Transcribed by Kelly Shaw
Lost Souls: The first question is from Andrea Winchester. She has some questions about painting. For your
illustrations do you ever pencil in your ideas on the canvas directly or do you begin with paint? And what do you
recommend for beginning artists?
Clive Barker: I never put pencil, I shouldn’t say never, once out of 100 paintings I might put pencil to
canvas before I put paint on. But it is much more likely that if I am trying to work out a relationship problem,
a design relationship problem, I would more likely work that out on a separate sheet of paper that is roughly the
same proportion of the canvas that I’m gonna use, before I actually get to the canvas. Part of that is, of course,
personal choice. I wouldn’t ever advise pencil, I would advise charcoal for
making the mark or a very, very, very diluted form of the color that you’re going to use in the painting itself.
If you are going to use oil color then a very very light orange works for me if you want to rough something in,
or a very light brown works very well. I just don’t think pencil works very well, because pencil slides over the
canvas making it very hard to get an accurate line.
LS: Do you recommend acrylics before oil?
CB: I don’t recommend either; it is a completely different technique. Acryllics dry very very quickly, and
within a minute or two. Oil paints take, well they recommend you varnish a painting between 3-6 months after you
finish it, which is why it is completely dry until 6 months or 3 months, at least 3 months after you finish it.
It certainly stays malleable for many days afterward. And, as you learn to play with oils you find that it is actually
kind of fun as you can play with them for a long time after you initially put the marks down. Acryllics are more
unforgiving. If you put the marks, it is dry in 2 minutes flat. I don’t like acryllics, I find them kind of hard,
and, hard in the sense of being rather stark. Now that might be the effect somebody wanted. I know people who work
in acryllics, particularly those who work in a kind of mathematically exact kind of painting, who find acryllic
very useful, because you can get very accurate lines as it dries quickly. I’m trying to use my imagination to evoke
dream images and I find oil painting a lot more gentle and maleable, thus just more friendlier for somebody who
is doing what I am doing.
LS: This is from Sarah and Phil of Revelations. You’ve said in the past that the desire to be subversive
drives you to remain one step ahead of populism. As your writing has matured are you now more concerned with the
message you are giving than the response the message evokes?
CB: There is an old line used on Broadway, “If I wanted to send a message I’d use Western Union .” And I
believe that. I don’t believe any artist has any business messing himself up with messages. Messages are things
that you can speak clearly and probably can be reduced to a couple of sentences. My books are, conversely, huge
narratives, which contain many messages, contradictory often. I have no desire to be a message carrier and I never
have from the very beginning. You look at the early plays, look at something like “The History of the Devil,” I
think it would be very hard to come out with a simple message of what that play means. Now there are some readers
and film goers and play goers who find that frustrating and wish that I would keep things simpler, “what does this
mean,” well it means what it means to you. And what it means to you may not be what it means to your wife, or your
lover, or your daughter. And the great thing about storytelling is that it can actually carry a great freight of
meaning, I say meaning rather than message, a great freight of meaning which will be very different depending on
the nature of the recipient.
Kelly Shaw: Mark Tallen from England asks if there is any truth to the rumor of an Illustrated “Imajica”?
CB: There is going to be an Illustrated “Imajica.” A modestly illustrated one but an illustrated one nevertheless.
The same edition will also have a very extensive appendix created by Hans Rueffert who did the “Imajica” game which
will be a kind of guide to “Imajica.” I’m getting it today so I am very excited to see it. It will make for a whole
new edition, so yes there is complete truth to that rumor.
KS: Is there any tentative release date on that yet?
CB: I think it is somtime early in 2003 but it might be late in 2002. But to be perfectly honest I am not
KS: Cemetery Dance is releasing a new collection of short stories entitled “Mondo Zombie,” claiming to have
a story by
you. Is this story a reprint or something new?
