Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe are the two writers that I enjoy the most. Mr. King helped me see how much fun horror can be. Mr. Poe showed me that horror stories can be classics and that there's no shame in having a big vocabulary and trying out a new or big word every now and then. When I was a young writer, I hoped that people would refer to me as the black Stephen King one day. As I grew older, I decided that I wanted to be the black Edgar Allan Poe. Now, I hope to be a classic one day with work so appreciated and revered that people think of Edgar Allan Poe as the white Craig Newman of the 1800s. But I have a very long way to go before that happens. It's time to begin that journey.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Every day, I hope I make a difference in someone's life. It might be something big I do or something small. Whatever form it takes, I hope that someone walks away happy that our paths crossed and I did something they can appreciate. I think that's why I try to be very gregarious. I can't make a difference in someone's life if I don't meet them and find out something about them.
What do your stories tend to have in common?
I figure that every writer has a "signature" they leave in their work. By that, I mean that there are common traits many of their stories will have that the reader can identify and associate with the writer. Here are some of the traits my stories tend to have in common: * Twist endings: When I read a book or watch a movie, if I can figure out the story's secret before I get to end, I feel cheated. I instantly label that story as crap. All stories should go left at some critical moment when you think it should go right. I don't want my readers feeling gypped by my stories. * Hidden clues and foreshadowing. When my stories do go left when they seemed to be set to go right, I don't want the reader to be stuck in WTF mode. I want some amount of "say what?" to occur, but I also want the story to hold clues that the left turn was coming. When the reader thinks about the story they should see those clues and think "OOoohhhh is THAT what he meant by xyz? That makes more sense now." Add Twist Endings to Hidden Clues and you get what I call "Stories to be read twice". They may catch you off-guard with the first read, but when you look again, it all makes sense. If it doesn't make sense after a second read, that means I screwed up. If you read my stories (and I hope you do!), read the whole story before assuming I did something wrong. I've been told by a few readers, "You made a mistake when you said..." and I''m thinking, " I said that because of the secret! Keep reading!" * The supernatural. I'm a horror/scifi/fantasy fan, comic book geek, and a man of faith. Yeah, something supernatural and impossible is gong to happen in most every story. * Insanity. If something magical isn't happening, someone's gone nuts. Living with bipolar and anxiety disorders as I have for most of my life, the topic of mental health is pretty important to me. So I tend to have characters who are struggling with different mental health issues. They can be villains, heroes, or innocent bystanders. It's not a virtue or a stigma any more than having a physical ailment like a cold or arthritis would be. * Faith and religion. When I was growing up, my mother made sure all of her children attended church on Sundays and sometimes during the week. This wasn't a "sit down and learn some morals" kinda thing. We were there to seriously learn about God and Christ and faith. As an adult, when I'm looking to explain some evil in my stories, I frequently use the Devil or demons; when I want to explain some good, God, angels, and faith often come up. Those are just as good explanations as any technobabble or history of elves and orcs or rivalry between vampires and werewolves. * Sex. Well, who doesn't love some titillation? Yeah, I can mix faith and sex in the same story. Deal with it. * Black villains and heroes. As I was growing up, I saw plenty of stories with people of ultimate power who could destroy the world or the universe or something like that. Theses stories needed heroes to come to the rescue and save everyone. That appealed to the side of me that loves mythic stories. I also saw plenty of stories with Black people. Those were important to me because I got to see people that looked like me. What I didn't see growing up were Black people who had the ultimate power to destroy or save the universe. I've always wondered why. Black people can be just as likely to kill the entire human race as any White person! I know how ridiculous it sound to be upset about that kind of argument, but that's what I felt when I watched so many of these stories. Take James Bond stories, for instance. Every single one of the characters that threatened world domination and destruction were White/European. The one Latino villain was a major drug dealer. True, he was a kingpin, but where is the global threat to our health and safety. The one movie that starred a Black villain was near offensive. ALL the other villains had henchmen who obeyed orders to the death due to devotion and belief in the cause. The one Black villain controlled other Blacks with voodoo. Even ten-year-old Craig was thinking, "Uummm.....what?" The villain's alter ego was called "Mr. Big" who was a major pimp/dealer. Again, where is the world domination and destruction? So, now I write stories where the villains and the heroes are frequently Black. Usually, being Black is not a critical aspect of the story. It's not like their path to heroism or villainy began in Africa. It's incidental to the story. But it's important to me. So, in short, I write stories about Black people, but they are usually not about being Black.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend a lot of time with family and loved ones, especially my son, Sam, who is seven years old at the time of this writing and the light in my heart. A lot of what I do is with the hopes that Sam will one day look at my life and approve of the choices I made.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes! It was going to be the script for a movie called...wait for it..."Death Hawk". I started writing when I was in the 4th grade. I've lost all copies of it - thank God for that - but I do remember that some of the plot was a rip off of Superman. Also, my favorite feature of this masterpiece was that no one walked anywhere. Walking was a waste of time that could be used to show dynamic and amazing feats of acrobatics. So, all of my characters flipped, cartwheeled, and did handsprings everywhere. There was no "Peter walked into the room". It was all "Peter flips into the room, and lands in his chair at the dinner table."
