Saturday, January 1, 2011

Author Interview w/ C.G. Bauer

I can't think of a better way to ring in the New Year than with an author interview! Today, we have C.G. Bauer with us, author of Scars on the Face of God - a chilling tale of a small Pennsylvanian town where religion has gone horribly horribly wrong.

A native of Philadelphia, Chris shares with us how his personal experience with religion helped shape his novel, his feelings on the eBook craze, and which actors he would cast in the film version of Scars..

How old were you when you first realized that you had a knack for writing?

I wrote one sci-fi short story while I was in my twenties (on a typewriter), its sole hard copy weighed down by crusty Wite-Out and eventually lost to posterity during one relocation or another. I wrote no other creative/fictional pieces until I was in my forties when I began a novel about corporate greed, takeovers, layoffs, cross country relocation and, um, slow-pitch softball. (Sing along with me, kids: “Which of these things is not like the other…?”) Eight to ten years and 130,000 un-publishable words later The Rabbit, Stilled was finished, only to be relegated to back-up disk after an unsuccessful campaign at finding an agent, with a few agents mentioning that it was about 50,000 words too long for an unknown debut author. (Think shelf space.) But Rabbit may rise again someday after a rewrite, considering its main characters had their origins in Scars on the Face of God, this because Scars was purposely written as a shorter novel (88,000 words) after Rabbit to make Rabbit publishable. Good plan, right? The problem: Scars is paranormal/horror, Rabbit is mainstream contemporary. Hey, shit happens.

I also authored a tongue-in-cheek advice column during my early years at an insurance company, which, as my current employer, must remain unidentified due to the potential for copyright violations, unauthorized usage of trademarks, etc., etc. Suffice it to say the column was purportedly written by a cartoon dog named Snoppy, the frustrated and cynical twin brother of another cartoon beagle with nearly the same name yet arguably more significant notoriety.

Who or what was your greatest influence?

My greatest influences have been situational as well as author-inspired. For Scars it was my discovery of the real-life religious artifact manuscript Codex Gigas (“Giant Book”, aka “The Devil’s Bible”) when I surfed the net after asking the question “What if the Devil wrote his own Bible?” A Bohemian monk wrote the massive book in the 13th century as a penance because of one monastic indiscretion or another, and it was completed, according to legend, in one night with the help of the Devil. Over the centuries it became the spoil of a few European wars and now resides in Sweden’s Royal Library.

A hilarious telephone conversation I eavesdropped at a seaside restaurant, between a mobster wannabe and his nosey mother, led to my published-then-recorded short story titled “You’re a Moron,” seen in the pulp fiction e-zine Thuglit (Jan. 2009) and heard/performed in an audio version at Well Told Tales (Sept. 2009; 22,000 downloads and counting).

On the author front, I’ve been most inspired by Dean Koontz, specifically his supernaturally gifted yet wonderfully honest fry-cook character Odd Thomas. And I’m still enamored by the undereducated voice that Steve Shilstone used to relate his account of fictional baseball shortstop Chance Cain in his novel Chance.

In your interview with Philadelphia Stories, you mentioned that your novel – Scars on the Face of God – took 3 years to write. What was the writing and editing process like for you?

I work fifty-plus hour weeks at my day job plus my commute takes another two plus hours out of each workday. The only way I find time to write is if I don’t sleep, so I write and edit (and social network, surf the net, procrastinate, etc.) by rising by five a.m. seven days a week, working until seven a.m. on weekdays, nine a.m. on weekends. I found I like what I’ve written in the morning then I often find I don’t like that morning’s production in the evening, turning so cynical that my evening edits can occasionally produce a minus word count for the day. Since I’m also part of two writers’ critique groups I decided to replace my evening writing routine with critiquing other people’s work at night, rather than my own. Minus-word-count problem solved.

Your novel is set in Pennsylvania, yet has a very southern, gothic feel to it. How did you decide on its tone and setting?

