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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

SPFBO: Interview with C. D. Gallant-King (Interviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)


Official Author Website
Order Hell Comes To Hogtown HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Hell Comes To Hogtown

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. To begin with, can you tell us a little about yourself, your background & your interests?

CD: I’m thirty-odd-something. I’m Canadian, from the island province of Newfoundland, which is kind of like the North in Westeros, except that instead of a solid wall of ice we’re surrounded by a sea full of icebergs. At eighteen I moved to Toronto to study theatre, and I completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts. I haven’t set foot inside a theatre since.

In my life I’ve been a stock boy, an actor, a marketing coordinator, a stage manager, a lighting designer, a print shop manager, a retail supervisor, a trainer, an executive assistant, a bookkeeper, and currently I push papers around for the government. I also once spent an afternoon handing out free hugs and cupcakes on a street corner. Through all of it I’ve written stories, but to be honest the writing doesn’t pay much better than the cupcakes.

In addition to reading books and telling stories I like playing games, especially if they involve funny-shaped dice and talking in silly voices, and I’m also very partial to the noble and ancient art of professional wrestling. I also buy lots of Star Wars toys and pretend they’re for my kids.

Q] What inspired you to be a writer in the first place, what experience you went through in finishing your book, & why you chose to go the self-publishing route?

CD: I’ve always loved telling stories, even before I could write. I think I just like the attention, which is probably why I briefly ended up as an actor. Writing is another medium for story delivery and attention hogging that, in many ways, is superior: you can still make your audience laugh, cry or get angry, and they can’t throw anything at you.

I’ve written I believe ten books, but only two I’ve made widely available for mass consumption. I had collected a bunch of rejection letters in my twenties and ended up putting writing on the back burner, but when I discovered how prevalent self-publishing had become I convinced myself I had to give it a try. I rushed to self-publish my first book by my 35th birthday and it was, to be polite, not ready. The day after I published it and friends and family members had purchased numerous copies, my wife made me take it down and fix it. I have since re-written it extensively, but that original sting still hurt. Especially since none of the people who rushed to buy the first one have read any of my work since.

I self-published Hell Comes To Hogtown sort of as proof to myself that I could do better. I had learned a lot from my first pass and was convinced I would make a better go this time around. Plus, it was a weird blend of styles and genres that I didn’t look forward to trying to shop around. I like the idea of writing whatever the hell I want and not trying to aim toward a particular market.

Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of Hell Comes To Hogtown occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

CD: Hogtown was the first book I set out to write that I knew I would make available for people to read, and that I would be self-publishing it, and after the first one I wanted to do a better job with it the first time around. I wanted to write a supernatural mystery with a gang of weird heroes, sort of like a messed up version of Scooby Doo. The original first draft took about five months to write, and I wrote it all long-hand in a coil notebook. It took another year to edit and revise it to where it needed to be.

Part of the reason it took so long is because my first draft was so free-form and rambling, I had to trim and cut and move things around to make it make any sense. While the general plot and basic characters still exist from the original draft to the final book, it looks very different. Many of the scenes are in a completely different order, characters have been removed and added, and the fates of several key cast members have been significantly changed.

The other reason it took awhile is because I wrote the entire thing – the long-hand first draft, the transcribing to a digital file, and all of the editing – on the bus during my commute to and from work. I think I must be some kind of masochist, but it was the only free time I had (and I had a lot of it), so I made the most of it the best I could.

Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main motivation and source of inspiration?

CD: I don’t have a single muse that inspires me. I get ideas from many different places. Often it’s a book or movie with a plot I would like to re-tell but change. Sometimes it’s an interesting person I meet or observe on the street that is so weird I have to put it in a book because no one will believe they’re real. Sometimes it’s a real conversation I have with my wife, or a funny story one of my kids tell. All of these ideas are floating around in my head so that I have no shortage of inspiration, if anything I have more ideas than I could possible use in one lifetime. As I get older I realize I also have so many I will never remember them all.


Q] Why did you decide to enter SPFBO?

CD: I entered last year because I had just finished revising my original book and I was pretty proud of it. I had no expectations that I would win anything, but I figured I might get a review out of it, and reviews, especially from a respected review blog, was worth something, right? Unfortunately my book was the very first one eliminated from its group because the reviewer was really turned off by my sense of humour. I tried again this year, even though Hell Comes To Hogtown has ten times as much offensive humour, because I figured “What do I have to lose?” I couldn’t possibly do worse this time unless Mark Lawrence personally showed up at my house and punched me in the face (which, to be fair, would be an awesome story). Again, I really didn’t expect anything, but I crossed my fingers that someone would read my stuff and get my humour.

Q] Your book is pretty dark in places, but it’s balanced by elements of grotesque and wicked sense of humour some readers will, undoubtedly, find inappropriate. Was it deliberate?

