy relationship with my Dad, so I can write about a bad father, and he knows I’m not writing about him.

Q: Who made who?

Ain’t nobody told you?

Q: I love The Road Rage Story You did With Your dad,  and since I read it I’ve wondered how do two authors collobarate? Do you each put in your own parts or does a third voice emerge between the both of you?

We each put in our own parts, and then whipped it with an egg beater for three days until it was smooth and creamy.

Q: Have you ever intentionally upset someone out of sheer boredom?

Everyone has. Even the Dali Lama.

Q: Do you think you would have been a writer if your parents weren’t?

I was an aloof and daydreamy kid and I suspect I would’ve been strongly drawn to whatever job seemed the most creative and offered me the most time to be alone. Temperamentally I was a writer before I knew how to write. That said, encouragement is always a big factor.

Q: Lets say you are able to shine a flashlight into a room composed entirely of mirrors, a room with no sharp corners: Will that light continue on forever, or will it disappear in seconds?

With nothing to keep the light perfectly focused it will disappear. Trust me. I researched it.

Q: Who are some other writers like you? I love “20th Century Ghosts” and need to find some other books like it.

If 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS made you happy, I’d point you to my father’s collections, both of Neil Gaiman’s collections, and Kelly Link’s PRETTY MONSTERS for starters.

Q: Do you ever buy marked down food in the grocery store?

Not usually – I’d rather buy fresh then save money.

Q: Did the editor character of “Best New Horror” get away at the end?

I know what I think, but what I think doesn’t matter. After the final sentence, it’s your turn; if you think he got away, he did; if you think he didn’t, then he didn’t.

Q: How many drafts did Heart-Shaped Box see before publication?

4 big ones. 2 small ones.

Q: Universal absolution or subjective relativity?

It’s pretty clearly subjective absolution.

Q: Can you make it a point to write more blog entries this summer, please?

Blogging is low-man on the totem pole when it comes to my work. It’s what I do after I’ve done everything else. So no promises. If you just can’t stand going without my scintillating wit and trenchant observations on a regular basis, jump onto Twitter, I usually stick something up every couple days or so.

Q: What is your favorite website?

Twitter. I like it so much I wrote a short story about it, which will be in Christopher Golden’s upcoming THE NEW DEAD anthology.

Q: Do writers get paid for their positive “comments” on other author’s covers?


Q: What is your opinion on the Twilight series and its popularity?

The only thing more boring than reading about vampires having sex with other vampires is reading about vampires NOT having sex with other vampires.

Q: Do you have any interaction with the translators of your work? Have they ever contacted you with specific questions about phrases or concepts that they were having difficulty representing in their native language?

I worked closely with my German translators on both HEART-SHAPED BOX (BLIND there) and 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS. I also was occasionally in touch with my Japanese translator on GHOSTS.

Q: Do you think eBooks will kill the physical book?

I’ve been meaning to write a mini-essay about why independent bookstores don’t need to be afraid of the eBook, but haven’t got around to it yet. The short answer to your question is, no, but it will force the big publishers to add more value to their books, to become, in essence, more like small presses. 

Q: (Paraphrase) Does J.J. Abrams have a plan to tie all his television shows and movies together?

I think storytellers helplessly return to the same notions and motifs over and over again, and Abrams is no different. This is not a bug; it’s a feature.

Q: Guns & Roses or Nirvana?

It isn’t necessary to choose. You’re allowed to like both.

Q: Nature or Nurture?

I want to believe nurture, but, regrettably, I think mostly nature.

Q: Why is there evil in the world?

Because sometimes you just wanna fuckin have it, and you don’t care who gets hurt.

Q: Is there such a thing as evil?

You seriously doubt it? 

Q: Any ideas for a fantasy novel?

Yep. Lots.

Q: Will there be chalk art this year?

Probably not.

Q: What conspiracy theories do you believe in and why?

I have a hunch there was a conspiracy to kill Julius Caesar.

Q: What’s your favorite television show?

My favorite all-time is Sopranos. My current favorite is Breaking Bad. In truth, I watch very little TV; not ’cause I’m a snob (I think some of the best writing in America is being done on television right now), but because with my very limited free time, I’d rather read comics, where the writing is even better, and where there’s less commercial pressure to play it safe.

Q: Top 5 musical artists?

Beatles, AC/DC, Stones, Springsteen, Steve Earle. How boring is that?

Q: Do you go fishing much on Lake Ponchatrain?

Only in the rain.

Q: Are you a fan of Joss Whedon?

Did you know his real name is Joe Hill Whedon? No, I’m serious.

I think Joss Whedon is a big fat stud. Believe it or not, though, I’ve only seen two, maybe three episodes of Buffy. I know him primarily for his work on Astonishing X-Men, and for Dr. Horrible. I went to Serenity but walked out forty minutes in… not because I hated it, but because I loved it, and wanted to go back and watch Firefly before seeing the rest of the movie. And I have Firefly on DVD, but still haven’t got around to watching it.

Q: What’s your favorite romance novel?

Another Marvelous Thing by Laurie Colwin.

Q: What’s your favorite film score?

The Warriors is the coolest.

Q: What’s your favorite video game?


Q: How do you feel about your contemporaries? Do you share the same sort of fandom you witness on your site, or do you keep it more cool because you’re in the game?

I think most of the people who comment here on the website play it pretty cool. I don’t see a lot of wanton asskissing, and wouldn’t want any.

I don’t feel anything about my contemporaries as a group. I take it on a case-by-case basis. But here’s a good spot to mention three writers my age or younger that reduce me to slavish fandom: Brian K. Vaughan, Curtis Sittenfeld, Kelly Link. Recently I discovered a comic called Scalped, scripted by a dude named Jason Aaron; he’s shaping up like a new favorite. 

Q: How does it feel to have way, way more hair than Brian K. Vaughan?


Q: Why on earth isn’t a butterfly called a flutterby?

Have you noticed that all the famous lepidopterists have a stammer? That’s why.

Q: If you knew then what you know now would you have changed anything?

Sure. Probably 95% of my fiction is about regretting that you didn’t know then what you know now.

Q: What would you have had us ask that we did not?

I’m a little surprised no one asked if the hook in Tyler Locke’s baseball cap matters. And the answer is, hell, yes.


* Warren Ellis Unit

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