TIH 508: Craig Clevenger on The Aftermath of Violence, Transgressive Fiction, and Post-Pandemic Book Releases

TIH 508 Craig Clevenger on The Aftermath of Violence, Transgressive Fiction, and Post-Pandemic Book Releases

In this podcast, Craig Clevenger talks about writing about the aftermath of violence, transgressive fiction, post-pandemic book releases, 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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Welcome to This Is Horror, a 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 counting with Craig Clevenger. For the second and final part of our conversation, as we celebrate the release of Mother Howl. We talk about so much here including writing about the aftermath of violence. The broad definition of transgressive fiction, what releasing a book in a post pandemic world looks like and much more. But before we get to any of that, it is time for a quick advert break

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Michael David Wilson 2:29

okay without sad here it is. It's part two with Craig Clevenger on dare says horror. And we've Icarus Of course, I mean, there's so much in terms of like mythology and biblical and things coming into it to it. I don't know. It's like, it's a weird thing to say. But I almost Icarus wasn't a character that I expected in that Clevenger story. But then as I read it, he made total sense. And there's not really there's not really a question attached to that, I suppose more of just an observation and I am interested, you know, even more into what it was like getting into that Icarus mindset.

Craig Clevenger 3:23

It was actually quite easy. That was among the easier parts of the book. I mean, the storyline where he goes was, you know, I kind of battled with that for a long time. But Icarus himself was a real break, you know, because I had this idea that excuse me, if he's you know, if he's if he's a celestial entity, suddenly incarnate, and the language has sort of been downloaded into his brain all at once Matrix style, right? Well, then he's going to cherry pick meaning where he finds it. So I let him I just had fun kind of just winging it with his lingo. And it was nice to kind of just like, just set aside the strictures of you know, formal English for a little while and just have some fun with him. That and just not wanting this. Gentle via terrific. I mean, literally angelic figure. He's got a chip on his shoulder. He's, he's, he doesn't know why he is here. He doesn't like being here. Anyone wants to get his get his assignment, do his job and go home. And I wanted to be careful with that because, you know, the last angel that didn't that wasn't satisfied and thought they could do better. You know, that. That was, you know, biblical, or that was Lucifer, you know, and I did not I want that to be the case with Icarus as far as the Greek mythology goes, it's I'm not really savvy with it. I like the name. It's a beautiful name. So I named him Icarus, but it also seemed to fit crashing from the sky. I just I it for me, he was fun. He was a nice breather. And I wanted somebody who could always have a line in the sand with people and always have that line in the sand respected. Just, you know, the world is his China shot, but he's a very gentle bowl, although you wouldn't know it. So yeah, he was he was very easy to write strangely enough. I saw I was working, I was volunteering in the Bay Area at the a needle exchange, the AIDS Foundation, needle exchange. And I just remember one point, there was a guy outside one of the SROs having a smoke big guy wearing a three piece suit theraphy with no shirt, and somehow he pulled it off, he actually looked he rocked it and that's that's visually wear that suit came from that's why I dressed in that way. We used to, we would supply fresh gear to addicts, it sort of kept it kept them from exchanging needles and transmitting, you know, infections as well as reusing gear, which is dangerous, it gets blunt and it can cause abscesses and sores and you know, discarding it on beaches and parks. So the the program was very effective in terms of rounding that stuff up. And we would, we would have sterile water and, you know, little like tea candle foil things almost for boiling everything, as well as needles you had, you know, long shorts and micros, that were combination of needle and barrel size. And if you if you didn't have any needles to exchange at all, you can at least get 20 for the asking. So I would sit there all day and people would come in and ask for 20 alone, I need 20 long can I get 20 along and it took me about a year for that deck to click in my brain. I was trying to think of a name for my street surgeon and finally 20 long, it took a while embarrassingly. So but that's where that name came from. If you remember 20 along and I

Michael David Wilson 7:22

do. I do. I do. Yeah. And so how long were you working there for then?

Craig Clevenger 7:30

I was volunteering there for a couple of years. Just on weekends. Yeah. Yeah, I was. I was close. I worked. I was bartending. And tip would close the night before. So getting there the next morning was really a nightmare. But yeah, I did that for a couple of years.

Michael David Wilson 7:48

Oh, yeah. I imagine. It was little if any sleep those days. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, for a very good cause, at least. Yeah. I mean, and talking about Icarus as well. I mean, I don't think we're going to find in any book dialogue so distinct as it is, we're vigorous.

Craig Clevenger 8:17

I just yeah, like I said, I just I enjoyed throwing the strictures aside, and after a while, it wasn't just gibberish. I mean, obviously, but it was like I almost came up with a it was fairly consistent. It was a lot of just transposing of, excuse me, standard prefixes and suffixes and, you know, juxtaposing I think I've said this elsewhere you know, qualification instead of qualified, you know, Skepta size, I mean, not a whole lot but every now and then a turn a phrase that I threw out you know, I put in his mouth to work. It was just fun. And, and I hope and after a while, that sort of that started to inform like his eyes on the world too. And I was always conscious of writing from the standpoint of someone who is or at least believes that this this this flesh and bone is brand new and how limiting and inadequate it is for him. Wrapped in monkey leather, I think he calls it so yeah, I got that makes me happy. That's good to hear. I had a lot of fun writing him. I don't think we'll ever see him again. I enjoy John Vincent cameos. But you know, Icarus, Icarus is done. He did his job. So

Michael David Wilson 9:42

yeah. Yeah. And I know that you said previously that, you know, when you're writing, you take the dialogue out and you examine that separately, so you're laying it out, like a screenplay. And I mean, I guess because you you told me that before I was then conscious of it, we've Mother Howl and, and to be honest, I mean, it would have worked as a story if it was literally just the dialogue. I mean, I'm glad that we got older narrative as well. But I mean, it's so tight. And you can say so much when you're not saying a lot at all, if that makes sense, I guess in the same way that we see with a number of minimalist writers. I mean, the language and each word is precise. It's obvious that you know, you pour over this meticulously.

