Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Gal's 2017 Halloween Frivolities Day 33: Among the Stacks with Craig Saunders


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Craig.  I'm so excited to have you here today.  It's been awhile since we sat down together.  What's been going on since we last spoke?

Craig Saunders:
I have the memory of a peanut. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner last night, let alone the last time I was on The Gal in the Blue Mask. It’s very nice of you to have me back again. We spoke in the meantime, but I assume you mean the last time I was on the blog, rather than the last time we spoke on FB, because, dude, that was like yesterday. Since yesterday I wrote a bit on a novel called ‘Hush’. It’s about a space ship. Ooh, and I had… nope, still can’t remember dinner.
            I wrote a novel for Severed Press, who kindly offered me a contract to write it. It’s called ‘ALT-Reich’, and it’s a Nazi-stomping alternate virtual reality action romp mash-up. There are jokes in it. Not, you know, actual jokes. Just bits that made me laugh. Can’t guarantee they’ll make anyone else laugh. 
            Ryan Thomas and I finished a Viking and Gangsters novel called ‘Red Ice Run’. Edward Lorn and I published a small town survival horror novel akin to Koontz’s ‘Phantoms’, which we both love. Good vibe with those survival horror stories, and I enjoyed that one. That’s called ‘PIG’.
            My old publisher, DarkFuse, died, so I’ve been reissuing all my old work independently. I’m nearly there. That’s been a two-year project – not just those reissues, but getting all old work I had with publishers out for kindle, and in paperback and audio. It’s really dull (formatting - the stories are good, honest!). 90% done on that. I finished another novel, ‘Ghost Voices’, which I’m sitting on because I can’t think of anywhere I want to send it. Erm, I’ve done more, but I haven’t read the rest of these questions yet, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself. 
            Also, I had nothing for dinner. STAY HUNGRY! Grrr.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Who are you outside of writing?

Craig Saunders:
I have no identity outside of writing, but sheez, thanks for making me realize my life is empty and bereft of hope.
            Not really. That’s nearly true. I do spend most of my waking hours working. When I’m not, though, I go indoors (I work in a shed) and see the family. There are some family. I forget how many. I think I’m married and have three children and a dog, but that changes, and sometimes there are more or less dogs and one of the children is older, so he goes out and takes drugs in Ibiza or something. I don’t know what kids do. They’re like spies. They might, actually, be spies.
            No idea.
            Me? I like films and music and books. I like games, but I don’t play when I’m working. I tend to work flat out for a while (usually about a year) then take a month or two off to play and rest my brain. I do some exercise, but less now because I’ve got arthritis and I can’t lift cars anymore. I’m basically Mr. Incredible. Not really. I’m more just some middle-aged guy who takes the dog for a walk and still thinks he’s twenty.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Craig Saunders:
All of my friends are writers. I never really keep in touch with anyone, and I don’t leave the house. Works better for me that way. I’m bi-polar, which means sometimes I’m perfectly sane and sometimes I’m not even remotely sane, so I keep life simple and quiet. I like writers, though. They tend to be nice, and I like nice people. Close relatives? I haven’t got that many. Immediate family and a mother who’s mostly made of sticks. I keep her in the attic and I talk to her, but she doesn’t say much. It’s weird.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Craig Saunders:
A gift. Best thing that ever happened to me. Way better than kids and marriage (don’t worry, none of them can read). It’s what I get joy from, what I can do. I’ve had all sorts of jobs over the years, and hated them all. Being a writer’s like watching a movie but you make it up so it’s what you want, and you can be right there inside it. It’s a pretty cool job.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Craig Saunders:
Environment now? Probably not so much. Some of everyday life and parts of me and current experiences, worries, thoughts – all end up in stories, but mostly it’s just making stuff up. I’ve never actually been a spaceship, or met an eldritch monster from the void. I think. I’m not 100% sure. 
            Upbringing? Sure. Some of it. Mostly, though, I think it’s just how my mind works. I was always more drawn to stories, to the fantastic and the fantasy and the speculative side of life, rather than hanging out, or talking about what the neighbours are up to. I don’t actually know what real people do. That’s probably sad, but this is just the way life works best for me. Also, my parents were of a different age and basically I read and watched whatever I wanted to. I think that’s cool. I think children and adults should read and watch whatever they want. Curiosity’s a wonderful thing, and there is literally no universe in which three-year olds can’t benefit from Hellraiser.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Craig Saunders:
Oh, I don’t know. Bombs, lifts, planes, people’s inside bits, body modifications, the structure of the human brain, Newton’s Laws, Asimov’s Three Laws, Shirley Jackson, Nazi lapel emblems, foreign languages (well, foreign to me, not the people who speak them), mental health laws, the Bratva, GTA vehicles, the interior of the Ulan IFV tank, the history of the Ottoman wars, the Large Hadron Collider, nuclear explosions, Parisian Arondisments, Macao, Heironymus Bosch, the writings of Karl Marx, the Green Man and the White Hart, and how to smoke and care for a pipe. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Craig Saunders:
Probably the beginning. I think there’s a kind of golden time in a novel when I know it’s a novel. That tends to be around 20000 words, for me. Whether it’s a short novel, or a longer work, that’s roughly the place I start to understand where I’m going. Some novels are easy, some are hard, but from there on it’s something which feels achievable, although, to be honest, every time I set out to write something I never know whether or not I can do it. I don’t think I’ve ever sat before a blank page without doubt.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you outline?  Do you start with characters or plot?  Do you just sit down and start writing?  What works best for you?

