Rather than write something new about who I am (Jeff did a great job), I thought I’d reprint this rarely seen interview from 2003, complete with notations and corrections updating everything to the present. At the bequest of Hellnotes editor Judi Rohrig, I interviewed myself about the then just-released Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 20th Century.
What story first interested you in genre fiction?
I’ve been interested in things fantastical, as far back as I can remember. I learned to read so I could find out what Spider-man had to say. The first science fiction story I remember is Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. (It wasn’t until many years later that I understood the subtle nuances of the tale.) Like many fantastic fiction fans (be it science fiction, fantasy, or horror), Ray Bradbury was my first love. Soon after reading Martian Chronicles, I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs, Richard Matheson and others.
What is your favorite part about writing?
The creating. I like the idea of writing more than the act of writing. To sit around and conceive of an idea, to figure out the structure of an essay is infinitely more fun than composing. That part is too much like actual work.
In Geek Confidential you make many references to the help/guidance of Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Moorcock, and Lewis Shiner. What advice did they give you that you’d like to pass on to aspiring writers?
The single most important piece of advice comes from Lansdale: “Put butt in chair and type.” Practice is the only thing that will make you better. You need to be serious about your craft. Learn all you can and listen to advice from professional writers that you respect. When I started out, I devoured anything I could find about writers and their craft. I studied literary histories and read many “how to” writer books. Books such as the insightful Writing Down the Bones, Haycraft’s Art of the Mystery, Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art, and Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain informed my writings. I realize the last two may seem odd for a writer to mention, but they both taught me to look at things visually–to see the world differently.
I approach my essays as short stories. I like to have characters, a plot, and a climax. My major influences are all fiction writers and I primarily read fiction. I originally wanted to write comic books and short stories. Nonfiction didn’t happen until later. I never thought I had enough to say. Boy, was I wrong.
When did you get started writing nonfiction?
It was an accident. While I was a buyer for Book People, a large independent Texas bookstore, I was asked to contribute some essays for their website. Years before, when I was working for Adventures in Crime & Space [a now defunct sf/mystery bookstore], I wrote a regular column for their store newsletter. I didn’t really enjoy it, nor am I proud of the results, but this time was different. Something clicked.
Soon after I started the Book People essays, I approached Rodger Turner about contributing to SF Site. We discussed several ideas, but ultimately settled on me writing a monthly column from “behind the scenes” at a bookstore. I’ve been writing “Geeks With Books” ever since. [I ended the column in 2004 after over four years.] The column was so successful that Chris Roberson of MonkeyBrain Books agreed to publish a collection of my essays, reviews and other things Klaw– including interviews with Michael Moorcock, Mark Z. Danielewski, and others, plus the first book publication of my comic book adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s “Bob the Dinosaur Goes to Disneyland.” There’s also “The Secret History of Weird Business,” the inside story [written especially for the book] about the groundbreaking horror anthology edited by me and Lansdale.
In your foreword to Geek Confidential, you say “My grandfather was a pornographer.” Um, care to elaborate?
Irving Klaw, my grandfather, was famed for his softcore and light bondage photography, especially of pin-up queen Bettie Page. He died about a year before I was born, so I never got to know him or my father for that matter. I didn’t learn about the whole Klaw-Page connection until I was an adult. Actually, my mother, in her very direct way, told me early on that my grandfather was a softcore pornographer, but she had no idea of his legendary status. To her, he was just the sleazy and somewhat embarrassing father of the man she married. [I’m currently researching a book about my grandfather.]
Now that you’re a world-famous nonfiction writer, are you planning a novel?
For years I pretended to be a fiction writer. I would toy with a story here and there with little success. I could count the number of completed short stories on my fingers, and I’ve never written a prose piece of fiction that was longer than 5,000 words. Most successful attempts at fiction tend to be in comic book form. So I guess the answer is no. I’m not planning on writing a whole bunch of fiction. Most likely there’ll be some more comic work in my future and the rare short story, but if you are holding your breath for that Klaw novel, I’d suggest you let it out before you turn blue and die. I’m currently working on several essays (including an analysis of Joe R. Lansdale’s stories, and a brief history of Argosy magazine [sadly, neither saw print]), comic scripts for the new series of Lansdale’s adaptations from Avatar Press [“My Dead Dog Bobby” and “God of the Razor”, both for By Bizarre Hands #6], my ongoing SF Site column [See “Geeks With Books note above], and my next book [which has yet to materialize].
Coincidentally, the same month my first collection of nonfiction was released, my first published short story [“JohnCalvin”] appeared in Electric Velocipede #5.
A gorilla appears on the cover of Geek Confidential and there are several references to apes in the book. You once edited a Norm Partridge story about a gorilla gunslinger and recently, you wrote a piece for RevolutionSF about simian cinema. What’s up with the apes?
I wish I could explain it. I love Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem. I think it goes back to watching King Kong as a small child. Wasn’t it the coolest thing ever? And nearly thirty years later, it still is! One of my dreams is to write a Gorilla City [a hidden city of gorillas from Flash] comic for DC. Gorillas just make everything better.