One of my favourite humans/writers/editors is the delightful Christopher Golden. Today he’s chatting about his new novel The Pandora Room.
- What do new readers need to know about Christopher Golden?
Hmm. I’ve been writing full time since 1992. Horror, fantasy, mystery … but I’m most at home with the supernatural thriller. It just fits my story sense perfectly. I also write comics and screenplays, and I’ve edited a bunch of fiction anthologies. What else should I say? I like ice cream a bit too much and got my first tattoo this year, at the age of 51.
- What was the inspiration behind The Pandora Room?
I often get sparks of inspiration while doing research. I’ll be working on a project and come across something that inspires something completely different. A few years ago, I was reading about the Pandora myth and the variations on it, some of which say the box contained all the world’s blessings and some all its curses, and there’s a version in which Pandora is called by the name Anesidora. It just hit me -what if Pandora and Anesidora were sisters? What if there were two boxes, one with all the blessings and one with all the curses? One for each sister. And what if now, in the present day, an archaeologist found ONE of them…but didn’t know which one it was. Everyone would want to lay claim to this thing…and though nobody in their right mind would open it, many would want to do exactly that, no matter the consequences.
- How do you choose the anthology projects you do? What inspires them?
Most of the time it’s just something that hits me, some inkling or inclination. With THE NEW DEAD, I was actually approached by my editor at St. Martin’s. With SEIZE THE NIGHT, it was a frustration with people saying vampires weren’t scary anymore. With DARK CITIES, it was a panel at DragonCon about where the authors felt comfortable and where we felt anxious, in a dark alley or a dark country road. With HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SCREAM, it was actually a title I’d come up with years before. I so wanted to use it for something, and then I came up with the idea for a short story I called “It’s a Wonderful Knife,” but I didn’t have a Christmas anthology to sell it to. My friend Tom Sniegoski suggested I do a Christmas horror anthology and finally use that title, and I knew it was perfect. I made him promise to do a story for it. With the upcoming HEX LIFE, my co-editor Rachel Autumn Deering approached me to team up. Normally I would pass on something like that, but Rachel is incredibly talented and a real pro, and I liked the idea of that team up. My one caveat was that I wanted to do an all female anthology, just to say to the editors who have hardly any women in their anthologies that it’s not difficult to find fantastic horror and dark fiction by women, you just have to want to.
- In general, who and/or what are your writing influences, classic and modern?
Such a huge question. Stephen King is and always will be number one for me. His narrative voice is the narrative voice of my youth. Other huge influences people may or may not see in my work include Jack London, Shirley Jackson, Charles de Lint, Carol O’Connell, James Lee Burke, John Irving, Mo Hayder, Dennis Lehane, Mike Mignola, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, John Wyndham, and comics writers like Marv Wolfman and J.M. DeMatteis. Right now I’m reading THE NIGHT SISTER by Jennifer McMahon and I’m taking a lot of wiring inspiration from that. Jennifer has a gift for timing and delivery, the way she metes out plot to create fantastic tension.
- Can you remember the first story you read that made you think “I want to be a writer”?
I really can’t. I could lie to you, but I won’t. What I do remember is the first time I thought, “hey, I could write a novel.” I was reading THE LIGHT AT THE END by John Skipp and Craig Spector and there was something about the tone of that novel, their storytelling voice, the fun they were having and the colloquial way they presented their characters that made me think I could actually do that. I started my first novel, OF SAINTS AND SHADOWS, shortly thereafter.
- What scares you?
Are you kidding? I live in the United States of America in 2019. Everything is terrifying. We live in fear every single day that the ignorant piece of shit in the White House will destroy us all. Beyond that, we need immediate and radical action to ameliorate the climate disaster that is already underway. But, y’know, let’s talk about ghosts and demons instead. I’d much rather focus on the supernatural than on the children in cages and filth in concentration camps in my own country. (That’s sarcasm. I’m very vocal about all of this and I know it costs me readers but I couldn’t care less. Children are dying. People are suffering. I only pray we can get enough people out to vote in 2020 that we can overcome the election tampering that is absolutely, 100% going to happen.)
- Your Baltimore series is quite amazing – how did you come to work with Mike Mignola on that?
Mike and I have been friends since I interviewed him for Flux Magazine way back when HELLBOY first hit comics shops. We’d worked on a number of projects already and we talked on a regular basis. Over the course of a few years he kept telling me about this vampire graphic novel he planned to do, and one day he just said he’d realized he was never going to have the time to do it, and would I like to write it as a novel. That turned into the novel BALTIMORE, OR, THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER AND THE VAMPIRE, which led to us doing two other books together, and then to the comic book series BALTIMORE and JOE GOLEM: OCCULT DETECTIVE, and some other things I can’t talk about just yet.
- You can take five books to a desert island with you: which ones make the cut?
THE STAND by Stephen King. A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving. LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry. THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson. THE SEA WOLF by Jack London.
- What attracts you to the darker side of fiction?
I’ve always loved the dark stuff. As a kid, I gravitated toward monster movies and comics, and when I started reading, to horror and dark fantasy. When I started writing, my mother asked “why can’t you write something good?” What she meant was something NICE. I explained that I’d written love stories, western stories, science-fiction stories, but that somebody always died. My work nearly always has romance in it, too, but I think the darkness is there to emphasize the light. It’s about having something to fight for. Heroes are only as interesting as their villains, protagonists only as courageous as the terrors they face are terrifying.
- What is next for Christopher Golden?
I’m currently working on way too many projects at once. My next novel, RED HANDS, should be out next year. I’m writing the TV pilot for BEN WALKER, a series based on the main character from ARARAT and THE PANDORA ROOM. I’m writing several comics I can’t announce yet. October sees the release of two new anthologies, HEX LIFE and THE TWISTED BOOK OF SHADOWS. My anthology with Tim Lebbon, TEN-WORD TRAGEDIES, inspired by the music of Frank Turner, comes out in two weeks! Thanks so much for asking, Angela, and for writing me some wonderful stories, including for HEX LIFE. I can’t wait for people to read it!