In The Serpent of Venice, New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore channels William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe in this satiric Venetian gothic that brings back the Pocket of Dog Snogging, the eponymous hero of Fool, along with his sidekick, Drool, and pet monkey, Jeff.
Here we put ten questions to Christopher.
Who is your favourite author? How about some other authors that influenced you?
John Steinbeck, but that’s based on his comic work, not so much the heavy stuff that he’s more known for. Steinbeck wrote about flawed people with great affection and forgiveness. I aspire to that in my own work.
How about some other authors that influenced you?
As a kid I think I was influenced by Jules Verne and Ray Bradbury–it was in Ray’s stories that I think I first realized that there was a craftsman behind the story, making everything work. That was about sixth grade, I guess. Later on I was influenced by horror story writers like Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson, and then as I was moving toward doing what I do now, in my twenties, I was influenced by Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, and Douglas Adams, all of whom were writing funny books and getting away with it, which is what I wanted to do.
What are you reading now? What do you recommend?
At any given time, I’m reading the new one from Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, Dave Barry, Nick Hornby, Mil Millington, David Sedaris and a zillion books on research for the novel I’m working on, but you can get a better sense of the stuff I read and enjoy at Chris’s Picks.
When did you start writing?
When I was 12. I started thinking about going pro when I was 16. It took me until my early thirties before anyone would actually pay me to write.
Where do you get your ideas?
Usually from something I read. It could be a single sentence in a magazine article that kicks off a whole book. Ideas are cheap and easy. Telling a good story once you get an idea is hard.
Describe your typical writing day.
I usually get up at about 8:00, make coffee, then go to my office. I write until noon, then I answer mail, make phone calls, pay bills, stuff like that until about 1:00 when I go to the gym. I goof off for a few hours, eat dinner, then I read, research, and work on notes in the evening. If I’m lucky, I’ll figure out what I’ll be writing the next morning. I’ve tried working longer hours, but it seems that I can’t be funny that many hours of the day. I’m a little envious of authors who can crank out ten or twenty pages a day. I’ve done it, but I end up throwing most of it out the next day.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes me 12 months to do the actual writing of the manuscript, and another six to research it. I’ve written books in less time, and taken more time on others, but the average is 12 months. Lamb took nearly three years. The Stupidest Angel only took about six months.
Do you do a lot of rewriting?
Almost none, and I’ve been fortunate that my editors have liked what I turned in. I did rewrite some of the beginning of Love Nun and Coyote Blue because the main characters were sort of harsh. These are both redemption stories where the main character would go through a major change as the story went on, I tended to overwrite the negative, which made the characters hard to sympathize with in the beginning. With the exception of copy editing (spelling and stuff) most of my books have gone into print almost as the first draft. My editors have asked me to change perhaps four lines per book. I think this is due to the fact that I write so slowly. If I were writing a first draft in a month like some authors do, I’d be doing a ton of rewriting. Method has a lot to do with my lack of rewriting–and what’s a draft anymore anyway? With word processing you back out so many phrases that might have ended up in a draft in the days of type writers.
Do you outline?
I usually know where the story starts and where it ends before I start, but I don’t usually know “how” I’m going to get to the ending. I try to stay about five scenes ahead of where I am currently writing (this is the work I do in the evening). I have some scenes finished before I start the book and they just plug in at a certain point. I did outline the last half of Lust Lizard because I had a really tight deadline and I couldn’t afford to miss a day if I got stuck. Since then I’ve done more outlining, and again, more toward the end of the book than the beginning and middle.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I go out to lunch a lot. I also spend a great deal of time worrying about not writing. I live my life in a perpetual state of panic, either that the book I’m working on will suck, or that I’ll never be able to write another book again. I go to the gym daily and I like to wander around the city and take pictures. The last few years I’ve been painting with acrylics and oils.
The Serpent of Venice
8 May 2014