I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of George Wright Padgett’s latest novel, Cruel Devices. I was pleased to share a cover reveal earlier in the season here on my blog; and now, I’m proud to post my latest interview with an author I’ve grown to respect and adore.
AW:I’ve done an interview with you before and I don’t want to ask all the same questions as last time…
Yet, Cruel Devices is so different from your previous novel, Spindown, that old questions apply to your new work. Never mind that you added the pressure of the two of us conducting the best interview ever! I’m not sure I can fill those shoes. 😉
Cruel Devices feels like the story just rolled out of bed completely wonderful and polished without effort. Maybe it fell from the sky like a dream; maybe it didn’t – but was its inception as easy for you as it feels? What drove you to write something so unique from what fans thought they could expect from you?
That you say the writing feels effortless is a high compliment. I assure you that it wasn’t the case (just ask my editor and beta readers). It’s said that gold is refined by putting it through the fire seven times; Cruel Devices went through the ‘refinement process’ a lot more than that.
As for the differences between this novel and the last: Let me begin by saying that I love science fiction and I’m so very grateful that Spindown has been well received by the sci-fi community, but I felt it important to avoid being cast as only a writer of that genre. I know it can be risky to genre hop, but I want to establish early on to any readers that may follow me I intend to do stuff that may or may not involve outer space or robots.
I’m hopeful that someone that enjoys reading George Wright Padgett novels are reading them because the stories are well crafted and require them to think about aspects of life while going on an adventure. So after Spindown, I chose a story topic and setting that was as far removed from it as I could get. Cruel Devices takes place on modern day Connecticut on Earth (no alternate universe or anything like that). Just a semi-normal guy around normal people, but exposed to extraordinary circumstances.
I’ve always enjoyed how an author like Michael Crichton would write something like Andromeda Strain (which is a hard sci-fi story if there ever was one) and then he’d jump the fence to do something like Jurassic Park, or Rising Sun, or tackle time travel with a story like Timeline. Or look at H.G. Wells, he delivered The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau and all those other great tales. They’re wonderfully different stories (BTW he didn’t write any sequels to these), but they can’t be confined to a single genre other that than they’re all speculative fiction – to use a modern term for it.
Hopefully Cruel Devices (and the steampunk detective novel to follow it) won’t alienate my hard sci-fi readers. I’ll return to the genre in a few more books.
Stephen King is without a doubt one of the grandmasters of horror, and Yes, I’ve read him. What’s interesting is the reason that I began reading his work was not for horror at all. My colleagues kept going on about how wonderfully developed his characters were. I realized that I had to check their claims out, and discovered that he is a master of the craft and has a remarkable ability to create characters that seem as real as your next neighbor. It’s worth noting that the main character in Cruel Devices is also a master horror writer on the level as King and even mentions him as a contemporary.
AW: The main character is an author who starts the book out dreading his book signings, finding his fame a nuisance. I love having you out for book signings, please tell me that this particular aspect of your character’s development was not drawn from your own feelings or experience. 😉
*Smiles* No, I love meeting my readers in person. Please come see me Dec. 13th at Half Price Books in Humble and I’ll prove it.
I suspect that the character of Gavin Curtis did enjoy his readers at one time, but soured that’s over time. The reason he’s become embittered towards fans is he feels that they’ve trapped him artistically. He views himself as victim of his own success held captive by his creation. He wants to move on from writing pulp vampire detective stories, but his audience won’t let him. A major theme of the book is control, and his readers control him by forcing him to write what he doesn’t want. So he naturally rebels and resents them and the vampire detective character of his stories.
Many years ago I heard something about abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothco. The story goes that when is ex-wife hooked up with his agent, Rothco attempted to sabotage his painting work so the couple wouldn’t financially benefit from him. The more he tried to offer sub-par work the more his popularity and fame increased. I don’t know how true any of that is, but the idea intrigued me enough to include my version of that concept in the novel. Gavin’s fan base grows exponentially the more he mockingly offers worn out tropes in hopes that the readers will stop reading so he may pursue ‘serious literary writing’.
AW: Every author, like Gavin, has those questions they get bored with people asking about their book and their writing process – but also like Gavin, every author has those questions and comments that grab their attention, the questions they wish they were asked. What do you wish people would ask you about Cruel Devices? Why?
