The dates of the original Q&A session were 3/7/06 through 3/13/06.
Author Christopher Golden recently visited the ARWZ Community Forums to answer questions from fans and ARWZ readers in an Interactive Q&A. The questions and conversations in this transcript are in no particular order, and may vary from the order in which they were originally asked.
Hey Chris, just wanted to let you know Myth Hunters was amazing! I find it amazing how many characters you've created and how deep and unique each one is. I was wondering if you've ever thought of using a character from one series like The Shadow Saga or Menagerie, or even a character from Strangewood into another book or series? Thanks! — Rob
Actually, I've done that a lot, though usually in small ways. The main character from Straight On 'Til Morning appears in The Boys Are Back in Town. A pivotal character from Strangewood has a cameo in The Myth Hunters. Jace Castillo, a cop from the Jenna Blake books, appears throughout the Prowlers series. And so on.
Thanks for the question.
If you could pair any two writers to collaborate on a horror novel, who would they be and why?
— David Thomas Lord
Interesting question, David. I'm going to cheat, though. You didn't say they had to be living. I'd pair H.P. Lovecraft and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So many people want to combine the Cthulhu mythos with Sherlock Holmes or just Conan Doyle's take on London. I'd love to see the real thing.
Thanks. I left it open so that you could choose living/living or dead/dead or any other combination. So, how about the flipside? Which two authors NEVER should collaborate?
— David Thomas Lord
Anne Rice and God.
Whoops. Too late.
Hello Mr. Golden,
I actually have read some of your books (The Lost Slayer serial) and enjoyed the complexity of your plots very much. I was also an extreme Buffy fan at the time so I found the alternate fantasies very exciting. (I will ALWAYS be a Buffy fan!)
Anyway, I am yearning to write things that people will want to read. I've had a gift for words since I was a teenager but it is only now as an aging man that I have found the time to dedicate to creating a writing practice.
I've read several books "about writing" and have taken a couple of "writing classes". The books seem to be more helpful than the classes though. So many people seem to stress the importance of being part of a "writing community" to become a better writer. What do you think about this idea?
Did you take writing courses in college or elsewhere? Did you or do you belong to any "writing groups"? Do you think that either are necessary to become a successful fiction writer in today's horror genre market?
Thanks for any comments and thanks for the great stories! —Daryl
Thanks Daryl. I think that I was in writing courses for six out of my eight semesters in college. To me, the greatest value of having a writing group is that you're forced to produce new material for the group, so it keeps you writing. It's also healthy to talk about writing and style and such, even when it's someone else's writing you're talking about. It helps to develop the basic skills. Always a good idea.
I'd like to jump in on this question, if I may. Thanks, Daryl, for the original question.
I'd be interested to know if you wrote horror (or scifi or fantasy) for your college writing courses, and if so, how it was regarded? I was a fiction writing major in college, myself, and I encountered a good deal of snobbery and elitism against non-realistic fiction from teachers and fellow students. Did you have a similar experience? Do you know of any college programs that are welcoming to alternative reality writers?
I wouldn't call it snobbery, exactly, but I certainly received a good many odd looks. The professors never quite knew what to make of me. I'm fond of saying that my classmates wanted to write about marching on Washington, and I wanted to write about zombies marching on Washington.
My favorite story about those classes: I had traveled in Europe the summer between sophomore and junior year. While I was gone, I was inspired to write a story set in the Amsterdam airport. The main character was one of the many guards I'd seen armed with a machine gun. In the story, his relationship with his girlfriend—who also works in the airport—becomes strained as he becomes more and more obsessed with a young girl (maybe twelve) who is a terrorist. It was his fault, you see, that she got away with leaving a bomb in the airport that killed a number of people. Soon, his obsession warps his mind, and one day he starts seeing her face on EVERY young girl in the airport — and starts shooting.
This story had serious gore, but also a couple of detailed sex scenes. That day we had class outside, sitting on the grass. When I was finished reading it aloud to my classmates, more than half of whom were women, the looks on their faces were hysterical.
