Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Black Season by Todd Crawford: Interview & Excerpt



In The Black Season, Todd Crawford wraps up his Constellations series as well as pioneering his body of work in a fresh direction through a series of short stories written between the ages of 12-17. "The Eraser" draws the pulp tale of a man quite literally suffering from a God Complex. "Brighter," the first and last entry in the long-running Constellations series sheds light on the altruists and cynics of society. Crawford criticizes the integrity of modern artists in "So I Told Her I Play Guitar." "The Gingerbread House" gives readers a taste of what the infamous fabled home may have looked like at night! The Black Season encompasses the last five years of Todd Crawford's writings through all of these, and more, including the much-requested "Just another Star" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street 9."


Welcome Todd! Thanks for dropping by today. What was your first sale as an author?
I like to think of the book signing at the Greenville Public Library I attended last October to have been my first foray into salesmanship with my books, even though I had released my first nearly five years earlier. The months leading up to – and accumulating with – the signing were my first real moments of actually selling my books and collecting interest among readers. The goal was to outsell without having to sell out, and I left that evening with an empty box that was full when I came in, so I’d say it was a success.

When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?
Typically I’m a nocturnal writer, but when I become really obsessive about my story or I’m taking classes I’ll write throughout the day whenever I get the chance (oftentimes forging chances for myself). On a good day I’ll write 6-8 hours; on a bad day I won’t write at all.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?
Emotionally it’s very taxing to write the kind of literature that I do. I can’t call it autobiographical, but I wouldn’t call it entirely fiction either. A lot of the dialogue in my stories is collected from things said to (or by) me in real life, or characters are Impressionist portraits of people I have known. The Final Gospels was the worst. I was suicidal at the time and naturally had some very emotional peaks; writing would be so difficult that I’d have to stop and would just split my wrist open. There are pages splashed with my blood from the writing process that just dried on. Being someone who does not follow religion, it’s the closest thing I have in my life to a confession, but instead of saying “I repent from this” I learn to accept those qualities about myself and use them for good.

What does your significant other and family think of your writing career?
When my first book (a Clockwork in the Stars) was released, my stepmum was the first person to download it for the Amazon Kindle and to read it. She really enjoyed the first half, so she told me, but didn’t take too kindly to the latter portion. I don’t think that the progressive philosophic/pseudo-sexual nature of the book appealed to her as a reader in the way that it does to me as a reader and a writer; she’s more into base literature such as Twilight or 50 Shades of Gray (the type of books that mine sorta riff off of). The word “attention” is thrown around quite often. I don’t think my family takes my writing very seriously like I do; they probably expect it to be some phase I’ll grow out of as I live. I feel conversely, though, that life is just a brief portion of my existence that my Art grows out of. Every story that I write is a(n?) eulogy that I write for myself, what I would like to see as a comprehensive definition of myself, or a snapshot of Todd Crawford during a very specific period of my life. I think that a lot of things I encapsule in my prose are just too intimate of knowledge for them to handle as my family, and I can understand that. I would never censor myself in order to preserve their opinion of me, though, and so long as they don’t ask that of me I’m content.

Does your significant other read your stuff?
(laughs) I was hoping that you’d include a question of this nature, because I’ve had the answer to it prepared to live, and no other interview has given me the opportunity to recite it. Each of my books can be applied to a different significant other in my life, and none of them have ever read the book dedicated to them. “Brighter” and a Clockwork in the Stars were both dedicated to my first real crush and the emotions I felt after not really being rejected, but just not acknowledged by them. I really don’t think it would be respectful to give her name out, but it is included in the Special Thanks portion of The Black Season. The Final Gospels was about my first committed relationship, although I had to tone down a lot of things (believe it or not!). The Black Season was written about myself, but I think a lot of it was dedicated to a very special confidant at the time. The short story “The Eraser” was dedicated (or “deadicated”, as the story has it) to her, because she was really supportive with that particular concept and pushed me to complete it of all the stories. Ironically, I had the last real conversation I would with her the day it was released on the Kindle as a “digital single” for The Black Season. Getting over her friendship was my last lesson in moving on and learning to accept the past as well as welcoming the future. The Pilgrimage is going to make mention to all of these ladies, as well as another few I’ve spent some time with since The Black Season. I don’t refer to these girls as people I’ve been romantically associated with (only really two, or possibly three), but significant others as in my “Brighters,” at least during the portion of time which their respective books were written about. I’ve learned to live as if I was living under the scrutiny of a thousand cameras, and those who dare to enter the frame of my life just have to expect that they’re being recorded. If a girl is truly involved with my life, then she will be involved with my Art. This is non-negotiable in the relationship.
How do you describe your writing style?

