Lost Souls: Generic questions first. What's going on in the world of Clive Barker?
Clive Barker: The book (Galilee) is out end of May, beginning of June. I'm going on tour for that, though it's a shorter tour at my request. In part because I have so many projects going on here and I don't want to be away from them for too long. I will be out of town for three weeks, which is a long time to be away from TV project and movie projects which have been known to change in a heart-beat. I'm doing a number of signing and appearances, but not as much as I had done for a large tour. Feedback on the book has been great. It's very exciting. I feel like some books, when they leave my desk, I have had some anxiety about them. I feel really positive and great about Galilee. I feel as though it's ambitious in the story line and the structure. It's equal of what I had intended when I started.
I always said that it was going to be a big old family saga, and that's what it's turned out to be. There's room for a subsequent book about these characters, but this book is complete and satisfying unto itself. That was important to me. I think they've done a great job on the cover. I feel good about the book. The next phase is to go out there and talk about it.
LS: So there's not a Book II as you mentioned before?
CB: There will be a Book II, no question.
LS: Just not as soon as you originally intended?
CB: I think we'll have to see how this book play out first. If this book is really working for people, I might be onto the sequel quickly. I certainly know what the subsequent book will be about. I also feel that this book, absolutely, has a shape and completeness of itself. An astute reader will absolutely grasp where I left places for the narrative to continue. This is not Part one of something. It's a thing unto itself with, I hope, a completion at the end and one large arc of storytelling told. It's a six hundred or seven hundred page book! That's a hell of a lot of story! The other thing that is interesting to me is that this is a first person book. This is a complete departure for me. I've never written a novel, I have short stories, in the first person. The invented first person of this book, Maddox, is somebody I fell in love with. I enjoyed writing in his voice. That is definitely something I would like to revisit just from the pleasure of being in his company again. That's what's going on where the books are concerned, or at least that book. "The Book of Hours" the large book I am doing at Harper-Collins for children. I have already started to deliver short stories to them for that book. They have a lot of the images already. We are looking at about a year of the design stage ahead of us, it's going to be an extraordinary event. It's a very complicated book, in terms of the way it looks. It will have 100's of images, 25 short stories. It's an incredibly elaborate thing to create. I don't think anyone will have ever done anything quite like this before. My editor in the children's department, Joanna Cotler, is splendid. She's incredibly supportive to this project. She invited me about a month ago to come and visit her staff. I took them about 110 images. I sat down the ten ladies and a couple of guys and told them the complete story with the images. It was very fun to do!
LS: There's always been a huge calling for you to return back to short stories.
CB: That's the other thing. I'm doing The Book of Hours, but I'm also working on another collection of short stories for adults. This should be out after Galilee. You know, it's great fun! I'd forgotten what fun it is to do stories that you can finish in three weeks as opposed to 14 months. It's very gratifying to complete material in that time frame. What I'm trying to do in this collection is really trying to cross back and forth across the generic boundaries. You'll have some Horror, some science fiction, fantasy, etc... It's really a reflection of the range of writing that I have been doing in the last few years. I'm also going to be revisiting some of my old mythologies, which will be big fun.
LS: Do you feel the complication of having to write short fiction again after so many novel?
CB: Short fiction has it's own challenges. You have to tell, set up character, satisfy a story line all within twenty or thirty pages in compassion to having a long time to tell and develop. It does have a certain satisfaction that you can put a full stop on the end of a short story after a few weeks and feel like you have achieved something. There are times during writing a novel, a few months ago for example, when I feel 'I'm never going to find my way out of here. I got myself into this swamp and I'll just hide my bones somewhere in this book.' I always feel that and I sort of got used to it. The fact that I know that it's going to happen doesn't make it any more pleasurable. I really don't like that feeling and it always last for a month or two. Interestingly enough, in Galilee, I had the chance to speak from the writers point of view because Maddox is writing this book before our very eyes. I have sort of confessed, in Maddox's voice, where I was feeling these things. The reader, through this interview if you like, is aware of this and will be able to find in Galilee the place where Clive Barker felt lost. (Laughs).
Which is sort of fun. It's an interesting process to use the voice of the novel as a way to speak about how you speak as a writer. It is a sustained act of faith in writing a large book. Faith in yourself, I suppose. Nobody can consistently sustain faith, at least I can't, for 14 months. Sometimes your faith falters and when it does you go 'Gulp. Help'.
LS: Maybe I'm just lost, but I had thought you mentioned that you had written two books of Galilee in one sitting.
CB: That's right. I have the first draft of both books. The difference between my drafts can be the difference between night and day. If you where to read the first draft of Galilee, there where three total, it resembles about twenty or maybe fifteen percent of the final draft. Characters change names, characters change motifs, locations change and complications change. It's a part of the writing process. Exploration. That first draft is a raw, unsophisticated statement what this book may be about. And then, as I sophisticate it, as I think about it and as I research, things change and develop and enrich. It really becomes a different animal. So even though I have a first draft for the second book, the implications of that first draft have been transformed completely by the fact that I have now completed the first book. The knock-on effects that I have made over those drafts are astronomical.
