Today, we are welcoming Christopher Buehlman, one of my favorite, must read authors. His latest books, The Suicide Motor Club, recently and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you really should (along with the rest of Buehlman’s books). If you need more convincing, see our review of The Suicide Motor Club.
Thanks so much for joining us today!!
So, I’m going to start off asking about ants. Yep. Ants. Readers are probably scratching their heads, but we’ll clue them in. I hate to admit it, but when I read your book, I had no idea there were ants that smelled, much less what they smelled like. I know. I had complete and utter olfactory ignorance when it came to ants but my good friend Google helped me out a bit. So, to help clear this up for any other potential readers that share my olfactory ignorance, What DO ants smell like?
As any boy (or tomboy) in North America will tell you, common black ants have a pungent, acrid scent when fucked with. This has to do with the chemicals they produce to warn others they’re under attack, and to kill microbes. That smell is strong, memorable and a little creepy. Vampires in my world don’t smell exactly like that, but it’s the closest analog. It’s the kind of thing you’ll remember.
One thing I have noticed about your work is how different the settings can be and I am so impressed with how well each is done. Did you find research for any book and setting in particular more interesting or fun? What are some of the most interesting tidbits you picked up while researching for your books?
I laid out all the books I used for reference while writing medieval horror novel Between Two Fires, and they covered my large dining room table and one bench. I challenged myself to take readers to 14th century France in a believable way and to show them not just physical details, like rusty chain mail, livestock sleeping in people’s homes, and the stink of muddy streets, but to make them feel things, too. I wanted them to feel the abject terror of negotiating the narrow alleys of Paris in the late summer of 1348, when the plague was killing 500 people a day. I wanted them to get that sin was dangerous to people because hell was real to them, that the sacraments of the church seemed as seemed as necessary as food. It was an immersive process. I actually had to stop work for several weeks in late 2011 because my characters had arrived in Paris and I realized I simply didn’t understand the layout of the city at that time well enough to continue. I speak and read French decently, which was lucky, because the only book that really helped was a thick, beautifully illustrated French-language Atlas of Medieval Paris. Perfect! One of the hardest things, curiously enough, was working out what bridges were up at the time because they fell and got replaced so often. I’d say the most surprising thing I learned was that medieval folk didn’t use bottles as much as we do today. The romans made loads of them, but, in most places, the art of making glass in 1348 wasn’t what it was since before the dark ages. This was a factor in the narrative of Père Matthieu, a dear but flawed priest who enjoyed wine a bit much. No bottles of wine back then–that didn’t come into vogue for three more centuries–just barrels and flagons and goblets. Cool, huh?
All of your books have been stand alone novels, but I was curious with The Lesser Dead set in 1970s and The Suicide Motor Club set in the 1960s and both featuring vampires, are there any connections between the two books that you could share with our readers? If they are not immediately connected, is there a chance they will be?
You called it, I’m not much on sequels. I’m not saying I’ll never do a series, but I haven’t so far because one of the great joys of writing a new book is in finding a new voice and developing new characters. One reviewer called me ‘protean.’ I had to look that up. That said, the connection between The Lesser Dead and The Suicide Motor Club is the strongest yet. There is a crossover character we meet posthumously in The Lesser Dead (set in 1978). It was a treat for me to jump in a time machine and bring him to, well, something like life in 1969 for The Suicide Motor Club.
If you were trapped in a building with zombies, what are the three things you would most want with you? And who are three characters from books you would most want at your side?
Items: Body armor. Lightsaber. Crucifix. About the crucifix–I know these are zombies, but it would be just like a goddamn vampire to show up at a time like this.
Companions: Beowulf for brawling skills, The Judge from Blood Meridian because he’s scarier than zombies, and Tyrion Lannister because he’d make wry comments and he’d have wine and prostitutes waiting for us outside.
In addition to writing novels, I noticed you are also a poet. What do you like about writing poems versus writing novels?