I’m thinking the tone has been set by my first-person narrator-protagonist Wump Hozer, a blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth type who wears his heart on his sleeve. One reader compared the narrative to some of Mark Twain’s storytelling. Wump comes across as anti-religion, or at least anti-Catholic, while his wife Viola, whose pre-Wump plan was to join a convent, keeps him grounded in a belief in God. From Wump’s perspective God’s existence is rooted more in providing punishment, with said punishment often delivered to the wrong people.

Reasons the novel is set in Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia: I’m a Philadelphia native; Philadelphia has a very large and active Catholic population; the fictional St. Jerome’s Home for Foundlings is fashioned after St. Vincent’s Home, an iconic orphanage on the Delaware River that now provides services to unwed teenage mothers; and in deference to the leather tannery subplot, the greater Philadelphia area had a number of tanneries in operation in the nineteenth century.

All of your characters, for better or for worse, are incredibly unique and intensely flawed. What went into the creation of the four main characters - “Wump” Hozer, the narrator; Father Duncan, the new priest; Leo, a mentally handicapped boy; and Raymond, Leo’s blind, mute, wheelchair-ridden best friend?

Wump Hozer is a composite, fashioned after a now-deceased gruff uncle, a South Philly truck driver from a large family (one of eleven, twelve, maybe more siblings) who were major hellions during their younger years. There was also a real-life “Dogshit Johnny” (Wump’s childhood nickname), grandfather to a writer friend of mine, who did police his neighborhood in search of, ahem, dog shit, and who did deliver it to tanneries for money. Fertilizer is apparently an excellent leather-softening agent.

Father Duncan, former pro ballplayer who got his call to the priesthood from a dead relative, was a character made completely from scratch. I love baseball and wanted to provide an earthy, macho quality to his portrayal as a priest, a profession not typically known for its machismo. There’s also something about the potential of seeing a baseball bat-wielding priest that gets me going in the good guys vs. demons department.

Leo, Raymond and Teddy are fashioned after three children I remember from my northeast Philadelphia upbringing. As an adult I felt it odd that there were this many and more mentally and physically impaired kids in a small, four-city block area. Their real-life counterparts were what gave the tannery waste-dumping storyline its purchase. I believe the real-life Leo (real name Jimmy), probably in his early fifties now, may well still run errands for the people in the neighborhood.

If Scars on the Face of God were to be released as a movie, which actors would you cast to play the roles of “Wump”, Father Duncan, Leo, and Raymond?

Like most authors, I love being asked this question regarding something I’ve written.

Jeff Bridges as Wump. Looking forward to seeing Bridges’ portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the remake of True Grit, and I loved his cantankerous country-western singer protagonist in Crazy Heart.

As Father Duncan, the late Merlin Olsen. He was a soft-spoken giant of a man, NFL Hall of Famer, a football announcer, and a supporting actor from Little House on the Prairie. Hey, with all the new zombie science out there and a decent Hollywood special effects team, we should be able bring him back for this role. Okay-fine, if I have to go with someone living, Joaquin Phoenix. I loved his baseball swing in M. Night Shyamalan’s crop circles thriller Signs, plus his Johnny Cash portrayal in Walk the Line proves he looks great in black.

Leo is a no brainer. Leonardo DiCaprio can borrow from his Arnie Grape role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. (Yes, at age thirty-six DiCaprio could play a ten-year-old boy, he’s that good an actor.)

As Raymond, Stephen Hawking. That was too easy.

Directing: M. Night Shyamalan. This would be just the vehicle for him to return to his roots as a premier teller of eerie Philadelphia stories. Plus he’s a Philly native. You listening, M?

Religion plays a large role in Scars. How did your 12 years of Catholic School influence its plot?

In elementary school I was an altar boy. Plus—surprise—I was also afraid of the nuns. Standard fear stuff like not wanting to get cracked across the knuckles with a ruler, avoiding after-school detention with snoring elderly bearded female gnomes robed in black, avoiding embarrassment at not having word-for-word recall of my Catechism, that sort of thing. In Catholic high school not much changed: Afraid I’d get cracked across the face by a hall-patrolling, yardstick-wielding priest (the school’s “disciplinarian”), then contending with detention (called “jug”) after bitching to said disciplinarian for his said cracking across my said face. I’m now more of a cradle and grave Catholic, getting back to church for baptisms, weddings and funerals only. As I’ve gotten older I prefer to be more attuned to simply treating other living things the way I’d like to be treated and calling that my religion.

