Friday, October 14, 2011

Patrick Carman Has Ghostly Visions

When Kellie Celia at Walden Pond Press asked if I wanted to speak with Patrick Carman to continue our GUYS READ:THRILLER celebration I had to keep myself from being a bit of a slobbering fan boy and answer with a calm yes. Well, when I made my first call to Mr. Carman I stumbled over my tongue and started speaking bocce (an interplanetary trade language comprising parts of multiple languages. It was created by the Baobab Merchant Fleet to allow communication between starcraft pilots, crews, and support personnel of various species.).

We decided to set up a second call for the interview a day later (mostly because our timing was off, not because he wanted to call the authorities about the raving lunatic speaking to him on the other end of the line). Mr. Carman was very gracious to speak with me about his story Ghost Vision Glasses, the craft of writing and a shared love of weird mail order gadgets. This is how it all went down...

 What brought you to the Guys Read: Thriller project?

Patrick: I'm fishing buddies with Jon (Scieszka, writer and editor extraordinaire). He's not very good, he's kind of a hack actually (laughs). I've been with friends with Jon for awhile and when he asked if I would write a weird little story, I said sure. From there he let me off the leash and do my story with very little editing involved.

A lot of your books lean to darker themes. Why did you choose to write suspense/thrillers? Were you influenced by these types of stories?

Patrick: The kind of stuff I grew up on was the creature features. Creature from the Black Lagoon, Twilight Zone, etc. They were softer creepy stories, weird stories, that are not as scary and graphic as the movies and stories are today. The movies today would have terrified me as an 11 year old viewer.

I agree. Movies like Saw and Hostel would have put me into therapy...

Patrick: I know. Those older stories were great escapism, thrilling stories that took you to different worlds that I could enjoy from the safety of my own room. Those kind of stories were an influence to what I create today.

I prefer the classics myself. Why do you think young readers are drawn to these types of stories?

Patrick: Weird things are universal and I think that everyone can relate to these kind of stories on some level. It's another form of escapism much like Willy Wonka or the Narnia books where the kid isn't exactly in charge but they have to navigate through that world. They deal with the dark elements. In my first book The Dark Hills Divide it was about a kid lost in an adult world, where they had to sneak around and figure out their role within it. I don't think young readers necessarily want to push out adults in stories but they want to escape into something, a new world, some place that they wouldn't go to in normal life.

Yes! my daughter's creativity grows from reading. She makes up parts to the stories that we read. She develops a sense of wonder and is starting to create her own stories.

I agree with you that Stephen King On Writing is one of the best books for writing. If there was a Patrick Carman On Writing book, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Patrick: The longer I do this the more I find that it is the simple art of telling a story. As kids get older I feel like they do less reading and story telling. A fabulous way to get better at writing is to torture your friends by reading them your stories and getting their feedback. If they tune out or get bored at certain parts then you know you need to change those sections. The toolbox for writing is there - you need a pencil or a pen and some paper. People can be writers, you practice for ten years and three hours a day and you will be a writer. The thing that separates those with a knowledge of craft and storytelling are the ones that can tell a great story. You can practice and be good at constructing a sentence, putting word after word, but at the end of the day it boils down to - can you tell a good story.

This is wonderful advice. I believe that everyone has a voice, they have to learn how to bring it out. 

Patrick: Right, kids are great at telling stories at age 10,11, 12, but they are not necessarily great at writing them down.

Most of your books are multi-platform, which is a lot of fun, is this a component you consider before launching into a new story? Why do you think this is an important aspect to have with your books?

Patrick: Yes, those stories are predetermined. I know going in how they will be put together. But I want to stress a very important point. No amount of tech wizardry can save a bad story. The story must be good before you add the bells and whistles to it. In the Skeleton Creek books one of the characters, Ryan, loves to write scary stories and tell them but didn't want to be IN them. The book is about how opposites attract. The girl, Sarah, wants to tell scary stories but doesn't really want to write them, read them, sit in a room and tell them, she wants to be in them - right in the heart of them. So she uses her talent of video taping them. It becomes a who can tell the story better from a writing stand point or a film making standpoint. In the end they come together to appreciate each others talent and tell a great scary story.

These videos and audio elements are all created by a group of five talented people that I work with here in Walla Walla, WA - which is a small town but it is full of creative people. We are like our own little movie studio. A director shoots them, we have a web designer, an audio guy, etc. It is all put together by us.

How involved are the publishers? 

Patrick: The publishers haven't really been involved with these elements. We have long leash with them on what we create here. They would certainly be welcomed to any creative input but I think they realize this is not their strong area of expertise. We have been doing this for over five years now, since Skeleton Creek came out and we have a great system of creating them.

If you could have any mail-order gadget in the world (outside of GVG),what would it be and why?

Patrick: I really wanted one of those bald wigs. I always thought how great it would be to walk in with it on and shock my mom. "Hey mom, look at this!" (laughs). Unfortunately, I got one of those wigs and it was horrible. It was pretty disappointing. I also wanted one of those decoder rings so I could send messages to friends and I really wanted some sort of surveillance device so I could eavesdrop on my family.

That's a triple threat of awesomeness there!

Patrick: Yeah, I guess I really wanted to be a spy.

For the executive?

Yes, if the book thing doesn't work out, you have a new career path! But let's be honest Asylumites, I don't think he has to worry about a new career. He's creating plenty of great stories, and that tech wizardry he brings to the table is just the icing on the scrumptious cake.

Mr. Carman and I continued to talk for a bit longer about many of his new projects that set my hair on fire. I left a few things out of this interview because we are going to be speaking again about his brand new project DARK EDEN. And there is going to be giveaways and all kinds of great spooky fun to be had. So be sure to come back and haunt the place. Until then, check out the Dark Eden trailer below.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome interview and post. Thanks. Nice meeting you in LA at SCBWI, DM.