YOU HAVEN'T READ BITE ME, Christopher Moore's newest and the final book in his vampire trilogy. Are you confusing it with 2007's You Suck? This one is totally different, guys! Well, actually, it's not radically different—which is to say, it's more of Moore's unfuckwithable brand of oddball hijinks and expert lowbrow comic timing. Bite Me stars perky-at-heart goth Abby Normal—backup mistress of the night to Tommy and Jody, two vampires "eternal in their love, but somewhat lame in their night skills." Full of undead cats, a gang of rowdy grocery clerks, and the cutest samurai this side of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bite Me is a fine, funny end to the tale of inept vamps and the day-slaves who love 'em.
MERCURY: How was writing the third book in a trilogy?
CHRISTOPHER MOORE: Harder than I expected. I kinda thought it would be a walk in the park, because I'd dealt with these characters for so long. I didn't want to keep doing the same thing over and over again, so it was kind of a challenge. It was fun. I liked that Abby Normal was a bigger part of this book. I don't know... it was better than digging ditches, but harder than I expected.
People came up to me when I was reading Bite Me to tell me that they'd read it. It looks similar to You Suck.
I'm worried about that. I'm worried that people will think it's the same book. Actually I've been getting letters for two years saying, "I just read your book Bite Me." Um, I don't think so, 'cause I haven't written that yet. Because even if you read the plot summary it sorta sounds familiar—it's San Francisco, it's vampires, it's a shaved cat.
Abby's great. How did you capture the voice of a goth teenage girl so well?
Yeah, she just took over in Bite Me, so I guess this was her book. Well, originally when I wrote You Suck three years ago and came up with Abby, I read a bunch of goth blogs online and picked up the vocabulary and the way they write. Because in Abby's part she's writing so it's fairly easy to take the language that those kids used. But for this book it was weird, all the blogs are gone. Everybody's texting. Basically I had to use what I learned writing [You Suck]. It's not like I could go hang out in goth clubs and just be creepy [laughs]. It was creepy enough reading blogs—like oh my god, the FBI is going to bust through the door any minute.
Like To Catch a Predator.
Yeah, exactly. It's like, "Why are you reading... ?" No really, it's research. But anyway, that's how I came up with it, just looking at stuff goth kids had written and how they looked at the world, and from there I constructed her character.
I heard an interview where you said that Tommy is a bit autobiographical. In what ways?
Certainly not for me now, but when I was 19 and had just come to California, I think I was a lot like Tommy. When I created that character there was a lot of autobiographical aspects—I worked in a grocery store, I worked nights, and I mean I didn't date a vampire but.... There was a real culture shock coming to California from the Midwest and I think that's the biggest part that Tommy had in common with me was being so far out of his element and so far beyond the expectations of the people he grew up with.
Any frozen turkey bowling in your past?
There absolutely was. Our night crew was also called the Animals and we got our name the same way the Animals [in the book] got their name, which was by hanging from the store sign letters at six in the morning, drunk. I was the night crew leader like Tommy is in [Bloodsucking Fiends]. But we did stuff that was more outrageous; I just didn't put it in the books because nobody would've believed it. They might believe vampire cats, but I don't think they would believe some of the stuff we pulled off.
In the Midwest, in the spring there are big displays of kites [at grocery stores]. At our break, which was about 5:30 am, we launched the entire display, just tied one kite after another after another after another onto each other. The string was out eight miles so we were tying long streamers of tinfoil on the strings so we could see it. I guess the civil air defense radar picked it up. Maybe they thought we were enemy combatants with kites, like whatever it was, but someone had called our manager and he comes pulling into the parking lot at 6:30 in the morning. As soon as we see his car, we cut the string. He's like, "What's going on here?" We're like, "We have no idea." Meanwhile there's eight miles of tinfoil and kites flying away. That's one of the things my guys would do. My guys would bring firearms to work, real firearms, and load them with rubber bullets and shoot stuff off the shelves. It was good times. Good times for a bunch of young guys without supervision. It was terrific.
Was the store bankrupt a week later?
Probably. The store I worked in was rumored to be owned by the mafia, so they didn't really care. They were all about losing money.
In Bite Me, is the vampire character Bella a nod to Twilight?
