Thursday, July 26, 2012

CBC Words and Music Interview

Hello All,

Here's an interview I did with fabulous musician Jenn Grant; the CBC has this interview series where a musician and a writer interview each other. Thanks to Brad Frenette at the Ceeb for setting this up. Part 2 will run next week.

CBC WORDS AND MUSIC

All best, Craig.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

NEW (SECRET) BOOK — OOOOH, SECRETS!



Hello All,

Here’s some news. I hate for this to sound obscure and what I like to call dot-dot-dottish—so named after people who use the elipses on Facebook posts to curry attention by withholding information or being obtuse, circumspect, vague, or hard-done by. For example:

Why do I bother being so nice and respectful of other's emotions when people don't care about me ...

Some people (they know who they are) are SOOO immature ...

Frustrated, angry, sad and mad. That about sums it up ...

Life is SO unfair ...

And etc and so on. Those posts bug the hell out of me. So I'll be running the risk of being a dot-dot-dotter right now, in that I can't quite come out and detail the entire circumstances behind the following news. So feel free to stop reading now, because it's that sort of a thing.

So, after writing my last novel, Cataract City (which was recently picked up by Greywolf in the US, which is fantastic, I'm elated about that), I felt like I needed a bit of a palate cleanser. 

CC took a fair bit out of me—I won't get all author-y and say I slaved over it and, y'know, I threw myself all over the room and visited some real dark parts of myself, etc, etc, all the standard writer nonsense ... because honestly, it wasn't like that. Never is, never really has been. Even when I've struggled with books and felt them going to shreds in my hands, nothing I can really do to stem the bleeding ... it's not as if it's all that hard. It's upsetting and, because I'm kind of Type A in some ways, it's fist-clenchingly upsetting that I can't fix it. 


But still, despite prior protestations I like writing for the most part. I like working on new stuff and getting into a book. Cataract City just took quite awhile to write, there were lots of edits (and more to come) so it was time-consuming and it was really important to make sure everything fit and worked and that involved just a lot of time. 

So yes, a palate cleanser. Something more light—or at the very least, more genre, where I could work within the confines of that genre and ... maybe just let things flow a little easier. 

So I had this idea. Pure horror. I mean, spine-splitting, jaw-breaking, fireballing horror. That was how I wanted to approach it. 80s horror, really. The stuff I grew up on.

So I wrote it. Took 5 weeks. 6? Just poured out of me. The story was simple, the characters were understandable to me—they acted according to their natures so I didn't have to go around explaining everything they did or justifying it. 

Ended up being 90k. Sent it to my father; he chopped 15k from it. I chopped another 5k.

I sent it to my agent a little abashedly, to be honest. But I'd sort of let him know that he wouldn't exactly know what to expect out of me from one book to the next—hell, I barely know—so to his credit he was more or less: Shoot it all to me, we'll sort it out.

He sat on it for a month maybe, then called and said he'd read it, dug it, offered edits, which I took, then he ended up sending it to a well-known writer for a blurb, which we received and it's glowing, and then we sent it out.

I really wasn't expecting anything, even then. I almost felt as if I hadn't ... for lack of a better word sufferered for this book. It poured out of me too easily. But maybe that was part of what made it work—the writing was pretty effortless so perhaps the reading of it was similar. And sometimes when you don't put the weight of expectation on a given endeavor, you don't freight it down with your hopes and aspirations, well, you allow some cool things to happen.

So fast forward two weeks. We got offers from St. Martin's, Doubleday, Riverhead, and Simon and Shuster. I was baffled. Gobsmacked. Bamboozled. Choose your silly word for it.

There was a little auction. Simon and Shuster ended up taking it. A two-book deal, for, to be honest (and not to be crass, which the following likely is) more money than I've ever been paid for a book. 

So ... weird. And yeah, it's horror. Balls-out, gory, depraved horror.

Hooray!

But my agent suggested that, at this point, we should put it out under a pseudonym—and not my old one. A new one. So that's what will happen. 

And that's all I can really say. That being: there will be a book from me out next year or the year after that will not bear my name. So you can speculate on which one it might be. 

All I can say is: Horror. Simon and Shuster. Those are the clues. 

The game is afoot! Not that I really, truly think anyone's going to take the time to puzzle it out. 

