TIH 507: Craig Clevenger on Mother Howl, Writing in the Third Person, and Writing Dialogue

TIH 507 Craig Clevenger on Mother Howl, Writing in the Third Person, and Writing Dialogue

In this podcast, Craig Clevenger talks about Mother Howl, writing in the third person, writing dialogue, and much more.

About Craig Clevenger

Craig Clevenger is an American author of contemporary fiction. Born 1964 in Dallas, Texas, he grew up in Southern California where he studied English at California State University, Long Beach. He is the author of three novels, The Contortionist’s Handbook, Dermaphoria, and Mother Howl.

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Michael David Wilson 0:28

Welcome to This Is Horror Podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with the world's best writers about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Today we are chatting with Craig Clevenger to celebrate the recent release of Mother Howell and this is a book we have been waiting for for years. And we are so happy today is finally here where you can all read mother Howell. Now this is the second time that we've spoken to Craig on This Is Horror is also the writer of two other novels The Contortionist handbook and dharma forea. To give you a sense as to how damn good Craig is. This is what shocked Paul and it said after reading the contortionists handbook, I swear to God, this is the best book I've read in easily five years is easily maybe 10 years. So there it is. Clevenger, a master of storytelling, praised by a another master storyteller. Now before we get in today's conversation, it's time for a quick advert break.

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Michael David Wilson 3:01

Okay with that said, here it is it is Craig Clevenger on This Is Horror. Craig Welcome back to This Is Horror Podcast. It has been a couple of years.

Craig Clevenger 3:17

Good to be back, even though I'm still not sure why I'm on a horror podcast, but it's good to know good to know the loves there.

Michael David Wilson 3:24

Well, I mean, on this occasion, specifically is definitely because of her release of Mother hell, which I mean, we are gonna get into that imminently. But I wonder before then, what have been the biggest changes for you in these past two years, both personally and professionally? Wow.

Craig Clevenger 3:49

Well, not a lot. I mean, the pandemic hit and that I know a lot of other writers felt the same way. But especially for those of us without families like that was pretty much business as usual for me only a little more extreme, but otherwise, I'm perfectly happy with you know, writing my cat Netflix, you know, I've been keeping a very low profile I've been I've been dividing my time between the central coast and the desert have got some got a patch out there that I'm looking to build on in the in the near future, but that keeps getting delayed. So I've kind of pulled back from civilization and waterways riding with honestly I talked with, you know, Rob and Rob about this just a bit of a hiatus for that for a while unintentionally, but I'm kind of sticking my head above water again. I'm going to really mixed metaphors left and right. So pay no attention. So that's not a great answer. I know. But I've been inching towards a fourth novel. Running a workshop at the library. Are you where I work? And? Yeah, just just laying low.

Michael David Wilson 5:05

Yeah. And this fourth novel? Is this the one that is based on Vapor Trail?

Craig Clevenger 5:12

Yes, that's the one that I was talking about last time. But like I said, I took a bit of a hiatus from writing. It was, wasn't feeling it for a very long time. It was a rough stretch. So that's the one it's I can see the shore now. But 80% of the work is the last 20% As the saying goes.

Michael David Wilson 5:30

Yeah, yeah. So, I mean, in terms of your writing now, I mean, what what does that routine look like? Or when are you doing it have? Have you got like your confidence back fully? Is it still an ongoing process?

Craig Clevenger 5:48

Oh, it's well, I mean, you know, I'm a writer. So it's, it's always gonna be an ongoing process. I suck, you know, but a lot of it is, is digging back, you know, blowing the dust off, you know, six notebooks in the manuscript, and just trying to get my footing again, I've never been able to abandon anything. I've tried really hard, but they keep coming back to me. So. Yeah, the process is I don't have a routine yet. I know I work best in the mornings. But I haven't I haven't reestablished that yet. I right now, just stolen moments here. And there. I start looking at the manuscript and making notes and then trying to find a jump point to get it all, you know, outline into completed, but something is missing. And I don't know what that is yet. And it's kind of nagging at me. I'll figure it out.

Michael David Wilson 6:44

Yeah. Yeah, that seems to be the frequent and frustrating problem is so often where it's like, there's an ingredient missing. Now, I've got to find out what it is. And yeah, no clue.

Craig Clevenger 6:59

And of course, a lot of my time was was spent with addicts on Mother how well and that was weird. It's a manuscript I haven't looked at for eight years. Right. So getting notes on that two rounds of notes, you know, one from my French editor, and one from my British editor. We're all really good, but it just makes it's something I was kind of trying to leave behind and move on, because I thought it was never gonna see daylight, and I'm proud of the book. But sorry, we're gonna go into that. Yeah. Where we all wait for you to, like open doors?

Michael David Wilson 7:29

Well, I mean, I mean, let let let's get to that now. And I mean, it's interesting, because the last time we spoke, I deliberately and very consciously didn't mention Mother Howl too much. Because I knew that, you know, it was something that would frequently come up and you had answered the kind of sufficiently it was in a kind of publishing hell or a limbo, but here we are now, two years later, and it is almost upon us. So I'm wondering, When did those conversations? Yeah, yeah. For the video. Yeah,

Craig Clevenger 8:04

it's real. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 8:06

It's physically in Craig's hand. But, you know, how did this come about? When did those conversations start happening again?