Craig Saunders:
I tend to sit down and just start writing. That works best for me, and it’s more fun when I’m finding out what happens for the first time. If you’ve a plot, you already know, so I find it kind of boring, just going through and filling in the blanks. I have plotted before, with really long projects (like trilogies, or the fantasy novels) just because it’s too complicated to remember. But yes, I prefer to just get on with it. Plus, it’s quicker if you only have to do it once.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you do when characters don't follow the outline/plan?

Craig Saunders:
I see people say their characters don’t do what they want. I never really got that. I’m more of a despot, perhaps, or perhaps I just don’t imbue my characters with that kind of freedom. It’s not characters for me, or the story, that don’t do what I want. What I want is to put a story down, and I don’t want it to be anything but a story, so as long as that happens they’re never going to be a disappointment. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Craig Saunders:
I don’t, not really. Sometimes I don’t want to write. I decided if I’m being honest with myself, and if I really have nothing in me. I don’t beat myself up about it, but go and do something else. Fortunately, most of the time, there’s nothing else I want to do rather than write. I’m happiest when I’m making up stories, so it works out just fine.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you an avid reader?

Craig Saunders:
No, not anymore. I used to read four or five books a week when I was younger. Now, maybe twenty or thirty a year. I don’t feel bad about it, reading lots or reading a little. I read all day long either way – researching, or reading over what I wrote. I don’t subscribe to the whole ‘read as much as you write’ ethos. Maybe it works for others. It doesn’t suit me so I don’t do it. Doesn’t matter, does it? People are different. The world’d be pretty dull if everyone did exactly the same thing in exactly the same way. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Craig Saunders:
I don’t read one genre, but I do love a certain style. I like snappy, noir-ish style. Raymond Chandler’s a favourite of mine. That said, I love windy authors, too – Alastair Reynold’s books are heavy enough to kill hornets, but they’re wonderful. I like China Mieville, Iain M. Banks, and lots of other writers I know, too (Keith Deininger’s sense of wonder, Ian Woodhead’s honesty, Stephen A. North’s bombast…) all sounds a bit daft, but anything with passion, whether studied or not. A book with heart will beat most other things for me, and that isn’t about perfection.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How do you feel about movies based on books?

Craig Saunders:
Same as books or films unrelated – doesn’t matter to me, but I like something which works well, and is well done, and there’s no reason a movie based on a book can’t work, or, for that matter, a novelization of a movie – Alan Dean Foster’s movie novelizations are terrific.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Have you ever killed a main character?