Craig Clevenger 10:44

Yeah, I didn't really have to do as much noodling with his dialogue, because with everybody else, I mean, like I said, my intention is to make sure that it's distinct from the narrator's voice and from each other from all the characters. Icarus was fine. I mean, not to say I didn't work it, you know, you know, rework it in the such, but I didn't have to get up my little watchmakers tools and jewelers loop and pick through it like I normally do. It's, it was colorful enough on its on its own. And, yeah, I mean, yeah, the part of the reason for doing that is to make sure that the dialogue can carry a scene, that it's not just the narrator, the author kind of spoon feeding that the characters are doing the heavy lifting. One of the big changes now that you mentioned that you asked earlier, was my friend, Senator, my, my first few drafts of the book I was really working to to portray miles, uncertainty, and tension and insecurity throughout. And he didn't stutter, strictly speaking, but I did have, I worked very hard to make him sound very natural and realistic. That is even like if you listen to what I was talking just now, stopping mid sentence and starting over or pausing when it doesn't necessarily make sense to while, you know, the speaker's brain work something out, and then they start again, or stopping and switching words and then continuing. I have a lot of that with Lyle, and my friend, Senator rightfully so to said, it's, it is realistic, it reads like It's spot on dialogue, but it does weigh it down after a bit. It doesn't serve the story. It's not moving along. We know he says Aye. Aye. Okay, I'm sorry to hear Listen to me, things like that. I had every little eye on pause and comment and some of that still in there. But most of it was stripped out. That was a big change from my first. Oh, that's right. I originally wrote this, I was testing, writing without quotation marks, I really wanted to make the dialogue distinct enough to stand without them, and have the aesthetics of no quotation marks, but still make the dialogue clear. And my editor said just put the quotes in. Right. So that was a huge pain in the ass because there's no shortcut to that. And I just probably have some in there. I think there's one or two that still snuck through. Yeah, but yeah, that's that's a that was a lot of legwork. That one.

Michael David Wilson 13:35

Yeah. Was there much resistance when you'd been asked to do that? I mean, you know, you'd made the stylistic choice. And you got to put them all back in again,

Craig Clevenger 13:47

it was it was a stylistic choice. But but the fact is my editor, deals with more books, and more audit more readers than I do. So there's, you know, I, I trusted him. And I think it was the right move on his part. Definitely.

Michael David Wilson 14:04

Yeah. Does that mean the experiment with no quotation marks is over? Is it something you'd consider doing again?

Craig Clevenger 14:14

I think I might, I think it, it served as purpose for me, because it, you know, I've always been writing dialogue separately, you know, again, to make it distinct. So that for me was an exercise and, you know, how clear can I make the dialogue? How much weight can I put on the dialogue? If it's visually transparent? Can the reader still hook into it? And I think that up to my dialogue game a little better, and it's not necessary to torture readers that way. Some people can pull it off. Well, Christopher bear doesn't quite well. I do not. So I'll leave it to him.

Michael David Wilson 14:54

Okay. And I mean, something that you touched on with from Rob Olson is I mean, your fiction often feels very violent. But there's not ever any violence on the page. It's about the the aftermath of the violence. It's about how people deal with the, the unpleasantness to completely understated within life. And, I mean, when, when I heard that in the interview, it was like a kind of revolutionary moment, kinda like in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where you realize you're not actually seeing these killers, you know, in the original. But, you know, you manage to imbue this, these stories with a sense that that there is graphic violence, there is like graphic abuse, but it doesn't, it doesn't happen. It's about how people deal with it.

Craig Clevenger 16:01

Yeah, there's no there's no violence on the page. There's no set when you know, the sex and all three of my books, probably the fourth one, which would total two and a half pages, maybe. Yeah, so that's why I always kind of push back when someone says My work is dark or transgressive, like it doesn't bother me, you know, as much as it used to, obviously, because I'm in the transgressive anthology. But But yeah, I, I think what I wanted was, again, if the story is about Lyle, centering his family moving the center of his world outside of his own ego looking out, that's when he starts to really think I mean, he knew he knows what his father did. But it's it's, that's when he's, it starts to really creep into his mind exactly what it must have been like for someone else to be, you know, that be the last thing in life they see. And he starts thinking about that. And that's kind of that's where the transition happens. There's also a trend in crime fiction to really fetishize the violence, and I didn't want to be doing that fetishize the female victims of the violence as well, there's, there's a lot of that. And there's a lot of, you know, cultural pushback to that, you know, as well, that, that there, it seems to happen anyway. And so I wanted to make sure that I made the descriptions of these people who were all also nameless. That's part of why they're untuned. You know, they have they've been forgotten. But I wanted, you know, when Icarus sees them, I want them to be distinct. And, and not the standard descriptions, I read of female characters, and I wanted, I just wanted the violence to the Firelands to be in their eyes, not not like shown, you know, in graphic description in detail. And I because I, Lyle and Icarus both feel that

Michael David Wilson 18:19

right. Yeah. I mean, it's kind of like when you meet someone who, you know, has been through a lot of these like, hugely violent things, you don't need to witness that you can see it in in their face and the way they conduct themselves and the way that they speak. And that is something that, you know, is completely captured within your work. Thanks.