I cherish the memory.
But...here's the kicker.
To my knowledge, I'm the only person from any of the creative classes I took to have actually gone on to write fiction for a living. I'm sure there are other students of those two professors who have done so, but none that I encountered back then.
So, I don't mind a little snobbery.
When you have finished your writing for the day how do you switch off so that you are not thinking about the story you are working on and can concentrate on your loved ones? How do you not let the writing consume you?
How do you get the balance right? — Ian
It's impossible to switch it off completely sometimes. But I've got three kids at home who are quite a handful, and they have no trouble getting my attention.
"Bloodstained Oz" sounds really cool. Did you have to get special permission to write in the "Wizard of Oz" universe? — Ian
The original novel by L. Frank Baum is in the public domain. All of the Oz-related inspirations we translated into the book come from the page, not the screen, so we're cool.
Do you outline? If so, what is your method? Could you explain it to me? — Ian
With a collaborative novel, I need a chapter by chapter breakdown, covering all the major beats of the story.
With a solo novel, I have to provide some kind of synopsis to the editor. Beyond that, I generally build it from scratch for the first half of the novel or so. When I feel like I'm about halfway through, when all the dominoes are in place, then I knock them down... and it's easy to break down the rest of the book into specific story beats.
I wondered what you thought of abridged audiobook versions of your novels, such as Immortal read by Charisma Carpenter. You and Nancy Holder didn't abridge it yourself, I see. Some audiobooks, such as Star Wars or Trek novels, have so many sounds effects they're practically a movie soundtrack. Does this take them too far away from the original, or is it, generally, a good thing? — Custer1
I've honestly never listened to any of them past the first couple of minutes. I don't know if the audio books of the Body of Evidence books are abridged or not. As for Immortal, Charisma's a sweet, lovely woman, but she's not who I would have picked for that job.
You write a lot of young adult novels and a lot of adult novels. Do you see any crossover potential in them? — redredrage
Well, I certainly hope there's readership crossover. As for story crossover, not really. I don't want to encourage young readers to pick up my adult work, until they're older. Some of what I've written is NOT for kids at all.
On the other hand, the Body of Evidence series seems to be pretty much over for the moment. But I've considered taking the heroine of that series, Jenna Blake, and writing adult novels about her (with her now an adult, of course). Maybe some day.
Hey Chris. You have written numerous media tie-in books. Do you find there is a difference in the writing process, when working with characters that aren't of your own creation? Is it easier, or more difficult for you to write a media tie-in, than a Golden original? Thanks! — A.J.
Thanks A.J. It's completely different. Writing a media tie-in requires a very specific outline in order to get approval from the licensor. While original fiction is a greater challenge, that doesn't mean that writing a good media tie-in is less difficult. It's just very different. To write decent fiction using someone else's characters, you really have to take the job seriously and flesh them out into three dimensional people. It's also vital to really know and enjoy the material. Too many people take on this work casually, and when they do, that shows in the finished product.
You've tackled many different types of projects, from adult fiction to young adult to nonfiction. Any plans for books geared toward the young'uns? — Jim
I doubt I'll ever end up writing picture books, but middle grade, for seven to ten year olds, sure. I have a couple of ideas I'm percolating now, in fact.
You have done several collaborations with other authors. Do you find those projects to be more difficult than working "on your own"? How does the process normally work? — Jim
Collaborations are hard work. Seriously. Trying to find a unified voice, trying to keep every detail of the story straight. Those are not simple things. But collaboration is also a lot of fun, so it all balances out. I always say that writing is a solitary profession and I'm not a solitary person. I enjoy coming up with something twisted with a friend and then working together to bring it to life.
As for how it works, it's nearly always a process of finding a voice you can both work in, hammering out the plot, and then diving in. Usually I'll write a chapter (or vice versa), send it to my collaborator, who will revise my work and do the next chapter, and send it to me — and then the process starts all over again.
