appalling in a good way

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Clive Barker is a sweetheart.

R.J. Crowther Jr., a horror writer on the verge of breaking through into major publication — a truly nerve-wracking place to be — and whom I had the good luck to meet through my own novel BLOODANGEL (he works in a bookstore) — reports on his encounter when The Master dropped by RJ’s store for a signing:

Not a huge turnout for him, about fifty people, but then his new art book was very expensive. As usual he spent tons of time with each person, doing many drawings and what not. I waited with Patrick and Elizabeth (the manager and part owners of Mysterious Galaxy Books) until the crowd left. They closed the store and I was invited to stay with them and Clive for about an hour after the event, while Clive signed stock and drew pictures for the staff. I got to talk with Clive about his writing and several painters we both admire greatly, Bosch and Bruegel. He drew an awesome full page sketch in my book. Patrick introduced me to Clive and told him I was about to be published, and that I had dedicated my first novel to him. Clive seemed geninely touched and asked all about it. He wanted to know why I had dedicated it to him. I told him about how his unique ability to wed beauty and terror had led me to write horror in the first place. We talked for about a half hour about the details of what’s happening with my book, and he gave me a lot of amazing, in depth advice on how to promote myself and protect my interests as a writer.

But to the most exciting news–he said he’d be happy to read my book! He had his assistant on the tour take all my information and gave me his personal assistant’s email (he doesn’t use email himself, and even writes out all his manuscripts by hand and has them typed for him). Clive said he’s on tour through November, and preparing for a huge gallery show in Los Angeles that opens in mid-December, so he won’t be able to read it until the middle of January… What’s really cool is that Clive said even if my book hasn’t gone to galleys, he’ll be happy to read it in manuscript. He also said he can’t make any promises about delivering a blurb until he reads it, but he does promise he’ll give it a thoughtful reading and would love to do whatever he can to help me. I thanked him, and told him that even if he finds my book appalling, I was honored that he was willing to look at it. He just smiled and said, “Well I’m sure it won’t be appalling, at least unless it’s in a good way, or you wouldn’t have an editor trying to take the book to Knopf.” He did remember me from earlier signings, and remembered the interview I did with him when I was at UCSD.

He overheard me talking to Patrick about my leather jacket that he did a drawing on years ago, and asked how it had held up. He even remembered what he had drawn and described it to me. I told him the gold ink had faded to a dull green, and sadly you could barely see it anymore. He said the next time he’s in town, to bring the jacket with me and he would re-detail the drawing so it’s bright and lovely again!

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R.J.’s email reminded me of the creative debt I owe to Barker…there’s a scene near the beginning of his movie LORD OF ILLUSIONS that includes a very quick nightmarish image — it flashes on the screen only briefly, in the same way Gwyneth Paltrow’s head does in the final sequence of SEVEN. It’s of a bloodstained winged female creature in white perched on a piece of bedroom furniture. I don’t remember it more clearly than that — and I might be remembering it wrong — but the image stayed with me over years and eventually inspired the Big Bad in my own novel. She is introduced early on as bloodstained (and there’s a good reason why), dressed in white, and perched rather unnaturally inside a motel room. Some readers have told me the scene reminds them of the movie PROPHECY and for a while I myself thought it was PROPHECY that had influenced it — but, nope. RJ’s email reminded me that it was Clive.

Thank you, Clive.

I can only hope that one day my own twisted imaginings influence some innocent, impressionable young mind the same way yours did mine.

*Also a sweetheart.

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