Craig Clevenger 18:45

Yeah, a lot of it too, is just, you know, he's had a baby. So suddenly, you know, life is very different. And that's the shift begins there. And so he starts to connect those two things as well.

Michael David Wilson 18:58

Yeah, yeah. I think I mean, it's interesting that you mentioned transgressive fiction as well, because I feel that, you know, particularly in recent years, the definition of transgressive has become so broad, that it's almost become meaningless. Like I'm not entirely sure now what people mean when they say this is a transgressive piece of fiction, I feel it used to have a stricter definition. But now, so many writers just doing something even a little different from the established norms. That's now transgressive. And I'm not sure what does and what doesn't mean something transgressive these days.

Craig Clevenger 19:47

And that's why I don't really attack anybody who does go down that route because it has a lot of meanings and I don't know what their meaning is. All I can say for myself is I'm not I'm not Trying to transgress anything I'm not trying to shock. Or, or, or get under anybody's skin, I'm trying to, I want to, I want to engage my reader and I want to have them forget their reading I would like to have, I would like to move them emotionally in some way. And that's, that involves kind of a mutual exchange between reader and writer, whereas shocking someone, you're doing that kind of from a place of comfort from a place where you're poking someone else, but you can't be hurt. I don't want to be doing that. I'm not interested, not interested in in, in being if that's what transgressive is, if it's if it's attacking social norms or whatever. Not interested, I'm interested in, you know, engaging an individual reader and moving them as profoundly as I can. Yeah. Yeah. Sounds a bit grandiose. Pardon me, but ducks. Yeah, I don't know how else to put it.

Michael David Wilson 21:07

No, I think it makes sense. And, I mean, you said before that when you're working on something, you put everything into it, you write that as if it's your last piece? Because one day, it surely will be. I mean, I wonder, too, I mean, as someone who just works on one piece at a time, is this experience of, you know, you're promoting Marvel, how the release is imminent, but you're also working on the novel? Is there a bit of a disconnect, as it's been difficult to get into this mode, where I suppose you're, you're being forced to work on two stories at once I know that Mother Howl is of course, done, but you've got to be in that mindset for the promotion of the book.

Craig Clevenger 22:03

No, it doesn't, because it's not like I'm writing something else. And And it's funny, because I haven't. I mean, I finished this book a long time ago. And even though I did the edits recently, for both editors, you were talking earlier about theme and ideas and what message a writer may have and and, you know, it's only in this part of the book release that I really start thinking about this stuff that I start getting questions like this and kind of thinking back and slowly after, you know, the questions, there's a lot of overlap with the questions. And eventually, it started to crystallize in my head. Like, that's what my unconscious was doing the whole time. So they're very, they're very, very different tracks. And in terms of what I'm working on, at the time, you know, at any given moment, I don't talk too much about really, I may give someone a kind of overview, if they ask, sometimes rarely, if depending on the timing, I may read an excerpt or they're trying to send an excerpt out for publication, but there is no it doesn't take it doesn't create any kind of dissonance or discord in my head, if that's what you're wondering.

Michael David Wilson 23:16

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, on on specifically, promoting the book, I mean, how have things changed in terms of how you're going about promoting this, and then how you promoted the contortionist handbook and foria. Not not just in terms of the specific books, but in terms of the shift in the industry. I mean, do you feel is there more onus on the writer to promote than there was before perhaps the publisher that you're aware of also plays into it? So what are you doing in terms of that?

Craig Clevenger 24:00

It's really, I mean, God, the industry has changed so much since you know, Derma forea was my last one. I mean, with a few short things here and there, but social media has blossomed to a ridiculous degree. As well as, you know, electronic media with publishers and print on demand and self publishing has almost achieved a level of legitimacy in certain places. Yeah, a lot. A lot has changed. But with me, you know, my first publisher was a small independent house. I didn't have an agent at the time that was my mistake. I had an agent this time who is really good, you know, in terms of like talking me off the ledge if I'm concerned about something. I think now, I don't know if more or less onus is on the writer My publisher isn't very, is also a small press. They're muscular, but they're small. And they're also in the UK. So while I've got American distribution, there's there's little real time interaction between us. There's not a not, you know, we can just jump on the phone of each other. So a lot of it's on me, I think, I mean, they're doing a lot. They're awesome. But I've just kind of got to try to stoke the coals of social media here as much as I can. I'm not super comfortable with it, but I try. I try to get news out there when I can. And I just wondering, you know, what, what's the code? How do I crack this? Which, how does something go viral? How are these people doing it? You know, I don't know what the secret is. So I'm just trying to flog it like an obnoxious midway, carnival barker, as much as I can. It's not natural, like, little bit of distaste in my mouth, you know, at times, but I'm just trying to, you know, stoke the coals and get some interest. I made a I made a, I contacted a local independent bookstore to take pre orders for signed copies. They're small, they didn't know who I was. And I had to let them know they had a big thing on their site about you know, if you want to, if you want us to stock your book, because they get a lot of people with self published stuff coming to them, I'm sure. So I had to, I approached them, I had to give them the link to Random House, let them know it was legit. And when I got physical copies, I went down there introduce myself, and they were lovely people, it was nice to talk to them gave them a copy. And they were they were wanting to make certain that we were communicating that they weren't getting pre orders that they bounced right back out as soon as they came in, that I was going to come there and to face them with my signature. And that was my concern. But but going down, there were lovely people, it was good to talk to him and everything. But I had this weird kind of door to door salesman feeling in my head. When I went there, it felt very unnatural. And I was not very comfortable. Like, hey, nice space you've got here when you move to the new one. It just felt I was sincere, but it didn't feel sincere to me if that makes any sense.

