A Baker’s Dozen with… Norman Partridge

Several years ago, I started producing a series of 13 question (hence the Baker’s Dozen) interviews for RevolutionSF. Since I am a contributing editor to the site, I felt it was a unique and potentially interesting way to expose our readers to a wider variety of writers and artists.

Tor paperback cover  Hardback cover by John Picacio

My latest, a conversation with Stoker-winner and World Fantasy-nominee Norman Partidge, discusses Patridge’s latest Dark Harvest, writing in general, and what the future and past hold for this under-appreciated talent.

What made you decide to use a second person narrative in Dark Harvest? Is this a style you will continue using?

I’m sure I’ll use it again someday, but it’s not the kind of style that would fit every project. With DH, I really wanted readers to hear me talking from the other side of the page, the way you do when you listen to a campfire tale.

I wanted to yank them into the book and make them part of it, too. I had that intention from the first paragraph: “A Midwestern town. You know its name. You were born there.” That was kind of the wham bam welcome to my world moment.

The feature began on December 10, 2004 with comic book artist John Lucas as we discussed his then forthcoming The Barker series for Detective Comics.

How would you describe your artwork?

Stranded. Alternative editors think it’s too mainstream and the mainstream don’t quite know what to do with it. It’s a tough row to hoe, but if I can develop a following, I think it’ll be a loyal one. All the artists I’m most influenced by are the kind of guys who put out a project, the die-hard fans buy it, then wait for the next scrap. Hopefully, I’ll be able to follow that model.

The comic ran for four issues beginning in Detective Comics #801. Lucas currently inks The Exterminators (DC/Vertigo).

Mark London Williams, the next.. er.. victim, talked about the release of the third Danger Boy episode, Trail of Bones, being a father, and writing young adult fiction.

You began your literary career producing magazine articles, plays, comic book scripts, and adult fiction. How did you emerge as a young adult novelist?

It was thanks to my son, Elijah. When he was a toddler (now he’s almost 11, and going by “Eli,”) he ran down the halls of our house saying “I’m a ‘Danger Boy!’ I’m a ‘Danger Boy!'” I’d been looking for a series idea for older readers, since getting back into the children’s book section with him — what was he gonna read next? Nothing at the time seemed very dark or complex, at least in the new series that were out. Nothing with real “stakes.” This was about a year or so before “Harry Potter” arrived on the scene. . . .

Chris Roberson and I talked about his first Pyr novel Here, There, and Everywhere, acclaim, publishing, John Picacio, and the Bonaventure-Carmody universe.

In Here, There & Everywhere you introduce the time traveling Roxanne Bonaventure. You write of her like you know her. Who was the inspiration for her?

This is something I’ve been asked before, but I’ve yet to come up with a satisfactory answer. I’d hate to be so clichéd as to say that Roxanne sprang fully-formed from my head, but at the very least I have to admit that much of her genesis was fairly unconscious. She certainly shares personality traits in common with a number of women I’ve known over the years, and I think it’s fair to say that there is a bit of my wife Allison Baker in the mix as well, but she wasn’t intentionally based on anyone in particular. Once she appeared on stage and started speaking, though, she was all Roxanne, so far as I was concerned.

Artist and filmmaker Bill D. Fountain:

Why after a ten-year hiatus did you decide to return to comics?

A combination of life happening and a growing frustration with the declining quality of the comic work I was being offered drove me away from graphic novels and into other media ten years ago. I spent the last ten years teaching, cycling, writing, directing films and raising a daughter. I think more than anything, the thing that brought me back to creating comics was I felt a strong need to communicate and express myself using sequential art, and more to the point, to communicate with this up and coming generation.

It was also a huge “practice what you preach” awakening moment for me. You are telling these kids to pursue their dreams with passion and never give up and you aren’t doing likewise. Doing The Raven comic was me finally walking the walk. We stray from the path but occasionally the path finds us again. With a vengeance.

