Interview with Christopher Moore

Posted by Goodreads on February 9, 2009
The comic novel gets lots of laughs, but not lots of love in literary circles. It's quite a coup then that Christopher Moore pleases comedy lovers and critics alike, and commands a sizable cult following. Moore's novels have introduced characters like Roberto, the talking fruit bat in Island of the Sequined Love Nun, Jody, a vampire in love with a Safeway clerk in Bloodsucking Fiends, (who also reappears in the sequel, You Suck: A Love Story), and Biff, his best-known character in the aptly titled Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. His new book, Fool, borrows the court jester character from Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear. Moore shares what he's writing next and explains why readers will never get tired of vampires.

Goodreads: The fool held a bizarre and fascinating position in the royal courts of the Middle Ages. Why were you interested in writing about such a character? And what led you to King Lear?

Christopher Moore: I've always written about rascals and tricksters. Avatars of irony, if you will. And I wanted to write about a character whose whole identity was delivering mirth. The Fool was the least powerful person at court, yet he was the only one who could speak truth to power. I guess part of it came from the fact that our country seemed it was being run by a bunch of liars, criminals, and nitwits, and the only ones who seemed to be pointing it out were the comedians. When I posed the idea to my editor, and said I didn't know whether to make it just any fool or Lear's fool, she jumped on Lear's fool, so that's the direction I went.

GR: William Shakespeare excelled at adapting existing material and making it his own. What do you think Shakespeare himself would say upon reading your adaptation of King Lear?

CM: OMGWTF? Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war! Maybe not. I think Will might be thrown by the bizarre pantheon of Gods that are invoked during the book, but I think he'd be fine with the story.

GR: What are some of your favorite literary love stories?

CM: I love, love, love The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers. My favorite is Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck. And I have to include my own The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, which answers the question, "Can a whole village of crazy people, off their meds, find love despite the fact that a sea monster disguised as a double-wide trailer is eating them?"

GR: Fool includes a fun mix of Elizabethan English and modern slang. How did you develop the book's unique style?

CM: I really had to make it sound Elizabethan, but make it easy for Americans to understand, and, of course, it had to be funny. To be honest, I watched a ton of British sitcoms and dramas on DVD, as well as listened to a lot of audio performances of Shakespeare. I didn't think it would work unless I could write it by ear, so I had to develop an ear for a language that didn't exist. I think it actually works. A lot of it was not so much using a different vocabulary as it was changing the word order. For example, Pocket, our fool, usually attributes his own dialogue as, "said I," rather than "I said." For instance, "'But you are a tosser,'" said I." See, sounds way more Shakespearean.

GR: How extensive was your research on both Shakespeare's play and the time period?

CM: Well, as I say in the afterword, the time frame became a complete jumble, because the real King Lear (spelled Leir), lived around 400 BC, and would probably have been Druid, or worshiped Greek Gods, while the political system in which Shakespeare sets the play is clearly post-Norman invasion, so call it 1200 AD, and the language he tells it in is Elizabethan, roughly 1600 AD. So, my research was wandering around England and France looking at stuff from the 13th century, learning enough British history to know I was going to have to ignore most of it to make the story work, and the linguistic part was studying the plays. Reading them, listening to them on audio, watching them on DVD, and attending as many live performances as I could. I quote or paraphrase at least 12 of the plays, but the good thing is, if you don't know that, it shouldn't make any difference to your enjoyment of the book, which was important to me.

GR: King Lear is one of Shakespeare's bleakest tragedies. Was it challenging to adapt such heavy material into comedy? Or does the heaviest tragedy twist easily into the best comedy?

CM: Well, making it into a comedy allowed me to bring something new to the table. I mean, if I had chosen one of the comedies, I think both As You Like It and Love's Labor Lost have fools in them. But taking a dire tragedy really gave me more meat to work with, and Lear is probably one of the top five best-known plays, so I had that going for me. My favorite play is probably A Midsummer Night's Dream, but I think that playing with that is the work for directors and actors. Turning Lear into a comedy about the fool makes it less of an interpretation and more of a new story.

GR: Comedy is a huge industry. However, it is most often packaged in films, sitcoms, and stand-up. Is written comedy more difficult than performance-based comedy? Why is there not more comedic fiction? (And thanks for your contribution to the genre!)

