Christopher Moore is an author with a tremendous gift for wit and wisdom. He spends his time between Hawaii and San Francisco, but grew up or at least was raised in Toledo, Ohio. His writings have a giant cult following. His main characters are a typical 'everyman' who comes to possess supernatural power or has an encounter and conflict with said power(s). All of his books but the most recent are set in the same universe with characters traversing between the different books. And now for some frivolity with Mr. Moore.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?
I was sixteen, I think, when I first thought about going pro. I immediately started pursuing education in photography because I figured I couldn't make a living writing. I'm from Ohio. We don't nurture dreams there, we crush them.
2. Which books or authors had the greatest impact on your work?
John Steinbeck's Cannery Row had more influence on me than any single book. He has such gentle, forgiving voice in that book, yet it's very funny, and at that point in my studies (mid twenties) that was like finding the Rosetta Stone.
3. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?
I had a number of close friends who were waitresses and bartenders in the places I worked who were very supportive of me, despite a complete lack of evidence that I'd ever have any success. Once I sold a book, my agent was and has always been very supportive and doggedly loyal and enthusiastic.
4. You have stated elsewhere that you gave up drinking and started writing. Has your writing ever driven you to the drink again?
A couple of times when I was in Micronesia, on an outer island of Yap, I had to drink with the men's circle with the islanders or they wouldn't talk to me, and I needed to have information for my book. It really wasn't an emotional thing, just a necessary social thing. (These people had a very old way of life - living in huts, off of fish, coconuts, and breadfruit. It wasn't a situation I have ever encountered since.)
5. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?
That you need to sit down and do the work before you can participate in the luck. There is no shortcut to discipline.
6. What does your writing process look like? Take us through the steps from idea to publishing.
I have an idea for a story. I do a little bit of research to see if it's feasible. Then I research and plan out the story, go to the places where the story takes place, figure out the characters. If I have a contract, I send an outline or proposal to my editor. If I don't have a contract, I do a proposal and my agent presents it to my publisher. (When you start out, you have to write the book. I can only do this because I have a track record.) That usually takes six months or so. Then I write the manuscript. That usually takes 9-12 months. I send the first 100 pages to my agent and my editor, just to make sure I'm not too far off base. When I have a draft I usually go back through it once, then send it to my editor. She does a pass on it, sends me a comment letter, and I make changes or not depending on her comments. Almost without exception, this makes the book stronger, and it's usually fairly minor. The first edit may take me a week. I send it back. It goes to a copy editor, who fixes spelling, punctuation, and checks for continuity (eg. "She orders coffee on p175 but is drinking tea on p176). I make changes and send the manuscript back. It goes through another proofreader and my main editor again. By now they will have been designing covers and found a place for the book on the release calendar, usually 9-12 months out. Then, a month or so later, the unbound galleys come back. These are the printed pages, as they will appear in the book, unbound. I proof them, and I also pay another, independent proofreader to go through them. I'll make corrections and return them to my publisher, who will send them to a proofreader again. By this time, there will inexplicably, be new errors in the book that everyone has missed. Next, bound galleys will come out and be sent to other authors for comment, to a few booksellers, and a few reviewers. Now we're about 3-6 months from publication. My tour schedule is figured out, and if there are trade shows, like BEA or the regional booksellers' conventions, I may go and give out bound galleys and sign them for booksellers. When the book comes out, I'll tour, twenty to thirty cities in a month or so, doing media (if we can get it) in the morning, and doing signings every evening. Sometimes there are two events a day in some cities. I usually catch a cold on the 2nd day of tour and then proceed to infect about 3000 people by the end of the tour. That's sort of it from my end. In addition, there are tons and tons of meetings at the publisher which I'm not party to, talking about everything from cover design to marketing and sales.
7. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family. She said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated, "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?
When I'm in the middle of a book, I'm spending more time with my characters than I am with any real person, so sometimes I talk about them as if they were imaginary friends. My girlfriend might say, "I talked to Karen today-", and go on about something a friend said, and I might respond with something one of my characters said. It's not confusion with reality, it's just really all the contact I've had that day.
8. What current projects are you working on or are on the back burner in some stage of development?
I just finished an historical novel about painters in 19th Century Paris, and now I'm adapting my novel "Fool" for the stage and researching my next book, which will be set in Venice.
9. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listening to the same music?
Lately I just have a couple of Pandora stations that are built around slow groove and chill music. It's mostly music that will disappear into the background. I can't listen to music with words or it distracts me. I listened to a lot of Eric Satie and Claude Debussy when I was writing the Paris book.
10. Which of your books is your favorite and why?
That changes. I think I'm most delighted by scenes in "A Dirty Job" when I read them, but "Lamb" is probably my most ambitious accomplishment, so it's probably the one I'm most proud of.
11. What current projects are you working on?
12. What were some of your favorite authors or books in your teen years that helped shape you?
Early on, it was Jules Verne and Ray Bradbury; in my teen years, Richard Matheson and Robert Bloch, as well as H.P. Lovecraft. In my twenties it was Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Tom Robbins, and John Steinbeck.
13. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?
Steinbeck and the plays of Shakespeare. I still read the occasional Wodehouse. I love Nick Hornby's books. I like Sedaris, Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, and a number of crime writers.
14. All of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of e-books and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?
There's no percentage in talking about this. Whatever I say, it results in people squirming in their self-justification.
15. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so or have someone do so for you?
I publish with Harper Collins, which is part of News Corp. They have one of the most vigilant team of rights lawyers outside of Disney or Apple. I don't have much to do with it, but they move on anyone they know about who violates their copyrights.
16. Is it possible we will see more stories in the lines of A Love Story (Bloodsucking Fiends, You Suck, and Bite Me)?
I don't think so. I feel as if I've finished that story arc. I might consider picking it up again for another form. Maybe graphic novel or film or TV.
17. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?
I think that's almost spot on. I had a friend who used to say that a university education was to teach you how to learn. I think the truth lies between the two.
18. Your books appear to regularly go through cover changes. Do you play a role in selecting new artwork? What is your favorite cover today and why?
I do have some input, but I'm not involved in every image. I think the cover to "A Dirty Job", with the Death's Head baby that glowed in the dark, was probably my favorite, and I had nothing to do with that idea.
19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?
Complete works of Shakespeare, the Firefox survival books, a Norton Anthology of English-language poetry, I don't know. I'd have a hard time picking them out of the air. If I were standing in front of a bookshelf it might be easier.
20. What advice would you give to teens today, to your readers? What gems of knowledge have you gleaned in life that you would pass on?
Don't drive drunk. Ever. Don't shag anyone you don't like, or who doesn't like you. Get a look at how people live in a place where you don't. Suffering is over-rated, don't pursue it. Ask for help when you need it, don't when you don't, and learn to recognize the difference. Don't confuse movement and progress. Be kind. Be forgiving. Pay attention.
Thank you again Mr. Moore for taking the time to answer some questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More. Much appreciated.
Books By Christopher Moore:
Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story
Island of the Sequined Love Nun
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings
The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
A Dirty Job
You Suck: A Love Story
Bite Me: A Love Story
The Griff (Graphic Novel with Ian Corson)