Chris Moore was born in Toledo, Ohio and raised in Mansfield, Ohio. He’s worked multiple jobs throughout his life, including roofer, grocery store clerk, insurance salesman, photographer, disc jockey, journalist and a slew of others. His first novel, Practical Demon-keeping (1992), was a major success and the film rights were picked up by Disney Studios – although there still hasn’t been a film made from the book . . . yet. His books all draw you in thanks to their ticklish titles (i.e. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Island of the Sequined Love Nun, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, etc.). Two of his novels – The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove and Lamb – have made it to the New York Times Best Seller List. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with this fantastic author during one of his book signing tours and Mr. Moore was gracious enough to grant FWOMP this internet interview. We hope you enjoy it.
FWOMP: Your latest book, Fluke, is terrific. You always twist some spotlighted themes in your stories and turn them into great fun. How do you come up with your novel ideas?
Chris Moore: Usually I’m motivated by something that I want to learn about, something that I feel I’m especially ignorant about (like psychoactive drugs in Lust Lizard,) or something I’ve been interested in for years and I’d like to experience first-hand (like whale research). I simply go at the subject with an eye toward what will be funny or unexpected and go from there, so most of my ideas come out of research.
FWOMP: Have you ever been able to swim with whales (or been inside one!)?
Chris Moore: I was able to get in the water with humpbacks this last spring, working as a shark spotter for Flip Nicklin, who was filming off Maui. The whale sanctuary there requires that there be a shark spotter in the water any time someone is filming the whales, and since I’d already spent a couple of seasons there, and had enough water experience, I got recruited. It was absolutely humbling.
FWOMP: The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove remains a favorite of mine out of all your works thus far. Do you have a personal favorite?
Chris Moore: My favorite is probably Lamb,, for a number of reasons. First, I was able to pull off something that going into I wasn’t sure I could do, and second because I think it’s the funniest thing I’ve written.
FWOMP: Can you describe a normal writing day for yourself?
Chris Moore: Well, there’s the ideal day and what has become the real day. The ideal day, which I managed to do for a number of books, is to get up early, make coffee, go to my office, then write for three or four hours, then take a break, do business and answer correspondence, then take another break and go to the gym, do life maintenance, then do some planning in the evening for the next day. Lately, however, I get behind and end up working twelve to sixteen hour days, taking breaks only to eat and go to the bathroom – that’s the real day. I prefer the former.
FWOMP: Do whales fart?
Chris Moore: Yes. Actually there was an article from Reuters last week about the first photograph of a big whale flatulence bubble.
FWOMP: Were there (or are there) any literary figures who influenced your writing?
Chris Moore: Absolutely. Early on, the storytelling of Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, later the narrative voice of Harlan Ellison, then later, after life had kicked my ass a little, the more gentle, forgiving voice of John Steinbeck in his comic works.
FWOMP: If you could give budding authors any advice, what would it be?
Chris Moore: Start behaving like a professional long before you start selling. That is, judge your work by what’s on the shelves at your local bookstore, not by the other people in your class. And if your stuff isn’t as good as what’s being published, learn why and fix it. Also, don’t put obstacles in the way of your writing – conditions. Don’t say, “I’ll start writing as soon as_____” (fill in the blanks). You have to learn to write in the context of living your life, even if it’s only a half-hour a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get the work done, and if you don’t get the work done, you’ll never get any better.
FWOMP: Do you ever drink and write (WWI – Writing While Intoxicated)?
Chris Moore: I used to write when I was drinking, and after about an hour my work would become completely incoherent. The next day I’d be hung over, so I’d lose that day too. I’m just not smart enough to write with diminished capacity. With the exception of some local bug juice I had to drink with the natives while researching Love Nun, I haven’t had a drink in 17 years.
FWOMP: How much rewriting do you do after your first draft of a new novel is completed?
Chris Moore: Not a lot. I spend maybe a week on the rewrite before I send the book in, then when the corrections come back from my editor I usually spend another week or so.
FWOMP: Exactly how do you ‘get off a Lust Lizard’ with a weed-whacker?
Chris Moore: I have no idea. That scene is supposed to stimulate your imagination, not mine.
FWOMP: How much research do you do before setting out to write a story?
Chris Moore: Typically I’ll start researching the validity of an idea for a new book long before I finish the book I’m working on. Once I’ve finished one book and done the corrections, I’ll start doing on-site research (for instance, living on an island in the Pacific or an Indian reservation in Montana). That may take a year to a year and a half, although I will sometimes get everything done in about six months, including the reading. What really dictates when and how long I research something depends on the time I have, the circumstances of my life (for instance, I had to go to Ohio and take care of my mother for five months while she was dying of cancer, so I wasn’t able to travel to research Lamb), and the season of the subject I’m researching (for instance, humpbacks are only in Hawaii in number from January until March, so no matter how much I want to research the animals in August, I’m not going to be able to do it.)
FWOMP: Have you written any short stories that have gotten published?
Chris Moore: One. Years ago. It was my first and only short story publication and I never saw it in print. It was about a street hustler playing the three card monty with Death. A black men’s magazine bought it. I’ve never seen a copy of the magazine – I just picked it out of the writers market. About the mid-eighties I realized that I’d never make a living writing short stories, so I started focusing exclusively on learning to write novels.
FWOMP: In Coyote Blue you touch on some unique subjects – Native American – and pull it together with some great high comedy. Have you ever heard from the Native American population and how they felt about this book?
Chris Moore: Yes. They are teaching it on a couple of reservations and I’ve heard from a couple of Native American grad students who have used it as part of their master’s thesis. I didn’t do a pole or anything, but what feedback I’ve had from Native Americans has been good.
FWOMP: What’s your high score for the Midnight Frozen Turkey Bowling League?
Chris Moore: I don’t remember. It was more about destruction than the numbers. I was the Kali, the Destroyer of Frozen Turkey Bowling.
FWOMP: Any chance we’ll see one (or all) of your novels gracing the silver screen?
Chris Moore: All but one of them has been optioned or sold outright, and we’re in negotiations for that one, so who knows. I sold Demon-keeping to the movies twelve years ago and nothing has happened yet.
FWOMP: Any new projects in the Chris Moore literary pipeline that we should be watching for in the near future?
Chris Moore: I’m working on a Christmas book that will come out next year and after that, well, I contracted for four more books, but the only one I know much about beyond the Christmas story is a sequel to my vampire story, Bloodsucking Fiends.
FWOMP: You’re running for governor of California, right?
Chris Moore: I would, but the notoriety would’ve spoiled my long-term strategy of stealth publicity.
FWOMP: If I wanted to find out more about you and your writing endeavors, is there a website I could check out?
Chris Moore: Sure. www.chrismoore.com.