We Interrupt This Author #9: Christopher Golden

by Joe Howe (Mar 15, 2011)

Welcome to my ninth interview in this series, my second for Horror World.  Like the first, this one sat on the shelf for a bit, so it’s not as timely as I’d like.  The next installment should see the series back to being a little more current.  The author forced to put up with me this time is Christopher Golden, author of a new short story collection from Cemetery Dance called The Secret Backs of Things.

Massachusetts native Golden has written in a variety of genres, including crime, fantasy, and horror, and is one of the most successful writers producing media-tie-ins, writing novels in the universes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Hellboy and many others.  He must be easy to get along with, since he has co-written a number of books with a number of other authors.  He was also gracious enough to answer a few questions from me.

JOE HOWE : Your latest book from Cemetery Dance is the short story collection THE SECRET BACKS OF THINGS.  Tell us a little bit about it.

CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN:  I wrote a handful of short stories back in high school (don’t worry, none of them are in here) and in college.  But once I sold my first novel, OF SAINTS AND SHADOWS, in 1992, I decided that I was a novelist.  For years, I did almost zero work in short story form.  Every once in a while I’d have an idea, and when an invitation came along, I could dip into that idea file.  The short stories (and two novellas) in THE SECRET BACKS OF THINGS represent my entire short story output from the beginning of my career until 2007, when the book was put together.  The only things missing from it are some media tie-in stories that I don’t have any rights to, and a handful of older stories that I thought were better forgotten.  (A couple of them were published, but in places so ridiculously obscure that I’ve NEVER run into anyone who has read them…There you go, collectors!  A challenge!)

JH: Few authors have collaborated with as many other writers as you have.  What is your method of collaboration, and what is the secret of making such a partnership work?

CG:  In most cases (though not all), my collaborations have been a bit like tennis, where you sort of bat the book back and forth over the internet.  I’ll write a chapter, send it to my co-author, and he or she will edit it and write the next, then send it back to me for my edit.  Tim Lebbon, with whom I’ve thus far written six novels, describes it as him Lebbonizing my Goldenisms and me Goldenizing his Lebbonisms.  The secret to making it work, I think, is twofold.  First, you have to work with someone you like and whose writing you respect.  All of my collaborators (except for Richard Hatch, who is a wonderful guy) were my friends first and collaborators second.  And the second part of the secret, for me, is that I tend to be a control freak, and I’ve been lucky to work with friends who have never gotten pissed off at me for that, although I’m sure it can be annoying.

JH: You’ve been successful in writing both adult novels and Young Adult (YA) novels.  How hard is it for you to shift gears from one form to the other?

CG:  I don’t see them as different forms.  A lot of adults read YA novels and a lot of teens read “adult” novels.  For me, it’s just different subject matter.  I don’t think I speak differently to the two audiences.  It’s all story.

JH: You are extremely prolific, possibly more so than any writer in the genre.  How do you manage to produce so much work without sacrificing quality?

CG:  I always think it’s weird, talking about the issue of being prolific.  Add up my pages in a given year.  Between my solo work and collaborations, I’d guess between 1,000 and 1,200, maybe 1500 in a banner year.  Take two weeks off for vacation, and 1500 pages is an average of thirty pages a week.  Six days a week, that’s five pages–or about 1200-1500 words a day, which really isn’t that much.  I think it’s more a question of how many books my name is on.  As for quality, I’ll leave it up to editors and readers to decide if I’ve sacrificed quality for quantity.  There are definitely times when I wish I had another few weeks to work on something.  I almost always feel that way.  But I don’t think I’d feel any different if I had those extra weeks.  I’d still want to go through it, find ways to make it better.  I’m fortunate in that the drafts that I deliver to publishers are usually pretty clean.  But MUCH more importantly, I’ve been lucky to work with some of the greatest editors in the business.

JH: You’ve also written a number of media tie-in novels, featuring Hellboy, Buffy and many other characters from other creators.  Is it easy or difficult to step into someone else’s created world and tell stories with their characters?

CG:  If you want to do media tie-in work, the only way to do it well is to only take gigs writing properties that you love.  When you do that, it’s VERY easy to step into someone else’s world and play with their awesome toys.  If you don’t love it, don’t do it.

JH: What should we expect to see in the near future from Christopher Golden?

CG:  My new novel is a teen urban fantasy called WHEN ROSE WAKES.  It hits stores on 9/28.  It’s actually pretty dark, as all of my contemporary fantasy stuff is, and though it’s being sold to a YA audience, I’m confident adult readers would enjoy it as much or even more.  I hope you’ll check it out.

Christopher, thanks.

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