October 2020 4th Circle Interview with Christophe Maso
DESI D: What’s your favorite line in a book/movie? And why?
CHRISTOPHE MASO: “Logic is the last refuge of a coward.” – Clive Barker, Books of Blood Vol. 3.
This isn’t true in all things; in fact, sometimes the exact opposite is true. But I absolutely believe this is true in art, and whether spoken or written or acted out, fiction is art. First, last, and always. A good fiction story and the world in which it unfolds follows logic to the extent that it makes sense, because as a writer, it’s always my job to wonder, “If this is true, then what else is true?” But good art often invites one to step into it and leave one’s comfort zone behind.
The ancient Greeks revered logos, but they recognized its limits, and that there’s a place in the human experience for pathos, as well. Brittle minds that fear the question “What if?” always keep logic close at hand as the ultimate emergency escape, because logic doesn’t dare you to step into the unknown. Logic recognizes only what can be established or proven, and essentially dismisses everything else.
DESI D: As a writer, how would you describe your muse? And your process?
CHRISTOPHE MASO: I’m compelled to write. I’d describe my muse as a witch with a gift of magic, but it’s a gift that can’t be refused, and her price is that the magic gets written about. And she doesn’t mind using baneful magic to get her way.
Before too long, a story starts to bubble up from my unconscious. It’s gradual at first, often beginning with just a single element, such as a person experiencing something, or a place and time, or a simple object. Then larger chunks start coming into view–characters, interactions, events, decisions, the general setting. Research into specific topics fills in blanks, makes the story more immersive, and (for me, at least) fires the imagination even further. Eventually I have to start writing. If I don’t, the story becomes all I can think about, my mood starts to spiral, and my sleep patterns start going haywire. The muse won’t be denied.
Fortunately, it usually doesn’t come to that. I don’t write hard outlines; that’s way too rigid. “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”, as the saying goes, and along the same lines, if I wanted to make my muse laugh, I’d try to show her an exact blueprint of the story. The final percentage of the story is always created as it’s being written. But by the time I’m ready to write, I do have a soft, malleable outline in my head, and I’ll write it out in a few paragraphs. That way, I can see the general timeline, and how it naturally breaks down into scenes and chapters.
Unlike some writers, I prefer to edit a bit as I write, rather than trying to vomit the whole tale out without looking back first. But then when the whole tale’s written, the serious editing begins. I read it aloud, and I reword, add, and delete as I go. I pass through that cycle several times at least, always remembering the famous advice to “murder your darlings,” until I’ve trimmed out about twenty percent of the first draft, and the story reads smoothly.
DESI D: What author has been your biggest inspiration to write? And why?
CHRISTOPHE MASO: There have been several, but the earliest was probably Ray Bradbury. I was exposed to him in grade school, when one of my teachers read us parts of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451. I instantly loved his poetic, lyrical style, full of simile and metaphor and image, and how he used speculative elements to get you to think about some thought-provoking, hard-hitting questions. Such as, “What does it mean to be human?”, and “When does fear and so-called ‘law and order’ undermine our humanity and work against us?” Then I read Something Wicked This Way Comes on my own–my first exposure to dark fantasy–and it blew me away. I loved spooky stuff as a kid (and still do)–ghost stories, monster movies, Halloween–and that one story was the tipping point that made me realize I wanted to create stories of my own in a similarly creepy, fantastical vein.
Years later, Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker super-charged that inspiration. One quote of Barker’s on writing resonates very powerfully with me, “There must inevitably be unholy business here, just as there will be sacred, but I cannot guarantee to tell you–or even sometimes to know–which is which…All I want now is the time to enchant you.”
DESI D: What is it about the art of storytelling that excites you? And what’s the next story we can look forward to reading from you?
CHRISTOPHE MASO: As a creator and teller of stories, you’re both rock composer and rock star. You get to create and populate an alternate universe, and then you get to put on a show, as the guide of an immersive tour through that universe. The power of the word has a freedom unlike any other in art–it’s like having a magic carpet that can take the reader anywhere in the space and time of your universe, and can shrink to the microscopic, or expand to the cosmic. Unlike a camera (real or virtual), it’s not limited to the visual and audial. It can speak to all six senses, because it can make the reader telepathic, empathic, and clairvoyant; it can take the reader right into the hearts and minds of characters, both individual and collective. It can foreshadow, hindshadow, or sideshadow.
To be deemed by fans and readers as even minimally worthy of wielding that kind of power is very exciting. To enchant, to excite, to mystify, to terrify, to inform, to amuse, to provoke thought, and to connect with fellow human beings by spinning yarns that ring true and carry meaning for them, there are very few things that carry more meaning for me.
My next story is titled “Feast of the Senses,” and will be included in Denver Horror Collective’s upcoming anthology, Consumed: Tales Inspired by the Wendigo.