Michael David Wilson 27:14

Yeah. Yeah. And I wonder, too, I mean, how has the pandemic shifted in terms of the dynamic doing these kinds of in person events and these in person meetings in America? Is it getting close to going back to a pre pandemic level of things? Has the pandemic shifted things to a point where it will never return to how it was?

Craig Clevenger 27:45

I first my hat's off to anybody that released a book during the pandemic, I went to a couple of, uh, you know, online, you know, book releases, you know, author events where you can't get a signature, but at least you're they're getting a q&a. God, it's hard to, it's hard to say, because as much as social media has flourished since the last time I was touring for a book, the pandemic boosted up even further, you know, I mean, you guys you know, you went from audio to video, you know, over the course of the pandemic and I can barely keep up with social media as it is. Elon Musk is pretty much set fire to Twitter and that's that's the largest audience I've got. Although I don't know how much I do on there reaches all of those people. That's still the largest audience I was able to cultivate that and now it's gonna go up in flames. I don't know how people can you know, tick tock, boom, people jump on tick tock. For a while I was chasing down every time there was a credit, a new thing, I would grab it. So I would have cried Clevenger on that thing, and I can't do it anymore. I've got a sub stack account that I haven't done anything with, because I just barely had the wherewithal to update my WordPress website. I just don't know how people do it all. It's exhausting. But it's necessary as far as the pandemic, it's, I'm okay doing in person things. I don't mind that. I'm not keen about getting on an airplane full of people right now. I'm just not for a host of reasons. But I'm doing an event this Sunday, a live event of a library. So how it's changed. I don't know. I was pretty much hunkered down. And I went to a few book events, you know, virtual book events during the pandemic. But I think I'll think of all sorts of answers as soon as we're done here, but I think it's largely the fact that social media keeps branching out and a new node comes up that everyone has to jump pong and trying to cultivate an audience is is, is just it's a job in itself.

Michael David Wilson 30:08

Yeah, yeah. And I understand to why you don't have time to keep getting the Craig Clevenger username on all the social media networks. Because I mean, at the moment, a lot of people are anticipating, you know, Twitter will disappear at some point in the perhaps not too distant future. But as a result of that, there are so many platforms that are turning up as a potential alternative, but the reality is whatever platform does kind of replace Twitter as it were, we don't know what that will be. So it's exhausting to get like, you know, Hive, Mastodon blue, blue sky social, which, which is an interesting one, because that's actually Jack Dorsey's who founded Twitter. So I think of those three, that's the one that perhaps has the most legs to stand on. But I've said before, I think whatever so called, replaces Twitter, it won't really be a Twitter clone, it will be something different that we didn't anticipate. And I just feel like, let's, let's just wait until it happens, you know, rather than worrying about an event that has yet to happen, now we can do things like have a mailing list and different ways to reach out to our audience, our readers, but yeah, right now, Twitter does still exist. Yeah, there have been some, not for the better changes. But I mean, only this past week or so they've got a new CEO. So I wonder what changes that will bring? Yeah, yeah, we don't, we don't know until we see how that plays out.

Craig Clevenger 32:03

And I would be perfectly happy just unplugged from all of them, you know, barring thing in touch with a few close friends and family. But like I said, I've been I've been keeping the coals warm all this time. In the end, you know, anticipating a new book, and trying to build an audience. I mean, I've been on Instagram for a few months now. And I'm not even close to where I was on Twitter. Yeah, it takes a long time. So it's just it's maddeningly frustrating. And that's, that's the major reason, you know, and a lot of people approached me about self publishing. I don't have any problem with it. But the thing is, I mean, unless you're able to, unless you've got the wherewithal to not just not just write, but actually design. I mean, doing good design job. This, this, this, you know, you can tell when something was done by a designer versus, you know, someone that just got a bootleg copy of Photoshop, and there's layout typesetting to say nothing of marketing, distribution, even just ebooks, you know, because if you're not doing any of that, you're just a printer, maybe, you know, yeah, it's a full time job. And I don't want to be a publisher I want to write so I have to cultivate, you know, my social media networks for this reason, but it's a drain. It really is sometimes, you know, I mean, it's, it's, a lot of a lot of my messages, direct messages go unread, because I just don't have the just like, we all have 11 different ways to get, you know, get in touch with us now. And that's just that's just 11 Too many as far as I'm concerned. Yeah, no.

Michael David Wilson 33:53


Craig Clevenger 33:54

I mean, Chris Barrett, I've when he when he lived here, he and I would meet once a week. And it was pretty much smoke signals. We pretty much just, we knew we'd meet at the bar, my buddy up in the Bay Area works at city lights. You know, it was up there once once a month, it was a single text message, you know, walk and talk. Same time in place, we had our rendezvous place, and we just mean grab coffee and shoot the shit for a couple hours and walk the city once a month. It was my best therapy.

Michael David Wilson 34:23


Craig Clevenger 34:26

That's how everyone used to do things. And now there's, it's just too much peak pandemic, when I would stand in line at grocery stores. I would I would have a book with me and I lost count of the amount of times people would say you bought something great. That's a great idea. They can No it's not. That's how we used to do things. People used to have books with them. You'd go to the bank. Oh shit, there's a line you'll grab something to read. I don't know how to answer that. It's it's exhausting. I'm hoping I'm Hope mean the book gets enough traction that some of the work will be done for me because right now it's all feels kind of uphill, you know?

