I’m really excited about this month’s interview with proud Canadian and horror and comic fantasy author, C.D. Gallant-King.
C.D. wrote his first story when he was five years old. He had to make his baby-sitter look up how to spell “extra-terrestrial” in the dictionary. He now writes stories about un-heroic people doing generally hilarious things in horrifying worlds.
He’s a loving husband and proud father of two wonderful little kids. He was born and raised in Newfoundland and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario. There was also a ten-year period in between where he tried to make a go of a career in Theatre in Toronto, but that didn’t work out so well.
C.D. has written eight novels you haven’t read, because they’re still locked in The Closet. The Closet is both a figurative and literal location – it is the space in his head where the stories are kept, but it’s also an actual closet under the stairs in his basement where the stories are also kept. It’s very meta.
He has published two novels you can read, Ten Thousand Days in 2015 and Hell Comes to Hogtown in 2016. He has an ongoing series of dark comic fantasy stories called Werebear vs. Landopus, which is available on Kindle Unlimited. His work will also appear in Mystery and Horror’s upcoming humour/speculative fiction anthology, Strangely Funny IV.
Welcome, C.D. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me and my readers this month.
Let’s leap right in, then. I read Hell Comes to Hogtown earlier this year, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to write a proper review for it and post it to my blog, but haven’t got there yet. It’s a strange, genre-bending mixture of action and horror and fantasy and comedy, but it works, and it’s a lot of fun. What are you currently working on? Is it in a similar vein?
I just released a new (rather long) short story on Amazon called Revenge of the Lycanterrancephalopod, which is the next part in my “Werebear Landopus” series. While it shares a similar dark, crude humour to Hogtown, this one is set firmly in a medieval fantasy setting.
My current work in progress is another comic fantasy, but this one is pretty firmly “PG-rated.” It uses a lot of the tropes of the genre but it also touches on some modern contemporary issues. It’s sort of like His Dark Materials meets Discworld, with a touch of Garfield or Get Fuzzy (the comic strips) thrown in. Yes, there are talking pets in it. It’s very different to find comedy and jokes without resorting to profanity, bodily functions and other obscenities. Not impossible, just different. It’s as if you’re painting with a new palette of colours.
That sounds really interesting. I love the name for your short story.
You’ve chosen to self-publish the works you’ve written so far. What motivated you to become an indie author?
Impatience and self-respect. I don’t want to spend a year querying authors and agents for what will probably amount to nothing. I tried it in my youth when I had time to mess around with it and it’s frustrating and demoralizing. Now, with a full-time job and a wife and kids and a million other responsibilities, I don’t have time to grovel and beg trying to get someone’s approval as a writer. I’m not looking for their validation. If I feel that I’m improving at writing, and people enjoy my book, that’s all I’m looking for right now. Getting an agent or a publishing contract is no guarantee of fame or money anyway (today more than ever). I can publish a book myself and get the same non-guarantee.
Yeah, I totally agree, and I really enjoy the freedom and control that comes with indie-publishing. But it’s certainly not all milk and honey. What was the hardest thing about writing Hell Comes to Hogtown?
I just couldn’t get the ending right. I knew the main characters had to confront the bad guy and I knew roughly what position they were in when it was over, but that was it. I didn’t know who lived or died, what the ending beat should be and how it actually tied together. I wrote it several times and it just didn’t feel right.
Finally, my Alpha Reader (my wife) read it and said “You’re being stupid. X should happen.” Suddenly, bam! Everything fell into place. It wasn’t what I expected, but I had accidentally planted the seeds through the whole book. The hook was already there, the final beat finally made sense, and everything came together almost as if I had planned it.
Did I mention my wife is a lot smarter than me?
For such a genre-bending novel, coming up with a cover must have been hard. I like the cover you’ve got for Hogtown—I think it works well. Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Personally, I don’t particularly care what a cover looks like. I’ve spent more time studying copyright pages than I have studying covers. It’s not to be dismissive – I recognize that there is great art out there and that some people really do enjoy them, but I really am of the opinion that you can’t (and shouldn’t) judge a book by its cover.