I have to know, do you have any new books or ideas in the pipeline you are able to tell us a bit about?
I am contemplating taking a break from horror. To quote my friend Forrest, that’s all I have to say about that.
I saw you not only write, but also perform as Christophe the Insultor, Verbal Mercenary. This actually sounds like a lot of fun. Can you tell us a bit about your performance?
It’s like Doug Stanhope meets Oscar Wilde with a dash of Dennis Miller. I gather a crowd, people pay me to insult their friends, I insult their friends. The more money I get, the longer and worse the roast. It’s not something I can easily describe, but, if you find yourself at a renaissance festival where I’m performing, bring a buddy and twenty bucks.
Do you have any favorite lines you could dish out for us or stories you could share? Are you still performing (and if so, where can people see your act?)
Ha! The insults are for the paying customers-I did mention I’m a mercenary, right? This year I’ll be at the Michigan renaissance festival, The Texas renaissance festival and doing a guest appearance at the Louisiana show. Next year, probably Tampa, Scarborough (near Dallas) and the above. This summer I’ll be doing a show called Filthy Irish Stories at the Sterling Renaissance Festival near Lake Ontario in West Central New York. You can read all about that beautiful slice of the world in The Necromancer’s House.
I am always curious about what authors enjoy reading. Can you tell us a bit about what you enjoyed to read growing up? Who do you feel inspires or influences you in your own writing?
Predictably, given the fact that I grew up in the late seventies and early eighties, I was enthralled first by the Lord of the Rings and then delivered over to the tender mercies of Stephen King. I read him much too young, but I’m sure I turned out fine. Later I discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, who remain favorites. The best book I read last year was either Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless or David Benioff’s City of Thieves, both, curiously enough, about wartime St. Petersburg, Russia (or Leningrad, USSR if you insist).
And lastly, because we all love talking books, I’d like to ask a question I ask of pretty much anyone, author or not: What are you currently reading?
Joe Abercombrie’s First Law Series. Two books down, one to go, and I’m loving how earthy it is. I think his style in fantasy is analogous to mine in horror–naturalism, sensory details, the fights are so brutal there’s nothing remotely glorious about them. I’m fast becoming a fan.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions today!
It’s been a great pleasure. Thank you!
Published by Berkley on June 7th 2016
Our reviews of this author: The Suicide Motor Club
“Rising horror star”* Christopher Buehlman, author of The Lesser Dead, returns with a chilling and thrilling tale of dark evil lurking on the lonely, open road...
Bram Stoker, quoting the ballad “Lenore,” said, “The dead travel fast.”
Those words have never rung more true...
Remember that car that passed you near midnight on Route 66, doing 105 with its lights off? You wondered where it was going so quickly on that dark, dusty stretch of road, motor roaring, the driver glancing out the window as he blew by. Did his greedy eyes shine silver like a coyote’s? Did he make you feel like prey? You can’t remember now. You just saw the founder of the Suicide Motor Club. Be grateful his brake lights never flashed. Be grateful his car was already full. They roam America, littering the highways with smashed cars and bled-out bodies, a gruesome reflection of the unsettled sixties. But to anyone unlucky enough to meet them in the lonely hours of the night, they’re just a blurry memory. That is—to all but one... Two years ago, they left a witness in the mangled wreck of her family car, her husband dead, her son taken. She remembers their awful faces, despite their tricks and glamours. And she’s coming for them—her thirst for vengeance even more powerful than their hunger for blood. On the deserted highways of America, the hunters are about to become the hunted...
Christopher Buehlman is the winner of the 2007 Bridport Prize for Poetry and the author of several plays and five novels: The Suicide Motor Club, The Lesser Dead (named the American Library Association’s Best Horror Novel of the Year), The Necromancer’s House, Between Two Fires, and Those Across the River (a World Fantasy Award nominee for best novel). He spends half the year in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the rest on the road.