Michael David Wilson 35:07

Yeah. Yeah. And I don't think it's fair for us to kind of compare it Instagram or Tik Tok to Twitter, because I mean, they're completely different mediums like, I don't think I'm gonna get the audience on Instagram that I have with Twitter, because this is images rather than tags. Also, it's so much more time consuming to put an image and then we take talk of video together, and then that's particularly with tick tock even before you consider balancing it with authenticity, the people doing tick tock videos and having success and the kind of stuff that I do. There's not much crossover. Like it would be like just creating this wacky personality that would feel so phony and bullshit, and people would laugh at it, because they'd be like, What the fuck are you doing? That's not you. And

Craig Clevenger 36:15

photographed anyway. So yeah, anything that involves pointing your camera at my own face, I'm just not going to do so. Right.

Michael David Wilson 36:21

I mean, this is pretty much the only the only way that like, I can even have something that I can put out, because you know, with me on video, and it feel authentic. Yeah, it's because you're getting it in the context, but I can't create some one minute, kind of flush by what the fuck am I gonna say? On minute anyway, that's of any real value. You know?

Craig Clevenger 36:49

Yeah, I just I try to keep it to, you know, quotes from the book and blurb and the occasional bit of news, you know, and I'm cycling through all the blurbs now as we approach, you know, release day. But yeah, I'm keeping it simple. I don't know what the magic trick is, you know, what, what's the equivalent of like, my old publisher said, you know, Hendrix, lighting the guitar on fire? What's the equivalent of that? I don't know.

Bob Pastorella 37:16

No one knows. That's the thing. You can sit there. And you can, you can run out the most eloquent tweet in the world and get one like, yeah, you can get on there. And you go, man, I clip my toenails too short. And fuck your viral? Yeah, your news? You know? And I was like, Well, yeah, they bled a little bit. But you know, that's

Craig Clevenger 37:43

my publisher, right? But when I first met the PR, the marketing folks from my publisher, they asked me about, I said, I don't like being photographed, but I'll suck it up, if it's gonna help, you know, but as far as an audience speaking in front of people, I'm fine. They seem very relieved by that. Maybe it's not usual, but I'm, I'm quite comfortable in front of in front of an audience. If my if there's a structure to it, you know, a live group I know, you know, public speaking is considered, you know, a lot of people's darkest fear, and I'm good with it. So they were very relieved by that. Again, I don't know if that's going to be anything useful. Post or quasi post pandemic or not, you know, my buddy at city lights already said, you know, you want to do a live event. It'll be in September, but nothing, nothing during the summer. We're still doing virtual. So. I don't know. I don't know. I'm just hoping the book has a life of its own. That's all I can hope for.

Michael David Wilson 38:46

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it is interesting, trying to, you know, look at the value of live events anyway. I mean, I know that Jason Parkin, who wrote John dies at the end, he doesn't do in person events, because he if you're looking at it purely from a marketing standpoint, rather than like a personal connection, dislike, the numbers don't really add up. Whereas if you're doing a virtual event, I mean, even even, like a relatively unsuccessful podcast would probably get more people listening, then then you would like a relatively packed bookstore event. And you know that that's before we've even factored in all the money that it would take you to get to the event, the time the meals, the alcohol, you know, I guess like, you know, the alcohol is a bonus. So we don't maybe need to include that as a detriment, but in terms of like, just looking at it as more an equation in terms of audience. I don't know if the install of went really, really works out. But But I do concede that you know, the personal connection that you're going to get meeting that reader having the conversation that is going to stick with them far more than, you know, they listen to the podcast.

Craig Clevenger 40:18

Yeah. And I think I think you're right. In some respects, I think in terms of like in store appearances, as far as moving books, I think a lot of writers feel it's just, it's just not really the num, it's, the numbers don't really add up. But see, I think there's a lot of value in that personal connection. So I may get 100 people, say, for a virtual event, and 10 for an in person one. But maybe one of those 100 people from a virtual event might send out a tweet or something and said, Hey, had a good time to thing. But, but people at virtual events are going to make more noise, they're going to go out, and they're going to do selfies with the book they got or take pictures with the author. And that's going to circulate more, and it's going to mean more to them to meet the author. And frankly, it's nice meeting readers. I like that, yeah, whenever I signed books, I always have one of mine that I asked people to sign if I'm going to sign yours, you gotta sign mine. And I just I love meeting that. And those people are going to, or they're going to propagate, you know, your work. Because of that, I think to a greater degree, maybe I'm being naive, I don't know. But it's disappointing. You know, if you if you're looking forward to reading and you've got three people there. I've had that happen. We all have. But it's it's just I think it means more to the readers. And those readers propagate. You know, the work more because of that. Yeah. And again, I don't like being photographed. So just zooming with like, like, 100 person tile Brady Bunch screen in front of me just does not sound appealing.

Michael David Wilson 42:15

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, I mean, I think I think you're right to that, you know, that those people going to the in person event, they're far more likely to talk about it. So. So in a sense, you are getting a combination of both there because that they're probably going to have a Twitter. So they're probably now circulating it on that. But yeah, I think there's no, unfortunately, there is no formula there is no exact answer here. And so you know, doing a combination of the two and seeing what ultimately, what ultimately works for you is going to be the best way to go about it and experiment. I mean, yeah, it's a little harder for me here in Japan than it was when I was living in the UK can cost quite a lot of money to get to the main audience. But there's a little scene of writers, you know, writing in the English language here in, in Japan. Like one of the people who lives really near to me is Stephen golds who edited an anthology. I think he I think you had a story in it. I know that you certainly might. He's done stuff with Outcast press. I'm trying to recall if

Craig Clevenger 43:40

it was the one I think I think yeah, yeah, yeah. But yeah, but yeah. Name from outcast. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 43:49

Yeah. Yeah, I feel older. And as with a lot of things, it's like if there isn't quite the community then create it and that's the kind of you know, the, that the thing that I am very conscious of, and I will be talking to different people about it. As I mentioned earlier, though, maybe get this divorce and custody out of the way first before I before I decide to create a write in and reading community in Japan, just let me deal with that. We'll get to the networking.