Again, I’m not jaded like the character of Gavin Curtis, I love answering questions. I think it’s amazing that I get paid to lie (on the page) to people. I especially like questions surrounding themes and concepts of my stories. Some readers simply read for plot and action, which is fine, but I enjoy talking to people about how the work made them think and possibly examine their own opinions on things.
AW: If a book club were to read your book, what would you hope they would talk about? (If a book club were to read your book, would you make a guest appearance?)
The protagonist is a spoiled, egotistical, prima donna who at first seems as unlikeable as Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces with a mix of Billy Halleck from Thinner. As the story unfolds, the complex layers of Gavin’s personality are revealed one by one until we see at his core he’s actually (do I dare say it?) a hero, or maybe it’s better to call him a reluctant hero. I enjoyed the reactions of my beta/critique group when presented with a seemingly unredeemable main character. Early on in the critique process one of the other novelists in my group took me aside and sheepishly asked “Should I like this guy? He really seems like a jerk.” I informed him that the character’s off-putting manner is deliberate, but he’d be rooting for him by the end of the book.
As far as participating in a book club:
I’d consider it a privilege to attend a book club reading Cruel Devices (or Spindown) though I think it’d be more fun to appear anonymously and at some point during the discussion dramatically tip over the coffee table exclaiming “That’s not what the author meant by using that metaphor!” When the other readers gathered there would challenge this, I’d reveal who I was and storm out of the meeting. Talk about making an impression!
AW: How was writing Cruel Devices different from writing your previous work, Spindown? I understand that asking an author to pick their favorite out of their own work can be a little like asking a parent to choose a favorite child – but really, which one do you enjoy more? Which one did you enjoy writing more?
The question is easier to answer than you might think because I enjoyed them both for different reasons. First of all, the stories are structured completely different from each other. Spindown is more of a quest adventure in which the characters are attempting to gain their freedom by reaching the superintendent station before they expire. Though a lot of introspection takes place along the way, the goal to make it to the end of the moon base is as destination driven as Dorothy finding Oz or Joseph Conrad’s Marlow character in Heart of Darkness going up the river to find Kurtz.
Cruel Devices on the other hand is more of a mystery. Gavin spends much of the book trying to understand what is going on and why things are happening to him.
The second thing I want to mention is since Spindown and Cruel Devices are books in two very different genres (sci-fi and horror) it didn’t feel like I was writing a second novel at all. The storytelling rhythms are noticeably different for the rise and falls of horror opposed to sci-fi. I think I’d actually convinced myself on a subconscious level that I was writing a second 1st novel (which in fact, I sorta was).
AW: Do you feel like you’ve grown as a writer between the two books? In the last few years as a published author, what have you learned about books, publishing, and the writing process that you didn’t know before publication? What do you wish you had known prior to your book deals?
My experiences from Spindown helped me know what to pack for the journey of writing this book. Having gone through the process before, I knew to expect there would be times when things would get tough, but I had the confidence to get through because eventually you come out the other side.
I also learned to trust my instincts more on this book – to recognize and allow ideas in that maybe were not in the original blueprint outline for the story. Permitting that flexibility resulted in a much more ‘organic’ story than if I’d remained rigid to concepts that snuck aboard later in revisions. I think this may be how that ‘fall out of bed’ natural feel that you mentioned above was achieved.
As for the publishing business questions, I am grateful to have met up with a small publisher called Grey Gecko Press. I tip my hat to anyone who self-publishes; I understand that to be a tremendous amount of work that I’m just too lazy to do myself. My publisher takes care of all the non-writing behind the scenes details that are necessary to make and format my books. This allows me to focus on writing without getting bogged down in the machinery.
AW: I can’t help but long for a replica of the deadly typewriter to be present at your future events. Any chance of that happening?
Unlikely – It’s at the bottom of the river *wink*
AW: If you were to select a soundtrack for people to listen to while they read Cruel Devices, what songs would make the list?