Craig Clevenger 8:14

That was so there's a British imprint of a larger, you know, media company, but a small imprint? called Angry robot, you may be familiar with them, they may have Yeah, you know, the anger. Yeah. And so and they're, they're, they're kind of the best of both worlds. They have the mobility and, and the freedom of a small press, but they've got the financial backing of a larger company behind them, but they're kind of left alone. And the result is kind of what you've seen from them in the science fiction front for the past several years. They're aggressive about walking the walk, you know, writers will always hear Bob you probably know this, the editors and agents are always looking for cutting edge, new bleeding, different, original, etc. and anger robot, if you just kind of scan the catalog, they really they really mean that. And they and then they do it. And so they spun off a crime in print called deterra. This is the first season they've published they publish to folks ahead of me and that's really it. The my editor Daniel Culver, was a fan of a handbook. And so he just tracked on my agent and said, you know, what's, what's collecting dust with Clevenger? What's he doing? So I had nothing to do with it. My agent had pretty much scraped his Rolodex as far as American publishers go. So I'm, I'm not as excited right now, as I am relieved. I've said before, I feel like I've been waiting on the side of the road for a tow truck for 20 years and I can finally see it in a distance, you know?

Michael David Wilson 9:55

Yeah. And, I mean, what was it like then going back to it to make those edits. And I wonder, I mean, I wonder to what kind of editorial changes were made. I mean, obviously, you had been working on this novel for a very long time. So, presumably, it was to say it was pretty tight because I know how meticulous you are is an exaggeration. And so I mean, how different is the mother held that we've got now compared to what was submitted to angry robot?

Craig Clevenger 10:36

I would say that if you had read the manuscript two years ago, three years ago, and read it now without any record, you know, with a dim recollection of it, except for the larger load bearing plot points, you probably wouldn't notice any difference. But there was a lot of work on my French editor to Sarah's Iran did a lot with me he was fantastic. Mostly there was there was a lot of of backstory with Lyle, one of the main characters, a lot of his previous relationships kind of showing his record of dumpster fires got him to where he is. And my my French editor's said it really kind of distracted from the relationship the current one and it didn't really add anything substantial enough to justify the space and and I agree with them he was right. I think crumbing that was was very, you know, very helpful. He had a lot of comments I don't recall but I again, I would say that for all the work honestly, you wouldn't notice much of a difference the structure plot everything resolution is all identical. My British enter Daniel was Daniel Kovar was, he was specifically concerned about you know, Icarus as motivation. And that's the one I kind of pushed back a bit accurate to the other character, the other, there's two main plot threads that braid together. And I thought it was pretty straightforward. And I pushed back a bit and we did some back and forth. And I finally had the light bulb click. And that kind of meant for a mad dash to create something that blended in well with the rest of the book, but on very short notice, but I finally saw what he was talking about and made such to me. Does that sort of answer the question or no?

Michael David Wilson 12:33

Yeah. Yeah, I think it does. And I mean, you know, as sometimes with these conversations, to give people a sense of the book, we asked like, Okay, can you give us an elevator pitch? I'm not going to do that. Because, I mean, one is kind of bullshit. And just like that little soundbite that we sometimes like to put out probably if robots and is listening to this is like, the introduction to the best. But what I will say is, you know, who who came first, Lyle or Icarus?

Craig Clevenger 13:13

The story started I have you've read the book, right? I don't call I have I have good I don't want to be talking and you know, like making no sense at all. In between drafts of Derma foria, I blasted out a short story called The fade. It just it just, it's one of those rare moments where something just kind of almost comes into my head fully formed with minor edits and I just knocked that out in the course of a week just as a breather from Derma forea and I posted it on my website and it was a letter that it was took the form of a letter it opened with dear Lyle nothing significant there. I just liked that name. I think it's a nice name for a guy you know, it's a very, very friendly name. So I just dear Lyle, and I put it aside and then when I was done with Dharma 40 I started thinking, you know, who's Lyle? You know, what's what you know, what else is this letter talking about? What's this legacy that's gone into this man that letter appears in the book and a much longer form expanded it. But Lyle came first. Icarus, I can tell you almost everything you need to know about why I did certain things with him or certain plot points. When he came into my brain I that's the one thing I had no recollection of. I honestly couldn't tell you but he did come after a while.

Michael David Wilson 14:41

Yeah, yeah. I mean, what was it like also going and right in this in the third person? Because I mean, a lot of people I guess more familiar with your first person writing. Alright.