CD: Absolutely. I had a theatre professor who said the only difference between comedy and tragedy is that comedy has a happy ending and tragedy has a sad ending. You need both to be truly effective. Tragedy, by itself, just becomes numbing and boring after awhile. You need comedy to break it up, to instill little bubbles of hope to make the tragedy hammer land all the harder when it swings back around. And comedy without pathos is just a mindless sitcom. Tragedy never hits more effectively than when it comes out of the blue into an otherwise happy and joyful situation.

So yes, I used both elements very purposefully, and I used them both very purposefully to their extreme. Sure it’s grotesque, and sure it will make people uncomfortable at times, but sometimes you have to laugh at sorrow. There are many people who have come to SPFBO looking for noblebright epic fantasy that will absolutely be turned off by Hell Comes To Hogtown. Hell, there are probably people who like horror and thrillers that would find it too goofy. But somewhere in the Venn diagram of those two audiences lies my sweet spot.

Q] There are two main heroes and a nice final twist - I wonder whether you had the ending nailed when starting to write the book?

CD: Not at all. Without a doubt, the ending was the hardest part of the book. I have many ideas for these characters and I wanted to leave it open for a sequel, but at the same time I wanted some closure and satisfaction in case that sequel didn’t happen. Plus I found just getting something that was narratively satisfying was tough. Part of the problem might have been that I didn’t have a clear ending in mind when I started. I completely re-wrote the last few chapters a half dozen times before finally showing it to my wife (who is much smarter than me) and she immediately said: “You’re being stupid. End it like this.” And she was right.

Q] It’s difficult to classify your book - comic urban horror-fantasy with a noir-tinge sounds like a good place to start. Is there a specific sub-genre you identify with most as a writer?

CD: First and foremost I consider myself a comic writer. I’ve written fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, I even have a western I’m dabbling with, but it’s always funny. I love all of those genres but they’re also all ridiculous and full of tropes, so they’re just begging to have a bit of fun poked in their general direction. If we can’t laugh at ourselves and the things we love then what’s the point?

If you wanted something more specific than that, then I would say I sit somewhere in the middle of “comic fantasy” and veer toward “epic,” “urban,” or “horror” as the situation calls for, liberally sprinkling “thriller/mystery” from time to time.

Q] Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Hell Comes To Hogtown has a “loud” cover. I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as the novel. Can you tell me about the idea behind it?

CD: The rest of the book is offensive, so the cover should be too, right? No, seriously, I did want something bold and funny but also dark, and it’s a very hard line to walk with little talent and even less money.

I love the photograph base by Jason Salvatori – I feel a sexy woman lying on a pile of comic books fits the tone perfectly, and I also really like lettering of the title, which I had done on Fiverr.com. Could I have put the elements together better? Probably, but since I lacked the finesse to make anything subtle and tasteful, I just went completely in the other direction. Like everything I do.

Q] Your book was edited by a professional editor. Can you talk about the experience and the scope of changes?

CD: Amy Allen-MacLeod is fabulous and I can’t recommend working with her enough. She really dug deep into the manuscript to help me make it the best it could be. Not just helping to clean up the grammar and sentence structure and so on, but also picking out plot problems and characterization issues to make sure that everything made sense. We discussed everything and went back and forth on a number of issues; most of her suggestions I agreed with immediately, a few more took some debate as I argued why it was important to keep and she told me I was being an idiot (my words, not hers, but she was still right).

She never made any recommendations of sweeping changes, but explained that if this was the way I wanted the story to go, these are the things I would have to do to get there. Sure that meant adding/removing/changing paragraphs or pages throughout, but the overall flow of the story is much better because of it. Any issues with the final manuscript is on me, not her.

Q] Please tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination and inspired you to become a wordsmith in your own right. Similarly, are there any current authors you would like to give a shout out to?

CD: My list of favourite authors probably won’t surprise you: Terry Pratchett, Kurt Vonnegut, Christopher Moore. I wish I was as prolific and British as Pratchett, as concise and insightful as Vonnegut, and that I had thought of the plot of Lamb before Moore.

Other “less-genre-y” inspirations include Cormac McCarthy, P.G. Wodehouse and Douglas Adams – I don’t consider Adams a genre writer, he’s more of an Evangelist.

As for current authors, I would be remiss not to mention the Grimdark Readers and Writers Group on Facebook, and the Insecure Writers’ Support Group, both of which are great resources. Specific shout-outs to Philip Overby, whose style I generally just copy and then take two steps too far, and Patricia Lynne, who my wife insists writes much better than I do.

Q] I love oddball questions and oddball answers, so allow me to ask you one - What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer?

CD: First I would ask my kids “Where the fuck did you find a penguin and why did you put it in the freezer?” Then we would put a Santa Clause hat on it and pose for our family Holiday pictures, because you have to take an advantage of a free penguin when the opportunity presents itself.

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