I was a weird kid.
How do you approach cover design?
Currently, I work with an awesome illustrator who will read my story and then pitch possible cover ideas to me. She and I will discuss what ideas work with the story and what doesn't before selecting the best features and abandoning the rest. She'll craft those ideas into a couple drafts of possible cover art, until she hits on one that I feel best represents the story. I think that the best covers catch the reader's attention, presents and idea/image related to a key point(s) in the story, and gives the reader a sense of the tone of the book.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
"Carrie" I'm probably alone in saying this, but I truly feel this was Stephen King at his best. I've loved his other work and will continue to read him, but Carrie was a phenomenal book. He experimented with POV throughout the book, shifting from present to past to future, and jumping from character to character, and never once did I feel lost in the shuffle. "Phantom of the Opera" This was probably the first book that I literally could not put down. One weekend when I was in high school, I read it day and night, not stopping except to sleep and maybe eat. I was so sucked into the story and the characters and felt this incredible need to find out what happened next. Not many books can make me feel like that. "The Bible" I'm not as religious as I once was, but I have never stopped loving the Bible. It's full of some great advice, knowledge and insight while also being an awesome work of literature. How many stories do you know that are thousands of years old and still one of the top sellers today? "The Odyssey" Another story that is thousands of years old and still enjoyable. Myths in general, ancient and modern, are fascinating to me. I feel like people both knew they were making things up out of whole cloth, but also didn't care and believed it anyway. This trait continues today. Some very obvious works of fiction that do not purport to be true inspire passion and debate in people that sometimes elevate to violence! Where do you think the idea of "Batman Vs Superman" came from? It came from friends who read the comic books, started to compare characters, and started to argue about this point. I'm not talking about grade schoolers; these were adults with the power and influence to create a movie. "The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe" Every now and then I go back and read another Poe story. Every time, I pick up something new about the craft or writing or storytelling. The man was a genius.
What do you read for pleasure?
Comic books - there's awesome storytelling ideas and tips in these rags Classics of all genres - Because I want to be a classic one day, I feel like I need study classics to find out what made them so classical. Modern pop phenomena - Harry Potters, Fifty Shades, Angela's Ashes, etc. While I want to be a classic who is read hundreds of years from now, I also want to make money today and being famous wouldn't be bad, as well.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia called Willingboro. When I was young there was nothing to do. And I mean nothing to do. I couldn't ride my bike all day and my best friends had lives of their own. I had to find my own hobbies and entertainment. So, I read a lot of Stephen King stories, which fueled my dark imagination. Then I wrote some really weird and creepy stuff.
If Willingboro had a decent Youth Center at that time, I don't know that I would love writing half as much as I do today.
When did you first start writing?
This is one of my favorite stories - A. Craig Newman's Origin of a Writer...
When I was a kid, my mother worked a full time day job as a secretary and my dad worked nights at the post office. Because he worked nights, he obviously needed to sleep during the day. I was in the third or fourth grade and already had a hyperactive imagination. I was constantly thinking up new stories and ideas and characters and whatnot. I was also a very talkative person and needed someone to tell these stories to. That someone was my dad because he was the only one that was home when I was home from school and willing to let me chatter at him.
So, one day, I'm telling Dad one of my stories. I forget what it was, I just remember that it was long-winded and probably did not make much sense to anyone but me. But my dad, being who he is, allowed me to ramble on and on about the story. I rambled as he was setting down his work stuff, as he was trying to relax, as he was watching TV, as he was tired of TV and wanted to get to bed, as he was getting into bed and as he was lying down. I kept talking to that poor man. Finally, my dad sprang up and looked at me with some cross of pleading and annoyance in his eyes and said "Craig! Write it down!"
Be careful what you say to your kids. I realize now that my dad was saying "Go do something somewhere else so I can get some sleep!" What I heard at that young age was "You could be a writer! Take your brilliant idea and put it on paper for others to read and love and adore as much as I do, son!"
And I've been writing ever since.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I like to think that my stories are giving the readers a break from reality. That they can get into my stories and forget about the mortgage or job troubles or bad marriages or annoying kids or any other thing that may way a person's soul down. Maybe, in reading about these far-fetched, if not completely impossible, plots and characters and settings, they can go away mentally and not have to be here until they have to put the book down.
What do your fans mean to you?
They mean that I'm not writing in a bubble. I have someone who may enjoy what I have to offer and are willing to invest time and money in it. The knowledge that someone out there is enjoying my work and hoping that another A. Craig Newman Original Work is coming soon. Without fans, I'd probably still write, but it wouldn't be half as much fun.
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