Craig Clevenger 44:25

Give me no choice this is I mean, I also pull back a lot from from the like, the networking is a word to use as because, again, it's it takes a lot of effort, and I think there's a lot of writers out there that I think would be better off just focusing on their craft more than the networking. Unless you're going to invert it I think if you're using your your stature, and your network to boost other writers that's Gabino Iglesias God bless him Man, he is always he's, he's, he's a life coach as much as he's a writer, you know, in a good way, dude, if you're listening Don't you know, kind of that name, but like, he's always like, doing, you know, follow Friday, you know, Twitter boosts for the readers that, you know, hey, what do you got coming out, putting out little motivational things he has always always like using his level of exposure to not just build his network or, you know, try to find that magic influencer, that's going to spread the word about him, but he's just using it to bring other people up. And I think that's, I think, paradoxically, is going to be it's probably the better way to go, I

Michael David Wilson 45:45

think. Yeah. Yeah, I think so. I mean, it, it can become just a little bit might have somebody only ever seems to be looking out for themselves. So it it again, though, is a difficult one to get the balance, right. Because also, it also becomes obvious if you're only promoting other people, because you really want to serve yourself. So you have to be authentic in the way that you're doing it. And I'm sure that as with anything, you could do whatever with the best of intentions, and there will be somebody criticize it, who will say that's not why you're doing it. So I think, you know, my role generally is to be authentic. If you're being authentic, and you're being sincere. That's a good starting point.

Craig Clevenger 46:39

Yeah, I, I agree. I just like I said, I start with the writing and everything else comes second. Yeah. You know, maybe one day when I've got, you know, give me a notice following I will happily, you know, Signal Boost everybody else?

Michael David Wilson 46:55

Yeah. Yeah. Well, like we said before, I mean, it can become another job. And like, you know, you said that, you, you have no real desire to go into self publishing and independently publishing because then you're having about five or six jobs at once. I mean, there's a very good reason why I shied away from publishing via This Is Horror, because, you know, I, I needed to something had to give out the writing the podcasting, my day job and publishing. And well, you know, whilst there have been times where I haven't had a day job, you know, from a practical point of view that is necessary. So okay, that can't be the one to go. And so the writing and podcasting, I didn't want to go Eva. So it was like, Well, I guess it's the publishing where, not just the publisher, I'm the editor, the marketer, I'm the accountant is ridiculous.

Craig Clevenger 48:01

You know, and I say all this knowing as soon as we're done, I'm going to check my feed. See if there's any, we gotta respond to it. Do I have anything to post? You know, if I heard back from so and so do I have any reviews yet? You know, it's still as much as I you know, bitch about it. I'm gonna go feed the beast, you know?

Michael David Wilson 48:16

Yeah. Yeah, that's it. And, I mean, yeah, we spoke at the start that you're working on the fourth novel with the deal for Mother how law? I mean, have have you been looking kind of way you can sell? The fourth one? Is that a conversation you've had with publishers and agents? Is that something that is coming later? As I'm asking this, is this something that you just can't talk about?

Craig Clevenger 48:51

If there's no need to talk about I will, it's really up to you know, I'll defer to my agent. He's, he's done right by me so far. I think he's just waiting for me to get the fucking manuscript to him, you know, discussion once he's got the manuscript. I'm hoping I mean, if nothing else, I mean, Mother, how makes enough noise that I can get the handbook and Derma foria back into print? That's what I would really like. But, you know, beyond that. I haven't thought that far ahead. Right. Yeah. As far as writing another book, that's all I'm thinking about in terms of writing. In terms of a publishing deal all I'm thinking about now is Mother how it's the release date is still not here yet. It's a few weeks out. And there's work to be done. So I'll think about you know, the next book flogging the next book when I when I type the end and send it off to my agent.

Michael David Wilson 49:56

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. In the release of Mother Howl is that one of the factors that kind of rekindled your enthusiasm for writing after, you know, you said that it did there.