All best, Craig.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

THE FINE ART OF THE AUTHOR PHOTO

Hello all,

So one of the things that often happens upon the publication of a new book is an updated author photo. I'm not a big fan of photos in general, because, to be honest, I usually end up looking like a tool. I'm not really photogenic, plus the author photo is generally expected to convey some gravitas about the writer, or mystery, or sangfroid, or something noble and honorable in any case.

That never happens with me.

With other authors, sure. Like these ones of Cormac McCarthy and Richard Ford, taken I believe by Marion Ettlinger:




Hey, those dudes look writerly. Cormac looks direct and rough-hewn; Ford looks rather erudite and introspective. Then there's me:



I look like a big bloated dingus. A mop-haired bananahead. An onion-eyed puff-monster. Like maybe I do my writing with crayons on foolscap.

The above photo was taken in 2005. My first book was set to come out. My publisher asked for photos. I tried to come up with some of my own. My mother and father and friends took the odd snap to see if something would work. I ended up settling on black and white, because the author shots of those I admired were often b&w. These were the results:





Uuuuhh, not exactly Marion Ettlinger quality. Then again, we're working with imperfect clay, here. But these do royally stink.

Dig those authorly adornments: the hippie-ish hemp necklace (he's sooooo authentic!) and the sleeves rolled up to bare my badass tattoo—given to me at 20 at Way Cool Tattoos in Niagara Falls by a man named Harley Charlie. Because, hey, I normally go around with my shirtsleeves yanked up to my armpits don't ya know. Also, I should've tucked my damn shirt in. I look like a dour pear.

So these were adjudged crap by my publisher. Fair dinkum. They said: We'll send you to a pro photographer. So they sent me to this dude in the warehouse district in Calgary, where I was living at the time. He set up some lights (you see them in the photo there, fanning out behind me? Very classy!) and took some shots. I forget what exactly he may have said to me in terms of motivating me, but judging by the end result it may've been something along the lines of:

PHOTOBUG: "Okay, Craig, sit there looking like a bloated toad! PERFECT! You are OWNING it! Now cross your eyes slightly and pooch your lip out like a sucker-fish—this is IT, baby! I'm LOVING it! You are making love to my camera—deplorable, spastic, unsatisfying love! Hey, quick question: did you actually, y'know, BRUSH your hair? No? Wonderful! It looks like a dead tawny muskrat on your skull, and can I just say: hubba-hubba! Keep it up—and remember, this photo will be THE photo that readers will identify with you for all your days!"

I think the shoot cost $500. And again, this is the fruit of that labor:


Jeebus. I mean, holy lord. Just fix your eyes on that (or don't). I mean, really, fasten it in your mind.

And this is likely the most used photo of me in existence. It's always popping up all over the place like a bad penny.

For example. The other day someone sent me a link to an article: Ten Writers Every Man Should Read. You've got Harry Crews (awesome), Hubert Selby Jr (awesome), Jonathan Lethem (ditto), Iceberg Slim (fantastic) and others. And me. Which, hey, that's great. But I'm flipping though the gallery, each author photo included—most of which are totally badass.

And then there's Maude:

THAT SHITTY PHOTO REARS ITS UGLY HEAD

So, great! Fantastic! Marvellous! Couldn't be happier!

But the fact is, it's not the worst one of me. Because any writer will tell you that when s/he goes to a festival, there are usually photographers there. They are all good people, nice people, helpful and cool people. They take your pics because if one of their photos becomes the official author photo, and your book happens to sell in a lot of countries ... well, that's a lot of book covers and newspaper articles, which means a lot of reprint fees.

So these photographers are a little like speculators. They're betting that you become a big writer and that their photo is chosen to adorn your books.

And there's this funny intersection between you, as a writer, how you want to be depicted visually, and the photographer giving you instructions to perhaps put you in your best light.

This has led to many regrettable photos. Visual boners, you might call them—not in that they would provoke a boner, or a lady-boner, but in the old-school meaning of the word, ie: a horrid mistake.