While you have written in a variety of alternative reality genres, including both science fiction and fantasy, the main focus of your work and the one — if I understand your interview correctly — closest to your heart is horror.
What was it about the horror genre that first captured your interest? What about it first captivated you and inspired your to write it?
— S.K. Slevinski
Oddly enough, I'm not sure much of what I've written has been horror, per se. But it is the heart of all of the stuff that I love to read and write and watch.
I can't explain it. All I know is that from a time when I was very small, the things that captivated me were The Twilight Zone and Kolchak and Tomb of Dracula and all the movies on Creature Feature. When I started to read novels of my own choice, invariably they were dark things.
I've often said that I think part of the allure of horror is that it gives me faith. If I'm reading a great piece of supernatural fiction and it causes me to suspend my disbelief—if for a moment I can believe in demons or vampires or ghosts, then I can believe in their opposite. If there are demons, then why can't there be angels? In a weird way, that cosmic battle between good and evil is a huge comfort to me. I don't know if I believe in God, but I'd LIKE to.
Also, I think it's the grandeur of that battle. Horror can be righteous, man! And I like that.
You twisted Peter Pan in Straight On 'Til Morning, retold the story of The Ferryman, and incorporated many myths and legends into The Menagerie and The Myth Hunters. Are there any other fairy tales or classic stories that you love and would love to tackle? — Little Willow
All sorts! And I do have plans, but I can't share them now. For the moment, check out Bloodstained Oz when it hits in May. Nasty, nasty.
Being a book addict and having no talent for writing myself I am always interested in the habits of writers. Do you carry a small pad of paper with you to jot down ideas for your next story? Do you write in front of a computer and what is your office or writing area like? (for instance, does it vary? Do you write outdoors sometimes?) Do you eat and drink while writing? (I always heard that Faulkner kept a bottle of whiskey next to his typewriter). Does the story just flow or do you structure it ahead of time? — Saundra Kane
Hi Saundra. I have a fairly mundane set of writing habits. I nearly always write at my desk, in my office. I'm lucky enough to have a space dedicated to writing, where I'm surrounded by books, comic books, statues of comics characters, movie posters, and original art to inspire me. I nearly always have music on while I write.
Sometimes—though not often enough for my liking—I'll take my laptop out onto the porch. That usually means I'll get a lot done, because I don't have net access.
I don't keep a pad with me, but I do rush into my office now and then to jot notes down. I find that most of my ideas come when I'm traveling, or in the shower. No idea why.
Hmm. I confess I munch a bit while working. I try to control the urge. I've always got a Coke or a glass of water by me as well.
As for structure, when I'm collaborating, there's usually a very specific outline. With solo novels, I tend to work from a loose outline, write the first half of the book, and then start breaking the rest down more specifically.
In your interview with Tim Lebbon, you speak about the research you put into the cast of characters living "beyond the Veil" in your fantasy world of The Myth Hunters. This world is populated by folkloric and legendary figures from the history and imaginations of world cultures.
Did your research consist mostly in doing more extensive research into folklore you had already known something about? Or did you seek out new folkloric traditions that you may not have been previously familiar with? Was there any legendary figure or folkloric tradition you DIDN'T know anything about before you started writing, but ended up becoming an important part of the book? — Violanthe
I did a lot of research for The Myth Hunters (and the second book, which I'm currently finishing the revision on, The Borderkind). I certainly was familiar with Jack Frost and Kitsune, as legends, and with many others as well. But one of the real pleasures in writing this trilogy is the discovery of stories I'd never known or imagined. Some are similar to others, or elaborations on things I'd read elsewhere, but I ran across any number of things that were brand new to me. Giant beast-men with knives for teeth, the Mazikeen, Perytons, battle swine (trust me, they're coming) — all sorts of crazy things. Writing Strangewood, a number of years ago, I promised myself I'd never restrict myself from writing in things that seemed "too weird." Weird is, after all, what it's all about.
I'm having the time of my life with this trilogy. I hope it shows.