Craig Clevenger 14:57

I've always, you know, take can really to heart this notion of hooking the reader out of the gate. And I think there's there's definite merit to that. But I, you know, the more I read, there's plenty of books out there that really trust it put some faith in the reader, they're not boring, they don't take their sweet ass time, but they don't necessarily fire them out of the cannon at the at the opening sentence. And I really wanted to slow down and let this book breathe a little bit. And plus, with I mean, I wrote in the first person most of my life, up until a certain point, or excuse me, third person, I was very comfortable with that first person, I think allows for more intimacy with the narrator. Third person, I kept it limited, but it wasn't that difficult to transition. In fact, it was it was a nice break from my usual routine, especially again, going you know, I'm doing a limited third person. So it's third, but I'm kind of constraining it to the perceptions of the two characters, the two narratives, and they're very different people. So there's a lot of fun going back and forth between those two.

Michael David Wilson 16:08

Yeah. Yeah. And, I mean, I mean, of course, there's so many thematic concerns and areas we could jump into. So of course, one thing that this is concerned with his relationships, and specifically, families. Now, we spoke a little bit about life lessons previously, when we spoke on the podcast, but I guess something we didn't get into too deeply. And maybe there was a reason for that is your your, your own relationship with your parents? So I'm wondering, what was that like?

Craig Clevenger 16:50

Oh, it was it's, I'm hesitant to go there. It was kind of I mean, I was raised strict Roman Catholic. So it's a little rocky. My father died about a year ago, not about exactly a year ago, November November 2. And we were getting closer to each other towards the end of his life, we were not for a long time. But towards the last 10 years or so, before his brain kind of started to give away. We got we got closer. The relationships in in in this book, though, are really more. My first two novels, there's relationships but there's a very adolescent I think sense of of love. John Vincent is just scrambling for acceptance by anyone and has a disproportionate degree of, of heartache for things that are not healthy relationships. So he was very adolescent in that way. Eric Ashworth was a little better, not much. And I just wanted somebody I wanted to Narrator Just fucking grow up is what I wanted. And so this was really, you know, Lyle, Lyle, having all this baggage and all these things that are driving him to do what he does. But at the end of the day, he's got to just pull his head out and understand that he's not the center of the universe anymore. He has a wife and an infant daughter that he needs to think about first. So the relationships here, this was just more about just kind of growing up and, and center taking yourself not centering yourself in the world, you know, kind of looking outward rather than inward, if that makes any sense at all.

Michael David Wilson 18:45

Yeah, yeah. Does.

Bob Pastorella 18:47

It seems like he had to grow up very quickly. But that was basically stunted. His ability to grow as a person. Yeah. So and then he had to grow up again. Because of all the circumstances that happened to him. And it forced him because you'd like you said, it's like, you know, he had to grow up initially, because of what was happening to him in his life. And how others were treated him after, you know, we we find out what what his father has been doing, and how his life was just basically completely rearranged. So he, you know, basically, you know, invents himself. But I felt that he was stunted. And, and you're right, he was centered. Because you have to be you don't have a choice at that point. Yeah, you wouldn't have to be I mean, I could put myself in the same situation and I know what I would have to do. Anytime that I've ever been in any type of trouble, and that's only affecting me. Then obviously, I'm the only one it can fix it. And he felt that This was the only way he could fix his issue. Yeah. But that sintering wouldn't allow him to actually grow up as a human being it took other trauma took other things. It took him almost losing everything he had to really come to grips with with his humanity. So I really like how that played out. Because you can see that, you know, it's like, yeah, he grew up really fast. He wasn't an adolescent, he was an adult. Yeah. But he wasn't like an adult in mind and heart. You know?

Craig Clevenger 20:39

Yeah, he's he's take I mean, you know, you're right, the protective measures, he took the extreme measures he took when he was, when he was a teenager were were the right thing to do. And right. Probably most respects, there's a few things people might take issue with, and maybe I do but, but if he had to survive, he was going to die if he didn't change something. But now as an adult, he's got this name that his wife has taken, and he has not told her the truth about it. You know, she knows he changed it, she assumed that was a legal name change. And now their daughter has it, it's on their birth certificate. And so now this, this lie is getting passed down. And that's when, you know, he figures out and not on his own, you know, his his, you know, his wife says, That's it, you know, I'm not gonna spoil anything. But you know, she says he's not she's throttles him and says, pull your head up, as does his friend from the program. So it's, it's only when he starts, when his mistakes start, that are centered on himself, when the repercussions of those affect more than just him. That's when he's when he realizes he's in he's a neck deep, and he's got to do something.

Bob Pastorella 21:51

And it goes to show that those things parallel, like, like a legacy, almost, because of, you know, the things that his that his father did. Yeah, that were centered around him to how that actually started to affect other people in his life. And you see, you see, you see a parallel up to a point you see when his father's done. Not going to change won't grow. And then you have Lyle, who see he's at almost almost same point, not as severe, but pretty much ik I'm fucked. Yeah. And he has, the only way you can do it is to you know, to listen and going, You know what, I'm not gonna, I'm gonna end this legacy. And it's really

Craig Clevenger 22:40

being cornered. It's, it's, it's, he's not a violent killer. He's a he's a good guy. But right. Everything else he's doing in his mind is barring violence. Everything else he's doing, he goes, this is, you know, he's thinking this is what my father would do. He does not, he does not want to be like his father. Right? He spent his life trying not to be unrealized as he was, you know, that's, he's doing the opposite effect. And so he has to make a big change. So I'm glad you're glad you're you know, that that came across, I honestly wasn't conscious of any of this. At the time I was writing, I was just trying to have like, just grow up my rake of the story in the dark for several years.

