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Author Archive: "Richard Kadrey"

Powell’s Q&A: Richard Kadrey

Describe your latest book.
The Getaway God is the sixth book in the Sandman Slim series. In it, the very unholy nephilim, James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has made a few enemies. None, though, are as fearsome as the vindictive Angra Om Ya — the insatiable, destructive old gods. But their imminent invasion is just one of Stark's problems, as L.A. descends into chaos and a new evil — a knife-wielding Christmastime serial killer the media dubs St. Nick — stalks the city.

No ordinary killer, St. Nick takes Stark deep into a conspiracy that stretches from Earth to Heaven and Hell. He's also the only person alive who may know how to keep the world from going extinct. He's also Stark's worst enemy — the only man in existence Stark would enjoy killing twice — and one with a direct line to the voracious ancient gods.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands, and why did you read it?
The book was The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard. One of the perks of being a writer is that people ...

Learn the Rules. There Are No Rules.

"Where do you get your ideas?" is still the question I get asked most as an author. The second-most-asked question is "How do you write a book?" The answer to both questions is simple: I don't know. But I can tell you how I do it.

Writing, like any art form, is whatever you can get away with. If you do it well enough, you can do anything. So forget all your English Comp 101 rules. Relax and let your own voice come through. Faulkner doesn't sound like Margaret Atwood, who doesn't sound like Cormac McCarthy, who doesn't sound like China Mieville.

Listen to your instincts and listen to the story. Most stories want to be told a certain way. You need to figure out what that is and write them that way. Past, present, or future tense. First, second, or third person. (You better have a damned good reason to write a story in second person or future tense). When I started Sandman Slim I tried every combination of tense and voice I could think of, but the book wouldn't budge. Finally, when I ...

I’m the Guinea Pig

I just tore my office apart. I bought a new filing cabinet and three new sets of bookshelves. In the past I've been a book hoarder, keeping every single research book I ever used, as well as novels I hadn't read in 10 years and probably wouldn't reread for another 10. So I'm trying an experiment. One set of shelves will hold DVDs and my published works. Another set will hold research books and art books. The third set will hold nothing but fiction, including graphic novels. The experiment is this: I can only own as much fiction as will fit on that last set of shelves. When I fill it and buy a new book, I have to get rid of an old book.

I got the idea from Brian Eno. At one point he owned exactly 200 records. Each time he bought an album he had to sell or give one away. Yes, there's something arbitrary about choosing 200 records or the space of one set of shelves, but that's part of the experiment's allure. I'm only partially in control. I have no idea how many ...

Cosmology 101

Before I started the Sandman Slim series I wrote Butcher Bird, a book that also told the story of a trip to Hell and a meeting with Lucifer. I started building a library of books on mythology, folktales, Christianity, Kabbalah, and outré science. Some of these ideas ended up in Butcher Bird. They've all ended up in Devil Said Bang and the other Sandman Slim books. For anyone interested in where I get some of the information that ends up in the novels, here is a list of 12 books from my library. The list is by no means exhaustive, but the books are easy-to-find titles, and they're all places to start for anyone interested in the ideas in the Sandman Slim universe.

One quick note: while I've studied the ideas in these books, I've never once hesitated to throw out accepted canon or mythology and substitute my own if I thought it would make my books better.

  1. The Devil: A Biography by Peter Stanford
  2. Fallen Angels by Bernard J. Bamberger
  3. From the Ashes of Angels by Andrew Collins
  4. The Origin of Satan by Elaine


Deathbed Confessions

I write because I'm deeply afraid of a couple of things.

My first fear is dying an amusing death. You know, the kind that ends up as filler in newspaper back pages. Someone falls asleep under a combine harvester and ends up in little pieces in a dump truck full of wheat. Someone trips and impales himself on a lawn gnome or breathes in instead of out when learning to breathe fire.

My second and biggest fear is living the wrong life. I don't want to spend the last 30 seconds on my deathbed thinking, "I should have learned to juggle." That's why I'm a writer — not because I want to juggle but because, even though it's a ridiculous and precarious way to make a living, it's what I'm best at.

Here's a secret all professional writers know: You don't become a professional writer through talent. You become one by being the last man or woman standing.

Every professional writer came up through the publishing ranks knowing someone better: someone who had a better way with words, better ideas, better research methods; in short, someone who was superior in ...

Writing a Series; or, The Characters Who Just Won’t Die, Dammit

Devil Said Bang is the fourth Sandman Slim book. As I write this, I'm currently working on book five, Kill City Blues. When I started out, the last thing I thought I'd be writing was a series or anything other than science fiction. However, Sandman Slim dwells in that ever-shifting netherworld somewhere between Jim Thompson and Neil Gaiman. File the series under Urban Fantasy, Fantasy Noir, Supernatural Thriller, or whatever the hell they're calling it this week. The truth is, I'm just happy that people are reading the books.

Before Sandman Slim I'd never considered writing a series, and when I started, it just about broke my brain. At its most stripped down, a series is simply a load of adventures with the same characters built roughly around similar themes. Vampire hunters hunt vampires. Witches perform magic. All that's true and it's not that hard to write. Things only get complicated when there's something going on that's larger than the foreground story — a story arc that spans multiple books and won't be resolved until some nebulous point in the future. That's the stuff ...

The Joy of Junk

Without realizing it, I'd learned what school and the straight literary world had been hinting at my whole life, that the imagination was bad and childish. Imagination was something all right for Aesop, Mary Shelley, and foreigners, but not self-respecting 20th-century American adults....

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