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Interview: Novelist Christopher Golden on The Shadow Men

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Bestselling, award-winning novelist Christopher Golden is rarely at rest, considering that he typically writes or co-authors four novels in a given year. Or to consider it from another metric, as one bio notes: “There are more than eight million copies of his books in print.”  Last month, Spectra released The Shadow Men, the fourth Hidden Cities novel by Golden and Tim Lebbon. Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s description of the novel: “From Beacon Hill to Southie, historic Boston is a town of vibrant neighborhoods knit into a seamless whole. But as Jim Banks and Trix Newcomb learn in a terrifying instant, it is also a city divided — split into three separate versions of itself by a mad magician once tasked with its protection. 
 
Jim is happily married to Jenny, with whom he has a young daughter, Holly. Trix is Jenny’s best friend, practically a member of the family — although she has secretly been in love with Jenny for years. Then Jenny and Holly inexplicably disappear — and leave behind a Boston in which they never existed. Only Jim and Trix remember them. Only Jim and Trix can bring them back.”

Not only do we discuss this novel in our email interview, but Golden also discussed his ongoing Peter Octavian series (the latest installment, Waking Nightmares, was released this past March) as well as his Young Adult novels (written under the name Thomas Randall), such as Spirits of the Noh (the second installment in his Waking trilogy). Longtime fans of Golden’s writing will be pleased to learn he has upcoming e-book plans for such series as Body of Evidence and Prowlers. They’ll also be enthused to learn he has plans to collaborate with bestselling author Charlaine Harris.

Once you’ve read the interview, be sure to visit Golden’s Amazon page, where you can glimpse inside The Shadow Men.

Creatively, what do you most appreciate about the opportunity to collaborate with Hidden Cities co-writer Tim Lebbon?

See, you caught me with the word “creatively.” I might’ve commented on his sexy accent or impeccable taste in ales. But, creatively…two things come to mind instantly. The first is that, though Tim and I are very simpatico, we do bring different sensibilities to our work. His take on characters and what they feel is often different from mine, and it forces us both to think. The story always benefits from that. The second thing is that Tim is comfortable with spontaneity and improvisation, and that is very hard to pull off when there’s more than one writer on a book. But we can talk on Skype, spitball ideas, and cause a story and its characters to grow organically. That’s exciting.

When co-writing with someone, how challenging is it to settle on the right “voices” for your characters?

It’s the sort of thing that really develops naturally. If the voice of a particular character is not at least similar in the two authors’ work, that usually means the collaborators aren’t viewing the character entirely the same way and that needs ironing out. But it’s not as hard as you’d think.

What aspect of developing a fictional version of Boston for The Shadow Men did you enjoy the most?

There are actually three different versions of Boston. I was born and raised in Massachusetts and have lived here all of my life, except for three years I spent in New York after college. I’m also both Irish and Italian, with immigrant roots in the city, so it was interesting for me to explore the idea of what might have become of the city had Irish influence continued to grow and become the prevailing power in the city. Honestly, I wish we’d spent a lot more time exploring our three Bostons, but the plot didn’t really allow for a lot of tangents.

With a series like Peter Octavian, how much do you try to grow the character in each new installment without trying too hard and unintentionally derailing the plot and action pace?

I actually think Octavian has changed dramatically over the course of five books, not least of which was the change from vampire to human mage. But those who’ve read all five books will understand when I say that the biggest changes in him are yet to come, as a result of a devastating twist that occurs at the end of Waking Nightmares. Later this year I’ll be starting the sixth book, The Graves of Saints, and we’ll see a very different Octavian.

How did you initially develop the Kara Harper character, and what is it about her that has helped foster a strong young adult readership?

I’ve always loved Japanese folklore, though I’m nowhere near an expert. When I started thinking about writing a novel that utilized those stories, I knew right away who Kara needed to be. A stranger in a strange land. She’s a character who’s full of hope, despite the death of her mother. She and her father are both looking for a new beginning, and it takes a lot of courage for Kara to start over as the only gaijin girl in an all Japanese school, in a town where there are very few westerners who aren’t tourists. Kara is the reader’s way into a story. The culture of Japan is going to be unfamiliar to most readers, but the reader and Kara get to experience it and adjust to it together. If she strikes a chord with readers, I think it’s partly that, and partly because she’s a teenager who is just trying to do her best to build a future and to make friends and to look both inward and outward to find out what she likes and what she wants from life.

When you conceive an idea for a story, is there ever a point where you struggle to decide if it should be an adult or young adult story?

Not usually at the point of conception. Sometimes I’ll write a novel that is intended for adults and, because a main character happens to be a teenager, certain people will think it’s intended for teens. Not all novels featuring teens are aimed at teen audiences, but out in the marketplace, sometimes it’s hard to make that distinction.

In a typical year how many books do you write or co-author? How do you avoid burnout?

If you include books I write solo and those I co-author, probably about four. That sounds like more than it is. That might be 1100 pages in a year, which averages less than three pages a day. As for burnout…I don’t necessarily avoid it. When I finished the tie-in novel Uncharted: The Fourth Labryrinth in March [set to be released this October], I was definitely burnt out. Over the last few months I’ve taken it much easier. I’ve written some sample chapters for a new novel, and Tim Lebbon and I have started writing a new book together, and Mike Mignola and I are working on our second book for St. Martin’s, though that’s a novella, so it’s much shorter. I’ve also had some health issues, so I’ve been kind of letting the creative well fill back up.

You have several series that you have written over the years (Body of Evidence, Prowlers, etc) with no current plans for new installments (but you have left the door open for the possibility of more). Have you see an increased interest in some of your older books via ebooks/Kindle sales?

Actually, I own all the rights to those series, and there’ll be some major news regarding e-books this fall.

What’s on the creative horizon for you in 2011 and 2012?

Lebbon and I are doing The Secret Journeys of Jack London: White Fangs [Book One of this Young Adult series was released in March] right now. [Mike] Mignola and I are doing our novella, and we’re still writing Baltimore comics for Dark Horse. Over the next year I’ll be doing a new Peter Octavian novel, a brand new original YA novel, and a trilogy of graphic novels with Charlaine Harris called Cemetery Girl. More than enough to keep me busy.

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  • http://slayground.livejournal.com Little Willow

    Wonderful fellow, wonderful author, wonderful interview. Thank you!