How many hours per day do you spend writing? How would you spend your time if storytelling were no longer an option?
CG: Unfortunately, business takes up more and more time. These days, in addition to the usual email and phone calls, there’s social media. Sure, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are entertaining, but there’s also a certain amount of marketing and event promotion and planning that is just a requirement for writers these days, and it’s becoming a larger and larger part of every day. As for how I’d spend my time, that would depend on whether or not I still had to earn a living. I’d teach, or direct kids’ theater (which I’ve done in the past). But as long as I could spend time with my wife and kids, read books, spend time outdoors, and watch old movies, I’d be all right. If I couldn’t write novels, I’d find other ways to tell stories.
What’s the first story you remember telling?
CG: Hmm. I’ve actually never been asked that question. I was always an embellisher, so I have no idea what story I first told anyone. Probably some campfire tale about “the hook” or something that I heard at camp as a kid and then re-told. I loved comedy as a kid, too, and I think it’s for the same reason. Steven Wright, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin…their comedy routines were often stories, and I had a knack for memorizing and being about to rehash those routines. I’d never have done it on stage, but it amused me. The first story I remember writing was something I actually still have (I think). I don’t remember the title at the moment, but I wrote it in high school and it concerned a bunch of kids partying on some railroad tracks, and what happens one of them decides to play chicken with a train.
Would you talk about your upcoming books and their production schedule?
CG: My latest novel, DEAD RINGERS, came out earlier this month. It’s a horror novel about a handful of people in Boston who encounter their doppelgängers, and what happens when they begin to investigate the phenomenon. It’s got ghosts and a demon in a basement, but it’s also very much about our fear of losing control, or losing ourselves, and whether or not we’re living our best lives.
How important are character names and how do you come up with them?
CG: They’re important to me in that they need to feel right, TO ME. I’m sure they’re important to readers as well, but I’ve never had a publisher attempt to change one of my characters’ names, except to say “hey, there are too many characters whose names start with B, and that’s going to confuse people.” As for how I come up with them…I get them everywhere, from people I went to school with, to people who wait on me in stores and restaurants, to the casts of movies. I’ll also often think of what a character’s background ought to be and then research names that match that background. Sometimes I use place names, or choose based on the meaning of a name and what I want that character to accomplish. When you’ve written as many books as I have, you use every trick there is.
Have you ever devised a character and then written a plot around them?
CG: Weirdly, I don’t think so. I always come up with a plot first. Though I guess the Menagerie series, which I wrote with Thomas Sniegoski, might fall into that category. Tom had created a character for comics, and I had done the same, and we decided to merge them into one series with a bunch of other characters, and then instead of comics we did them as novels. They’re absolutely crazy novels. I recommend everyone pick up the first one, THE NIMBLE MAN, though all four are available in a single ebook download for pretty damn cheap.
Being both an editor and a writer, do you find it difficult to switch hats when going from one job to another?
CG: I really don’t. It’s all storytelling to me. Editing, writing novels, writing comics or screenplays. Some are easier on one day and harder on another, but it’s all storytelling.
Who are the authors that have influenced your writing the most?
CG: Hands down Stephen King would be first on the list. But there are so many others, from Jack London to Charles de Lint to, more recently, Michael Koryta. Anything I read that inspires me also influences me. I think it’s sheer arrogance and foolishness for any writer to think they can’t keep learning or keep being inspired.
If you were able to trade bodies with one person for one day who would it be and why?
CG: Myself at age twelve. I’d get that lazy little bastard into shape and create a lifetime habit out of it.
What are the next three books you’re planning to read?
CG: I’m currently reading the WEREWOLF BY NIGHT OMNIBUS from Marvel Comics, revisiting a favorite from my childhood. Then I think it’ll be Austerlitz by WG Sebald. After that, I should be done with my novel in progress, and I’ll reward myself with the new Stephen King, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.
What five people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?
CG: I know you’re looking for something more interesting, and I could come up with that list (it would include Lou Costello and Humphrey Bogart, for starters), but I’d rather tell the truth. Truth is, I’d invite my wife and three kids, and my father, who died when I was nineteen. He had his flaws—some big ones—but what a beautiful thing it would be for him to be able to meet them.
If you could claim one book as your own – think fame not fortune – what would it be?
CG: I’d never want to claim someone else’s work as my own. Ever.
How do you want the world to remember you?
CG: I hope they’ll say I was kind. In the end, that’s all that matters.
Thank you for a wonderful few minutes, Chris. Fans can check out Chris on Twitter, Facebook and the Web. Please scroll down and check out my review of DEAD RINGERS. Click on the link to head over to Amazon to buy it for yourself.