CB: It is something I don’t know about (laughs). I think it may very well be the John Skpp edited collection
of zombie stories which are a sort of follow on George Romero’s “Day of the Dead.” And I had created a story which
Steve Niles had actually written. So that’s what it may be but the story is actually written by Steve Niles.
KS: Could you talk about some of your upcoming books and prjects?
CB: “Coldheart Canyon” is finished, edited, comes out on the 4th of October in the U.S., and it comes out
at the end of August in England. It is a ghost story set in Hollywood, as I have said many times before, and we
are getting great feedback on it. So I am very excited about that. That is first up. “The Abarat Quartet,” the
first book of that series of books is about half way finished and I will deliver it to my publishers in September
for publication the following autumn. At the end of the year I will also
deliver to Harper Collins a collection of short stories which will collect up a bunch of stuff that has been floating
around for a while, there’s a Harry D’amour story which had been published a long time ago, which has not been
KS: “Lost Souls”?
CB: Exactly. There is about 5 or 6 stories which are already around which have not been collected. There
is also about 70 or 80 thousand words of new material, which will include, and most importantly actually, the novella,
“The Scarlet Gospels,” which is giving the title to the book. The novella “The Scarlet Gospels” which will be the
end once and for all of the Hellraiser mythology because I am killing Pinhead. So I am delivering that the end
of this year for autumn the following year. So next year will be the re-issues of “The Thief of Always” with a
superb new cover which is being painted by a man called Dan Craig, it’s amazing. It will see the publication of
the first book of “Abarat,” it will see the publication of “The Scarlet Gospels,” it will see the publication of
“Coldheart Canyon” in paperback. Busy year next year.
KS: 2002 that will be in?
CB: 2002. Exactly. And meanwhile we have a deal pending with the Sci-Fi channel for the “Saint Sinner” series,
well actually the first episode is being written. We’re just waiting on notes from them, hopefully we’ll get the
green light and make that. “The Damnation Game” is presently being written by a superb writer named John Heffernan,
who is writing it for a company called Phoenix, and that will be a 35 million dollar movie when we get it rolling,
which will hopefully be this year. And the “Abarat” stuff will start to happen from Disney once I turn in the first
book. It is busy movie wise and it is busy book wise.
KS: Do you have any information on the possible DVD director’s cut of “Nightbreed”?
CB: That came and went, it hasn’t gone away it’s just I haven’t been focusing on it. The company approached
me, I said, “Yes, I want to do it,” and I haven’t heard exactly when it is going to be done. I know they are releasing
a regular edition and then they were hoping to do the re-constructed edition for next year.
KS: Could you talk about some of the books and movies that you’ve enjoyed lately?
CB: A wonderful book called “The Mummy Congress,” which I’d completely recommend to people interested in
the science of
mummification by a lady called Heather Pringle: “Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead,” a great book. There
is a lovely new German book out about Tim Burton, it is only a small book, it is written by a man called Helmet
Merschnann. I just picked it up because I love Tim Burton films, for no other reason than that. And on page 94,
he goes into a detailed analysis into why “Beetlejuice” is an elaborate parody of the first “Hellraiser” picture.
LS: I never thought of that.
CB: It is very interesting. That was an interesting thing to look at. Move wise, I haven’t actually been
to the movies recently. I did not like the second “Mummy” movie at all.
LS: I wanted to go see that (laughs).
CB: Well, it’s sorry shit (laughs). Okey, it’s fine, it’s fine (laughs again). Sorry I spoiled it. I’m looking
forward to “Atlantis” from Disney, I’m looking forward to “Pearl Harbor” immensely. I think it’s going to be a
good summer for movies.
KS: Tim Burton’s new movie “Planet of the Apes.”
CB: “Planet of the Apes” is going to be great. I’ve seen some pictures and material from that and it looks
just fucking amazing.
KS: Next I’ll move onto some questions about “Coldheart Canyon.” I thought it was amazing.
CB: Thank you.
