Rather than fake an interview, here are a bunch of questions that I get asked a lot by readers in e-mail messages.
1) What order should I read your books in?
Some of the books can be read out of order. Lamb, Coyote Blue, Fool, and Fluke can pretty-much be read on their own, although there are some characters that appear in other books. That said, here’s the order I wrote them in:
- Practical Demonkeeping *
- Coyote Blue
- Bloodsucking Fiends †
- The Island of the Sequined Love Nun
- The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove *
- The Stupidest Angel *
- A Dirty Job
- You Suck: A Love Story †
- Bite Me: A Love Story † (and)
- Sacré Bleu
- The Serpent of Venice (sequel to Fool)
- Secondhand Souls (Sequel to A Dirty Job-August 2015)
† the vampire series, better read in order
* The Pine Cove series, better read in order.
2) Where can I get spiffy Authorguy Merchandise?
Sorry, my merch guy fucked off to parts unknown and I haven’t found a new one.
3) What’s your connection with MS?
I’ve had a couple of friends diagnosed with the disease, young, otherwise healthy people, and it seemed like a good way to spend the profits from merchandise.
4) What’s going on with the movies of your books?
Not a damn thing. All of the books have been optioned or bought for film at one time or another–if you’re interested in the rights or disposition of any of them, you can e-mail me. If anything real happens with the films, I’ll have it posted on the web page. Believe it or not, I don’t pay much attention to that stuff. It interferes with my real work, which is writing books. Nothing is in any danger of being made. Understand, it has occurred to me that my books might make good films, but I don’t make films, I write books. It’s up to someone else to make them. As of summer, 2015, A Dirty Job is being developed as a series for Universal Cable.
5) Are you going to write a sequel to Lamb?
Nope. Absolutely not. No matter what I did with it, everyone would read it and go, “Well, it’s not as good as Lamb.”
6) How about the other books? Any sequels?
I’m thinking about another book featuring Pocket from Fool and The Serpent of Venice in the future.
7) Do you answer your own e-mail?
Yes, I try to answer them all, but when I’m on tour or particularly busy writing, my answers have to be pretty brief. In the last few years it’s been increasingly hard to keep up with it and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to do it and still write my books.
You can e-mail me through the Contact page.
Most of my comic stuff is on Twitter. Facebook tends to be more posts about upcoming books and tours. While I have an Instagram account, I find I can’t really keep up to maintain further social networks and still get my work done.
9) Do you really block people on Facebook and Twitter who tell you to get off the internet and get back to work.
10) Can I order signed books from you?
No, sorry, I don’t sell my own books directly. When I tour I often sign extra books at several stores around the country who take orders and ship signed books. I usually announce that they’ll be doing this well in advance of the tour on Facebook, my web page, and with Twitter.
11) Can I send a book directly to you and have you sign it?
I’m sorry, but because my mail drop has stopped taking outgoing packages, I’ve had to stop signing books by mail. It’s a Homeland Security regulation, now, that all packages over 13oz. have to be handed to a person at the post office, and my post office is in Chinatown, which means an average of 1 hour in line (plus the time at my mail drop getting the packages), which I can’t spare out of my writing day.
I’m really sorry,and if things change I’ll post the solution on my web
site. Thanks for understanding.
12) Who is your favorite author? How about some other authors that influenced you?
John Steinbeck, but that’s based on his comic work, not so much the heavy stuff that he’s more known for. Steinbeck wrote about flawed people with great affection and forgiveness. I aspire to that in my own work.
As a kid I think I was influenced by Jules Verne and Ray Bradbury–it was in Ray’s stories that I think I first realized that there was a craftsman behind the story, making everything work. That was about sixth grade, I guess. Later on I was influenced by horror story writers like Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson, and then as I was moving toward doing what I do now, in my twenties, I was influenced by Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, and Douglas Adams, all of whom were writing funny books and getting away with it, which is what I wanted to do.
13) What are you reading now? What do you recommend.
At any given time, I’m reading the new one from Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, Nick Hornby, Mil Millington, David Sedaris and a zillion books on research for the novel I’m working on, but you can get a better sense of the stuff I read and enjoy at Chris’s Picks.
14) I have written a novel and I need to get an agent. How do I go about that?
Most of my information on marketing fiction is 20 years out of date, so here’s what I think you need to do to get more current information. You go to the library and find a book called The Literary Marketplace. (It costs like $350.00 a copy, so go to the library.) Then you learn how to write a query letter and send them out. The Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market comes out every year, and that one should help with preparing your manuscript as well.
15) Do you have any hints for an aspiring writer?
Yes, there’s a whole forum on my bulletin board called “So you Wanna Be a Writer,” where we discuss the craft. You’ll find it here. I try to answer writing questions by e-mail, but as above, most of my marketing information is woefully out of date.
16) I have a manuscript, would you mind reading it and telling me if it’s any good?