I love this question. It’s funny you ask because the book originally had a number of songs embedded into it. In the first draft of the novel a lot of attention was paid to the grand re-opening of the bridge near the resort. Radio station WHCN, The River 105.9 (which is a real Connecticut station) was heard in the elevators, restaurant, cab rides, etc. The station contest played songs about bridges and rivers so I had the music constantly in the background of whatever was happening to Gavin.
I used Bridge Over Troubled Water-Simon & Garfunkel, The River– Bruce Springsteen, Take Me to the River – Al Green, etc. to name a few. The only reference to survive the editing process was Bobbi Gentry’s 1967 hit Ode to Billie Joe in which the lyrics describe someone throwing something off the Tallahatchie Bridge. As of yet, I have not attempted to listen to these songs while reading the book. If you try doing this, let me know how it turns out.
A final note: I appreciate all that your blog does to support Indie authors, mainstream writers, and everyone in between. Thanks for featuring Cruel Devices.
May 1, 2014 at 7:27 pm (Events) (art, authors, book signings, comic books, comicon, comicpalooza, comics, costume contest, Grey Gecko Press, half price books, Humble, Jason Kristopher, Leo King, sci fi, Shaka Kahn, Star Wars. May the Fourth Be With You)
October 1, 2013 at 5:21 am (Events) (Aoristos, authors, Book Signing, Christ Rogers, Grey Gecko Press, half price books, Halloween, Humble, JoAnn Salmaretti, Mary Reason Theriot, MEB Bryant, North Oaks, October, Pamela Triolo, poetry, Rhonda R. Dennis, Susan Miller, Wayne Basta)
ALSO, Don’t forget to check the Good Books in the Woods Event Page… That place has some nifty stuff going on this month too. http://www.goodbooksinthewoods.com/news/
May 21, 2013 at 10:18 pm (Events) (Aoristos, art, authors, book signings, C. David Cannon, Feed Your Brain, fireman, good books in the woods, half price books, Humble, Missy Jane, North Oaks, Peter Devine)
Coming of Age always references that adolescent stage. But, the real coming of age, I have found, is when you’re creeping toward 30. It’s when things really start happening. It’s, apparently, the new 20.
I’m getting published.
And so are all my writerly friends my age.
Here’s one of them:
I look forward to reading Missing Dad by Miranda Campbell.
So, maybe we’ve been grown up for awhile now, but now it finally feels that way.
I have an illness. I see an indie film and no matter how awful it looks, I feel the urge to give it a shot. It’s an indie film, which to me means it’s an underdog, and who knows, what if it’s a hidden gem of awesomeness?
Take that and a love for authors, books, stories about authors of books, and Charlize Theron in all her hotness – how could I pass up Young Adult on Netflix? I just couldn’t.
That’s not fair, the movie is good for what it is. It is well done. It has a bit of wit to it. The director of photography did this brilliant thing with a cassette tape and player and the beginning that I totally loved.
But I really don’t think it is possible for a character to stress me out anymore than Mavis Gary just managed. I mean seriously, what was wrong with that crazy lady?! Everything! That’s what!
She is an alcoholic who drinks way too much diet coke first thing in the morning – out of the bottle. She is chronically unsatisfied, sleeps around, divorced, 37, at the tale end of writing glory (she was a ghost writer of a young adult series that is a few years past its prime selling years), and oh yeah the most important part: she’s chasing down her married ex-boyfriend who just had a baby with his wife. It’s a pretty ballsy role for Theron, and she pulls it off brilliantly; I just want to strangle the whole demented story, if strangling a story could ever be possible.
The best part, the part that does make the movie worth a damn, is Patton Oswalt. I sort of love him. A lot. He is an awesome supporting actor that shows up in everything, but I know him best as Joel Mynor in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. He is Mavis’ voice of reason in this little fiasco of a man hunt/coming of age story. Can you call it a coming of age story if the protagonist is 37? I think not, but I promise you, it fits. And in the end when the Patton Oswalt’s on-screen sister asks to go back to the Mini-Apple with Mavis, I desperately wanted her to say ‘Can’t I’m taking your super awesome brother.’ Of course, that didn’t happen because despite the Esmeralda/Quasimodo dynamic, Young Adult’s own Quasimodo character was way to good for the likes of the star beauty.
