Writers are busy people, so when I contact an author about the possibility of participating in our little book of the month club discussion, I always promise them that the process will be quick and relatively painless. They’re free to pick and choose among the questions sent, and under no obligation to meet any sort of deadline in turning around their responses. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter when they them send back. I’m just honored and thankful that they take the time to do so. Looming deadlines, works-n-progress, and even the minutiae of daily life have resulted in authors getting back to me weeks, occasionally months after the fact. All perfectly understandable and no less appreciated. On the flip side, I’ve received responses in mere days, sometimes hours – or, in the case of Chistopher Moore, about forty-five minutes!
So a BIG thank you to Chris for the super quick turnaround of a terrific Q&A that, interestingly enough, kicks off with a question from yours truly…
Joe writes: “I enjoyed Bloodsucking Fiends immensely and already have You Suck (and assorted other Chris Moore titles) on my daunting to-read pile. Still, as a former Masters student who happened to write his thesis on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Fool remains my favorite. Any plans to tackle anymore of the bard’s works in similar fashion?
CM: Yes, as soon as I finish the book I’m working on I’m going to adapt Fool for the stage, then I’m going to write another book with Pocket, using more Shakespeare for the source material. Can’t say much more than that, now.
Craig writes: “Question for Mr. Moore: did he have a trilogy planned out from the beginning or was Bloodsucking Fiends originally intended to be his only vampire novel?”
CM: No, in those days I didn’t outline my books, so I didn’t even know I was going to leave it open for a second book. Originally, in the end of Fiends, I had Jody going off with Elija, but my editor at the time said it was too dark, so he asked me to change it to a happier ending. The book was so anemically published that I had to wait 12 years for my career to recover before I could write a sequel.
Narelle from Aus writes: “Bloodsucking Fiends was like Scrubs in a book for me. Which means I liked it. A lot. So I ask Mr Moore, what brand of comedy did you grow up with? Was it TV or written humour that’s been your biggest influence?”
CM: Really, early on it was Mad Magazine, but then, of course movies and TV, as well as those few funny novels that I could find. Movies, more than TV, I suppose as influence in comic timing. Scrubs was brilliant those first few years, though, and I was a big fan.
Michelle writes: “A couple of questions for Christopher Moore:
Why did Ben Sapir choose to turn Jody and then immediately act as an adversary to her? Why didn’t he take her under his wing, so to speak?”
CM: Couple of reasons. One, he’s fully batshit and bored, so it was more interesting to watch them struggle. It was a game to him. And second, he wasn’t sure she would survive. It even says that he had watched the ones who don’t make it, can’t handle it. Best not to get attached.
“What did it mean that nearly all of his fledglings didn’t last long? Did he kill them for violating some vampire code of honor?”
CM: It just meant that it’s hard out there for a vamp. He basically had to keep them secret. What’s happening in Bloodsucking Fiends is that he’s sort of out of control, after 800 years or so, and he’s losing it. But mainly he kills them because they go insane and he can’t have them found.
“When he said he wanted to end his loneliness, did he mean by Jody becoming his mate, or Jody somehow finally killing him? He seemed sort of suicidal.”
CM: I think he wanted to have a companion.
“Who does the Emperor represent to you?”
CM: He’s a symbol for someone who has kept his humanity and sense of empathy, even though he lives under very unpleasant circumstances. He’s based on a real person. Google “Emperor Norton”.
Sparrow_hawk writes: “Questions for the author: I realize that you wrote the book 15 years ago and I really appreciate your willingness to stop by and discuss it with us.
1. What was your inspiration for the story?”
CM: I had always read horror stories and fancied myself a horror story writer when I started. I had done a story for the radio when I was a DJ about a guy who finds out his girlfriend is a vampire and ends up putting her in the freezer until he can figure out what to do. I think I’d read an article in Science Digest about scientists having just successfully frozen and revived a bat, or perhaps that they thought they were close to being able to do that. Anyway, when I needed a third idea for a proposal for my third book, I threw in the vampire idea, almost as a throw-away, and the publisher picked it. I think the original story was influenced somewhat by Peter Beagle’s “Lila the Werewolf”.
“2. I loved Tommy’s references to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a favorite novel of mine) and The Vampire Lestat . Were those your major sources for vampire lore or did you do other research?”
CM: I had been reading vampire stuff since I was a kid. I’d really read it all. In fact, I remember a friend helping me move once, and looking into my boxes of books and saying, “You should do a vampire book, you wouldn’t even have to read it.” I included Dracula and Lestat in the text because I always found it annoying in vampire books and movies when everyone was completely ignorant of the concept of vampires, like they’d been living in a vacuum.
“3. I loved Elijah Ben Sapir and the way he tested Jody after turning her and that you made him an “angel of death” choosing victims that were terminally ill and would die soon anyway. Can you comment a little on his character?”