I’d be lucky to be called a poor man’s Clive Barker! In all seriousness, though, it’s very difficult to describe my writing as it is constantly evolving. Perhaps that’s the best way to convey my “style” (or lack thereof): progressive and always maturing. Each of my books or stories begins immediately from where the last picked off, giving them a narrative quality in both prose and story. The Pilgrimage especially takes the endings of The Final Gospels and The Black Season as the ground from which its foundation is laid. Clockwork was very modern and intentionally so, but The Final Gospels had some traits that were almost Biblical in tone (so far as its prose goes, not getting into the story or satire itself). The Black Season did its best to tie those together while paving the way for new, original content and The Pilgrimage is this quilt of literature and allusions. It takes pop art to the next level.

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Not until after I had already finished a Clockwork in the Stars! I never planned on being a writer before then, when I realized “Hey, I have this book here that I guess I wrote.” I had always intended on becoming a film director, but I’ve pushed that aside as more of a hobby than a profession. I planned on going to Tom Savini’s school at the Douglas Art Institute in Pittsburgh for film and special effects, but as I found more out about the movie-making industry, the less I desired to be a part of it. The politics are really askew and as much as Capitalism fascinates me, some of the ways it is applied as a philosophy to what movies do or don’t get greenlit really offends me. All markets in America have money on the mind (if only as a nagging influence at its back), but many producers of film are sickeningly greedy to me. Before that revelatory moment, though, I wrote because notebooks and .07 led was a lot cheaper than a camera! I don’t need any financial backers to write a book; I can do everything I need to with or without any help at all I wrote Clockwork as a diversion from a pretty deep grave I had dug for myself in my mind.
Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go? 
Without a single doubt or moment of hesitation Japan! My next book is going to deal with Japanese culture even more than The Pilgrimage does to that of France! I would really like to continue this trend in my books that each takes place in a different country and portrays its lifestyle. I’ve had a few books and stories about America now and I’m sick of it. I was never happy with a predominantly Christian nation, nor with many facets of America’s culture, so I think that rather than suppressing myself with that it would be a great service to myself and my readers to educate myself about other cultures and apply them to my life and my Art. It would be too easy to stay national, and I think that this will be a healthy challenge for me as an author and a person that will reap some great rewards.  
Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself?
I often wonder if any haven’t! Clover and Ty from a Clockwork in the Stars really depict complimentary sides of my personality from that period of my life. I was always sort of chastised for having interests in things that were considered “feminine” or “unmanly,” and I was able to indulge in a lot of those things through Clover’s perspective. Being a straight male, I also have the instinctive urge to protect or provide for a girl that I may be interested in, so expressing that through Ty’s ambitions was very cathartic for me, who had hardly spoken to a girl at that age, let alone touched one! Peter and Benjamin from The Final Gospels both represent different sides of me, as heinous as some of the latter’s actions are. I think that his aura and mannerisms are the closest to my true self of any of the characters I have written yet, but his actions are the furthest from anything I would ever do. Peter embodied a lot of my frustrations with the world and those close to me, but he was also virginal and innocent, which I suppose I may have even seen myself as at the time, being exposed to all of these corruptions. Their relationship and circumstances from the novel was a pretty accurate translation of one that I had with my closest friend. Pierre from The Pilgrimage is a caricature of my narcissistic, self-indulgent side. It’s both self-parody as well as a political statement. He’s what Peter could have grown to become, had he been properly watered and given sunlight. Even the name Pierre is French for Peter, making The Pilgrimage somewhat of a direct sequel thematically to The Final Gospels. I can’t wait to see how readers react to him, as he is quite eccentric and enigmatic. He’s definitely the most interesting of all the characters I’ve written.

My short story, "The Eraser" on the Amazon Kindle
“Brighter” on the Amazon Kindle
My novel, A Clockwork in the Stars on the Amazon Kindle
“Just another Star” on the Amazon Kindle
The Final Gospels in paperback
My anthological novel, The Black Season in paperback print
And of course, and finally, the link to my "professional" Facebook page

Todd Crawford (1994) was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, where he wrote his first three books, a Clockwork in the Stars, The Final Gospels, and his anthology The Black Season. His writing style is recognized as descriptive, cynically honest yet whimsical. His works obsess over the geography of the human mind, existentialism juxtaposed with the politically religious, and nature hearkening back to the Romantic era of literature. He first published a Clockwork in the Stars through Lulu publishing, but released his latter works under the CreateSpace banner before reissuing Clockwork with his new label. Although his only currently released works have been of the literary outlet, he has indulged in other orientations of Art such as music (having composed a companion piece for his novel, The Final Gospels), film (having adapted his novella, Brighter, into a short film), and comic books. Crawford is currently working on his third (traditionally structured) novel, The Pilgrimage, an abstract commentary of politics as he is browsing agents to market the release.
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