When I look for a book it’s always because I’m looking for something specific—I’ve heard about it or I like the author or I’m looking for a particular topic. I have never, ever scanned a bookshelf (digital or real-world) just hoping something pops out at me. It’s just not the way my brain works. This creates some dissonance with me though, because apparently, some people do shop like this, so you have to be aware that your cover is aesthetically pleasing (or at least not downright ugly). This is especially difficult because, like any art, there are a wide variety of opinions on what makes a good cover. Sure, certain things like having clear, readable fonts and scalability to thumbnail-size are fairly universal, but beyond that, you will get lots of different opinions on what makes a good cover. The trick is just finding something that’s right for you and your book.
To make sure I had an original, eye-popping cover for Hell Comes to Hogtown, I got an original image from Jason Salvatori Photography. He does some great work you can check out at facebook.com/SalvatoriPhotography
That’s interesting. I don’t shop by covers either, although I may have borrowed the odd book from the library based on an eye-catching cover. Having said that, I’ve seen a few books on Amazon that I WOULDN’T buy purely because of how UGLY the covers are. It’s important to have a good one.
Next question—do you read much and if so, who are your favourite authors?
I don’t read as much as I would like simply because my free time has to be split between reading and writing, but I do as much as I can. I recognize that a writer needs to be as well versed in as many styles as possible to help develop their craft.
Kurt Vonnegut is probably overall my favourite writer. Mother Night is my favourite book: it was a perfect blend of comedy and blackness, hitting all the right notes for me at the age I read it. The lost love, the denouncement of war, the questions of morality, all undercut by Vonnegut’s infamous dark sense of humour. I read it again recently and it still blows me away with how effortlessly Vonnegut stirs up so much emotion. Not to mention how terrifying it is in light of what’s going on in the world today. It’s not hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s got a certain satirical levity that is totally incongruous with the dark and painful subject matter, and it works perfectly. I wish I could write a book like this.
Terry Pratchett is a close second. I wish I could turn a phrase like he could. In some ways he’s a lot like Vonnegut, tackling important topics with humour, though his stories lean so hard on the fantastic and silly that sometimes it’s easy to miss the lesson. That doesn’t make it any less important, though. Plus, with his perfect British sense of humour, his books are always guaranteed to bring a smile and a chuckle.
Some other favourites include Cormac McCarthy—no one does dark and bleak better than McCarthy; Douglas Adams—if you don’t like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy we can’t be friends; Christopher Moore—Lamb is one of the single greatest books ever written. If I could go back in time and write one book, it would be this one. I hate Moore for getting to it first. How can you not love a book where Jesus Christ travels to China, invents martial arts and calls it “Ju-do: The Way of the Jew?”
That’s really interesting—we both have similar tastes as far as our reading preferences go. I love both Vonnegut and Pratchett. Vonnegut is the short story master, and I always try to follow his advice when writing short stories. Pratchett is the king of comic fantasy. I’ve read a number of the City Watch series this year and they’re brilliant. Fiercely intelligent but so funny that you almost don’t realise you’re getting such a sharp insight into the world and how it works. I’ve got an idea for a fantasy crime novel that I want to write in the next year or two, and it owes a debt to Terry Pratchett.
Now, back to the questions, and sticking to favourites—what’s your favourite movie and why?
Depends on the day of the week you ask, but I’ll take the safe route and say Star Wars. The original one, aka A New Hope. The Empire Strikes Back is probably a better movie overall, but nothing can match the sincere earnestness, joy and fun of the original. It’s a wonderful mix of fantasy and sci-fi, a classic hero’s journey that completely revolutionized filmmaking. Even if you take away all the sequels and world-building and games and toys (which are also all great), the movie itself is still such an entertaining journey that I can watch again and again. And now that I’m discovering it again with my kids, it makes it all the more special to see it again for the first time through their eyes.
A second, more intellectual choice would be Seven Samurai, but it’s for many of the same reasons as I love Star Wars (not to mention that George Lucas borrowed a lot of his themes and ideas from Kurosawa’s movies).
Ha! I love both those films too! Well, thanks again for your time, C.D. It’s been great to chat with you. All the best with your future writing.