World Fantasy winning artist John Picacio:

For a young artist who’d like to become a book cover illustrator, what words of advice do you offer?

As far as doing the actual work itself, figure out what you love to do the most, and make that your focus. It’s like I always say, “There’s Plan A. And when that fails, there’s Plan A. And when that fails, there’s Plan A. . . .” Just keep pushing.

World Fantasy nominated Robert E. Howard biographer Mark Finn:

What is Robert E. Howard’s place and stature in American literature?

Howard occupies a unique niche in American Literature. My friend and colleague Steve Tompkins has written a lot on the idea that Robert’s fiction falls squarely in the American literature camp, the camp occupied by Hawthorne, D.H. Lawrence, Mark Twain, Hemingway, and others. Howard’s stance is certainly masculine, aligning him with Jack London and others, but his use of symbol and metaphor is as rich and varied as any of the Southern post-modern gothic authors like Faulkner.

Comic book writer Paul Benjamin:

How does a Jewish guy from Oklahoma end up writing a manga-style graphic novel for Tokyopop?

It’s a very easy, step-by-step process. First, since the Jewish guy from Oklahoma is just about the only Jew in the state, he turns off the lights in the synagogue then leaves Oklahoma. After going to college in Arizona he moves to Los Angeles and spends 10 years working as a Hollywood executive and a graphic novel editor. This exposes the Okie to comics from all over the world rather than the primarily super-hero-centric American comics he grew up reading.

After selling his house in LA to move to Austin, Texas, the comics editor can now afford to take some time off from a day job to focus solely on his writing career. Having made contacts with many artists and editors during his years in the comics business, the Oklahoma Jew sits down with a Tokyopop editor and pitches some ideas. He then calls the American artist trained in Japan with a Japanese art partner for a wife and asks them to co-create his manga story about a high school for demigods in present day Los Angeles. So it’s a simple 6 step process that any Jewish guy from Oklahoma can follow.

Acacia Book 1: The War With the Mein author David Anthony Durham:

Your previous three novels (Gabriel’s Story, Walk Through Darkness, Pride of Carthage) were all award-winning, well-reviewed historical novels. Why the seemingly radical switch to epic fantasy with Acacia?

It didn’t feel radical to me. In many ways Pride of Carthage was such a fantastic story that it could barely be contained in historical fiction. It was about sweeping events, death on a massive scale, with incredible turns of fate, with powerful families and charismatic leaders, love stories and personal vendettas, myth and legend, etc. Hannibal’s elephants weren’t exactly oliphants, but they were just as spectacular as they churned through terrified troops that had seen nothing like them before.

Parts of it were so unbelievable, and the main characters actions so bold, that the entire Second Punic War seemed one of those rare instances when actual life was grander than anything you’d imagine.

And finally with former-Cyberpunk, acclaimed writer Lewis Shiner about The Fiction Liberation Front, short fiction, the Wobblies, and other pertinent topics:

What is your response to Howard V. Hendrix and others who claim that that posting works for free undercut those “who aren’t giving it away for free and are trying to get publishers to pay a better wage for [the] hard work.”?

I think trying to get publishers to do anything is futile, especially when the writers have no clout. People aren’t paying to read short fiction, so of course the writers are not going to get paid more for writing it.

He used a lot of emotional language to get people stirred up. No one likes to be called a “scab,” for example. But we don’t have a situation where Howard is refusing to sell to Anthology X because they have a lousy contract, and I stepped in and said, “Here, buy my story instead of Howard’s, I’ll take your bad contract.” I was one of the few guys who took a beating for refusing to sign the lousy [Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine] contract back in the 80s, when SFWA [Science Fiction Writers of America] was too busy worrying about who was on the Nebula ballot to get involved, so I’m particularly sensitive to this issue.

If Howard is a union man, I invite him to do what I did, which is join the IWW, the Wobblies. Their dream of “one big union” would really give workers power, even in entertainment.

So there you have it, a Cliff Notes journey through my Baker’s Dozen interviews. Hope you enjoyed the trip.