Today we have an author interview with Patrick Canning. He’s the creative talent behind the action packed adventure novel Cryptofauna. You can find my spoiler free review of Cryptofauna here and the spoiler full one here.
You can find his novel through the affiliate link here: Cryptofauna
Questions About Writing
Is writing your full time job? Do you also consider it a passion?
Canning: I’m sort of in limbo right now but certainly hoping to make writing a full time job. It is always a passion regardless. Not to say that writing doesn’t feel like hard work a lot of the time, but it’s work that feels worth it.
What is your schedule for writing like? How much time does it take to write say 1 chapter?
C: I don’t have a super set method still but I’ve played around with being accountable timewise (say 4-6 hrs a day or so), or alternatively a page count (2k words a day is an ambitious yet reasonable goal to shoot for). The best writing method I’ve heard of is probably this one: Sit at a table. You don’t have to write, but you can’t do anything else. Boredom pretty reliably brings creativity, and then you’re off and running.
Amanja: I definitely find that boredom helps. My main thing is putting the darn phone somewhere I can’t reach it!
How much planning goes in to writing before you actually write a sentence? Or do you just let the words flow and do heavy editing later?
C: Definitely the latter. For me it’s going from a place of zero judgement in the first draft (all ideas are allowed, no matter how wild), to a place of extreme judgement in the revision stages (getting the opinion of others and being as objective about your own work as possible).
How do you handle criticism or negative feedback on your writing?
C: As long as the criticism is well-intentioned and not just venting, it can be really valuable craftwise. Discerning what feedback to take and what to reject seems to be a practicable skillset, which is always good news. Negative reviews never feel good, but sometimes it comes down to a bad pairing between book/reader, or a mismatch of expectations. Books are a big time investment, so frustration is understandable.
A: I think the bad pairing is something some authors may not understand. Just because I personally didn’t like a book doesn’t mean I can’t see why someone else might love it. Not everything needs to be for everyone.
Do you have any tips and tricks for aspiring writers?
C: Finish books! If there’s an idea you live and die by, I’d say to not make it your first novel. Go through the stages of the process on something less precious to you (that you still care about, of course), because the latter stages of the process can be instructive and some writers never get to because they are too involved in a “perfect” execution of that big idea.
A: That’s really interesting! I like this idea of getting experience before you attempt your opus.
Questions About Reading
Do you think it’s necessary for a good author to also be a prolific reader?
C: Yes, a billion percent. Nobody wants to eat at a restaurant where the chef doesn’t like food.
How do you find time to read?
C: I just try to make sure it’s the thing I do at bedtime. There’s always the temptation of Netflix or flashlight tag, but I think reading is more enriching, and there’s the added convenience that it helps you fall asleep (don’t tell reading I said that).
A: I do that too, it’s good to just build it into the routine.
Who are the authors that you most want to emulate?
C: Career wise I’d say anyone that releases work regularly or semi-regularly. Stephen King is probably a boring answer but yeah, anyone who has a high output, provided they care about each story they’re putting out. As far as content goes, I don’t want to emulate anyone directly, but I’ve certainly been influenced by just about everything I read in varying degrees. Whatever book I’m reading at the moment will always temporarily color whatever idea I’m developing. Ultimately, some of it sticks around and some of it doesn’t.
A: I love that you want to create your own original content instead of step directly into someone else’s footprints!
Who’s an author that you think is criminally under-read?
C: I know David Benioff got a lot of grief for the last few seasons of Game of Thrones (which I didn’t like either), BUT his book City of Thieves is so terrific, I always recommend it to anyone looking for a great read. I don’t know if Flannery O’Connor could be considered under-read, but she’s someone I’ve liked a lot as well.
What’s a book from your childhood that holds a special place in your heart?
C: Any of the Calvin and Hobbes collections, they’re all perfect.
A: 100% agree, I still have all of my old collections of them.
Questions About Cryptofauna
How much of yourself is in the protagonist?
C: Honestly I’m not sure. I think a part of the writer goes into each character, but I’ve never created a character with the intent of it representing me or someone I know. Sometimes you get to fracture your worldview into a bunch of different characters and have them hash it out on the page.
What personal experience did you draw on when writing your book?
C: I’ve certainly experienced some of the same disconnect Jim endures, so I knew I wanted it to have a kind of escape-from-reality quality. Off to Hogwarts, through the Wardrobe, dropping into the Land of Oz, that sort of thing.
In Cryptofauna the monks eat nothing but carrots and dandelion wine. Why carrots? Do you have a particular fondness for them?
C: I can’t quite remember! I know there was some practical consideration of the nutrients in both, things like Vitamin D which are good to get if you’re living underground. I think it also gives the place some character, and allows for a kind of odd fixation that our heroes grow to understand and enjoy (kind of like Cryptofauna’s obsession with socks).
A: Ah yes! The socks! I did like that weird little detail, makes the book that much more endearing.
I really enjoyed the characterization of Oz. All of the weird details that added up to who he is. Who was your favorite character to create?
C: Whip is pretty fun to write because he’s such a smart ass and is fairly unconstrained when it comes to what he can do. The challenge then becomes how to incorporate that into what Jim and the other characters are going through in a meaningful way. Whip can change shape and appear here and there, but if it has no relevance to the story, that’s just a waste of the reader’s time.
Bo Peep, described in her true form, is terrifying! How many concepts for her body did you go through before you landed on the final one?
C: I knew she was going to be pre-historic and I went the insect route with that. To make her imposing, she had to be really big. Then, there’s something called Trypophobia, which is, I think, defined as fear of clusters of small holes (imagine coral, or a strawberry, or a beehive). So once I had this giant millipede, in order to try and make her appearance a little more uniquely horrifying, I put all the holes on her back to try and make her as repulsive as possible. I can’t actually remember if she had any different designs other than that, but that’s the best I can reverse engineer the thought process.
A: I totally get the trypophobia thing. I think that taps into something very primal and instinctual with us humans.
Canning has included a great diagram to help you understand how to play Cryptofauna:
Questions About You/ Just for Fun
What is something mundane that doesn’t seem to bother most people but drives you absolutely insane?
C: I swear people have been increasingly running red lights the last few years, more than ever before. It’s also possible I’m just getting old and cranky.
What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken?
C: In college, I took a trip across the country with a few friends in a really old RV. We saw some weird things and got yelled at by the guards at Fort Knox when we tried to drive onto the base, thinking it was a tourist destination. It is definitely not.
A: Oh no! I can imagine they were not welcoming!
What’s your favorite present you’ve ever received?
C: Alfred Hitchcock DVD Box Set. Great movies, and the box is covered in cheap, burgundy velvet, so it’s pretty classy too.
A: I would love to receive that!
If a stranger wanted to win you over at a bar, how would they start the conversation?
C: They could compliment the architectural integrity of whatever super cool structure I’m building out of cocktail straws.
A: I would like to see such a structure!
What is something that you would scream at your younger self until you were sure they listened?
C: Oh man, I’d do damn near everything differently. However, things could still work out in the long run, so I guess I’d hold off on changing too much just yet. But if I’m going to be making the same mistakes, I’d at least tell myself to buy Bitcoin early on, so I can at least be making mistakes with lots of dough in my pocket.
A: Same. Same.
Where can people find you?
C: I post mostly about books and my dog on Instagram @catpanning
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
C: Be nice to people if you can! And never mix peanut butter with white rice when improvising dinner. I tried that once and it was really, really gross.
A: I think that’s some solid advice!
Make sure to check out Canning’s book Cryptofauna, available now!