Bob Pastorella 23:22

The thing is, is that I don't think we're ever really conscious of these themes. Until we we start to to examine the story. We don't write well, I'm going to write about this. And you know, I'm going to write about a relationship and about somebody who's not going to grow and how this legacy whoever, whoever writes like that, if they can pull it off, and then Damn, you know, shit, let me know who you are. But what matters most is a story. And these themes develop later, they're there, they're inherent, because they're universal. If that makes any kind of sense. It does.

Craig Clevenger 23:58

And I know plenty of writers who actually consider theme very deeply and work and it's part of the Arsenal they go in with, I've always had a very rocky relationship with with theme I My attitude is, you know, I always I always liken adults to you know, airline attendants, like we're all on life's journey, you know. The only difference between us and the passengers is that we do this all the time we've been on the plane more than you have and it's our job to keep the kids with you know, movies and snacks and blankets, you know, metaphors for food and shelter, right? You get that but the honest truth is, you know, none of us really know how to fly the fucking plane. And none of us knew who really is flying the plane that's really I that's what I think adulthood is we're all just making it up as we go to try to do the best we can from the next generation. So I'm I might add it you know, what do I know I'm really reluctant to come in with a message Should on econ, the things that you asked me, Michael, about my relationship with my parents and I think before you're asking you about trauma and stuff, and this is not stuff that I lead with, it's I just figured whatever's back here in the under the cellar door my brain is gonna bleed through if I just focus on the story. So I have a very rocky relationship with theme. I let it speak for itself. I just tried to, you know, bricks the thing together.

Michael David Wilson 25:28

Yeah. And I think I mean, something that is, throughout this is a course you can change your name, but it won't change who you are, it won't change where you came from. I mean, this is pretty much what the cameo from our friend from The Contortionist handbook that makes us aware of and I think, you know, that just bleed. So throughout this story, I mean, that is always at the back. And often at the front of Leo's mind. He's so aware of who he is, even if on paper, there's a different name.

Craig Clevenger 26:06

Yeah, and his his friend from the recovery program says the same thing, you know, in a different way. I mean, he is, he makes it very clear. He just, he's the same person he has. He's just making different choices. And he has to consider those in incremental daily steps. And here's a guy who just has, you know, we don't know any details. We just know, there's some wreckage in his background. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 26:35

Yeah. And what and when you think about family, what what do you think are some misconceptions about family?

Craig Clevenger 26:47

Oh, I don't know, misconceptions about family I think family is I think a family you choose is more important than the family that you're, you know, it's your blood. I think there's a lot of a lot of misplace reverence for this notion of family. When, you know, in fact, and I'm not trying to slam you know, families and good thing, great, you know, I know plenty of people have them, right. It's, it's how we keep going. But you know, the fact is that, you know, Andrew Vax wrote about this a lot and more eloquently than I can say, but he talks about like the circle of trust like the people that more often than not that do the greatest damage are the people inside that circle, they're often family members, extended family members or outside the family but in a larger circle of trust people in trusted authority positions, you know, clergy excuse me, you know, teachers you know, we all know the list right? So this notion of preserving you know, like family above all else, you know, well you know, if a relative you know was molesting you as a kid you're I'm not going to take a bullet for this notion of family unless that person's you know, you know, taken to the mat and called out and people have the back of the victim but and this is a lot of what stories coming up in this in writing this was how often again I grew up Roman Catholic and I've seen over and over how the wagons are circled how people rally to the defense of someone who's accused and and the accuser ends up you know, the one with the scarlet letter and people don't do this for attention or money or fame, you know, doing it even for all the best reasons even if they come out on top legally, it wreaks havoc on their life, you know. So this this reverence for family is, is I just don't have it at least family of blood and granted I have blood family that I love dearly. There's no question now let's be clear, but you know, I don't know if what the equivalent is in the in the UK there, Michael, but I think Bob can back me up. I mean, anyone who's had a large Thanksgiving meal with a bunch of extended relatives and politics come up, things can get pretty bloody ugly, you know, to say nothing if there's an X or you know, you know, you know, step or uncle or somebody who you know, sexually abused someone, you know, years ago, and everyone's acting like it never happened. I mean, yeah, that's my biggest misconception about family is that this blood family is sacrosanct. Above all else, I really just have never bought that. Does that too grim? have an answer for your audience.

Michael David Wilson 29:59

On Now, we frequently go pretty dark and get pretty grim. And I mean, it, it makes me think, you know, can there ever be or should there ever be, you know, such a thing as unconditional love? Because surely, all love has to come with conditions to a certain point. You know?