Actually, I hadn't read any of the Twilight stuff or seen it until after I had named that character. So it actually wasn't. Long story, I've been researching a book I'm going to write about painters so there was a lot of Italian stuff and I just picked that name. It turns out that it's coincidental. I realized that before my book was finished being edited that it's the same name as the Twilight character because I unfortunately watched the movie, which made for a great live blog—minute-by-minute I tweeted about watching it. A lot of my Twitter followers, were like, "Shut up. We don't care." I was trying to replicate that experience of sitting in my living room, watching a DVD, and doing that Mystery Science Theater 3000 thing, and it didn't occur to me that some people have an alarm go off on their phones when they get a tweet. So, god, that must have been annoying. Here I was watching it at midnight so people on the East Coast's phones were dinging like every 30 seconds at 3 am. I probably lost some fans at that point. So, the short answer is no, it's not a nod to Twilight's Bella, but I could have changed it but I just left it thinking that it would be ironic that this ancient vampire would have the same name as this whiny high school girl.
Eh, everyone's going to think they've read Bite Me anyway.
Is there going to be a fourth vampire book?
I don't plan on it. I think this one has a satisfying ending. It's open if something else needs to happen, but I like it right now as a trilogy. If there was a huge demand.... If I had enough readers saying, "Look, you suck. You've got to make another one." Then I might do it. But at this point I think the story came full circle and finished. I'll certainly set another book in San Francisco and as happened with Dirty Job some of these characters may wander in and out of it. Tommy and Abby are still in San Francisco and the Emperor is in all my San Francisco books. They could show up again. But it won't matter, everyone will already think they've read it.
What are you working on now?
It's about painters and it's set in Paris in the late 1800s. It's about French painters, impressionists and post impressionists, and yes, it's funny and yes, there's supernatural stuff. At least, I hope it'll be funny. It's been a big research project, so even while I was writing Bite Me I was working on the research part of the new book.
I was reading your blog and noticing all the pictures of European art. Your photo captions are really funny. Was that a research trip?
Yeah, I was there researching the book. If anybody asks that's what I was doing. I've always taken pictures—that's what I originally wanted to do, be a photographer. The photos and captions are my impressions of what I saw when I looked at paintings with monkeys in them. I have a lot of fun. It's just going and seeing all this great art, but some of it... how many Baby Jesuses can you look at? There's many. So you have to start rating them: Stoned Jesus, Buff Jesus.
When I go on these research trips I'm reacting to stuff that's not going to end up in the book. All of the art is modern so I can't put it in my next book. I end up thinking of funny stuff, so it's a way to share it with my readers.
The accompanying funny captions made me think you'd be a good comic book writer.
I just did one. It's not drawn yet, but the script is done. It's called The Griff. I can't tell you when it's going to be out, because we still haven't hired an artist yet. I did it with a friend of mine named Ian Corson, who's a film director. We actually wrote it as a script to a movie, and it would've been a $200 million movie. It would've been ridiculous. We adapted it for a graphic novel last year. I don't know when it will be out—I'm guessing 2011. They're looking for artists right now to draw it. It's about the earth being destroyed by giant flying dragons. What better way for comedy than giant flying dragons from outer space? We're not messing around. It's got a lot of action and a lot of goofy sort of characters going back and forth. Harper Collins is going to put it out.
Any word on any movie versions of your books?
They've all been sold except Bite Me because it's new. And I think I got the rights back to Coyote Blue and Fluke. Let's just say that at one time or another they've all sold to the movies. None of them are really past the script stage. The closest one is The Stupidest Angel, my Christmas book. They were casting that last year and some things got in the way. I don't involve myself with it a lot, because I can't make that rock move. It's just too big. What I can do is go off and do my other stuff. My first book sold for a film before it sold as a book 20 years ago, and it still hasn't been made. I get word now and then, I guess the script for A Dirty Job got delivered yesterday so I'll probably be seeing that in a month. I don't really have any input; neither do I try to have any input. Some producers are amenable and they ask, "Who do you think would be a good person to play this?" and "What do you think of this script?" Other producers aren't. Nobody gets creative control from an author's point of view. That's just sort of a myth.
What's the setup for your Portland appearance? Will you be reading?
I usually talk about the book for a half an hour. I do what we just did, but there's nobody to ask me questions. I ask myself, "Why are you so interesting?" "How can you be so awesome?" I usually do a half an hour of what turns out to be social commentary and standup. Then I answer questions about the book. I figure people are going to read the book, so there's no reason for me to read it for them. That would just make them lazy.