Oh dear God give me that hour and thirty three minutes of my life back – except don’t. Even though it was kind of painful to watch, it resonates a bit. Check it out. Let me know what you make of it.
Some people will tell you that book signings are old-fashioned, a thing slowly creeping into the world of publishing past. As both a reader and an event coordinator, I have strongly say that it is not.
As an event coordinator, I’ll tell you that yes, they can be slow. People don’t stop as often as they maybe used to. If it’s an author they are unfamiliar with they have a tendency to be stand offish, uncaring, or nervous. Fix this by offering candy or baked goods, or even a few free books, and you’ve sealed the deal. Like a sales person, all you have to do is get them up to the table. Your merchandise, a friendly face, and their sheer curiosity will do the rest. As an event coordinator I will tell you that you shouldn’t worry if not very many people buy your book that day, that’s not entirely the point of a book signing. The point of a book signing is to get your face, your name, your book titles and book covers lodged in their brain, constantly tickling the edges of their frontal lobes. Every time they see your work, for years to come, they will say in their head: I met him/her, I should buy this. In this day of e-books, many wont buy from you in a brick and mortar store, but will rush home and purchase a kindle edition.
As a reader with severe extrovert tendencies, I will tell you that it is incredibly exciting. Meeting an author, whether you love everything they’ve ever done, or just barely opened the first page of a book, or have never heard of them – to me – is so very exciting. I want to hear their voice and the way they talk, let their real voice intertwine a bit with the inner one I’ve imagined in my head. I want to know a few factoids, a few mannerisms, put their work in a greater perspective. Yesterday, when I met Karleen Koen for the first time, I just wanted to bask in her author-ness, in her bookishness. Of course, I ended up chattering hopelessly because that’s what I do, but my oh my how awesome it was to hang out and listen. It made me want to get home afterward as quickly as possible and finish reading the book that I had meant to finish before the signing. It made me want to buy the other books she has written, and all I can think about this morning is that there is a signed copy of Now Face to Face in hardback sitting on the shelf at the store… and how it needs to be mine.
My goal is to bring more book signings to Half Price Books Humble and one day maybe be as event filled as Murder By the Book in Houston. Book signings are not dead and they should never be dead. If you are an author interested in setting up a book signing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 30, 2012 at 1:52 am (Events) (authors, book club, books, Delaney Rhodes, Eleanor Hibbert, half price books, historical fiction, HPB Humble Book Club, Karleen Koen, Melinda McGuire, Through a Glass Darkly)
I made and printed little post cards in preparation of the September 3rd Book Club Meeting (8pm-9pm at HPB Humble!). We will be discussing Koen’s Through a Glass Darkly. Feel free to print a copy for yourself.
Eleanor Hibbert, who also writes under the names:
Don’t forget we will be meeting the first Monday of the month through out the Fall/Winter 2012. Here’s this season’s reading roster:
July 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm (Events) (authors, book signings, Green Bayou Novels, half price books, Humble, Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey, Melinda McGuire, Nelson and Cora, Rhonda Dennis, southern, Southern Writers)
July 28th couldn’t have come fast enough. I twiddled my fingers and tapped my toes, checked my blog and my messages, repeatedly, in anticipation of meeting Melinda McGuire and Rhonda Dennis in person at Half Price Books. I haven’t read Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey, or any of Rhonda’s Bayou titles, but I’ve enjoyed following Melinda’s blog and getting to know her through her posts and emails.
Melinda and Rhonda were both just the definition of southern friendliness. Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and free packets of Cajun seasoning were available for the taking. In addition to signing and selling copies of their books they held an exciting raffle for a gift basket of all their combined titles and other goodies. The event was all smiles, pleasant conversation, and plenty of brightly colored checkered napkins!
I find that the best things in life are browsing books, meeting people, and eating fabulous baked goods. It doesn’t really get much better than that! I think the kiddos would agree, as Ayla got to meet Melinda’s youngest who is the same age (but a head taller), and share sugar free cookies. The girls pal’d around in the kids sections here and there as well as discussed the merits of alternative health in the stacks behind the book signing table. Toddlers can be quite chatty around new friends.
It was a pleasure to have these two lovely ladies and their families at the store this weekend and I look forward to having them again. Maybe next time you can join us.