CM: There's no real answer I can give except that it must be hard. I don't find it that hard, but then, I'm not sure I could write fiction that's not comedy. Also, I think that the demand for funny material is so great in movies and TV that people who can write funny stuff end up going in those fields rather than working in book form.

GR: What are you working on next?

CM: I'm currently working on my third vampire comedy, Bite Me, but I'll be doing a book about painters in the 19th century after that. I've already started the research.

GR: Vampire fiction is experiencing another revival, so I have to ask, has the author of Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck: A Love Story read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight? If so, what do you think? Why are we so crazy about vampires?

CM: I picked up the first Twilight book about three weeks ago, actually. I think she's a fine writer. I don't think I'm the target audience, but if I were a 13-year old girl, I suspect I'd be completely berserk over the Twilight series. As I said, I'm working on my own vampire book, and you can't ignore something that has phenomenal success in your field, if only so you don't end up covering material that another writer just covered. That said, the field of vampire fiction, particularly female protagonist vampire fiction, including supernatural romance, is so huge now that I couldn't keep up with it if I wanted to.

Why are we fascinated with vampires? Because they're scary, sexy, cool. All at once. That's a lot of emotion wrapped around one monster. I mean, zombies are scary, but no one wants to shag them. The Frankenstein monster is scary (and smart, in the book), but no one wants to be him. Werewolves are powerful, but no one at the party says, "Hey, who's that mysterious guy in the tux over there, with the tail, eating the crunchies out of the cat box?" See what I mean? Scary, sexy, cool.

GR: Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?

CM: I typically get up, have coffee with my girlfriend while we watch the news or read the news on our laptops. Then I go to work. I tend to work for three, maybe four hours. Then take a break, work out, do business stuff, go to the store, then in the evening I'll plan what I'm going to write the next day. If I'm behind on a deadline, my typical day consists of getting up, writing, or worrying about not writing, until bedtime.

GR: What authors, books, or ideas have influenced your writing style?

CM: Certainly and most prominently, John Steinbeck; his comic novels, like Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. He has a wonderfully forgiving voice toward his characters and the flaws we all share as human beings, and I've always admired and aspired to that. Certainly Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, Richard Brautigan, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen were all inspirational in different ways, but alike in that they were writing funny books and getting away with it. They were proving it could be done.

GR: What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?

CM: Right now I'm reading a book called The Flaneur by Edmund White, which is basically about the art of walking around Paris looking at stuff. (Evidently I have been doing it all wrong.) I'm reading a lot of research books right now, too, which isn't so interesting, so I won't share. My faves: Steinbeck; John Hersey's A Bell For Adano; The Chronicles of Clovis by Saki; Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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message 1: by Ashley (new)

Ashley I love this guy! Christopher Moore is definitely one of my favorite authors. I highly suggest reading ALL of his books. He's doing a book tour now, which is coming to Austin for the first time since I've known about him and I'm so excited!!! Thanks for the interview! I'm glad he's getting more well known, he deserves it!

message 2: by heather dawn (last edited Feb 10, 2009 09:45PM) (new)

heather dawn It is IMPOSSIBLE to read a Christopher Moore novel and not laugh out loud. I have ready everything of his with "A Dirty Job" and "Island of the Sequined Love Nun" being my faves. Working in a book store, I recommend Moore to anyone who enjoys a down and dirty, funny, and well-written comedy.
I was able to get my hands on an advanced copy of "Fool" a couple months ago, and I was not disappointed. It's a total bastardized version of "Lear" but in the best way possible. I cannot think of another writer who could attempt anything similar with half as much success. The footnotes he includes were the best part!
Get his latest or get his older books and get ready to laugh. And if you can...go see him in person at a book signing. He's hilarious in person too!!!

message 3: by Brandon (new)

Brandon Christopher Moore is one of my favs, for sure...and A Dirty Job is definitely top ten all time favorite books.

message 4: by Jason (last edited Feb 12, 2009 06:21AM) (new)

Jason I agree. Christopher Moore has to be one of my favorite authors. I love the lighthearted darkness that seems to be a typical theme in a lot of his books. My favorites have to be Lamb, A Dirty Job, and Bloodsucking Fiends. I started reading my first Moore book just a few months ago, and ended up just going through the entire set since then, some of them twice!

message 5: by Nadine (new)

Nadine My son gave me Lamb for Christmas. It's a great book and it could have been such total junk in the hands of a lesser writer. It's funny, poignant, and intelligent, and I recommend it for every agnostic who had to put up with too many years of Catholic school.

