Christopher Golden is the award-winning, bestselling author of such novels as The Myth Hunters, Wildwood Road, The Boys Are Back in Town, The Ferryman, Strangewood, Of Saints and Shadows, and (with Tim Lebbon) The Map of Moments. Christopher Golden has also written books for teens and young adults, including Poison Ink, Soulless, and the thriller series Body of Evidence, honoured by the New York Public Library and chosen as one of YALSA’s Best Books for Young Readers. Christopher Golden frequently collaborates with other writers on books, comics, and scripts. As an editor, Christopher Golden has worked on the short story anthologies The New Dead and British Invasion, among others, and has also written and co-written comic books, video games, screenplays, the online animated series Ghosts of Albion (with Amber Benson) and a network television pilot. The author is also known for his many media tie-in works, including novels, comics, and video games, in the worlds of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hellboy, Angel, and X-Men, among others. Christopher Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family. His original novels have been published in fourteen languages in countries around the world. Please enjoy my interview with Christopher Golden.
How do you describe your occupation?
All different ways. Writer, novelist, comic book writer, screenwriter, author…but mostly just “writer.”
Talk us through a typical day for you…
A typical workday involves a ton of email, too much social media, and chocolate, if I’m lucky. I’m up around 8 am, usually at my desk by 9:15. I do two podcasts a week. Typically I’ll Skype with Tim Lebbon at least once a week and get on the phone with Tom Sniegoski every few days. I’m usually working on a comic book script and a novel at the same time, and also editing an anthology, so I’m juggling those things. I try to get some exercise in. By 6:30, I quit and have dinner with my wife and daughter, and maybe one or both of our sons if they happen to be around. (They’re 21 and 23.) Then there’s some television or a movie and then bed. It’s utter chaos, really.
What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?
I’m reading Waiting by Rick Hautala, his last novel, a legendary horror writer who was also one of the best friends I’ve ever had. He passed away in 2013. I miss him like crazy.
Can you remember the first book you read by yourself?
I’d be lying if I said yes.
Are you a page folder or a bookmarker?
When did you fall in love with reading?
In the womb, I think. Though it was tough to get enough light to read by. My mother talks about reading Malevil by Robert Merle on the beach when she was pregnant with me. She’d dig a hole in the sand for her belly. So…yeah.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first one I finished…I not only still remember it, I still have it somewhere. I wrote it in high school. It concerned a group of teenagers partying on some train tracks. One of them is so drunk he doesn’t hear the train coming. One of his friends is killed when he hurls himself in front of the train to shove the drunk kid off the tracks. I remember it had a great last line.
If you could gift yourself books at age 16 and age 25 – what would they be and why?
Hmm. Interesting question. I’d give 16-year-old me A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving, which is one of my favourite novels because I think it would have broadened my literary interests at a vital age. I’d give 25 year old me The Collected Ghost Stories of MR James, as a reminder of what creepy is supposed to be.
Can you talk us through your writing process, from the first spark of an idea, to having your first completed draft?
Not really. I don’t mean to be difficult, but the process truly is different every time. Sometimes I’ll read an article and print it up and leave it on my desk for years. Sometimes I’ll have a dream and write notes about it. Sometimes I’ll be in the shower or on a walk or travelling and a spark occurs. I have noticed, though, that my best books usually involve a moment of epiphany when I realize that…hey, THIS dream and THAT article and THIS spark could be combined with this OTHER thing that just occurred to me a moment ago, and when that happens, I’ve got a book. Typically I’ll write an outline—just enough to sell the book. Sometimes I’ll also write the first four or so chapters—just enough to sell the book. But what I really want is to be let loose to write. When I get to the writing, it’s two or three thousand words at a time until it’s done. Sometimes I have smaller epiphanies along the way that make me stop and go back and revise considerably. When the first draft is done, I’ve revised so much that it’s more like a third draft.
For someone starting out in your career, which three books would you make required reading and why?
That’s hard to say. My career has encompassed so many disciplines and mediums. I’d say On Writing by Stephen King, The Elements Of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White, and Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. And, honestly, if I have to explain why, you shouldn’t be embarking on this career.
If you could invite 5 authors (dead or alive) to a dinner party – who would they be and why?
Stephen King, John Irving, Shirley Jackson, Walter Mosley, and Jack London. Out of pure selfishness, because I admire the hell out of all five of them and would want to spend hours asking them questions about their lives and work. Five seems such a small number because there are so many more, but five it is.
What was the last book you purchased, and why did you buy it?
What is your favourite thing about reading?
The journey to another setting, the immersion in the author’s imagination.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Strange Weather by Joe Hill. Joe is a magnificent writer, but with this quartet of short novels, he really takes his place with Bradbury, Gaiman, and Stephen King. It’s stunningly good.
Maybe The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. I’d like to live in a lighthouse.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
Educate yourself. Get better. Work at it, and never listen to the best or the worst things people say about your writing. You’re never as good or as bad at it as anyone says you are. And the second piece of advice is this—and I mean it—don’t quit your day job unless you’re already earning more than enough to support yourself as a writer and the reasonable expectation that you’ll be able to continue doing it.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
The Stand by Stephen King. It’s been my favourite novel since the first time I read it when I was in my early teens. I don’t think it’s the first King I read, but it’s the one that eclipsed all others for me. The characterization, the way King makes his reader care about even the most minor characters…and the cost of victory. Those stuck with me.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
That’s a pretty broad question. So many. Better, perhaps, to mention authors like Joe Lansdale, James Lee Burke, Don Winslow, Erin Morgenstern, Elizabeth Hand…and so many others who very much have my attention.