Craig Saunders:
Yes, often and quite happily. If that’s where the story goes, or feels like it should go? Sure. Why not? Real life doesn’t work out like we want, why should fiction? I don’t think stories have to give people what they want, but in general, that said, I try to steer away from unrelenting misery, because I write stories I would like to read, and I don’t like being made miserable. Even when I write horror, I still think I prefer an element of hope, of lightness. I like a balance. If it’s all darkness and depressing and disturbing, I can just watch politics on the television. It’s fiction, and I think a bit of fun and enjoyment suits me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Craig Saunders:
Again, not really. I’m not a sadist. I don’t enjoy constant peril and misery. People laugh, make jokes, sometimes things go right for no reason at all, sometimes things go wrong no matter how cool a person, or made-up character, is. Case in point, two massive television shows (on story, this point, rather than just books) in The Walking Dead, when a group meets horrible fate after horrible fate, it’s just watching sadness and it’s not fun anymore, but like sitting in the middle of a famine and watching people die all around. In Game of Thrones, people meet horrible fates, but then there’s a triumph somewhere around the corner. The balance is better, I think. I don’t want to watch other people’s characters or my own suffer without respite. A bit, sure, otherwise it’s a rom-com.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the weirdest character concept that you've ever come up with?

Craig Saunders:
Hmm…a giant robot with a soul captured inside called ‘Jin’. He’s in HUSH, which I’m writing at the moment. There’s one in the fantasy (Rythe) world who doesn’t have a face so collects other people’s. One, in a book called THE DEAD BOY, gets messages from his future self. One, in THE LIES OF ANGELS is actual Jesus. And there’s another in a few stories by the name of Ma Mulrone. If she were a D&D character, she’d be true neutral, which is a difficult line to walk.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the best piece of feedback you've ever received?  What's the worst?

Craig Saunders:
Cor, I don’t know. Faint praise is bad – the equivalent of a review which reads ‘meh’. Indifference is rubbish. Best reviews are the nice ones, obviously. Best ‘feedback’ as in a suggestion was from my wife, a long time ago, when she told me not to assume a reader knows what I know. Clarity, I think, is important.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do your fans mean to you?

Craig Saunders:
I’m not sure I have any actually ‘fans’. Some people have read more than one of my books, but I’m not a fancy big city author. I don’t know anyone who sends me pants in the post (I don’t know what fans actually do). I’m endless grateful to anyone who reads the stories I write. I write them for people to read, of course. The idea that someone might enjoy something I enjoyed creating is great, isn’t it?
            If fans are like you see on the television, where they chase you around asking for an autograph or something? That’s never happened. Good enough just to have someone read a story of mine, and that’s about as much kindness as I need.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
If you could steal one character from anther author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Craig Saunders:
Probably Joe Abercrombie’s FIRST LAW series. I loved Ninefingers. He’s a great character.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Craig Saunders:
Someone else’s work? Hmm… I kind of fancy writing in one of the ‘shared worlds,’ mostly because it’d be nice to sell a few stories! Like ‘Aliens’, or ‘Star Wars’ – one of those worlds. Dan Abnett’s work for the Black Library is great, and I’m reading Tim Lebbon’s Rage War books at the moment. One of those, yes. Probably ‘Aliens’ for preference, because that sci-fi horror vibe works for me. I’d write about Predators, though, because I’m more geared toward monsters with human characteristics… I’ve never leaned toward the aliens.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Craig Saunders:
I’ve written a couple of collaborative novels. Honestly, I prefer working alone, but I enjoyed Edward and Ryan as partners. Honestly, I have no idea. I like a lot of authors, but one I could work with, personality and styles meshing well? What the hell. Robert McCammon, just because I like him. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Craig Saunders:
Next release should be ‘ALT-Reich’ from Severed Press. After that? I have two finished novels I’ve done nothing with, and probably should. I’m aiming to release one of those, the conclusion to the Rythe books, early in the new year. After that? I intend to write ‘Coachman’ but things come up, don’t they?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (STaLKeR links.)

Craig Saunders:
I’m on Pinterest, I think, but I don’t know what to do with it. Google+, too. I am on Goodreads but I never go there, because whenever I do I break it. Best places are the following:


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview or the last?

