1. Describe what your relationship with Ray Bradbury was like and what he meant to you as a writer?
I worked, perhaps, more closely with Ray Bradbury over the course of the last 12 years of his life than anyone else. We worked on three books together, several articles, and spent countless hours in each other’s company. He was more than just a biographical subject. We became incredibly close and dear friends. He was a father figure to me and my finest and most important creative mentor. My entire approach to writing was indelibly altered by his creative philosophy. He somehow affects every word I write. He taught me the importance of the subconscious in writing; to trust one’s artistic impulses; and to write first drafts quickly so as to be honest and true. “In delay,” he said, “comes an effort for style.” He also taught me that love must be at the epicenter of all creative pursuits.
2. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The Stories of Ray Bradbury. This book contains 100 of his best. He was a master of short fiction and this book collects 100 of the crown jewels including “The Veldt,” “The Fog Horn,” “The Lake,” “There Will Come Soft Rains and so many others. His wife once told me that of all of the mediums he worked in, he was best at the short story. I completely agree with her.
3. If you could create a Mount Rushmore of the four greatest speculative fiction writers, who would they include?
1/ Bradbury as a child in his Waukegan years.
2/ Bradbury as a teen at the time he roamed Hollywood as a star struck imaginative dreamer.
3/Bradbury in his thirties, during his golden era as a writer —the 1950s.
4/ Bradbury in his late sixties/early seventies as the elder statesman of imaginative literature.
I cheated, didn’t I?
4. What advice do you have for beginning writers?
Write and read. Constantly. Don’t do it if you don’t love it. Read classics across the genres. Socialize with other artists and writers to learn. And be curious! If you are not curious about the machinations of the universe, of the world, of humanity, of life, you won’t make it. I also think it is important to emphasize that you must be disciplined. You cant wait around for inspiration, you need to conjur it. You do this by reading, watching films, listening to music, reading poetry, going to art museums and training yourself to see story under every unturned stone.
5. What type of scenes do you most enjoy writing?
That’s a really interesting question. I have been mostly publishing short stories in the last two years. Evoking a sense of place is very important to me. Stories are set somewhere. I like to establish setting. So many of the southern writers are so good at this. Flannery O’Conner had her deep south, as did Faulkner and Capote. Bradbury owned Mars and conjured it solely from his own imagination. I love writing about desolate and lonely places. Windswept fields; forsaken cemeteries; blighted urban locales; quiet places at the soul’s midnight.
6. What made you start writing?
It was an inner-calling to be creative. I heard it when I was ten or eleven. I must have a creative outlet everyday or I am spiritually discontent. I tell my family that the only thing I need for Christmas is a few hours to write.
7. What writer did you most enjoy working with on your Shadow Show anthology?
That’s a tough question because there are so many great writers in the book. My co-editor, Mort Castle, is such a good man he doesn’t seem real. I wonder sometimes if he is just a banjo picking, horror writing, Disney Animation?
I guess if I was forced to pick a writer I worked with closely on the book it would two:
Neil Gaiman lives up to every expectation you might have. In this way he reminds me of Bradbury. He is brilliant, charming, and just deeply, deeply generous. He deserves every bit of success he has earned. And his story in SHADOW SHOW, “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” is so profound and, ironically memorable, it is just a perfect metaphor to begin the book. Working with him was easy and fun.
I also would single out Margaret Atwood. She helped us launch the book on the west coast and we quickly fostered a bond. While she is completely different from Ray Bradbury, the way we interacted and connected reminded me a bit of the bond I shared with him. She is charming, funny, challenging and exudes genius. I love people who defy their years and stay current and cool like that.
8. If you could pick one other author to collaborate with on a novel or story, living or dead, who would it be?
I think I’ve already done it. I collaborated with Ray Bradbury. He did ask me to finish his last collection of short stories for him—Nightmares and Daydreams. He was very adamant about this. His health wouldn’t allow him to complete the book. I was hesitant and his agent, rightfully, wanted to protect his work as being solely created by Bradbury. But now, with him gone, the only way this book will ever see daylight is if it’s released as an incomplete work, or if someone else completes it. He wanted me to do it and I’ve reversed my thinking on this. I spent so much time with him that I can think like him, and write like him. I can assume his voice very easily. He would sometimes ask me to write emails for him and it was a little eerie how I could channel his persona. And thinking about this, there are some recent works of music with other artists completing works by Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and others. I think I’m now up for this challenge. I’d love to try it. Most importantly, he wanted this. The book could be billed as Ray Bradbury stories finished by his biographer.
9. What books are in your to read list?
I just read the entire catalog of Chuck Klosterman, who I think is hilarious and really pop-culturally brilliant. He’s sort of the nerd emeritus of pop. Next up, I’d like to read The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman; James Baldwin: The Last Interview, and I still haven’t read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
10. What do you prefer, writing fiction or being an editor?
Definitely writing fiction. I have a short story collection that is almost done. It is very much in the tradition of early Midwest gothic Bradbury.I have a novel that will be completed in 2015—an existential love story. Of course, Mort Castle and I have been working on the SHADOW SHOW comic book series through IDW. That’s been a joy. The trade paperback of this series will be out in the spring of 2015.
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