Craig Clevenger 30:29

I mean, you know, I wrote about it, I did a Facebook post when my father died. And he said, You know, one of the things he said to me, last thing is he goes, I love you, even if you are an Axe Murderer, I still I would still love you. And I believe him. And that was, you know, he said that to me while I'm still working on this book, and I got to thinking and I don't think it's a bad thing to feel that way. Or say that. You're right. But I think there's an I don't want to say, Well, what should those conditions be? It's not I mean, I don't I'm not married. I don't have children. I could do a complete 180 On so many levels, if you know, ever those things ever happened, right? It's yeah, so writing this was the thing that kept drifting through my mind was how many people love their axe murderers. And, and because of betrayal like that, that back to you know, the family at Thanksgiving acting like everything's fine. And like, it's Now's not the time to talk about it. It's a holiday, let's not upset people. We've all heard those sorts of things. I'm sure. You know, this, this idea that nobody wants to believe that someone they have, they profoundly love, not just love but someone they they have it as leaders of their life are intertwined with, right? A husband, a sibling, you know, parent, whatever. No one wants to believe that person is a monster. That's why when when the daughter says her, you know her step, the stepfather is molesting her, you know, 99 times out of 100. It's, you know, you're lying your little bitch. You know, don't don't ever say that, again, she just ended and it goes, the abuse goes on, right? Nobody wants to believe that their loved one is a monster. Because to accept that is to suddenly render void years of your life and you're staring into Nietzsche's abyss right there. Nobody can do that. So the the idea behind Lyle really was what if this happened? And what if he just believed it instead of circling the wagons or denying it? Or what if he just said, Yeah, okay. What if he did a database? What if he just dove straight into it? That's really what the story was about.

Michael David Wilson 32:49

Yeah. And it's interesting, too. And I, I mean, this is it's kind of getting into spoilery territory. So there's a little warning for people, but I mean, of course, he, he accepts it, but I feel he really has to face it and to confront it when he receives the letter is, you know, intended for his father from his grandfather. And then all the things that are set in motion after that, I mean, this story, I mean, it was a Pacey story fraught with tension throughout. But when you get to that point, it's about the 60%. Mark. I know that because I was reading it on Kindle, and so it gives you but when you get to that point, I said to Bob, you don't just turn it up to 11 You turned it up to 12 it really absolutely goes to the next level. And Lyle not only has to confront you know what happened but they're I mean, again, we're we're getting into spoiler territory that there is a physical impasse and confrontation. It, it is not as satisfying as it would be in a movie. It seems. It seems a bit silly to say because it's not a movie this is real life and but that's how I feel when I'm reading it. I mean, this is the mastery of your of your fiction. When you're in that moment. It doesn't feel like you're reading a book it feels like this is what's happening because you know, this is reality. This is yeah,

Craig Clevenger 34:44

what will find me Thank you. It's and that's I know what you mean. And that's that's not I'm taking that exactly the right way. That's that was my intention. First, there's, I hope I don't think spoilery I would think that most people would assume okay at some point He's gonna have to go head to head with this guy, he's going to have to track him down. I mean, that just seems kind of obvious, but maybe not whatever. But it was important to me that Lyle would not leave that meeting that face to face with his father, lie on not leave that prison with any tidy sense of closure. I did not want that I did not want any kind of artificial sense of that was the turning point for a while I did not want that. In fact, you know, part of it is there's a grand tradition and crime fiction have, you know, the killer, you know, the hero and the villain squaring off. You know, Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, the, you know, Michael Bay's, you know, the dinero Pacino scene and heat I mean, there's no way I'm going to throw my hat into that ring I that that ground has been covered by by far greater than I so I'm not going to do that. But what I wanted was to not, not give Lyle even a sense of closure, not give him even the satisfaction of his father denying anything because even the denial, give substance to the accusation, I wanted his father to just kind of dodge deflect, and, and have that malice about him. I wanted that but never give anything that like you could hook into. And at the same time, I wanted it clear that this guy as much of a monster as he may be, genuinely loves his son. And I think that may be part that that's not something I see covered. You hear people about, you know, so and so murdered X amount of people, but by day, he was a loving husband and father. And it's almost like an it's presented as though it's an act. And maybe it was I wanted it clear that this man had genuine affection for his son in and that lived alongside of his other that you increase capacity for everything else you did. And I did not like you said it wasn't satisfying. I did not want that. That tied up meet satisfaction I wanted. I wanted that sensation of I just don't want to be in a room with that guy ever again.

Michael David Wilson 37:24

Yeah, yeah.

Bob Pastorella 37:27

I love how you didn't give him any closure. And I didn't really think about that until you until you said it. But I mean, it's it kind of it kind of speeds the rest of the story along. Because there's that need for closure. He didn't get it there. And then at that point right there, it's like, you know, I feel like, Hey, I'm getting I'm getting closer to this closure than I'm seeking. I really don't know what it is. But man, have I royally fucked up? Because I did something that I shouldn't have done. And there is a record of it. And they're going to get me because my PO is the dick. And, you know, and it's like that scene that you have with that when he gets pulled over. Yeah. And the cop says something about the, the, his his Parole Officer or PIO officer, you know, just cracked up because I said that that's that is the that is the best description of of, of Officer read than I've ever done I could have ever heard. And that was

Craig Clevenger 38:38

which, when he comes to visit him or when he's visiting him at the when he has to do a drug screening or I don't know what

Bob Pastorella 38:44

he does. He's talking about when he gets pulled over by the cops. And the cops letting go. Oh, man is p is POS read. Like, good carry on, son. You gotta know probably

Craig Clevenger 39:01

cops don't like you know.