Craig Saunders:
Nope. Thanks for reading, and love you. And Meghan, thanks for asking me over, and love you too. x


About the author:
Craig Saunders is the author of more than forty novels and novellas, including MASTERS OF BLOOD & BONE, RAIN, and DEADLIFT.  He writes across many genres.
            Craig lives in Norfolk, England, with his wife and children.  He likes nice people and good coffee.  Find out more on Amazon, or visit his blog, Facebook, and/or Twitter.

About the books:
A meteor strikes the Earth.  Dirt and dust fill the air.  Only a few people remain under the setting skies, and those who still live find it's not God's England anymore.
            It's the Devil's turn.
            Lines are drawn between the dark and light.  For the darkness, James Finley and his cult for the end of days.  On the side of light, Paul Deacon, the lost policeman, and Dawn Graves, the last mother.
            To survive, they must put their lives in one man's hands: Frank Liebowicz, a killer with a soft spot for lost causes.  Because, come Amargeddon, God won't change his champions.
            They'll choose themselves.

For some, dying is easy.  For others, dying is their only hope.
            Charlie Dawes lies in the Old Oak Hospice haunted by the looming specter of death, plagued by dark memories, stalked by a mysterious, faceless creature he knows only as the Shadowman, who won't let him die... yet.
            Cathy Redman, his only friend and a caretaker in the ward, spends her time reading to Charlie and comforting his pain.  She thinks she knows him.
            But when an inquisitive detective, a spiteful nurse, and a dangerous old Gypsy's lives intertwine, Charlie's true fate is revealed, and it has been sealed by... flesh and coin.

Holland's a man who's good with death.  Good at death.
            When his daughter goes missing, he finds himself pitted in a deadly game against the Gods themselves.  Powerful enemies surround him - a changeling, a mage, and a god who wants to destroy the world.
            With silver bullets in his gun and death on his mind, Holland aims to set things right... or die trying.
            For the captors of Holland's daughter, death is not only on it's way, it's in their very possession as Holland's daughter isn't just a girl... in fact, she's barely mortal at all...
            She's Ankou, Death's daughter, and she's not an easy mark.
            The battleground has been set, the world's at stake, and all Hell is about to break loose.
            Masters of Blood & Bone is an epic clash between good and evil, life versus death, Gods against mortals, a timeless story of power and corruption and one man's pursuit to protect what he loves at any cost.

John March is having a good day.  He doesn't have many.  Then it starts to rain.
            John March runs a struggling bookshop with just one regular customer - Mr. Hill.  His life is defined by routine until the day he discovers that he is sole beneficiary of a will worth £5 million thanks to the eccentric Mr. Hill's untimely death.
            But Mr. Hill also leaves behind something else - a lock of hair, a finger bone, and a tooth in a jar of water.
            It's certainly not the worst day of John's life.  Not until the rain comes and the dying starts.
            There is something in the rain.  Only John can give it what it wants.  And yet, even when people are dying, even in the midst of terror, it's not the hardest thing John's ever faced.
            He faces horror every day.  When he locks his shop, drives to August House, and opens the door to the room where his wife clings to life.
            But what he doesn't know could kill her, because if the rain doesn't get what it wants, John's wife will serve just as well.

Deadlift is a weightlifting term that refers to the action of lifting a weight from the floor to a standing position, gripping a bar.
            David Lowe is currently performing the heaviest unrecorded deadlift, performed outside competitors rules, or any rules, by holding the severed cable of a thousand-pound hotel elevator containing his wife and an undetonated bomb, while a killer in a sackcloth mask looks on, and a hit man holds a loaded gun to his head.
            David is no superhero, he has no special abilities other than mere human strength and the will to save his wife.  He's been holding the elevator for one minute and thirty-six seconds, bloodying his hands, tearing muscle fibers and cracking bones.
            But push him to his limit and he'll dig deep, find more.  Because when everything is on the line, it's not about muscle anymore - it's about heart... and never, ever, giving up on what you love.

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