About 12 years ago I stumbled across a book called Coyote Blue, which I thought was great. I looked in the front of the book to see if the author had written anything else. The other title listed was Practical Demon Keeping. The title left me slightly taken aback, as it wasn't what I expected from the guy who had just written what I thought to be a really great "Coyote" story. I was even more nonplussed by the fact my library kept it in the horror section. I've never been much for horror books — enough horrors in the world as it is, thank you very much, without us needing anyone to invent more.
The cover helped, however, as it was silly enough to belay the worst of my fears, and the story convinced me that the Kingston library needed to read books before it shelved them. Sure the book was about a monster that would, if given half a chance, devour people whole. But since most of those deserved it, this didn't seem like too bad a monster. Turns out, of course, it was only biding its time – but that's a different story and one that you can read if you want to some other time.
The story under consideration right now is the mind behind those two books and numerous others as well. With his most recent book, You Suck, a semi-sequel to his classic tale of the undead Bloodsucking Fiends, soon to be stalking the aisles of bookstores across North America and around the world, I thought I'd try to find out a little bit more about the author of all the above, Christopher Moore.
What possesses him, literally or figuratively, to write about human-eating, soul-stealing, and blood-sucking monsters anyway? Did he have a depraved (deprived) childhood, or were these books the product of a naturally deviated mind? Even if the interview only serves as a warning regarding his character for those considering attending a book reading or signing on his upcoming promotional tour for You Suck it will at least have served some purpose.
So without any more preamble I present for your enjoyment and edification an interview with Christopher Moore. We conducted the interview via email so his answers are exactly as he wrote them except for some HTML augmentation.
I suppose we should start with some biographical details. Were you a live birth?
I was supposed to be a miscarriage, but survived, thus starting down the path of being a disappointment to my mother.
What brought you to writing? Have you always wanted to write or was it just something that happened one day when you least expected it?
I started writing stories for school when I was about 11 or 12. I liked it a lot and started writing them on my own. I wrote my first novel when I was 12. It was 16 pages long. It was basically about frogs taking over the world, which I still think is a good idea. Not for a book, I mean frogs taking over the world is a good idea.
You have an incredible sense of the bizarre. Did that develop over time as a reaction to anything in particular? Do you find it easier or harder these days to find the inspiration for it?
I've always liked imaginative stories and wild humour, going back as far as I can remember. I honestly never write anything just to be weird – my reaction is more, "Wouldn't it be cool if ______? And I fill in the blank with something fun.
Not all of your books have been specifically horror, but all have had elements of the supernatural in them, or at least the surreal. What first attracted you to those themes, and what continues to keep them fresh for you?
Probably a short attention span. Reality gets pretty boring. I've tried to write stories without a supernatural element, but not far in I'm usually saying, "This guy is a dick, I need to feed him to a monster." Then there you go.
Even though you have some fairly gruesome, some would say down right sicko, scenes in your books, you always manage to keep them funny. Is that a symptom of some serious character flaw on your part, or is there actually a literary reason for you to turn disembowelment into (if you'll forgive the term) side splitting comedy?
Well, you kind of have to do it, don't you? Laugh, I mean. It's simply what I do. As with the supernatural stuff, I've tried to write non-humorous stories, but I don't get far before I'm cracking wise.
Books like The Stupidest Angel and Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal could give people the impression that you are less then reverent when it comes to religion in general and Christianity in particular. I know you included a disclaimer in Biff, and I also believe you don't mean to insult anyone's beliefs, but what are your feelings about those two topics, and/or, is there any particular reason you picked them as targets for your humour, especially in the latter book?
Well, I assume you mean Lamb, which was actually written before Stupidest Angel. I wasn't setting out to attack anyone's faith, but to tell a great story. I'd read that there were 30 years of Christ's life that hadn't been covered in the Gospels. I though, "Some one should write those years." And since I knew nothing about religion or history, I was that someone. Once I did the research I realized that all of the people in the U.S. who were using Christianity to pursue a political agenda where going completely against the teachings of Christ, so if there was any point I wanted to make, it was that the thing Christ railed about, was hypocrisy, not prayer in school or gay marriage. But mostly I just wanted to tell a good story, and as I said before, funny stories are what I do. I didn't see either book as making fun of religion so much as having fun with religion.
Although your books are predominately humorous, you will occasionally interject moments of pathos or seriousness into the proceedings. Is this because you're trying to make a particular point (usually) or is there another reason?
Not make a point, just engage the reader. Humour can be a great device for disarming a reader, and then once their guard is down, you can break their heart. I just like to do that for fun.
Which comes first – the title or the book? For example, did you write the Lust Lizard's story first, along with the good folk of Melancholy Cove, or do you sit around inventing really weird titles to see if you could write a book about it?
Actually, that book was supposed to be called Munching Wackos, but my editor at the time didn't like it, so I had to change it. I ended up having a contest with my readers for a title. Finally I chose components of suggestions. So, the answer is, I usually come up with the story, then think of the title as I'm working on the book.
Some of the creatures who terrorise your characters come from mythological or biblical backgrounds. Do you research them or have you extensive first-hand experience with the majority of your book's inhabitants?
A lot of research. My only first-hand experience was with the humpback whales in Fluke.
You're very accessible to the public. Aside from this interview taking place, what other regrettable incidences have occurred that may have made you rethink the practice of publishing an email address in your books?
I don't really have any regret in publishing, I just regret that I may not be able to keep up with answering all my e-mail as time goes on. It's starting to take a big chunk of time out of my day.
Aside from The Stupidest Angel, where you very deliberately brought as many as possible together, you've taken to having the occasional character appear in a couple of books (not sequels either). Minty Fresh was in Coyote Blue and A Dirty Job and the Emperor and his troops show up in Bloodsucking Fiends and A Dirty Job. At times when I've read your books, I feel that they exist in an alternate world and that any of the inhabitants of one book would fit pretty neatly into another. So it makes sense to me when someone from one book shows up in another one. Have you deliberately set out to create that sort of world?
Yes, in a way. Mainly I do it as a sort of Easter egg for my readers. I think it gives the reader a sense of discovery, of being in on an inside joke. And if you don't recognize the character from a previous book, it doesn't detract from the story.
Finally, never thought we'd get here did you, you've just released You Suck a sort of sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends. Can we look forward to more recurring adventures of other characters in your bizarre universe, or do you have something else up your sleeve – a rule book for Turkey Bowling for instance?
I don't have anything planned now. I had originally proposed doing two more vampire books, but I'm going to wait and see how You Suck does before I commit to writing a third. Right now I'm working on a historical novel set in Medieval England.
So there you have it folks – a brief look inside the head of the man who wrote The Island of The Sequined Love Nun and other stories of a morally significant nature. I'd like to thank Christopher Moore for taking the time to answer these questions. If you do get a chance to see him while he's on the book tour, go on up and say hi. He doesn't appear to bite, or at least he doesn't leave marks or unsightly blemishes.