Craig Clevenger 50:13

It was, you know, what did it well, I spent, I spent the pandemic I started, you know, when I was working at the library community program, I started, you know, because it's kind of we all have to do that as part of the job. I started the writers workshop, but then we met for a few months before the pandemic hits. So I went virtual. And I figured I'd take the opportunity to, to, to start bringing in other writers that I that I knew and I could interview and, and, you know, bring some, you know, heavyweight people in to, you know, help out the library, Steven Jones, Brian Evanson, Lydia Djokovic, some good names, and it was it was a lot of fun. It was the interview I had with Rob Hart, who I've known for a very long time. But that's really what did it. I think I emailed him this, and I think it was a bit taken aback, you know, but yeah, I just, I just wasn't enjoying the process anymore. And Rob, I have known for a very long time, we're not super tired. He lives on the east coast. But he was somebody who wrote me a letter after the handbook came out. And I wrote him back. And, and now here he is, you know, pretty much writing. I mean, his deed is shot right into the stratosphere. Yeah. And I remember telling him, you know, we were talking about, you know, the whole the whole conversation is around big ideas and big themes and concepts and how he wrestles with them. And I, I told him, I thought this was strange, because I remember a short story he wrote, that had a very big concept in it that just that I didn't think was possible, I thought he would torpedo his career before it started. And I was wrong. He pulled it off. It was a powerful, nuanced, beautiful piece. And I told him this, and he says, he forgot to mention, I wrote that for a class of yours. And I said, Well, we're not talking about me, this is you did, you know, I didn't want to, I wanted to keep the focus on him. But it was it was talking to him and his process. And from that first time, he, you know, emailed me, you know, decades ago to where he is now. And then me kind of seeing that starting point and him saying, Well, that was you. I mean, it was, I think it was just seeing that kind of direct instance of not not, you know, being published and getting paid and recognized. But having someone say no, this, this influenced me, this was helpful. This, this helped me along the way. And not just made me feel like, okay, maybe I should pull my ad out. It's not about you know, reviews and this and that, but it kind of is, but still, I'm not sure if I'm making any sense. But it was that conversation with Rob Hart that really just kind of lit the fire back, I think, and in a lot of ways, and that's not to disregard. I mean, I've known Rob or bearish for years, good God, that guy has saved my life in more ways than will invoice and I can count. It was that conversation in particular that had me kind of like, pull my head out a little bit more all the way, I guess.

Michael David Wilson 53:25

Yeah. Yeah. And in terms of the virtual events and the interview series that you had, is that something that you're looking to continue now that we're, well, now that we're kind of out of the pandemic, I'm reluctant to, you know what I mean, though, now that things have changed, somewhat,

Craig Clevenger 53:48

I'd like to because it's an easy way now that video this kind of thing has become more than norm. It's a great way to get people who otherwise wouldn't be coming through this part of town on their on their book tour. It's when I started this I was up in like, way north of here and like the beginning of the Central Coast farm belt, I mean, it was a it was a rural library. We were we were like down the road from it was it was in a double wide glitch, not a double wide it was actually a decommissioned military barrack. That was the library. And that's where I ran the workshop and it was like pretty much farmland all around us, you know. So, the pandemic, you know, doing it virtually, you know, nobody's coming they're on their book tour, you know. So, I would like to do more in the future. Absolutely. I think at this point I have I have done most every with a few notable exceptions. I've done pretty much everybody I can reach out to that I have some prior connection with all you know, Steven Jones. You know, the whole lot more people that I some issues with the accent Helen Phillips, God bless her. These are all people I knew. And so, you know, and less and less, you know, Mother How will does something where, you know, people are turned my calls at this point? If that happens, and I would absolutely like to start it back up again, but in the meantime, I am doing it monthly in person there. So, yeah. Does interviews are available on the Galena Valley library's YouTube channel, though? So yeah, not all of them. There's only a handful of them. I was able to record but that is a cluster of good interviews on there.

Michael David Wilson 55:36

Yeah, yeah, we link to them the previous time. But as I don't expect our listeners to have to go back 100 or so episodes, I will link to them a second time. But you know, people listening, if you've enjoyed this, then do listen to the other two episodes, episodes, 401 and 402. So, yeah, pretty much 100 episodes ago, from the time of recording, I guess this will probably be about 507 or something. But this is more information. If people are listening, you can see the number is the fucking number when you look down at your phone or listening device.

Craig Clevenger 56:20

And I'm hoping you're getting your recordings working, because I'm not seeing any little like, sine wave coming through my name here. Your you guys. So I hope you're getting excited. It doesn't seem to be coming online. You can hear I am

Michael David Wilson 56:34

and I'm getting the sound wave on you're ready to confirm. Glad that you pointed that technical issue out. It's definitely the time to do it.

Craig Clevenger 56:50

Yeah, I should have mentioned that earlier.

Michael David Wilson 56:52

Yeah. And now Now it all looks good. Well, we are, you know, come into the end of the time that we have together for this conversation. Bob, was there anything Mother Hal related that we haven't covered that you're dying to jump into?

Bob Pastorella 57:13

I mean, we covered it pretty well. The the one thing that that I will say is that, you know, we we've heard people have the velvet. We've heard about this novel for a long time. And to actually I got you know, I got the Kindle copy to read. I got I've received my paperback copy in the mail today.

Craig Clevenger 57:37

Yeah, that's been happening. They're coming out a little early. That's fallen.

Bob Pastorella 57:41

And, and it was just like, I'm sure the feeling for you was probably 100 billion times more intense than this, but just to hold this damn thing. It's like, Damn, we did it. He did it. We got it. And, man, it was outstanding.

Craig Clevenger 58:04

Well, thanks. Thanks. It was Yeah. It's been a long time coming. And it's it's like I said, for me, it's more of a feeling of relief as far as my agent and my publisher editor go major fist bumps to them. Um, you know, big time, but for me, personally, I just kind of went, Okay, wow. Yeah. All right, cool. Next, you know, kind of essence it's just, it's just a weight off my shoulders. You know, I'll feel a lot better when I start. You know, when the trades weigh in, you know, review wise and such. I've had a couple of, you know, UK book bloggers say some kind things but you know, I'm just waiting on, on on like, the rest to come, but I shouldn't stress over that too much. You know, but it is nice to like I said it just I feel like I've been in like, like a Russian cosmonaut that I've been lost in orbit for years now I'm back so yeah. And I'm just a way to describe it. And honestly, I'm I'm I'm what I'm most moved by the fact that I have any traction at all that there are still people out there that have been waiting for this book that still know who I am. They still give a shit. You know that? That that that really touched me. I'm happy to hear that. So yeah.

