Interview with Richard S. Crawford


You often use the screen name “Underpope.” I have to ask: Why underpope? I know Charlie Stross is autopope…

Why “Underpope”? Well, thereby hangs a tale.

Years and years ago, I ran a Vampire Live Action Role-Playing game (LARP) which we called “Underground Puppeteers”, or “Underpup” for short. One of our players was a young woman with a strong Christian upbringing, who would occasionally tell her pastor about the game. Her pastor eventually decided that we were all a cult, and that I was the leader of the cult. “But he’s so nice!” Ann said to her pastor. “That’s how they draw you in,” said the pastor.

I related this story to my friend Keith, who decided that if I was the leader of a cult, then I must be the pope of that cult. And since the cult was called “Underpup”, then I must be the Underpope.

Voila! A screenname was born.

I didn’t say it was an interesting tale.

If you could talk to any author from the past, who would it be?  Why?  Who would you NOT want to talk to?

You know, I think I’d enjoy chatting with Robert Louis Stevenson. He knew a thing or two about writing adventure stories, making them accessible to his readers, and just coming up with fun stuff. And I supposed Jack London as well, whose great adventures were also tinged with an occasionally overwhelming sense of solitude and loneliness. Maybe John Steinbeck, whose mastery of sympathetic characterization is something I’d love to learn how to emulate. And H. P. Lovecraft, if he could get over his anti-semitism and racism, because of his fascinating worldview and ability to convey his bizarre visions. Probably some sort of amalgram of Stephenson, London, Steinbeck, and Lovecraft, all together in one big author pile.

I would NOT want to meet Ernest Hemingway. I’d insult his writing as pedantic and dull, and then he’d punch me in the face and run me over with a bull. I wouldn’t like that.

Do your characters talk to you?  Do you see the stories as images?  Do you ever argue with characters you hadn’t planned?

My stories do tend to come as random series of images that I try to stitch together into some coherent sort of pattern with the help offered to me by my characters. Sometimes my characters will come up with ideas that don’t really work for me, but I figure as long as I show them who’s boss, we get along fine. Usually, I win.

Have you ever wished for a particular character — or idea — to walk into your story?  Has that happened?

Frequently, and I’ve been pretty lucky, too, though. “The Bride Price” started out as a single line — “…because she was, like, all dead and stuff” — and I guess I wished for an entire story to show up around that. I think I was pretty lucky to have the mad scientist, the creature, and Elsa Lanchester as a high school girl all show up as they did.

Do you ever get to a certain point, reading a story, and feel the click! as you have got to the point of no return/can’t stop now?  Does writing ever feel that way?  If you had to liken writing to anything, what would it be?

Unfortunately, the most apt metaphor for what writing is like for me I can’t really describe in the pages of a family magazine, so let’s just move on…

What piece of writerly advice do you wish someone had given you?

Hm. I think that I wish someone had told me early on to trust my ideas, and to trust myself as a writer. Mostly to trust that I was worthy to write the ideas that I came up with. I spent many, many years stalled in my writing because I had all these great ideas, but never felt I was a good enough writer to do them justice. I still feel that way from time to time, I suppose, but I’m less afraid to tackle them.

Is there something you do that no one ever asks you about?  This can be anything — something unusual you eat, playing poker as a day job, a hobby, whatever you like.

After pondering this one for nearly twenty-four hours, I’m still unable to come up with an answer. This tells me that I’m either very dull, or that I’m a genius whose thoughts and doings are so far beyond the normal day-to-day world that no one can even think to ask the important questions of me. Naturally, I prefer the latter explanation.

Particular favorites for books, movies, series, comics, blogs, etc.?

Favorite author: Right now, it’s Christopher Moore. Moore has a way of making characters who are pain-ridden, bizarre, or otherwise broken seem normal and sympathetic, without sentimentality. It’s a quality I’d like to achieve in my own writing.

Favorite books: I’d probably have to say _A Dirty Job_ by Christopher Moore, though I’m also partial to _A Prayer for Owen Meaney_ by John Irving. Oh, and _Bag of Bones_ by Stephen King.

Comics: Hm. Right now I’ll go with the “Fables” series.

Favorite Movies: “Shaun of the Dead”, “Dawn of the Dead”, “Young Frankenstein”, “Labyrinth”, and “The Darjeeling Limited”.

Favorite beer: Anything that can be eaten with a fork. Which is how I like my coffee, too.

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