Quote | Clive Barker on Characters

This week I’ve found a poignant quote from another writer I’ve looked up to since I started writing in the mid-90s, someone’s whose imagination and vision I greatly admire. Like Anne Rice from a few weeks back, Clive Barker is another fellow Libra. This quote comes from an old interview I stumbled across that was conducted in 1991 by W.C. Stroby for Writer’s Digest.

WD: When the story ideas begin to get very bizarre or complex, what can you do to make sure you don’t lose that sort of emotional under-pinning?
BARKER: The first thing is you’ve got to believe in the characters. You’ve got to be thinking with the characters and you’ve got to be within their skins. If you’re within their skins then their response to any situation, however bizarre it is, is going to be based upon your sense of them. Any writer’s belief in his or her characters – or the situations in which the characters find themselves – is central to his ability to convince the audience.

As a writer, you have to therefore always try to trip yourself up, look for the places where you’ve done something which was conve-nient rather than true. Convenient because sometimes characters can do things which are convenient to plotting, you know? But very often you realize “This character is not going to do that. This character is going to do X rather than Y.” And sometimes that can be a pain in the ass, but it’s worth the trouble if it’s going to convince the reader of the truth of the situation.


Clive Barker

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The Rucker Report: May 2015 – Forward and Backward

28368403-vector-silhouette-of-a-man-sitting-at-a-computer-on-a-white-backgroundA week and a couple of days late.  Why?  Because, as an “author’s update” there’s really not much to report, since little of what was detailed from the previous update in April has been progressed upon.  However, I’ve committed myself to these monthly updates from a devotional and routine standpoint, so I’m pushing through after taking some time to contemplate a few things in lieu of actual writing news.  So I’ll use headers this time and touch on a few things. Here I go.

Solitary Confinement

I’ve often said that writing is one of the most solitary occupations a person can undertake, particularly in terms of writing novels, which has been my goal since I was a 19 year-old hopeful in early 1993.  Well, it doesn’t have to be.  Sure, there’s the egocentric notion that one’s first published novel should contain only his byline, and there’s no way my 19-20 year-old self would even contemplate doing what I have decided to do this year. . .

Partnering for Help

I’ve written in previous updates about a secret long story/novella project with an author friend (codenamed: Project Eros).  That activity is still in play, but has recently changed a bit as we are going to go with a different idea, one larger in scope and duration.  The original project was going to involve our pseudonyms, and it’s possible this Plan B project may do the same, it just depends on a couple of things which we are ironing out in this early stage.  We’ll have to come up with a codename for it soon.  I’m excited about this partnership and am glad I finally realized I needed to make a necessary sacrifice of ego to better accomplish my writing goals.  I can’t wait to reveal my writing partner (of course it’s someone who has several completed/published novels in their resume).  I want to wait until we’ve made significant progress first.  I may even seek out another partner for a different novel project, but we’ll see. More on all this as it develops.

Nostalgia and Staying with Characters

As noted above, I’ve been doing this “serious writing” thing for the better part of two decades and so I have amassed a significant amount of writing work in that time, whether it’s poetry & lyrics, short fiction, attempts at long fiction like novels and serialized fiction, script work,  editorials and essays, etc.  Some of it published, much of it having never seen the light of day.  Recently I’ve gone through my old file folders to rediscover some old works.  What I’ve noticed a lot of times in my moments of reflection and review is that I tend to gravitate to a certain creative period of mine from which to draw inspiration.  That time period is predominantly 1996 thru 2001.  The characters I created during that time, and the stories I created for them, resonate the most with me for some reason.  I keep coming back to them, especially the ones which haven’t had their stories completed yet (practically all of them), because I tend to think in a broad, long term sense having grown up obsessed with serials (television and comic books) and novels, fiction forms in  which you stay with characters for a good while.  These characters have remained a permanent part of me since their inceptions so many years ago, so it’s no surprised that they often tap me and my muse on the shoulder to say “Hey, remember me?  We’ve still got my story to tell, you and I.”  So even as I creep forward toward new things, my past creations are never too far away.  The sad part of this could be that I don’t create as compelling characters and stories as I did in my twenties.  Eh, then again, maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking.

Legacy and The Vault (of Unfinished Things)

Been thinking a great deal about legacy lately.  And so, in consideration of legacy and my own longevity at this thing called writing, I’m seriously thinking about publishing here on this very site various unfinished (and likely never-to-be-finished) works here as both a bold reminder of what I failed to complete, but also as a representation of actual work produced.  Essentially it’s the In Case I Get Hit by a Bus Tomorrow approach I’ve been taking to my creative stuff in recent years.  Just getting it all out there, warts and all (well, within reason) so that these things can gain light and live in public while serving as actual artifacts of my having actually existed and done a thing or two with my time here. (Sidenote: I’ve done this with my music in recent years – Google me).

So, it’s very possible that soon there will be a category listing called VAULT in the sidebar menu.  After all, the whole purpose of something titled RUCKERPEDIA is for it to be THE source of most things Brandon L. Rucker related, no?