message 6: by Tonya (new)

Tonya At the suggestion of a friend, (who said I needed to read something with a little levity) I picked up Island of the Sequined Love Nun. That was years ago and I still pick it up every once in a while to reread. It is both smart and funny like all of his books.

message 7: by Carole (new)

Carole I was dragged kicking and screaming. An educated professional woman like me doesn't read authors who write things like "You Suck"! At the urging of a fellow book-worm I agreed to read Lamb. Since the day I attended a book signing by Christopher Moore a year ago, I have read every book he has written including the new one Fool (could hardly wait for it to come out). His extensive research in Fluke, Lamb, and Fool not only foster credibility, but give him license to twist the truth into side-splitting hilarity. The man is brilliant, understated and a must-read for anybody with the intelligence to appreciate him.

message 8: by Anne (new)

Anne I just finished "Fool" and enjoyed. But I am wondering why Moore doesn't credit Terry Pratchett in his afterword or in this interview. The first book of his I read was "A Dirty Job" and my comment in my reading journal was "this guy is like an American Terry Pratchett who happens to write in the (semi)real world instead of discworld." Anyone else agree?

message 9: by Sara Leigh (new)

Sara Leigh I've been a fan of Chris Moore since the release of his first book, "Practical Demonkeeping." I snap each one up as soon as it's available. I'm just now starting "Fool" and hope to be finished by the time he arrives in DC for the Fool Tour. My favorite still remains "Bloodsucking Fiends," but "A Dirty Job" runs a close second.

message 10: by Jackie (new)

Jackie I love Moore's creatively whacked out worlds in his books. I'm excited that he's coming to the store on Thursday--I hopefully will meet him before the signing crowd swallows him whole (that's occasionally a perk of working at a bookstore, though heavily dependent on how tight the author's schedule is).

And I'm psyched that he's continuing the vampire 'series' as his next project--a funny writer taking on vampires is EXACTLY my cup of tea! I've read the first one, and now I'm more motivated than ever to get to the second!

message 11: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca I'm so excited that Christopher Moore's popularity as an author continues to grow. I received Lamb as gift about two years ago, and have since read his entire body of work. I'm excited to get Fool. I'm thrilled that Christopher Moore is receiving the props he deserves. Yay GoodReads for having your finger on the pulse of the literary community.

message 12: by Andrew (new)

Andrew He really is a brilliant writer. I've read everything of his, except for Fluke and Joker. What I love most about his writing is the ability to write cameo appearances for his characters. Jody, from Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck makes a brief appearance in A Dirty Job, then vice versa, Jody will walk into Charlie's second hand shop, in You Suck. It's sutble, but noticeable if you've read a majority of his work. My favs are definately Blood Sucking Fiends and You Suck, but have read a chapter of Joker and am already hooked.

message 13: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I absolutely love Christopher Moore - He is brilliantly funny. The stupidest Christmas Angel is an annual holiday tradition. and A Dirty Job is in the top of my favorites.
I wish the older ones would come out on audio because they transition so well and are even funnier when listening to them,

message 14: by Brent (new)

Brent Without a doubt my favorite writer. I'd love to be able to do what he does.

message 15: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine He is awsome, I should definetly put that book min my list.


message 16: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I just found out that some of the earlier books will be out on audio in July:

Island of the Sequined Love Nun
Practical Demonkeeping
The Lust Lizard Of Meloncholy Cove

I can't wait!

message 17: by Kori (new)

Kori I just went to his book signing in Santa Monica, and it was standing room only. A heads up for those of you planning to go. It was also wonderful. He is funny. And when he signs the books, aside from the A**holes that bring 15 copies of his books to sign, he takes the time with each individual person so you can say your hellos and your so wonderfuls.
My favorite book of his still remains Dirty Job, however the vampire books are quite hysterical as well.

message 18: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I agree with Anne above. I can count on 2 fingers the authors that consistently make me LOL while reading: Christopher Moore & Terry Pratchett. They both rock.

message 19: by Haikufall (new)

Haikufall I have all his books and every time I reread them I smile, I just cant help it.

message 20: by Maggie (new)

Maggie I have read a few of Christopher Moore's books and they are great. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove had me literally laughing out loud. I read it during a road trip while my boyfriend drove and he gave me funny looks every time I did. I love Moore's descriptive and vivid writing. I am impressed by his ability to draw amazing mental images with his descriptions.

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