Patrick Canning is the author of two novels: The Colonel and the Bee and Cryptofauna. If you're looking for an adventure on every page with a cast of interesting characters--look no further!
Readers praise Cryptofauna for its humor. To you, what’s the most important thing to keep in mind when writing humor? Do you prefer to build up to the joke or let the hilarity arise on its own?
Ideally, it would seem like the hilarity has arisen on its own, but hopefully it’s been crafted, and so a skill you can repeat. Forced humor (which, hopefully I’m not too guilty of) is definitely one of my least favorite things to come across in a book. It’s even somewhat mentioned in Cryptofauna: “Jim smiled politely. As was the case with many people, he’d always found the effort Oz employed to try and be funny was inversely related to how funny he was at any given moment. Humor was a cow on the railroad tracks or a catheter tube two sizes too big: trying to force it didn’t do anyone any favors.”
Has publishing affected your writing process? Any advice/insights you could give to fellow writers?
At the moment, I’m only self-published and indie-published, so I haven’t gone through the whole traditional publishing experience yet. I recently read some great advice from Henry Miller, so I’ll just pass that along in place of any ramblings I might have: “Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.” All great stuff.
In an interview you mention you came to novel writing through screenwriting. Are there any skills you picked up while screenwriting that have helped you in writing novels?
A good carryover from screenwriting is the demand that every scene (and really every word) have a purpose. Since screenplays are only around 120 pages, every space on the page is precious real estate, which encourages writing that does a lot with a little. Novels can certainly be more atmospheric and take their time to some degree, but unless the style is challenging the rule intentionally, I think a general attitude of brevity, or at least efficiency, is always good advice, especially for newer writers.
As a lover of movies, what are your top three favorite and why?
Ooh, favorites are probably Rear Window, O Brother Where Art Thou?, and Heat. Those are three I can watch over and over again and only love more. Now I’m going to cheat and add more. Three empirically perfect movies: Silence of the Lambs, Spirited Away, Chinatown, and three that are too funny to leave out: Shaun of the Dead, Bad Santa, Wayne’s World.
Lynda Berry once said, “We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay.” What are your thoughts?
Yes! Agree a billion percent (assuming I understand the quote anyway). The ability to escape reality is 100% essential for human life on Earth. People do it in a million different ways, and I think reading is one of the healthier and more rewarding options available.
As a storyteller yourself, do you believe the art of telling a story is a gift or is it a skill that can be learned?
This is a tough one. I think some people are more likely to be successful in certain fields, just based on innate talent. Will alone is probably enough to overcome any debt in natural ability, but would have to come with one hell of a focused goal and immaculate discipline. People seem to find success at the intersection of things they’re good at and things they enjoy. Plus hard work. So I guess it’s one of those confusing, triple intersections where there are lots of car accidents. Having said all that, I think practicing craft can improve absolutely anyone’s storytelling, no matter their starting point.
So here it comes—what’s next for you?
I have a domestic suspense novel that takes place in a Chicago suburb in the late 80’s, somewhat based on my own childhood. I’ve just started querying with that so I don’t know when it will be available, but hopefully months not years. Then I have three new books in various stages and a few shorts to finish up as well. I also have an upcoming dentist appointment so I’m off to floss, a.k.a. massacre my gums, so I can pretend I've been doing it all along.
Is there anything you would like readers to know?
I’m going to try and learn to cross-stitch so I can sew pictures of all the planets. If anyone has any tips, please let me know!
Check him out on Instagram and find his site here!
Photo Credit: Patrick Canning