Interview with C. G. Bauer

Jen: Please help me welcome C.G. Bauer to Book Talk this weekend. Chris, will you please share a short bio with us?

Chris: I grew up in northeast Philadelphia in the fifties & sixties. Yes, I’m an older debut novelist, but let’s stay away from metaphors about the aging of fine wine. Handcrafted micro-brewed beer might work. Nah, still too pompous. Meat, potatoes, beer, me. Stealing from my website: I’m the product of twelve years of well-intentioned Catholic school discipline that didn’t quite take; my childhood sports were played on blacktop and concrete accompanied by too many fist fights; and I’ve written and lived in multiple states (bad penny syndrome: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, plus determined, inspired, confused and euphoric). My short fiction has appeared in the crime fiction ezine THUGLIT and has been recognized by the National Writers Association, the Writers Room of Bucks County, the Bucks County Writers Workshop, and the Maryland Writers Association.

Jen: Tell us about Scars on the Face of God: The Devil’s Bible and where it’s available.
Chris: An aging church custodian/ex-con confronts an orphaned child who may or may not be the anti-Christ. Not blood & guts horror but rather (hopefully) a well-told story with horror and mystery elements. Scars on the Face of God was inspired by THE DEVIL’S BIBLE, a massive surviving 13th century religious manuscript with legendary origins that include the Devil as co-author, the Devil having allegedly helped a monk complete it in one night. (Yes, by all means Google it!) Drollerie Press picked the novel up and released it as an eBook late 2008, will also release it in paperback this summer. A portion of the sale of each copy will go to St. Vincent’s Home in the Tacony section of Philadelphia, at one time an orphanage and now an emergency shelter for children.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Chris: I discovered the thrill of writing fiction in college (Penn State) although it took many, many, many years afterward for me to indulge myself with it. My freshman English professor had given us portions of his unpublished novel to critique. Listening to him as he went through his creative writing process, hearing the feedback from his students, this all resonated with me well after graduating with a more practical degree in Business Administration. (I should mention the professor’s work-in-progress novel was ahead of its time: on a good day it was erotica, on most days it was porn.) I wrote a few short stories in my twenties, never showed them to anyone. I experienced a rather tough time personally with a corporate takeover in the early nineties, felt there was enough drama there for a novel, spiced it up with some characters from my childhood and eventually showed the first and only draft of THE RABBIT, STILLED, to two writers groups I’m still affiliated with. Scars on the Face of God originated from deciding that a shorter novel needed to be in front of this first novel which was at 120,000 words, a tougher sale for a debut novelist due to its length, or so was the feedback I’d received from agents gracious enough to provide it. Scars on the Face of God took a different genre turn and became a standalone piece.

Jen: What did you do to celebrate the sale of this book?
Chris: Went looking for a bottle of wine I’d received from a writer friend for this occasion, if it were to ever happen. The wine was distinctive in that it had a Devil’s head emblem on the label; how perfect a gift was this, right? I couldn’t find the bottle anywhere in the house. My daughter Jillian fessed up to having consumed it with friends one festive night when Mom & Dad weren’t home.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Chris: My daughter Jillian has been a newspaper reporter, newspaper features writer and newspaper photographer. FYI she was of drinking age (barely) when she helped herself to the wine.

Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?
Chris: Dunkin’ Donuts coffee; jet fuel for creativity. And the clock has to read somewhere between five a.m. and noon or so. I find that the later in the day it gets, the crankier I get about reading new work, digressing into a what-was-I-thinking mode and occasionally stunting my creativity without sufficient reason. So I changed my routine; I now critique other writers’ work in the p.m. hours (the author says, sheepishly lowering his head).

Jen: How many hours a day do you write?
Chris: Up at five each morning and in front of the screen. Work until seven a.m. Monday through Friday, until nine a.m. on weekends. In addition to soiling blank pages with my literary genius during that window this also includes editing, research and marketing, plus hitting a few of the social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Shelfari, Gather, The Haunt).

Jen: How do you shut out disruptions?
Chris: I close the door. (More? Okay.) I write when others are asleep. Plus my wife Terry has given me a wide berth time-wise, but not because she’s overly benevolent about it. She’s a “show me the money” kind of person; I keep a penny jar for that purpose; she no longer finds this funny. Occasionally Terry does succeed in shaming me away from the computer, like any time the house catches fire, a tornado touches down nearby or there’s a significant local zombie outbreak.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Chris: THE DEVIL’S BIBLE, aka CODEX GIGAS aka THE GIANT BOOK, has had some significant publicity the last two years because of its documented history as a spoil of war and its celebrated return 359 years later in 2007 to its country of origin, on loan there for a limited viewing. The elements of the artifact that inspired the novel are of public record.

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Chris: Most challenging has been generating rewrites of a project. That, plus now that my truly outstanding debut novel has been published, it’s been difficult finding time to market it while working on my next one. Easiest aspect is when I enter “the zone,” a feeling similar to a runner’s high where the adrenaline is pumping because the characters have taken over and I can’t get the words down fast enough. What a rush!

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Chris: Seeing a reader’s kind comment, or a four or five star review, etc. Having peer writers groups say the writing and the story are both working. Having a reviewer say she expects to see my name on the NYT Bestsellers List. A big royalty check (or so I’ve heard).

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?
Chris: Carver for his minimalism. King for his creativity and storytelling be it horror, thriller or fantasy. Koontz for his Odd Thomas series. Shilstone, as in Steve, the author of Chance (Breakaway Books), one of my all-time favorite novels. His narrator’s voice is incredible and it inspired me to write the in-your-face, got-nothing-to-hide first person narrative that my blue collar protagonist Wump Hozer gives us in Scars on the Face of God. (Steve, where are you? What else you got?)

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your writing?
Chris: The NYT Bestsellers List comment thing (Kelli Jensen, SF Crowsnest, whom I’ve been assured is and always has been quite lucid). Sure, it’s a stretch for a debut novelist, but we’re always looking for validation. And how much more can a writer ask than to get a reaction like that from a reader?

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Chris: Muscular. Minimalist. Twist-filled.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Chris: A paranormal mystery with a working title of HOP SKIP JUMP, about reincarnation and what happens when a person comes back to a place and time where she’s needed the most. I hope to complete it in time to make the publisher rounds next year.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Chris: Webpage is http://cgbauer.net. I am not to be confused with the gifted movie and television actor Chris Bauer, although I’d love to see Chris in a film version of Scars on the Face of God, are you hearing me, Hollywood?

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Chris: Writers rather enjoy hearing from readers when the writing connects; they love to have them leave comments and reviews to this effect on blogs, websites, etc. When the writing resonates and a story has done something for you as a reader, then buzz it please. Drollerie Press, who is publishing Scars on the Face of God, is a small press with a big heart. Stop by their website, give a holler to their authors, maybe buy its products there or elsewhere. Authors and publishers like it when you do these things.

Jen: Thank you for being our guest this weekend. Readers, Chris is giving away an ecopy of Scars on the Face of God to one lucky commenter. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, April 26 around 5 pm PDT.