For example, there's what I like to call the "DEERSKIN COAT SERIES," taken in 2005:






Cool, right? Rugged as shit. I mean, these shots have it all: my father's old deerskin coat (emblem of a simpler, more uncomplicated time), the slovenly untucked shirt flapping in the wind (apparently the only one I own, judging by the fact it appears in other author photos of me), the mushroom cloud of orange hair blowing along with the shirttails, the generally constipated look on my face—either that or the classic "staring into the distance" shot, where it looks as though I'm contemplating things of great importance or deep gravity, all of critical importance to the human race—although considering this was taken in one of the seedier areas of Toronto, conceivably I was witnessing a distant mugging and debating whether or not to call the authorities.

Mainly, though, this is all about the deerskin, baby! And while I'm not a hunter, nor is my dad, and I'm not really down with that ... I mean, the deer's already dead, dude. Me not wearing this kickass coat is not going to bring the deer back.

MARGE SIMPSON: The gypsy said it would!

ME: She's not the boss of me.

Obscure Simpsons references aside, the deerskin is suh-weeeet. It'll be making a comeback in my wardrobe real soon. In fact, I got back from basketball today and had my girlfriend snap a sweet, Fonzie-ish shot of me in it:


Eeeeeh, sit on it!

Then there's these beauties, shot in France way back when:






Dude, I'm in a glass case of emotion here! Let me out so that I can be a little less angsty!

The one with my hand on the window slays me. I look like a puppy in the pet store window. Will you buy me? Will you take me home? I won't pee on your rugs ... much.

They're all got that "looking someplace into the distant ether" look, too. What's with that? Like, there's never anything of interest DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF MY FACE? Why? That's where the majority of interesting stuff takes place, to be honest. At least my hair is a bit better trimmed. And I'm wearing a different shirt. American Eagle. Pure class, hombre.

There have been other photos, with differing levels of effectiveness—and again, I should state (in case it isn't obvious) that the effectiveness, or more commonly ineffectiveness, of these photos is not a reflection on the photographers themselves. Again, imperfect clay and all that.

An American version of my book used shots from a promotional fight as the author photo. Since I got beaten pretty badly in the fight, it was tough to find shots of me, y'know, landing a punch; mainly it was me getting hit (though looking pretty cut while it was happening, I guess):





In the first photo my lower leg looks dangerously thin, doesn't it? I bad case of Keon Clark leg there, I'm thinking (longtime NBA/ Toronto Raps fans will get that reference).

Anyway, other than that there's the requisite "tough guy" photos, which generally don't work so well because I'm a marshmallow. This one was taken by the wife of my Penguin publicist, who is really good at her job; the rusty tin / soup-bowl haircut motif is really working. I call it: Charlie Brown gets lost in a steel mill.


There's this one (a publisher used the shirtless shot—the one after the fight—the one where I'm not sticking a needle into my ass):


I'd've gone with the ass-needle shot, personally; I like how I'm cradling my 'roids-pendulous belly like I'm pregnant, protecting my sacred womb.

There's this one, which I think was taken to show how thin I was at the time:


It's, y'know, passable. Not horrible. My mom took it. Thanks, Mom!

And then there's the very few that I sort of dig. Like this one, which was taken by a French photographer and was used on my second book there:


I mean, that's okay—right? I don't look like some hideous swamp troll who just got farted up out of the bog, amiright? It's passable. I'm looking somewhat inscrutable, yes? There are secrets lurking behind those eyes, it's reasonably convincing to postulate—possibly ... yeah?

Beyond that, I've got a few that I find enjoyable:

BUS ELVIS, when I drove a bus and dressed up for Halloween (used for a magazine article):


I mean, yeah, okay, it's goofy but then again I'm generally a goof so it's truth in advertizing at least.

Ultimately I think I'd like to go with this one for my new author shot:


Is it a little affected? Maybe. A writer and his son. We were sitting on the couch watching FROM BEYOND, a fine horror flick, and my girlfriend snapped it. I'm shirtless, so that's bound to draw in the lustful female readership—plus I'm looking a bit fatherly, so that dovetails kinda nicely with the subject matter of a lot of my books.

Anyway, I guess I like that it's just natural—nobody was sticking a camera in my face and making me smile one of those cheesy-fake smiles, there was no studio, no lights. So yeah, this one could work. I'd go with it. The deerskin would have accentuated things, sure, but you can't have it all.

Of course my publishers will probably want to stick with the classics, which means the Cataract City author photo may look an awful lot like this bad boy:


Why mess with perfection?

All best, Craig.