Bob Pastorella 39:03

Yeah. That's crazy.

Craig Clevenger 39:07

Yeah, and that's I've also done a lot of road tripping. It's, you know, I hate flying. I love I love a good road trip. And I've seen I've seen my share of out of the way gas station bathrooms. So I figured, you know, that was kind of my Ode to all of them. And if you've done enough road tripping they date too many look like that.

Bob Pastorella 39:28

Yeah, that's a I don't know, man. I haven't been pulled over in a long time. But there's this inherent fear. Yeah. No matter what. I and you know, and being it's just and being in Texas, you know, it's, uh, it's, I've always felt that fear because like, shoot, man, I did something wrong, you know? And, and I'm you know, I'm I'm basically I'm on felony probation, I have like, basically 10 and a half months left. Okay, so getting pulled over for me is is, is I, I can basically appreciate what LA was going through, you know? Because, yeah, I mean, it's like, you get scared, like, what happens if I get a ticket? And they're like, Well, you go to court and you pay your ticket, you know? And I'm like, but that's gonna give them right. Well, as long as you're not doing anything else, then you don't have to worry about anything else. But if you're doing something else, they're gonna find out. You know? So I've tried to like avoid being pulled over, you know?

Craig Clevenger 40:45

I mean, I wait in Texas, I'm trying to remember do they have they have those wide Smokey Bear hats? Those things scare the piss out of me. I see those those.

Bob Pastorella 40:53

That's your that's your state troopers.

Craig Clevenger 40:55

Yeah, those those, it's those hats. Just just put the fear more than anything else. The fear of God, I'm Michael, I don't know how it is in the UK or Japan. I remember my French editor. At one point, he made a note like, you know, like, what is this guy's problem with cops? Why is he so afraid of them? And I said, Oh, that's adorable. French cops just must be wonderful people. I had to explain to him, we have a very different situation out here with law enforcement. And I say this, you know, with friends in law enforcement. So but but yeah, generally speaking, I you know, it's only my, you know, adulthood where I don't I'm always nervous when there might in my rearview mirror, cuz I know, like, you follow anybody long enough, you can pull them over, but I don't tremble like I did. When I was younger, even totally sober with nothing, I would just go oh, crap, there's a cop behind me. It's not the case, how it is, again, Michael, what they're like in the UK or Japan. But

Michael David Wilson 41:52

yeah, I think it's difficult, you know, to fully appreciate the situation in America, because I haven't been pulled over by a car. By mean like that, I don't feel that they do it as frequently as at least the media and my friends would suggest it happens in, in America. And, of course, I mean, in any system, anywhere where there is power, there is corruption, there is the ability to take advantage of that, but I don't think it's happening on the level that it's happening in America. I mean, in. In Japan, I think there is like, a fear from some kind of, like foreigners, such as myself living here, like often if there's a situation where the police come along, and as a foreigner and a Japanese person, that typically they will take the side of the Japanese person, but that is not something that I have experienced personally, I mean, something they will do, is not necessarily pulling over, but just in the street, they may approach random foreign visitors to do a kind of ID check and check that papers are in order and that they should be here depends on the person how they react to that, you know, I have a number of friends that they're like, you know, you shouldn't be doing this. So they will be quite resistant to it unless everything they're asking for is completely above board. Whereas, you know, for me, if I just want to see my ID, then I'm gonna share them my ID because I'd rather I just comply with that. And then I get to go on my way. Because if I don't, then it could escalate into a nasty situation. And then they're looking for things to kind of, I guess, like, trip me up over and in Japan, you can be held for it's a long time, I don't have it in front of me. So I don't want to kind of quote the wrong information. But there is a long time like days, weeks, possibly months that you can be held without a lawyer. That's fine. That's just a thing that can be done. And of course, if you don't speak the language, then you know that if you're not even entitled to a lawyer, you'd certainly not given a translator so that there is there is a reason why the conviction rate and the success rate of solving crimes is so high. I'll say that but you know, fortunately, I've not really had any trouble with authority figures. I mean, I I've visited the police station about like a few matters and I'm currently involved in a divorce and a custody battle. So I'm getting far more familiar with the courts and, and the legal system here. But I've had nothing like kind of being pulled over or anything like that. But I'm aware, of course that corruption does exist.