KS: And I thought it contained all of your trademarks, from your metaphysical musings, bold eroticism, to
perverse violence. And when you wrote about the excesses in The Devil’s Country or during the orgies, I found a
similarity in imaginative fecundity to “Fellini’s Satyricon.”
CB: Oh, I love that. One of my huge pleasures of my recent DVD days is that “Fellini’s Satyricon” has just
been released, a beautiful looking print, so I was able to look at it and admire it again. I am a huge fan of that
movie, thank you for saying that, that’s a great point of reference and what was fun for me about the book was
being able to mingle all those things. The things you just mentioned, the metaphysical stuff, the horror, the eroticism,
but also packaging that as it were in with a vision of the city that I live and the community which I live, which
as you know from reading the book, I have very mixed feelings about. I mean it is a book which I think, again going
back to the question about messages, I don’t think it would be very easy to work out from the book whether I love
or hate Hollywood, and I think the book is very ambiguous about that. And that’s because I am very ambiguous about
it. There are things I love about the city and there are things I despise about it. There is a passage a little
way in, where it is Oscar night, and Todd Pickett, our hero or anti-hero depending on your point of view, is sitting
at home on Oscar
night, unable to go out, for reasons that I don’t want to give away, and he thinks bout the horrors of Oscar night.
And having been a visitor to Oscar night, when we won the Oscar for “Gods and Monsters,” David and I went and were
sitting there applauding Bill Condon when he won his Oscar. And all of that was just taken from that experience,
all the stuff about the way this town works, I have in one sense or other experienced it. That is a kind of new
thing to add to the mix, I will never write about this town again, I don’t think, so I wanted to put as much as
possible about it into the book.
KS: Throughout the book, by knowing some of the things you’ve gone through in the past few years, with “Gods
and Monsters” and your father’s passing, the book seemed to have a more direct voice, a voice to Clive Barker the
CB: I think that is right. And, interestingly, the American edition will have a photograph of me on the
cover. [The picture on the American edition cover will be the same picture from the Advanced Reader’s Copy cover.]
And that was very brave thing for Harper Collins to do. What they are essentially saying, I think, by putting that
cover on, is exactly what you are saying. That you should identify Barker as being a voice in this, not a player,
but a voice. And I feel as though, yeah I wanted to write quite directly about this place, my feelings are very
clear about it all. And I wanted to set them down in a pretty elaborate narrative, but a narrative that’s really,
despite the scenes in The Devil’s Country, is basically set in the here and now. And when we travel off into The
Devil’s Country we travel off in the company of people who basically live in the here and now. So even the fantasy
sections of the book are tinged with Hollywood.
KS: You mentioned The Devil’s Country, which is your newest mythology. It contains numerous visions that
are not fully explored in the book, is there a possibility that it could show up in any of your future books?
CB: Oh I think so. I don’t think I am done with The Devil’s Country. I wanted to make sure that the balance
of the book
stayed where it was, that it wasn’t over burdened with fantastical elements. But I can see myself going back and
writing a piece that is completely set in The Devil’s Country. You can feel, I think, my imagination taking flight
when I come to those sectons.
KS: It seems liberated.
CB: Exactly. But at the same time I wanted to make sure that I teased people, I didn’t want the book to
be overwhelmed by the fantastic. It’s essentially a book about the human condition in Hollywood, not the human
condition in The Devil’s Country. Can I conceive of a book down the line simply called The Devil’s Country, yes
KS: Passages I re-read due to their imaginative breath were when you first introduced The Devil’s Country.
There are about 6 or 7 pages that seem as if you are exploring every nook and cranny of your imagination, feeling
very much like a paint brush with words sweeping over a canvas.
