Christopher Moore is one of those rare authors who writes what is essentially genre fiction but still manages to maintain a prominent place on mainstream fiction bookshelves. He is perhaps best known for his book You Suck: A Love Story, a vampire story that mixes humor, sex, and gore into a unique dish. After numerous NYT bestsellers, he has secured his place on those bookstore shelves, but still finds time to do answer fan mail and do interviews. He took time out from his European book tour to talk about his life as an author.
TH: Can you give a brief description of your career arc as a writer/author?
CM: I started writing when I was sixteen, decided early on that I wouldn’t be able to make a living at it, so I went to school for photography. I dropped out and goofed off for a number of years, then went to a writer’s conference at the urging of a girlfriend, where they told me I was pretty good and I met a different girl. For five years I drank and indulged my affected angst while educating myself in literature and writing a few short stories. When I turned thirty the girl ran off with the guy we hired to remodel the family room, I quit drinking and wrote my first book. It sold to Disney (never made) then in sixteen countries. After that I wrote ten more novels. A bunch of them have been on best-seller lists. Every few years I get an invitation to work in Hollywood, I agree, then it all blows up and I either quit or get fired.
TH: What is The Story of Chris? Is it a novel? A short story? A poem? A limerick? (You can do with this question whatever you like.)
CM: A pretty boring novel, I think.
TH: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you know?
CM: When I was fifteen or so. I was reading a lot. A lot. And I started writing narrative poetry. It was good enough that teacher took notice, and I started writing stories. The rest is above.
TH: A lot of established writers seem to have a stack of writing somewhere that will never a see the light of day, like the five novels the author had to write before he could get to the good one. Do you have anything like this?
CM: Not much, really. A few bad short stories. Until I wrote my first book I spent more energy punishing myself for not writing than actually finishing anything.
TH: Of course, most writers want to have bestsellers or make some sort of artistic or literary impact. Are there some unrealized accomplishments that you’re striving for in the near future?
CM: Total world dominance still eludes me…
TH: If you succeed in your quest for world dominance, what type of political and theological structure would you create? Who would be your chief minion?
CM: I think I’d go for the “government by benign neglect.” I think a Buddhist monk with ADD would be my chief minion.
TH: What are some of the things that most inspire you?
CM: Different things. Interesting things. Challenging things. Lately I’ve been challenged by great artists, both visual and language arts. I’ve just finished a book based on one of Shakespeare’s plays. On a bunch of them, actually.
TH: You‘ve probably been reading a lot of Shakespeare recently. Is there a character or play that most inspired you while writing this novel?
CM: Yes, the fool in King Lear.
TH: A lot of genre writers might be hungry to know more about the process by which you built a readership. What are the most successful ways you have used to promote yourself and your work?
CM: Well, by not allowing them to put me in a genre. I’ve fought to keep my books in general fiction from the beginning. Also, since 1995 I’ve had my e-mail on my books and I’ve answered every note I’ve gotten unless it was creepy.
TH: You Suck is general fiction? Does that mean you‘re somewhere on the shelf near Norman Mailer and Cormac McCarthy? “No Country for Bloodsucking Fiends”… How have you resisted being pigeon-holed?
CM: Yep. Not far from those guys at all. I’ve kept out of the genre shelves by continually changing up what I do.
TH: What is the creepiest note you have received?
CM: I’ve received several that had the same subject line and were all equally creepy: Soulmates
TH: Have you reached the point at which you feel you have “made it” as a writer and author? If so, can you describe the milestone or circumstances? Do you recall how that felt?
CM: Making the New York Times list was a big milestone. It took me nine books to get there. It just felt like I had joined a very elite club. It doesn’t make the work any easier, but it gives you a little more legitimacy when your meeting new people.
TH: Some say that professional writers have to look at themselves as a business, a branded commodity. Do you take that approach?
CM: Depends on what time of day it is. It would have probably have been better business to write the same book over and over again to establish a “trademark” name, or a signature character. I’ve tried not to do that, which is responding more to the artist than the businessman in me.
TH: What can readers expect to see from you in the near future? What are you working on?
CM: As I said, I’ve just finished this Shakespeare book, a comedy set in medieval England, and I’m putting together proposals for another vampire story and a new book that takes place in the world of fine art.
TH: What is the most memorable moment (good, bad, or other) you have had in your life as an author?
CM: Probably when I was still waiting tables and my agent called me at the restaurant to tell me that he’d sold the film rights to Disney for a ton of money. Can’t be repeated.
TH: So what did you do when you found Disney had optioned your book?
CM: I gave my apron to the busgirl and said, “Take my section, you’ve just been promoted.”