Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to feature author Rick Claypool. Rick is the author of The Mold Farmer and Leech Girl Lives.
Recently, Rick and I discussed his inspiration as an author as well as his favorite parts of the writing process.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I was always making up weird creatures and stories when I was a kid. There was one point when I decided I was going to write a book of short stories based on Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. I was like 10 and I don’t think I got much further than designing a cover with drippy skulls and things. I started taking writing seriously in college, when my professors turned me on to boundary-pushing writers like Samuel Beckett and Kathy Acker. I wanted to write bleak, hilarious books. Bleak, hilarious, and minimalist. I always sort of have one foot in the like, weird speculative fiction camp and one foot in the offbeat literary camp. There are so many authors I’m excited about right now. Brian Evenson, Aliya Whiteley, Oliver Zarandi, Lincoln Michel. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on by Joy Williams and Sam Pink. I could go on and on.
Congratulations on the recent release of your novella, The Mold Farmer! How did this particular story develop?
Thank you! The initial idea for The Mold Farmer was to tell the story of a character caught up in and utterly exploited and pretty much destroyed by a system that doesn’t care at all about humanity. So, capitalism. But capitalism taken even further than its current extremes, because in the post-apocalyptic world of The Mold Farmer, it is these non-human beings who are in charge. They have no qualms about just completely using people up and throwing them away when they’re finished with them. So, more like Lovecraftian horror capitalism. I mean, there have been political cartoons since the Gilded Age depicting capitalists and corporations as monstrous tentacled things, squids and such. Also, there are parts where the main character really really really has to pee, and these were inspired by a time when I really really really had to pee.
Your debut novel, Leech Girl Lives, was released in 2017. What was the inspiration for it?
Capitalism again! Haha. Ok to be more specific, supply chains. Sorry if this sounds super dull. So many products come from raw materials that are extracted from the earth under incredibly dangerous, exploitative conditions and then assembled under incredibly dangerous, exploitative conditions and then sold to us in a way that completely erases this production process, as if rather than some other country with underpaid workers and lax labor laws, they’ve been handed down from some sort of near-future technological utopia. And I wanted to explore all of this through a weird as hell, pulpy sci-fi page turner. So (spoiler alert!) what Leech Girl Lives does is ask, what if instead of people on one continent enjoying the spoils of people being exploited on another continent, it was people from the future enjoying the spoils of people being exploited in the past?
How has 2020 affected your writing, either in the themes you’re writing about or your productivity overall?
Since March, I haven’t been able to write anything besides the reports I write for my day job. (I’m a research director for Public Citizen, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting corporate power.) Because for the most part when I’m not working, I’m parenting. Or panicking. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration. This year has been just so exhausting. I started playing video games again for the first time since I was in my teens. Hollow Knight has been terrible for my productivity. But good for my mental health, I think.
Your work often delves into speculative territory, in particular science fiction with a focus on environmental themes. What draws you to this area of literature?
I like to play around with big ideas. Big ideas and big emotions. And I like making up weird creatures and horrible situations. And the weirder the creatures and the more horrible the situations, the more interesting the story is to me. So I guess science fiction is the category that most lets me get away with doing the stuff I want to do. I get excited every time I find an excuse to add another monster to the story I’m working on. And if I’m interested and having fun writing the story, I think that comes through for readers.
If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: developing new ideas, working on a first draft, or polishing up an almost finished project?
Developing new ideas. It’s where the surprises live, and it happens at every stage of the writing process. Specifically my favorite part is working through narrative problems, like when I need to figure out a way to get the characters to do something in a way that’s plausible in the context of the story and honest for the characters and also unexpected. I want my readers to think that anything could happen. So when I have an idea that surprises me in a way that makes me laugh out loud and scribble it down and wonder how the hell I’ll ever pull it off, that’s the best.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m about 100 pages into this insane novel about these creatures that have been poisoned by magic pollution. They all live in this shitty town on the moon. Three creatures in particular go on a quest in response to a mysterious message from Earth, a cry for help. All my stuff is kind of weird but when it’s finished I think it’ll be the first of my books you could properly categorize as bizarro. What I’m going for is something like Aqua Teen Hunger Force meets Russell Edson. The working title is Super Worm Moon. I’ve hardly been able to work on it at all over the past year, but I think I just came up with the ending like last week.
Where can we find you online?
Oh crap I need to update my website. I’m on Facebook and Twitter, @weirdstrug. I post too much. A lot of it is just mushroom photos. Really cool mushroom photos though! The website is rickclaypool.org.
Big thanks to Rick Claypool for being part of this week’s author interview series!