Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pro-File: Christopher Golden

CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN is the award-winning, bestselling author of such novels as The Myth Hunters, Wildwood Road, The Boys Are Back in Town, The Ferryman, Strangewood, Of Saints and Shadows, and (with Tim Lebbon) The Map of Moments. He has also written books for teens and young adults, including Poison Ink, Soulless, and the thriller series Body of Evidence, honored by the New York Public Library and chosen as one of YALSA's Best Books for Young Readers. Upcoming teen novels include a new series of hardcover YA fantasy novels co-authored with Tim Lebbon and entitled The Secret Journeys of Jack London.

A lifelong fan of the "team-up," Golden frequently collaborates with other writers on books, comics, and scripts. In addition to his recent work with Tim Lebbon, he co-wrote the lavishly illustrated novel Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire with Mike Mignola. With Thomas E. Sniegoski, he is the co-author of multiple novels, as well as comic book miniseries such as Talent and The Sisterhood, both currently in development as feature films. With Amber Benson, Golden co-created the online animated series Ghosts of Albion and co-wrote the book series of the same name.

Pro-File: Christopher Golden

1. Tell us about your current novel (or project).

CG: Hmm. Things coming up. At the end of July, Ace will reissue my first novel, OF SAINTS AND SHADOWS, and follow it every two months with the rest of the Peter Octavian series. I'm really pleased to be getting those books back in print. The same day, Bantam will release THE CHAMBER OF TEN, a new supernatural thriller I've written with Tim Lebbon. Then, in September, Pocket/MTV will publish my YA urban fantasy novel WHEN ROSE WAKES, which is about a teenage girl who wakes from a coma in New York City with no memory of her earlier life. She lives with her aunts, who are wonderful to her, but there are sinister things about, and slowly she begins to wonder if she might actually BE the actual Sleeping Beauty.

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

CG: I recently completed a truly weird new book for Disney Press that is a unique prequel to an upcoming film called DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. Guillermo del Toro co-wrote and produced the film, and worked with me on sorting out exactly what form the bizarre prequel book would take. Since I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say about it, I can't divulge any more details right now. Mike Mignola and I are writing the fourth issue of BALTIMORE: THE PLAGUE SHIPS, the first miniseries that Dark Horse will be publishing as part of a series of miniseries spinning out of BALTIMORE, OR, THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER AND THE VAMPIRE, a novel I wrote with Mike. And I'm in the thick of things on WAKING NIGHTMARES, the brand new Peter Octavian novel that will be out in 2011. After that, a new novel with Mignola, more books with Tim Lebbon, and other things I can't talk about right now.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

CG: There are so many, but in my career, there's no contest. Having written for teens, I have received e-mails from both teens and parents thanking me for writing something that the kids wanted to read. I've been told that my books were responsible for getting some kids to like to read for the first time, and for influencing some of their choices for their future careers. In one case, a teenager wrote to tell me that her mother wanted me to know that she attributed the rise in the girl's English grade from a C to an A to my books. Nothing beats that.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

CG: I'm going to get in trouble here, but I know a lot of writers would agree with me. It's the people who are enchanted by their own intellect and who are mystified by the fact that I've managed to have a writing career when they don't. Invariably, these are the people who raise their hand to ask a question at a panel or signing and instead make long-winded statements in an attempt to make themselves look smarter than everyone else in the audience. They're the people who've maybe dabbled in writing, but never seriously attempted to do the work, because they think someone should just recognize their brilliance--like the myths about Golden Age Hollywood actresses being discovered in soda shops--and give them book contracts. I *love* seeing the enthusiasm in people who truly want to write, and I try my best to give them time and feedback whenever I can. But there's always one, y'know? One person for whom it is not about writing at all. I love readers and writers, but I wish those others would just stay away.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is

CG: For dealing with the publishing world? Remember that it's a business, first, last, and always. Even if you have a personal relationship with someone, you've always got to let them know that you understand it's a business. Remember that there are a thousand writers out there who are more talented than you are, but talent alone is not enough. It's about skill, persistence, reliability, professionalism, flexibility, and passion. A lot of people can sell a book. A small fraction of those can have a career. I've been incredibly fortunate to be one of them, and I remind myself of that every day.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see
in print again?