CB: Right. Part of the fun there was I knew that I wasn’t going to go back to that world for a while in
the narrative, so I wanted it to be fixed very strongly in the audiences’ heads. So the reader says, “Wow, I can’t
wait to get back there.” And I thoroughly enjoyed writing that stuff, it is outrageous stuff. Some of the sexual
stuff is really outrageous. This is the first time any publisher ever said to me, “this is too strong.” Interestingly,
I was asked to tone down a couple things, and actually they thought the changes were stronger than the original
stuff. But by that time they kind of realized that’s what I was doing, so the stronger stuff stayed in. So the
book became stronger and more sexual through its various drafts. I think it is a pretty outrageous book, but you
know Hollywood is an outrageous place, and one of the things I had to change were a few names of stars that I had
to take out. But I wanted to leave enough clues so anybody who wanted to really look at the book with an eye of
who is who would be able to find out. Interestingly, my publicist, who has worked in Hollywood for a very long
time--she represents Michael Bay and Tim Burton and a whole bunch of other people--my publicist recognized everybody
instantly. So it is fun; you
don’t need to know who these people are to enjoy the book, but it is another level of fun if you want to investigate
who these people are.
KS: We talked about the book’s excesses, which are probably some of the greatest in your whole canon of
CB: (gives a wicked laugh)
KS: But also, the book seems one of your most sympathetic, almost lighter books.
KS: For instance: the narrative isn’t pushed along by The Devil’s Country, but by the questions of life
you arise and the character’s poignant emotional struggles.
CB: You know this is a book that has room for a visit to the animal hospital, it is not all about Hollywood
parties, it also shows the otherside. We lost a dog this year and Charlie’s death is faithfully reported in the
book in the form of Dempsey’s death, Dempsey being Todd Pickett’s dog. And that whole episode of having to have
the dog put down, which is not lighter, but is certainly more emotional than anything in “The Books of Blood,”
which I think were a lot more hard hearted; I think this is a very empathic book, I think audiences will find it
quite easy to get into the lives of the characters who are on the page. Even though many of those characters are
pricks and monsters and egotistical monsters, I hope they will have fun with them. Because I sort of have fun with
some of the more egotistical people I meet in this town, and there are a lot of them you know. If you see it in
the right frame of mind then it can sort of be fun.
KS: When you take the Hollywood producer, Epstatz, into The Devil’s Country, your playful lampooning of these
pricks” becomes transparent.
KS: And Epstatz’s whole myopic view of life is really reflected by The Devil’s Country.
CB: Yeah, blown open wide. And that’s part of the fun of the book, in taking a bunch of characters who...when
I wrote“Weaveworld” the people who enter the Weave are essentially sympathetic to the visions that lie before them...the
people that enter The Devil’s Country are resisting it very often, and that was fun to watch and observe and see
how that worked. And I’ve also got this, I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ve got Lilith who is the Queen
of Hell, and I’ve also got her kid, her offspring, who is very much one of the most extreme characters I think
I’ve ever written.
KS: And comical.
CB: And very comical, I hope so. Yeah, he is very fun, he was just such fun to write. There were days where
I thought, “yeah, okey good, I get to write him, cool.”
KS: Your disgust for the business side of Hollywood comes out clearly in the book. But your view of actors
is very ambiguous, since, by the finale you show compassion for them.
CB: There is a conversation between Katya and Todd early on, in which Todd talks about how much he needs
love and how much he is trained to need the approbation of audiences, and if he doesn’t get it how empty he feels.
And the problem is, it doesn’t matter how much love he gets, how many audiences love him, there is never enough
love for him. And I’ve seen that in actors. I’ve seen actors who are so hungry and needy for worship, I don’t even
mean love I mean a little devotion, that it made them into monsters. And really I think the real monsters in this
book are the human beings, by comparison to Maxine and Epstatz or Todd, Lilith is a rather sympathetic character.
I think, I hope this is going to be a big summer read, where people on the beach are going to be passing it back
and forth going, “hey, check this out,” and then saying, “I wonder who the hell this is.”
I had a great time writing it, and I think that comes across when you read it.
KS: Someone asked you this question a number of years ago, but I am curious to see how your answer has changed.
were allowed only 3 books and 3 movies to take with you after you die, what would they be?