Michael David Wilson 59:29

Yeah, I do feel you know, for three years that you know, when we're talking about like, favorite writers, it's so often that your name and Stephen Graham Jones will come up again and again. So like, like, like, I guess Yeah, I mean, from a technical standpoint, you're you're right there hasn't been a release for for quite some time, but I feel that like you know, you you never disappeared from the conversation and like I mean, to me the handbook, in particular, I mean, it is a classic. It is one that will be mentioned again and again. And I hope. Yeah. I hope for years beyond any of us existing.

Craig Clevenger 1:00:16

Yeah, I think you know, it's impossible not to think in terms of just raw financial gain you no matter how realistic you are humble, your, I think every writer, the back of your mind, there's this tiny kernel of hope that you got to, it'll be a best seller, you know, 99.9% of the time, it's not going to happen, but But you rarely think about, I didn't think about all the other all the other markers for success, in spite of how I would do so much different with that book. Now. The fact is, like, it still has legs, I still get notes about it. Now. 20 years later. I have seen tattoos, you know, with Derma, foria tattoos I've seen. You don't think about people like having that kind of an attachment for a book that generations. I mean, there's a literal generation. Now that is reading it in as much as they can get their hands on it. You know, that wasn't reading when it came out. Yeah. So yeah, it never topped the charts. But it it just refuses to die. And I had no idea how I did that. That's fucking accident. But I'm, I'm happy and untouched. So yeah, me pixels here to join the conversation. That's the cat. I'm sorry. That's my cat's name. So

Michael David Wilson 1:01:48

yeah. I assumed probably was the cat. Yeah. But I mean, like, like you said before, as well, let's really hope that, you know, both our handbook and a four year at the very least, a back in print as a result of you know, what's going on now. I mean, in terms of the riots, are they easily available? Is that a complex situation?

Craig Clevenger 1:02:17

Well, they're still in print in in a whole bunch of places overseas. I like upwards of I think great close to 30 languages at this point. DERMA foria gets on all the really rogue places like I just got the Arabic version of Durva forea And, you know, hard copies of that recently. And I think the last write sale was from Macedonia. No matter how many times I say that, no matter how many times I look on the map I still don't know where the fuck Macedonia is, you know. But yeah, so there's still out there the the bit the print ebook, I mean, it's still in print in the UK. I still get you know, small royalty checks from from HarperCollins hopefully, it'll get a boost soon. D the ebook rights are unfortunately I don't know if I'll be able to get those I hope so. That's that's a long story having to do with my, you know, inept former publisher. But as far as the the North American print rights from both of them, they're mine. And, you know, any, you know, anybody out there call my agent if you're interested in putting him back in bread, you know, so hopefully, that'll happen with Mother Howl launching here. And maybe it should not take too goddamn long to get this fourth window. And yeah,

Michael David Wilson 1:03:42

yeah, I, I hope so. But I do recall last time, and you might not appreciate me reminding you it is but you did say at that point that for the last year and a half it have been about three months away from completion. Yeah.

Craig Clevenger 1:03:59

Or in my life, right. Yeah. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:03

Well, where can our listeners connect with you? I mean, it sounds like there's a lot of places where you've got the Craig Clevenger user name, but whatever you're actually

Craig Clevenger 1:04:13

Yeah, I'm pretty easy to find. I mean, my websites credit clevenger.com I've tried to keep that up to date. But again, sitting down and doing that is a whole other headache, but it's there. Craig Clemenger on Twitter and Facebook Instagram is Craig Clevenger 621 actually had cracked Clevenger but I lost the login God knows how I can get so I just had to create a new account and 621 is you know a number that turns up and stuff a lot with me and said Barton thanks hotel, remember? So yeah, those those three places are the main places. You can find me I'm easy to track down.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:53

All right. Do you have any final thoughts to leave our listeners with?

Craig Clevenger 1:04:58

I am sure I will say Have something, you know, really witty and memorable. As soon as we hang up, all I can say is that, you know, mother house was out on June 13, if you've pre ordered it. Thank you. Thanks. I mean, I'm just grateful that like I said, there's traction out there and then people like it and if you know more than more than you know royalties word of mouth is valuable. So like to support the you know, Amazon Good Reads just telling people about it is support that I appreciate. And, you know, contact, you know, my publisher or editor or agent, whatever, if you want me in your town to do a bookstore thing or something, you know, I'd be happy to be there.

Michael David Wilson 1:05:48

Thank you so much for listening to Craig Clevenger on This Is Horror. Join us again next time when we will be getting wave eyed young. But if you want that ahead of the crowd, if you want every episode ahead of the crowd, can become our Patreon, a patreon.com. Forward slash, This Is Horror. You can also submit questions for our interviewees. Soon we will be chatting to Nick Carter and Andrew Sullivan, about their forthcoming book, the handyman method, and we'll also be chatting soon to Stephanie parent who recently released the Breyers In addition, we have a special story on Bob's episode in which we will be talking about Takashi Miike. A is dead or alive and first love with Dion crinan. So if that sounds good, head over to patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror and see if it's a good fit for you. Okay, before I wrap up, a quick advert break.

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Michael David Wilson 1:08:00

As always, I would like to end with a quote. And this is something from Eleanor Roosevelt that I often think about. Today is the oldest you've ever been, and the youngest you'll ever be. Again. I'll see you in the next episode with eyed young. 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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1 comment

  1. Bought my kindle copy of Mother Howl after listening to this interview – thank you:-) I can also confirm that The Contortionist’s Handbook and Dermaphobia are both available now for kindle.

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