CG: George C. Chesbro!! The Mongo series is one of my favorite series of all time. I adore those books, and the Archangel books that tie in to them. Also, I'd have to go with Don Winslow's series about Neal Carey. Winslow is well-published now, but those books are kind of forgotten, and deserve a wider audience.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

CG: I started it as a senior in college. I'd written 125 pages when I met Lori Perkins, who was my first agent. Lori read it and said that she thought she could sell it, but that she wanted me to start over. Seriously. She said I'd been in school too long, that the writing felt manipulative and it needed a more natural flow. She recommended that I set the manuscript beside the computer as a guideline, and just rewrite the whole thing. I rewrote that first 125 or so pages, wrote a synopsis, and not longer after, I received an offer for my first two novels from Ginjer Buchanan at Ace. I had a great job at the time, working for Billboard magazine in New York, but as soon as the contracts were signed, I put in my two week notice and never looked back. I quit in October, 1992, at the age of 25, and I've been a full time writer ever since. It's never easy. Almost always month-to-month, trying to make ends meet, taking care of my family. But I've never once thought it wasn't worth it.

8. Best advice about writing you ever received?

CG: From multiple sources, as I was building my career, I was told to ignore reviews. Perhaps "ignore" is the wrong word, because from a business perspective they can be useful, and certainly the good ones make you feel pretty damn good. But you've got to take it all with a grain of salt. I read a review of something of mine last year that referred to me as one of the finest fantasy writers of my generation, or something equally superlative. Actually, I think it was even more complimentary than that. It made me happy, but when I mentioned it to my friend Tom Sniegoski, with whom I speak nearly every day, I laughed about it. You can't really take something like that to heart, because if you do, then you've also got to take to heart the people who say you're dog-shit, that you're the biggest hack in the universe. As long as it seems to me that more people are enjoying what I'm doing than not, then I'll be content with that, as long as, first and foremost, *I* am enjoying it.

9. Worst advice about writing you've ever received?

CG: Many years ago, I was very close friends with an older writer who perceived himself as a mentor of sorts, though I didn't look at the relationship that way. I'd published a few adult novels, a few YA novels, and I'd started to do work for hire--X-Men, Hellboy, and Buffy. We were at a group signing and he went on at great length about how I was going to destroy my career, that editors and publishers would never take me seriously if I did work-for-hire. I disagreed, citing a generational gap in his understanding of the situation. Already, I had editors giving me MORE work, buying original YA series and other things from me, based on the media tie-in stuff I'd written. I don't write a lot of media tie-in projects now, but in those days, as a full time writer, I had to feed my family. I was very fortunate to be able to write tie-ins that were based on properties that I loved and enjoyed working with. In any case, I obviously ignored his advice, and I'm very glad that I did. He, on the other hand, was not so pleased, and slagged me off in a major genre publication, really getting nasty. Our relationship now is amiable enough, but the friendship we'd built up was destroyed.

10. Best advice about the business you've ever received?

CG: I've known comics and horror legend Steve Bissette for more than twenty years. He's a good friend, and someone I trust without reservation. Back in late 1992 or very early 1993, I interviewed Steve for a comics industry magazine...a very, very long interview that was eventually printed at about 20% of its length. Someday I hope to have someone print the full length version. I learned a lot of lessons about the industry and how to conductive yourself as a creative person from Steve, both during that interview and during conversations we'd had before and afterward. But the best piece of advice Steve gave me, learned through his own experiences, was that every single time you sign a contract, you've got both know what you're signing, and be at peace with it. If others benefit from your hard work later and you feel slighted...well, you signed that contract. You've got to let it go. But the only way to prepare yourself to do that is to know and understand and make peace with what you're signing from the outset.

11. Worst advice about the business you've ever received?

CG: Easy. "Don't rock the boat." That's bullshit. You can be polite and friendly and professional and still stand up for yourself, still push forward your own agenda, get answers you want. Especially if someone who is supposed to be speaking on your behalf is doing so in a way you don't approve of, be it deceptive or hostile or too timid, you've got to rock the boat sometimes.

1 comment:

Jennifer X said...

Thank you for this interview. Christopher Golden was the first author to become my favorite with the Body of Evidence Thrillers, then with his Peter Octavian character, and I still love him. I especially enjoy reading about author's advice and experiences.