CB: I’m sure they have changed. I’m assuming I won’t need the Bible because I’ve gone to Heaven anyway.
So, I’m gonna
take “Moby Dick”--I’ve probably had that in the first version right?
KS: Yes, you did.
CB: “Peter Pan.” And, I need a really really funny book, because Heaven can get dull once in a while, “Three
Men In A Boat,” by Jerome K. Jerome, one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. And movies: I think St. Pete might
need a shock once in a while, so I think “The Exorcist” is still good for that. “Fantasia” remains a movie that
still gives me boundless joy. I look at that movie, probably once a month. Not the whole thing from beginning to
end, but just pieces. What have I like recently? I’ll choose something local and recent: “Best In Show.” Did you
KS: Yeah, I’ve seen it.
CB: Oh God, that made me laugh. It’s not as good as “Waiting For Guffman” which I consider a masterpiece
but it is a great movie nevertheless.
KS: Christopher Guest is hilarious.
CB: He is wonderful isn’t he!
CF: Vickey Lopez asks, if there was one thing to share with your audience what would it be?
CB: That I am completely insecure about everything I have done to date.
KS: So that pushes you to perfection, right?
CB: I suppose it does, it makes me stay up nights worrying. I am speaking from the bottom of my heart, that
is the honest answer. I think people think that I’ve been working for a long time now and that I’m probably confident
about all my stuff, but not at all. I am really insecure. When Kelly said he liked the book, my heart lept. And
you know its good that that is still the case. I would not like to be one of those people who was so confident
in their own genius that they didn’t care about other people’s opinions. I care very much about people’s opinions
and I don’t write books for myself, I write them for the people who read them. I know it may sound like the obvious
thing to say, but you actually find a lot of people who say, “I write my books for myself.” I don’t. I write my
books imagining that this is gonna make people feel a little hot under the collar, or feel a twinge of fear, or
get a laugh from people. There were sections of the book[“Coldheart Canyon”], like the erotic sections, where I
was just squirming with anticipation of how much fun this would be for other people. So I don’t feel confident
or finished, or even faintly finished, or satisfied. I feel as though I am working constantly toward some goal
which isn’t even vaguely in sight. Does that make sense?
KS: Orson Welles suffered from the same problem, he wouldn’t even watch “Citizen Kane.”
CB: Right. His real problem was that he made his great work of genius at the age of 25. And he actually
said about himself that he lived his life in reverse. And, he really should have made that movie when he was 70,
at the climax of his career. As it was his career ran down. That’s one of the reasons I am challenging myself with
“Abarat” and doing all these paintings. I brought somebody in to look at the paintings a couple days ago, and they
said, “Oh my God, you really are an obsessive”! (laughs)
CF: Are you still doing paintings for “Abarat”?
CB: Oh yeah. I still have another 150. But I finished one last night, and I’ll finish another tonight. So,
I’ll start painting in an hour and I’ll have about 4 or 5 hours of it tonight. It is going to be visually quite
a great experience.
CF: One last question. When they release “Coldheart Canyon,” are you planning on a signing tour?
CB: No. They don’t want me on tour. Harper Collins is not touring authors this year. They’ve taken me to
the bookstores, to the heads of the stores, of Borders, of Waldenbooks, to meet with the buyers, but they want
to save the touring for “Abarat.” Because “Abarat” is going to be such an extraordinary book, and I can’t help
thinking that if we are going to have a huge turn out for things, let it be “Abarat.” Then people can bring their
copies of “Coldheart Canyon,” and you know me, I never turn down a second a third or a fourth book for me to sign.
So, even if people don’t get their copies of “Coldheart Canyon” signed,
they’ll certainly be able to get them signed next year when I’m on the extensive, big tour, for “Abarat.”
CF: You can always come do a signing in Milwaukee!?
CB: I want to go to as many places that I haven’t been to before, so make sure that Harper Collins knows.
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