Jan 27, 2006

Charlie Huston on this and that and the other thing

I have just interviewed Charlie Huston for your reading pleasure, and reading Charlie's books is a pleasure so you should read this. For the record, nothing I threw at him got him off his game, the answers came quick and his spelling is much better than mine.

Jon: How cool is it writing comics?

Charlie: Are we sure that cool is the word we want to apply to the job of writing comics? I mean, “How insanely geeked out is it writing comics?” seems far more appropriate.

The answer? - It’sreallyfuckingsupercoolandgeekedout,man!

I was not a full on comics geek when I was a kid, but I had a period of years from about 12-16 where I was a regular fixture at the local shop and had a steady addiction to a handful of titles. One of those titles was MOON KNIGHT. So, while getting any kind of gig writing comics would be cool for me, getting to write a book I was deep into back in the acne years makes the personal geekcool factor shoot through the roof.

Jon: How is the writing for comics different?

Charlie: The biggest difference is the most obvious, all those fucking pictures, man. Someone has to figure out what all those pictures are gonna be. I thought they’d have some kind of freakish homunculus that they sent over to sit on my shoulder and tell me what to tell the artist to draw. But they said no homunculus. Not in the budget.

Trying to get that down, letting the art carry as much of the story as possible, that’s a pain. My prose style if pretty scanty, but I love me some meandering dialogue. Too much of that in a comic book and pretty soon all the cool pictures are getting covered up. Wordy baaaaaad. Pictury gooooood.

Jon: Your first novel was a hardcover, the following two in tradepaperback. Any idea why?

Charlie: Bottom line. That’s why, because of the bottom line. If CAUGHT STEALING had sold well in hardback the sequel, SIX BAD THINGS, would have been hard as well. Not the case.

But, while the change was instigated by pure economics, there was a consensus that my books are probably better suited to the trade format. The content is dark and vulgar and violent and skews a bit toward a younger, more cost conscious, reader. So far the switch seems to be working.

However, ALREADY DEAD and the next Joe Pitt book were always planned as trade paperback originals. Just not too much call for hardback horror unless your name is King.

Jon: Who are some of your favorite authors?

Charlie: In no particular order:

<>Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, Cormac McCarthy, Jack Womack, Patricia Highsmith, Jonathan Lethem, Chuck Palahniuk, Alan Furst, Elmore Leonard, Richard Price, Charles Bukowski, Graham Greene, William Gibson, James Elroy, and, of course, Hammett, Chandler, and Hemingway..

Jon: What question do you get asked more than any other?

Charlie: Oddly, the question I get asked more than any other is, “What question do you get asked more than any other?” How weird is that?

Jon: Your first book had a picture with you and full head of hair. Pictures from last fall, the hair, not so much. Is there a story behind this lack of follicles?

Charlie: My hair is seasonal. In the spring I shave everything. Within limits, mind you. Some areas simply should not be shaved. They require waxing.

Come the winter I grow as much hair as possible.

But I keep the Brazilian year round. I’m not a savage after all.

Jon: If you could pick any character to write in any genre or field who would it be?

Charlie: I’d love to take a crack at a Sherlock Holmes screenplay. Something dark and violent, but still very, very Edwardian/gothic. Not like the psycho-killer Holmes stories that seem to be the vogue these day. Those feel like typical serial killer procedurals with Holmes plugged in to play the William Peterson role.

Jon: Would it be safe to call Hank Thompson an avenger?

Charlie: I’d actually say not. Certainly he’s motivated by a desire for revenge on occasion, but his basic motivation is to get the fuck out of trouble. That or protect the people he cares about.

Jon: And where did you get the idea for the cat??!!?

Charlie: Bud the cat started as a plot device. I wanted Hank’s neighbor to saddle him unknowingly with badguy-bait. The cat just seemed a good way of getting it in the house. After that he took on a life of his own. And once I engaged in a cat torture scene I knew I was gonna have to keep him around.

Jon: What did you base your vampire lore on?

Charlie: Assorted items I pulled from my ass. The initial impulse to base vampirism in a virus was rooted in my desire to have Joe Pitt rooted in a very concrete world. Well, as concrete as a vampire’s world can be. Only much later when someone brought up Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND did I realize how I’d been influenced by that book. Proving again that most all fiction is theft.

Jon: What are you working on now, besides Moon Knight?

Charlie: I’m in various stages of editing the third and final Henry Thompson book and the second Joe Pitt Casebook. I’m also finishing up a first draft of a stand alone thriller.

Jon: What time do you usually get up?

Charlie: Just early enough to really irritate my wife if I accidentally wake her as well.

Jon: How much time in the course of a week is your television on?

Charlie: Too fucking much. I spend most of my viewing time on old movies and sports, very little episodic stuff. But it’s still a huge time vortex.

Jon: Do Russian people scare you?

Charlie: Not nearly as much as Comic Con San Diego scared me.

Jon: What five cd’s could you not live without?

Charlie: OK, this answer will be different on any given day, but here’s today’s list

in no order:

Willie Nelson: Red Headed Stranger

Tool: Aenima

Johnny Cash: Unchained

Elton John: Madman Across the Water

Cannonball Adderly: Sumthin’ Else

That’s a very wintry list, much different in the spring.

Jon: Where do you hope to be ten years from now?

Charlie: On a beach in Mexico with a fiercely independent child that’s perfectly capable of fending for itself while my wife and I have another margarita.

Jon: Who reads your book first after you finish?

Charlie: My wife has been my first reader on all my books. She also reads them in bits and pieces as they are written.

Jon: What can you cook better than anything else?

Charlie: My wife’s favorite is a pasta with tomato, onion and toasted pancetta.

Jon: When you travel, do you travel light or over pack?

<>Charlie: Very light. Too light. I almost always leave something I’ll need. At Boucher Con my publisher hosted a dinner for all their writers in attendance. I was expecting something casual, but once we were in Chicago I found out it was at a Michelin rated restaurant. All I had packed was jeans and sneakers. I wore the jeans, but felt compelled to hit a shoe store and buy a $19 pair of black loafers and some sox. Only loafers I’ve ever owned. Didn’t pack them when I went home. Still got the sox.

<>Jon: What's the one thing always in your refrigerator?

Charlie: Ammo. It keeps better that way.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the interview with one of my favorite new authors. My sincere congratulations to Mr. Huston for the recent Edgar Award nomination! Keep up the good work.

Cornelia Read said...

Now THAT is what I call an interview.

Most. Excellent.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the interview. Most of all, I would pay a fair amount of money to see Charlie Huston's take on Sherlock Holmes...