LS: Did you roll right over from one project into another again?
CB: Right into the short stories. We have so much going on, film wise. In the last months of delivering the book, I sort of let it take it's own course without me. I really had to attend closely, having delivered Galilee, to a whole bunch of movie stuff. One of our movies of the week is now warming up for production, which is great. The first will be "Silo". Spelling films, with whom we had struck our deal, went bust about three or four weeks after we had done the deal. That meant we had our deal with a company that no longer existed. (Laughs). We had then to look around for a home for our movies, which is what we've been doing. But that was very troubling.
LS: Is Silo still happening at FOX?
CB: Yeah. And maybe the individuals that were working with the entities formally known as Spelling Films will continue under a different name. It's interesting. I was talking to Bernard Rose a couple of days ago. The person we were dealing with at Universal, was the guy that brought The Thief of Always to Universal. He's no longer there. Bernard and I were talking about how interesting it is that as the years go by, we've been working together since Candyman which is a long time, that we've seen these people come and go. The only constant is that films are made and people, like Bernard and myself, get to make pictures. You just have to hold onto that. That's the lifeline. That's part of the shape of Hollywood nowadays. Spelling Films mother company, Viacom, which owns Blockbuster and Paramount, is part of this. These large companies, their headquarters are probably not even locate in Los Angeles. Their grasp is global, or at least their ambition is global. They are likely to have their fingers in a slew of pies. They are not just going to be just movie-makers. They can be video salespeople, newspaper owners or magazine publishers.
Time-Warner would be an example of that. And then of course in their turn, they may be owned by an oil company. So you've got this chain of command which moves upward into some economic stratosphere that is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals like ourselves, and the decisions that are made at this level have nothing to do with individuals or individual projects. The people at Spelling where happily going around making deals, not realizing the shadow of the axe was falling over their necks.
LS: It has to be tough building a relationship with these people.
CB: Exactly. It's all disposable. That's the frightening thing. It's all disposable because there could be an accountant on behalf of one of these economic giants and it doesn't add up. It's irritating for us because just signed a contract with these guys at Spelling. It's even sadder for the people we were working with, who were good people, who had no idea this was coming and are now looking for jobs. Our little organization, Seraphim Films, is a four man operation. We have very low overhead. We have survived on a very modest amount of money per year. When you get an organization, even the modestly scaled like Spelling Films, the overhead becomes large. They have offices and secretaries and all of that stuff. Suddenly, if you do not have a run of hits, how are you funding your organization? Because we are this small organization, we are not really answerable to anybody except ourselves.
LS: Speaking of Seraphim... Tell us all good news that Gods and Monsters has found a distributor.
CB: Gods and Monsters will come out in November. I can't tell you who is releasing it, but it will come out theatrically in November. It's a very cool movie. History of the Devil as a movie is being worked on right now. A brilliant screenplay from the play has just been turned in by a man by the name of Matt Wilder. He's a theater director, loved the play and wanted to do it as a movie. Weaveworld is back moving along again. We are looking at how to schedule that for next year. We hope to start shooting it next year.
LS: Fingers crossed!
CB: Yeah, fingers crossed! Who is ever sure about these things? We also have a movie called Shock Cinema, a modestly scaled horror movie. This was one of the Spelling pictures which we now have a couple people interested in looking at. We have a slew of things going on. All the theatrical productions as well. They are popping up everywhere, not only across America, but across seas as well. Frankenstein in Love in Sweden, Crazyface in Scotland. We had a production of History of the Devil which was banned in England by one of it's venues. This brought it great notarially and sold the show out wherever it played. That's also something we are interested in doing. Here's something fun. EMI has invited me to put together an album of my favorite music with liner notes, which I'm doing right now. I'm assembling a list of things I'd like to do, and this will be for sometime next year. They've invited for or five of their favorite authors to do this. I think it's a very neat idea. Music, notes and I'd also be doing the cover of the album. I just did an introduction to a new edition of The Books of Blood coming from Berkeley in September. They are finally putting all three volumes into one over-sized paperback.
LS: How about Virtual Meltdown?
CB: Silence on that front. Good question. They are finding funding is all I know. They'll come and tap me on the shoulder when they are ready to go if and when they find their funding.
LS: Are there any other non Clive Barker related project brewing at Seraphim?
CB: We've been invited to do some Edgar Allen Poe adaptations for MGM. It could be fun. We're just looking at that right now and trying to make a deal. That would be something I would be interested in doing, absolutely. Poe tends to have been dealt with, I think, on the cheap side. I would like to see him get a little bit more money in his bank. That's something we're shaping up and trying to see if we can do it. We've got a lot of things going on. I'm very happy to have a lot of things in the pipeline. We also have two TV shows. One for a new cable network, which I have to keep under raps right now and can talk about later. I've originated a concept for them and am now originating stories for. We also have a series tentatively called Heretics for HBO. We'll start with a two hour movie and it will become a series if it works. The cool thing about HBO, because it's cable, you have all kinds of freedom in terms of the amount of graphic material in the story which is useful if you are trying scare people.