CM: I was just trying to work off the biological imperative that the predator only takes the sick and the weak, thereby strengthening the herd. I also thought it would be easier to sympathize with the character if she was feeding almost in the name of mercy.
Tammy Dixon writes: “My Question for Mr. Moore is: Do you have first hand experience in what goes on in an all night market? (shudder)”
CM: I had Tommy’s job when I was his age. All the animals were based on real guys on my night crew, and we got our name, The Animals, in the same way they do in the book. Although my experiences were in Ohio, no San Francisco.
For the love of Beckett writes: “1.) They say (semi-) autobiographical stories — and deadlines! — make some of the best stories. Bloodsucking Fiends is one of those, with hysterical results. It’s the funniest anti-romance I’ve read, and at the same time you created hilarious characters that I really cared about by story’s end. I almost teared up over the brass turtles. My turtles! (Stargate joke.) This is first of your books I’ve read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel, You Suck, over the weekend.”
“2.) So you also left home in the Midwest at the age of 19, and landed in San Francisco to become a writer. But Incontinence, Indiana? Dude! You were born in Ohio! How could you do that to the state one of your favorite authors was born in? (I’m from Vonnegut’s hometown.)”
CM: I was just going for generic Midwest. It’s not completely autobiographical. I didn’t live in San Francisco until I was almost 50. I landed in Santa Barbara when I came West.
“3.) I loved every one of the characters. They were not only fully developed, but real. Since you really live in Frisco, how many of the book’s characters have you met in real life there? Did you ever meet the Emperor of San Francisco? What was he like?”
CM: The Emperor lived in the 1860s. But I came to the city in the early 1990s to do research, and I saw a lot of homeless here, as one does, and I wanted to give them a nod as humans. Tourists would be very cruel, and say absolutely horrible things to the homeless, and they never seemed to get that these were PEOPLE. I just wanted to put a face on and give some nobility to those people who were living on the streets.
“4.) In another autobiographical detail, one of your previous jobs was working in a grocery store, just like C. Thomas Flood. (Safeway was terrific, another world-within-a-world.) Since it’s nearly Thanksgiving time in the U.S., what was your all-time high score in Turkey Bowling?”
CM: I don’t even remember keeping score, much. We mostly played volleyball in the stock room on our breaks, but that wouldn’t have made for a very funny scene.
“5.) Your humor and parody are a riot. Nothing is sacred, but everything is given value, i.e., deaths by vampire, homelessness, and the faith of one of the grocery store Animals. The “fish eye” you give the world had to have reared its head/attitude early on. Do you have a favorite writing memory from H.S., an essay that shocked the teacher but made them laugh and give you a good grade anyway?”
CM: We had a pep rally with mandatory attendance, and I wrote an editorial for the school paper called. Pressured Pep Impossible, which was very snarky and critical of the bullshit that I still believe is highschool sports (and I was an athelete, which really pissed off the coaches) The different coaches wrote and insisted that 7 different rebuttals be printed, and my journalism teacher promised to give me an A for the rest of the year (and this was in October) if I didn’t write anything else for the rest of the year. It was like finding out I had a super power or something.
“6.) You’ve mentioned that all of your books have been optioned or had the rights sold for a movie, but none have ever been made. Too hard to streamline for the screen, or something. Would so love to see Bloodsucking Fiends in a movie theater. Chris Columbus did a fantastic job with the intricate world building in the first 2 Harry Potter movies, while still making the story marketable for Hollywood. Bloodsucking Fiends would be a complete — and delightfully twisted — left turn. Just a hope…Thanks for writing the story about “a guy whose girlfriend is a vampire.””
CM: I honestly don’t know what keeps the movies from being made. I think in some cases, they think the story is very simple, but when they start dismantling it for the screen, they find it falls apart. That’s certainly the case in Practical Demonkeeping, which has had more scripts than any of them written.
With others, I honestly don’t think they get what I do, so it’s hard for them to find a writer that can adapt the book because they aren’t really looking at what they liked about the book. For instance, the people who have Lamb first said, Jack Black for Biff, and now are saying Zack Galifinakis. Now, I like both of those guys, but they are not skinny, brown, Jewish guys, which is how Biff is described in the book. They are very much fat white guys. I don’t even know how you get from one to the other. I could fill a page with stories like this.
And Chris Columbus had A Dirty Job for three years, since you brought that up, but they never even got a script written. I think that had more to do with his business schedule than any creative conundrum. He’s a brilliant guy.
For the most part, people acquire my stuff saying, “This isn’t like anything else we’ve seen before,” then they beat the project to death by trying to make it exactly like something else they’ve seen before. One producer who had Fiends, wanted the screenwriter to lift the whole “ancient love doppleganger” right out of Coppola’s Dracula. The screenwriter even called her on it, but she wouldn’t relent, didn’t even understand why “cliche” wasn’t a good thing. Fortunately, the option expired and it didn’t get made, which believe me, sometimes, is better.
Hope that helps. I have to get back to work.
Thanks for picking Fiends for your club.
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