Craig Clevenger 45:23

One of the one of the people I had helping me out on this was a friend of mine. He was a retired deputy sheriff. And I met him when I was on jury duty. And the people doing the courthouse security, the, the deputies there, and a lot of them are cadets, we're just we're just parex. This guy was lovely. He was the bailiff in the courtroom, or the jury was held, and they were screening us and they asked, you know, what came my turn, I didn't think I'd be selected to be on the jury because I said, I'm a crime writer. And, but I ended up on the jury. And first day of the note, the first day was soon after the trial started, I'm sitting in the box, and we're getting ready to go and the bailiff is at his desk, and I see that he's reading the handbook. So we can we got to know each other afterwards. And so I was able to track him down and get some get some help from him about some of the logistics, logistics describing the jail and incarceration and the procedures and all that so so. So that's that was my research for that. Other one, I almost got somebody, a guy pretending to be a cop and I was living in Bolivia, tried to get me to show papers and that and I was middle of the night I was out walking by myself and play in our neighborhood I shouldn't have and I didn't believe he was a cop. And so I just ducked down a one way street. And my roommate down there work for the Miko, Bastiaan. And he said he did. I did the right thing because cops, at least in that city don't have cars. So he had he had sort of vaguely cop looking car and a green new military shirt on. But he goes to port, we don't have cars, they dropped them off. And if they stop you, they get in the car with you to go to the station to write you up. You know, they don't so that guy had bad intentions. That's probably the worst one that I've had. But he was technically not a copy there. So

Michael David Wilson 47:19

yeah, yeah. How long were you in Bolivia for?

Craig Clevenger 47:24

I wish I'd been there longer. for like three months. I didn't travel around. I was just you know, it was during the big fallout with my own publisher. And I was just out of money. And almost on the Skids. And my old friend of mine lived down there. Wendy Dale, she's a writer as well. She, she had a you know, I emailed her about, you know, look, how can I stretch my money in South America? And I just, I can't live in the Bay Area anymore. And she said, I've got a room come on down. And that was that. Yeah. So yeah, I wish I'd been there longer. Anyway, yeah. So that's what I was there for.

Michael David Wilson 48:00

Yeah. Do you have any, I guess, like desire or plans to live in other countries besides America right now? Is that even logistically possible?

Craig Clevenger 48:14

My plan right now is to get my place put together on my on my stretch of nowhere in Mojave Desert. I will probably I'd like to say my traveling days are over. I lived out of a plane for years, you know, people asked, Where are we to say I lived in Heathrow? You know, I've just been really sick and traveling. I burned out a long time ago. So no, I mean, other than, like, the fact that I think, you know, the US is verging on its own internal apocalypse, but I still don't, you know, know where else I would go. So I'm just going to try to get set up in the middle of nowhere and be left alone.

Michael David Wilson 48:59

Yeah. Yeah. It's not a bad plan. And I mean, yeah, if if you're in the middle of the Mojave Desert, doesn't seem like there'll be a lot of people who, who Buffy you. It's quite impressive that you found a roommate really, if you're in such a remote location,

Craig Clevenger 49:19

you know, I'm not there right now. But ya know, but for a while, I stayed at Rob Roberto's cabin out in the middle of nowhere and just loved it. So yeah. That's the long term plan. So I don't know. I mean, I There are days when I think the US is going to implode and other days when I don't I never know.

Michael David Wilson 49:38

Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, talking about the US and systems because a lot of this book too late sheds a real light on mental health and the medical system. And so I mean, of course, it's pretty obvious to know where that's coming from. I don't think we need to ask go why did why did you decide to, to write about that? But I mean, what was it like in terms of exploring that? And what, what did you do in terms of like research and more in terms of just like experience, you know, living in that system?

Craig Clevenger 50:22

A lot of it's experienced, I mean, I haven't had, I haven't had health insurance for the last 20 years, you know, and right now just getting on, you know, the Obamacare, as they call it is just finally got caught up with some taxes and pulled my shit together so I can get that taken care of. But beyond that, it's just like, it's it's really a tangled mess. Even when I had health insurance, I was having, you know, routinely having insurance companies somehow override a doctor's prescription, and they would give me half of what was prescribed for whatever reason, like insurance companies. It's ridiculous. The system here is just ridiculous. I used to be, I used to think I needed to, you know, I used to when I was younger, regretted not having any kind of job that gave me some real street cred. You know, it was very naive of me, I got I hear that word from someone now, and I just tuned tuned them out. I stopped listening, you know, it's just, that's that's a mark of naivete. I always thought I needed to have some bitter down to earth. You know, and I'm not sure what kind of job I would have been talking about, right. But I think years of working under fluorescent lights at soul sucking companies, I've tapped into that more than I ever thought I would just in terms of, like, for this I wasn't interested in, in portraying the system is as evil necessarily simply as, but rather is just overtaxed, understaffed, underfunded, overworked and the people the system is a particular institution is meant to serve or are being underserved. And, you know, you work enough, you know, grim office jobs and get lectures about, you know, cost cutting, and layoffs or memos go around about, you know, please, you know, use less copier, toner and like, you get really savvy to that. And I've tapped into that more than I thought I would have been much more valuable when I want to look at something and just portray the daily grind. And, and the lack of institutional support. That's really where all that came from. With with Dr. Finn, he was not meant to be an adversary, he was just meant to be just over fucking worked. And, and just beleaguered. That's really what I was going after. And there's plenty to say about justice. You know, privatized medicine and all of that, but But I wonder I wanted to focus on least where there's some good to be done, how little attention is going to that particular resource, if that makes any sense.