This novel was originally released as an eBook, and earned you a finalist slot in the 2010 EPIC awards. As a writer and a reader, what is your take on the rise of eBooks and eReaders?

I’m loving the eBook revolution. While I admit as an older fart I’d rather read ink on paper, I love the idea of generating customer interest in a product that can be satisfied nearly instantly by downloading it on the spot. Impulse buying at its finest. Point, click, sold, delivered! A published novelist friend mentioned this real-life scenario: He attended a writers conference as a panelist, visited an audience table, was soon told that everyone at the table had downloaded his novel to their Kindles by the time he’d finished answering their questions. Yet even with this endorsement I fess up to not owning an eReader of any kind just yet. It’s not because I’m too set in my printed word ways. It’s simply because I have a stack of unread print novels that I’m determined to finish first before I load up a Kindle or some other device with more unread novels. There are only so many hours in a day…

What are you currently reading?

I just finished the non-fiction NYT bestseller Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern, now a TV sitcom starring William Shatner. Hilarious, tears-in-my-eyes, lol book and a quick read. No feel for the sitcom but somehow I don’t see the blue-humored charm translating well on network TV, considering its charm has so much to do with its f-bomb and equivalent content. Justin’s father’s quotes are so incredibly irreverent, politically incorrect and raunchy that the reader has him instantly pegged as either a truck driver, hockey player or drill sergeant, and all of them in need of more fiber. Wrong on all counts. His real-life dad, now retired, taught nuclear medicine! Unbelievable. Currently reading Patient Zero by multiple Bram Stoker Award winner and NYT bestselling author Jonathan Maberry. Outstanding premise: zombies being used as pawns in a terrorist plot. Excellent read. Also in my queue: Jonathan’s second installment in the series, The Dragon Factory; another non-fiction offering, Jeanne Denault’s Sucking Up Yellow Jackets, a humorous yet somewhat tragic memoir about raising an Asperger’s Syndrome child who was fixated on motorcycles and explosives.

What can we expect from you next?

I’m into the second half of a standalone novel with the working title Hop Skip Jump, a paranormal mystery about reincarnation and channeling. One sentence summary: What happens when souls try to come back to where they’re needed the most and other entities are hell-bent on not letting that happen? Plus my comedic/tragic horror short story “Zombie Chimps from Mars” will be coming out in this winter’s print edition of Shroud Magazine (, publication date pending.

What websites/authors/novels would you recommend to our audience?

I recommend my small press publisher’s website (, publisher of legend and fantasy fiction. I also recommend my own website ( of course, but it’s a cautious recommendation in that it’s currently undergoing significant reconstruction.

I’ve found myself visiting crime fiction websites more often these days, this because I’d like to write some longer crime fiction pieces. Pulp fiction websites: Thuglit, Plots with Guns, Beat to a Pulp. Horror websites: Horror Bound, (hundreds of horror magazines). Authors I’m following nowadays: Jonathan Maberry is hitting his stride in horror (adult and YA) and comics; new novelist Dennis Tafoya is making waves with his crime fiction (Dope Thief, The Wolves of Fairmount Park); the venerable Stephen King; Jeffrey Deaver; Dean Koontz.

Thanks much for having me here, Lori. Happy reading and blogging in 2011, to you and those who follow you. And if folks are interested in contacting me for signed copies of Scars on the Face of God they can do so at


  1. This is a great interview! I've never heard of this book before, but I'm definitely on the lookout for it now.

  2. Thanks! All I did was ask the questions, Chris did an excellent job answering them! By the way, a signed copy of this novel is up for grabs right here on the blog!!

  3. As one of Chris' writing colleagues, I find myself wishing I could bottle his energy and retail it.