Sorry, I can’t. I would never be able to get my own work done if I read all of the manuscripts that people need to send me. I’d suggest getting into a good workshop if you need critiques. I’m even having trouble keeping up with published books I’m sent for jacket comments.
17) Where do you get your ideas?
Usually from something I read. It could be a single sentence in a magazine article that kicks off a whole book. Ideas are cheap and easy. Telling a good story once you get an idea is hard.
18) Do you have any say in what goes on your covers?
More now than I used to, but I never get final say. I’ve never wanted a character portrayed on the cover, but as you know, I’ve lost that battle on almost every book at some point or another.
19) Describe your typical writing day.
I usually get up at about 8:00, make coffee, then go to my office. I write until noon, then I answer mail, make phone calls, pay bills, stuff like that until about 1:00 when I go to the gym. I goof off for a few hours, eat dinner, then I read, research, and work on notes in the evening. If I’m lucky, I’ll figure out what I’ll be writing the next morning. I’ve tried working longer hours, but it seems that I can’t be funny that many hours of the day. I’m a little envious of authors who can crank out ten or twenty pages a day. I’ve done it, but I end up throwing most of it out the next day.
20) How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes me 12 months to do the actual writing of the manuscript, and another six to research it. I’ve written books in less time, and taken more time on others, but the average is 12 months. Lamb took nearly three years. The Stupidest Angel only took about six months.
21) Do you do a lot of rewriting?
Almost none, and I’ve been fortunate that my editors have liked what I turned in. I did rewrite some of the beginning of Love Nun and Coyote Blue because the main characters were sort of harsh. These are both redemption stories where the main character would go through a major change as the story went on, I tended to overwrite the negative, which made the characters hard to sympathize with in the beginning. With the exception of copy editing (spelling and stuff) most of my books have gone into print almost as the first draft. My editors have asked me to change perhaps four lines per book. I think this is due to the fact that I write so slowly. If I were writing a first draft in a month like some authors do, I’d be doing a ton of rewriting. Method has a lot to do with my lack of rewriting–and what’s a draft anymore anyway? With word processing you back out so many phrases that might have ended up in a draft in the days of type writers.
22) Do you outline?
I usually know where the story starts and where it ends before I start, but I don’t usually know “how” I’m going to get to the ending. I try to stay about five scenes ahead of where I am currently writing (this is the work I do in the evening). I have some scenes finished before I start the book and they just plug in at a certain point. I did outline the last half of Lust Lizard because I had a really tight deadline and I couldn’t afford to miss a day if I got stuck. Since then I’ve done more outlining, and again, more toward the end of the book than the beginning and middle.The books with historical or literary source material (Sacré Bleu, Lamb, Fool, The Serpent of Venice) there’s a lot more outlining to make sure I can stay in line with the source material.
23) What do you do when you’re not writing?
I go out to lunch a lot. I also spend a great deal of time worrying about not writing. I live my life in a perpetual state of panic, either that the book I’m working on will suck, or that I’ll never be able to write another book again. I go to the gym daily and I like to wander around the city and take pictures. The last few years I’ve been painting with acrylics and oils.
24) Did you catch any flak from the Christian right for Lamb?
Strangely enough, none at all. I think everyone was expecting some condemnation, but it turns out that the opposite is true. I get scores of letters from Christians who loved Lamb, and who even say it strengthened their faith. Now, Lamb is being taught in a number of seminaries of different denominations, so I guess it must have resonated with the right people, and the people who would have condemned it seemed to have had good enough judgment not to read it.
25) What’s with The Stupidest Angel 2.0? What’s the difference?
Version 2.0 is exactly the same book as the first version, except that it has a 35-page bonus chapter that follows up with the characters the following Christmas. I think now there is only one version, and it includes the bonus chapter.
26) When is The Stupidest Angel coming out in paperback?
Actually, there is no plan to ever release The Stupidest Angel in paperback. We priced it lower than the other books and released it in small hardcover to make the paperback unnecessary.
27) Did you have a twisted childhood? Explain.
My father was a cop, a state patrolman, and a bad day at the office for him often involved pulling dead and injured people from burning cars. You develop a dark sense of humor to deal with that sort of situation–as a self-defense for your sanity. I think that sense of humor rubbed off on me somewhat. (See the Bio for more on this kind of thing.)
28) When did you start writing?
When I was 12. I started thinking about going pro when I was 16. It took me until my early thirties before anyone would actually pay me to write.
29) Are you married? Do you have any children?
I got married in 2014 to the woman I’d been living with for the previous twenty years. She’s still on double-secret probation.
30) What are you working on now?
Right now (Spring 2015) I’m working on plotting a book that I suppose would be described as “Noir”. I don’t know much beyond that about it. I’m also in the midst of adapting Fool for the stage with Joe Discher, a stage director in New York. We’ve been working on it for a while, now and we don’t have a schedule for getting it to the stage quite yet.