Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Welcome, Craig Gehring

1: Thank you so much for being here, Craig. First up is the obligatory question. When did you first begin writing?

I first began writing as a wee lad. My motive was revenge. My cousin had sent me the movie “The Land Before Time” as a Christmas gift, and it frightened me so badly that I wanted to scare him back. So my first story was a five-year-old-ish horror piece. I don’t think Grandma actually sent it for me, though. Even then, the hardest part of the business was getting published!

2: What inspired you to write?

I love to entertain. I love creating an effect on an audience. What keeps me going is that laugh or that tear or that occasional “WHAT THE HELL?” I get from someone reading my work.

3: What do you like the most and least about writing?

I like most the writing part, from that primary spark of inspiration to that rush at 3:00 a.m. as the pages keep churning to that empty dread that maybe the story slipped away to the I THINK I CAN I THINK I CAN final stretch to that rewarding churn of the printer as the words breathe their first breaths in this world.

I like least the part where…well…hmm…I love it all. Even when literary journals reject me and I have to bite back tears and be cranky with my wife all day. All part of the fun.

I guess the part my wife likes least is literary journals.

4: What do you for fun and relaxation when not writing?

For one, I’m a Frisbee fanatic.

But mostly I play with my little girl. She’s one year old and terribly fun. She’s happy and energetic and quite unstoppable and definitely the best thing my wife and I have going for us.

5: Which authors do you like to read?

That depends on what I’m reading. One of my favorite authors is David Ives. He published a wonderfully hilarious book of one-acts called “All in the Timing”. Neil Simon and Steve Martin make the list. If I’m in a mainstream mood, it’s John Grisham, Stephen King…

Sometimes I go on a sci-fi binge, though, in which case it’s John Varley, Isaac Asimov, L. Ron Hubbard, Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Orson Scott Card…

6: What’s the one thing you’d most like people to know about you?

I’d like for people to know that I have stories and that they can get them from various places and that when they get them they can then read them and hopefully enjoy them. I have quite a bit of short fiction that is available on various free ezines on the web – my homepage links to them: http://www.craiggehring.com/

7: Tell me about your current novel, where I can find it and your website/blog.

My current novella is Norman. It’s about an artificial intelligence with an enormous heart circuit. He encounters Clayton, a cutthroat journalism student who will do anything for a story. Norman risks becoming a news spectacle, himself, in order to teach Clayton what it means to be human…or at least, he tries to.

Norman is being published by MuseItUp early 2011. Right now you can learn more about Norman by going to

8: Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

One thing I LOVE is Heinlein’s five rules of writing. Hugo award winner Robert J. Sawyer has a great article on the rules on his site: http://www.sfwriter.com/ow05.htm

9: Do you base your characters on real-life people?

Absolutely. I don’t know how else I could write. It’s way easier and comes off way more genuine and alive if I just use the people I’ve known. Sometimes I synthesize my characters out of different people.

10: Where do you get your ideas and what inspired you to write this book?

I get my ideas from reading and from conversations, mostly. These spark up series of “what ifs” that become the basis of the characters and plot. I have a very good friend who is a computer programmer, and the thought struck me after one of our conversations that any computer program is just one gigantic number. I got the funny idea, “What if someone tried to make artificial intelligence by just randomly picking numbers using a supercomputer?” And then, “What if supercomputer made the artificial intelligence, but nobody actually knew it had happened, so the A.I. just sat there and played solitaire or something until one day someone typed ‘hello’ on his computer, and he said ‘hello’ back.” And then, “I think I’ll call him Norman. Norman is a good name for an artificial intelligence. Any A.I. named Norman would probably be quite pleasant.” And then I got another completely unrelated spark: “I really want to write a book with a TOTAL JERK as a main character/narrator!” And thus Clayton East was born. But I ended up making him a somewhat likeable jerk. Norman tries to make him more likeable and less jerk. Clayton tries to make Norman a news story. And there’s Norman in a nutshell!

11: What are you currently working on?

I have a novel-length thriller called Nirvana Effect that I’m wrapping in the next month or so. I’ve also got a few shorter pieces in the fire. My monthly column on American cultural figures appears in American Fiction. You can learn more about all of my current works by going to my website – http://Craig.Gehring.com

12. Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?

Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I really appreciate your readers for taking the time to meet me.

At this point in the story, Clayton East has just met Norman, the artificial intelligence, and conducted an all-night interview. Norman’s caring angle on life is definitely having an impact on Clayton. Now Clayton tries to undo some of the damage he’s done with his ex-girlfriend Raksha.
Reading the pages brought back the memory of the night in full. It had been like a sleepover with a best friend, where at some point near three in the morning you start talking about the girls you like and the fears you have and things you know you’ve never told anybody and never will tell anybody again. Norman, the computer, heard all of that from me, and I heard all of that from him.

Norman didn’t have a love life or a woman to worry about like I had Raksha, but he did have his relationships. Computers obviously can’t cry, but I could have sworn the monitor got a little foggy when he talked about losing Eisenberg.

Norman thanked me afterwards for listening. I didn’t thank him, but I noticed I felt better than I had in a long time when I finally left the lab.

“Where’d you go?” asked Raksha as I walked back into the living room.

“I was just…reading…” She wore her dark hair in a ponytail. A few wispy strands strayed around the frame of her forehead. Her eyes were dark brown, almost black, and yet they shone bright. She’d been my pathetic crush since middle school.

Raksha looked different after my long night with Norman. I’d never looked at her the way I did at that moment. She wasn’t my crush, or my love, or the girl I worried over at all hours of the night. She was Raksha without anything having to do with me attached to her.

Somehow I’d always seen her as that girl in middle school. I’d seen her every day and yet missed the entire transition she’d made into womanhood. I had the awkward realization that I didn’t know very much about her.

I owed her something. The truth was, I’d never told her how I really felt about her. I’d worried that it would freak her out, that she would see me in a different light, that maybe she would take me for granted. Norman’s stupid essay echoed in my head. It shouldn’t be all about me. I owed it to her to tell her, even if it came to nothing.

“Raksha,” I croaked. I tried again. “Raksha, I need to tell you something.”

“What’s that?” she asked. She started to rise, concern tightening her face.

“No, stay there. I just want to tell you something, okay?”


I resisted the urge to say something lame like “I like your teeth.” I had to lay it all out. “Okay, here goes. I’ve never told you this because I’m basically a chicken, at least when it comes to you, probably because you’re the one person that can really get under my skin.”

She opened her mouth to say something but I kept talking. “I mean, you’re the one person that I let in, really. What you think…well, I care what you think about me. You’re very important to me. You’re my best friend and you’re more than that to me. So I’ll tell you this: I love you.”

“I love you, too,” said Raksha. Love is such a nonspecific word.

“No, I mean I love you love you,” I said. “Like I think about you all the time and really my secret desire is to spend the rest of my life with you.” Wow, I’m on a roll. “Like the only reason I’m still at this school is because you’re here. Like I wish every day that we were still together, I wish I could take back everything, I wish I could just have shut my ears and never overheard Maggie talking to you…” My body felt all mixed up, like my heart was doing my breathing for me. It was the cheesiest, most honest thing I’d ever done.

I stopped talking, though, because Raksha looked angry. It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting. I didn’t know what to expect but I certainly wasn’t expecting for her eye to tick.

“Well, take it back!” she shouted.

“I would if I could…”

Raksha stood up. “You can! Call her! Take it back!”

The thought overwhelmed me. Everything we’d been fighting over for the past year shot from her lips in a concentration of seven angry words. I couldn’t figure out what to say. I could tell she wanted me to just do it.

She gave me three seconds. I thought I saw a tear roll off her cheek.

“Fine!” she said. She grabbed her purse off the sofa and left.

I watched the front door glide to a halt in her wake. Had the ceiling become the floor? I wasn’t certain.

“Thanks, Norman,” I muttered to myself.


Lin said...

Excellent Job Craig, and Roseanne, you are such a doll letting all of us come here and talk about our up and coming works. And we need many more Normans!

chastitybush said...

Great interview! Congratulations!

Lea said...

Norman is a hoot and has plans. Stay tuned for the release.

Paul and Karen said...

Craig, great interview and sense of humor! Norman sounds great. I love the picture.


Heather Haven said...

Thanks to Jim, I am able to leave a comment. I think this is such a great book and idea. Love the Norman character, having nothing to do with my husband being named Norman, honest!!