Quick Notes

Site reconfiguration points – The Sidebar: I recently updated the ABOUT page, which serves as a bio for yours truly.  Updated details and links and such. There’s a new page in the menu called BIBLIOGRAPHY which essentially serves as a cover gallery for the physical books that contain my work.  HELLO, JOURNAL is now where my ‘creative non-fiction’ or ‘notebook’ entries are housed. NEWS + UPDATES is now a handy category link to easily access monthly The Rucker Reports like this. The WORK SAMPLES category needs to be reworked, restocked, re-something.  I’ll get to it around the time I put the VAULT up.  Music widgets have been re-added to the sidebar, but eventually will be added to the menu under their own listing.  The work never ends here for this one-man monochromatic production.

Current events – Authors: a few author friends of mine have books out or forthcoming, which I’ve written about here: Reggie Lutz, Jennifer Macaire and Nadine Darling.  And finally the great Clive Barker has returned this month with his new novel The Scarlet Gospels.

Maybe next time I write one of these updates I’ll have actual progress to report.  Until then, y’all be good out there.

– BLR
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Reading:  Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman, various comics

Re-reading:  Galilee by Clive Barker

Watching:  Sons of Anarchy: Season 7, The Killing: Season 4

Playing:  Destiny (Bungie/Activision) – Xbox One

Listening:  Lamb of God

GALILEE by Clive Barker

GalileeNovelClive Barker’s 1998 unrivaled tenth novel Galilee  (subtitled asA Romance” inside the cover, and also known as Galilee: A Novel of the Fantastic) is hands down one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read.  It became the inspiration for a novel series I’d thought up one cold winter evening earlier this year.  It’s funny that I’ve found myself virtually connected to it.  If you were to do a Google search of the book, one of the top links that shows up leads to a review I did of it on goodreads.com back in summer of 2011.  It shows up at the top on goodreads.com because it is the highest rated review for the book by the members there.  I had no idea of this until just recently when I was looking for info links on the book to share with my co-writer. Here’s the four years old text from that review:
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Galilee, for me, is Clive Barker at his storytelling best. It may not be as inventive as Cabal (Nightbreed), Imajica & Everville, or as mind-bending as The Hellbound Heart (Hellraiser), nor as imaginative as Weaveworld, but it’s the best written, the best ‘told’ story of all of his with elegant, seductive, magnetic prose that’s as smooth as butter. His prose in this book can make even the most boring, mundane things seem worthy of your attention.

It should be stated right up front Galilee is not a horror novel, at least nowhere in the singular sense (though it has parts that may certainly exist on the periphery of that description). It’s a bit of a wonderful, odd beast. It’s my favorite kind of tome, running the gamut of several flavors from epic saga, historical suspense, myth-making, inter-familial drama, forbidden romance, light metaphysics, a teasing amount of the supernatural (almost maddeningly understated) and, being a Barker story, a touch of the dark fantastic, naturally.

It’s truly the hardest novel to nail down with a description that I’ve ever encountered, and I am honestly and thoroughly bummed that I have yet to encounter something of its ilk since. That’s over a decade of let down. Thankfully it’s so invitingly re-readable and continuously rewarding when you do so.

I love all the extraordinary elements . . . everything about the Barbarossa family, whom I did not ever think of as fantastical creations, but more supernatural. However, Barker wrote that Cesaria, the matriarch, was essentially a goddess-like being, more or less a demigoddess (in other words, she’s a direct descendant of, well, God) than a typical fantastical invention Barker is typically known for creating. Certainly a more metaphysical approach than his norm at the time. Like urban fantasy it’s a great merging of the mundane with the extraordinary.

As a writer, this book was such a defining, eye opening read for me. It was an “Ah, so THAT’S how you do it!” revelation. Part of that is due to the character-driven literary device he uses (kind of as a cheat) that allows him to tell a birds-eye view kind of sprawling epic story without sacrificing an ounce of the first-person intimacy since it comes from the MC’s near-omniscient point of view. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cheat, but damned effective. But I won’t get more into that because it’s a real treat of reading the novel and I’ve probably teased enough details.

After the book came out Barker mentioned a sequel one day that would essentially focus more on the Barbarossas instead of the Gearys, who get the bulk of the focus in this book. I so hope he gets around to it before he retires.

Note: I’m giving this book 5 stars because there is no option for 4 & 1/2 stars.

— from Brandon Rucker’s review on goodreads.com

Clive Barker Returns with THE SCARLET GOSPELS

The Scarlet GospelsIn which he kills the Hell Priest, aka Pinhead (no spoiler, this is a major promotional point of the novel). The Scarlet Gospels was released this week on May 19th in hardcover.  For the author it has beeen a hellish misadventure to finally get The Scarlet Gospels completed and published, as he details in this Grantland Q&A. Part of that living nightmare that he describes in the Q&A are things I’d heard about earlier this year via a Nerdist podcast (episode 590) interview Barker did with Chris Hardwick. Real life horrors such as contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome after a routine visit to the dentist, a subsequent coma, a few strokes, and the long recovery to livable and finally sustainable health afterward. It was a devastating thing to learn (and hear — his voice is quite changed and weathered sounding now) from a chance podcast listening encounter because I’d not heard anything about these awful events (which of course was by design of Mr. Barker). Needless to say I’m not ready to lose one of my literary heroes, who will turn 63 later this year in October (a fellow libra, like Anne Rice). Now I just need to get my hands and eyeballs on The Scarlet Gospels for some bookworm ruckus.

A reading of the first chapter of The Scarlet Gospels can be heard via Soundcloud here.

My next post will discuss my most favorite Clive Barker tome by the name of Galilee.