(Pauses). I'm trying to make the television thing work. It's hard sometimes because there's a lot of compromise in television. There's a lot of compromise in movies too. The rules and regulations seem even stronger in network television and there seems to be so many fingers in the pie, constantly. On the other hand, potentially you reach a huge audience. So that's the trade off.
LS: Jumping around. . . knowing that people would really want to know this and that History of the Devil might find it's way to the big screen. Who would Clive Barker like to see cast as the Devil?
CB: My number one choice would be John Malkovich. I love John. He's an extraordinary actor. This may surprise you a little, but I would also go for someone like Samuel Jackson. He might be an unconventional choice but he's brilliant, charismatic and would be wonderful. There are almost as many Devils as there are choices. Where I wouldn't go, though I thought the performance was marvelous and enjoyed him immensely, would be Pacino (The Devil's Advocate). I did enjoy the movie and I thought he was marvelous to watch. Pacino's wonderful, but it's very on the nose. My Devil is far less on the nose, less of a ranter. Can I throw something else in? The Devil doesn't have to be male. Maybe it's time that we changed tactics here. Traditionally he's always been male but it would be wonderful to cast a woman who could play the part with great sexual ambiguity as it was played in Chicago at the Next Theatre. I don't know who, in our present cinematic landscape, that could pull that off. There probably aren't many people
but we shouldn't discount the possibility of really going for such unconventional casting.
LS: Have you talked to Fred Burke lately in regards to Mythonaut?
CB: I have. I just spoke to him yesterday. He seems to be shaping up his encyclopedia. I think he would tell you that this has turned out to be a much larger project than he anticipated. He has great ambition for this book, which is wonderful. I think he's attempting to make it as thorough and as authoritative as possible. My files are at his disposal and we are also trying to break into the inner sanctums at MGM and at Fox to get stills from the movies which maybe nobody has seen before. He wanted to find visual material which is preferably unique. There a lot of large novels here and I keep writing them, with big ideas and philosophies. I think it great that he wants to underline those philosophical ideas in those books. We don't want this to be just a list of names and places. We want it to be conceptually driven, about what the concepts are that underline my books. He's on to it and he's working like crazy.
LS: Have you spoken to Doug?
CB: Doug Bradley?
LS: Actually Doug Winter.
CB: I actually haven't spoken to either Doug, Bradley or Winter, in quite a while having buried my nose in Galilee. I know that Doug Winter is close to completion on the Clive Barker Companion book. That's all I know. One doesn't want to push to hard at this time. I know how I feel when I'm getting close to finishing a book. I have my head huddled down, keeping my head below the parapets. I know it's a big book and an ambitious project. I did hear a rumor that he was close to completion. Nobody on this planet has the grasp that Doug Winter has on my history and my connections in the theater and how the cinema works. He's spoken to all those people in my past, more people than anyone else. He's spoken to my parents, my brother, my work mates in England and those here. He's really involved himself in my work practices. He just has a really great grasp on who Clive Barker is.
I have something for you. Have you ever heard of a book called Writing Horror and the Body?
LS: No I haven't.
CB: Neither did I before. I don't know how many of your readers out there are interested in the academic works involving horror writing or fantasy. Check it out, it's really tremendous. It's by a lady called Linda Badley. It's published by the Greenwoods Press. It's Writing Horror and the Body: The fiction of Stephen King, Clive Barker and Anne Rice. It's very, very interesting. I wouldn't necessarily agree with all of her conclusions, but maybe I wouldn't be expected to. I do think it's extremely smart writing. If anybody out there is interested in the theory of it, as it were, there's about twenty five pages in the middle on my fiction. The stuff on Steve is really good and the stuff on Anne is good too. It's mainly about The Books of Blood, it doesn't venture into the novels. I guess it's just a little recommendation.
LS: Funny that you mention the Books of Blood. We were going to talk about the Pillow Book and the similarities to The Books of Blood. Was it a tasteful rip off or what?
CB: (Laughs). I don't know about that. Let's just assume that they took the material from the same sort of .... (Laughs again). All I was aware of was, here are stories that were stories written on the body, and that's the underlying motif of the movie. It's a really wonderful looking movie. I'm actually a huge fan of Greenaway's movies. I think he's a marvelous filmaker. Certainly the Pillow Book visits more than a couple of ideas from the Books of Blood, including the skinning of the body that's been covered in writing. Maybe we were just visiting the same dream space together.
LS: Check it out. Thumbs up from Clive Barker, right?
CB: It's actually a very cool movie!
Interview performed by Stephen Dressler of Lost Souls
Copyright & copy; 1998 Lost Souls, all rights reserved.