Michael David Wilson 53:30

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I'm wondering, on a practical level, as someone who has no health insurance, I mean, what, what do you do? Or what, what would you do if you get a medical condition where it's serious, and you need, like, a lot of treatment? I mean, I assume it's something you know, that probably makes up your nightmares. You kind of think about this from time to time, but I mean, does one just, you know, try to, I mean, I know that kind of money. So it almost seems to try and raise that money is almost inconceivable. I mean, we've all seen the lengths that our Walter White went to on Breaking Bad. Yes, a fair bit of cash that is required, but, you know, do you look at getting treatment in other countries? Is that a better plan at that point?

Craig Clevenger 54:31

Most people like in the US a lot of people like when when they had the Vegas shooting a lot of those people ended up doing, you know, GoFundMe, you know, campaigns to raise money, which should tell you everything you want to know about the US right there. A guy who legally acquired a fuck ton of you know, RMS legally shot a bunch of people who, even gainfully employed with health insurance couldn't take care of things. So anyway, enough of that rant. You know, I don't Think about that. I think if anything like terminal came along, I would just, you know, honestly, I don't know, I would probably just say, So what's this heroin stuff all about anyway, and I would just move out to nowhere and just just just live as peaceably as I could as pain free as I could, until, barring that, I don't know, I think right now the best I can probably do is just take what little nest egg I've got, and just hand it all over as a downpayment, and, you know, just be in debt forever. Yeah, I mean, they can't hold you for lack of payment, and they can't turn you away. But they, I mean, I did, I did blow my back at one time, or I literally just could not move. And the bill, I got the guys that gotten into the hospital, I could have hired a limousine and half a dozen strippers to carry me there. You know, it was ridiculous. But I ended up you know, having to, like plunk down a chunk of cash and then just, you know, try to pay it off. That's the best I could do. It's not a good system. Hopefully, I can change that, you know, not personally the system and hopefully, you know, like I said, get my act together and get some insurance here. And for what good it was.

Michael David Wilson 56:14

Yeah, yeah. But for

Craig Clevenger 56:16

the most part, these last, you know, many years have been paying out of pocket when they got to go to a doctor.

Michael David Wilson 56:23

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I feel, again, that although I'm obviously aware of the system in America, that again, being outside of it is gonna be difficult for me to fully appreciate, you know, what you're dealing with. But I certainly understand, you know, that the friends from America in Japan who say, you know that they want to stay here, but because of health insurance, like even if, you know, Japan itself is not quite the right fit for them, or they have issues with the country. It's like, their health insurance. So what's keeping me here?

Craig Clevenger 57:05

Yeah, I had people move to foreign countries for the same similar reasons, among others. Yeah. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 57:13

It's the primary reason I have a job. Yeah, I hate my job.

Craig Clevenger 57:18

I'm sorry, I have to drag

Bob Pastorella 57:20

in. But without it, I have, I would have no insurance. You know, I'm basically I've got good modern diabetes doctors now that are actually working to get me off of insulin. You know, because they're like, Hey, you can't you just really, it's not good to be on the stuff forever, you need to try to change some things in your life. And we're going to impact you know, by chemicals, we're going to do this, and we're going to make you do some lifetime. ozempic Nausea is my middle name. You know, so it's, you know, it's like, hey, yeah, I can eat that. And three bytes later, I'm like, I'm done. I don't want to eat no more. So but without insurance, my insulin would be $3,000 a month. Good God, which is pretty much what I make after taxes. Good guy. Yeah. So you know, I mean, I'm, I'm, I got I got to work. So I just, you know, I go to my job, and I try to have as much fun there as I possibly can. Which is not easy to do. But yeah,

Craig Clevenger 58:38

part of what I want to do is just kind of show two different people's experience with that kind of that kind of Kafka, Labyrinth, you know, while in his own. I mean, while he's kind of stuck in it in a weird way. He's also kind of mastered it. He really knows. It's tedious, but he knows his way around. He knows the rubber stamps and the forms and he can kind of glide through it. Whereas Icarus, the longer he stays, the longer he kind of sheds his memory of what he thinks was his life in the sky in the sky. He keeps butting up against that, you know, one catch 22 after the next. That's the other thing I was trying to kind of maybe shine a light on as well.

Michael David Wilson 59:31

Thank you so much for listening to Cray Clevenger on This Is Horror. Join us next time for the second and final part of the conversation. But if you'd like to get that ahead of the crowd, if you'd like to get every conversation I had at a crowd, you can support us@patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. Not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you can get the full conversation with no advert breaks. Very soon we will be releasing the conversation we had with Aya Jiang, the author of Lyngen and we will imminently be recording with Josh Malerman. So if you've got a question you want to ask him become a patron. We also recently analyzed something in the dirt we have special guests gamma files, so plenty of things to enjoy over at Patreon. So go to patreon.com forward slash, This Is Horror. Have a little look at our offerings and see if it's a good fit for you. Okay, before I wrap up, it's time for an ad fat break.

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As always, I'd like to end with a quote. And this is from Ben Davis. The key to life is accepting challenges. Once someone stops doing this, he's dead. I'll see you in the next episode for the second part with Craig Clevenger. But until then, take care yourselves. Be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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