David Howe speaks to Buffy chronicler and author of numerous Buffy novels and comic books Christopher Golden about the in-print adventures of Sunnydale’s favourite slayer.
Christopher Golden seems to have a monopoly on the original Buffy novels currently being published by Pocket Books. So far he has been involved with seven of the original novels, as well as co-authoring the official guide to the series: The Watcher’s Guide and the light-hearted The Sunnydale High Yearbook.
‘I got into the Buffy books through a combination of several things I had started to do already,’ he explained. ‘One: I had previously written some original adult horror fantasy novels; two: I had done a couple of young adult books; and three: I had already worked on several media tie-ins, mostly featuring The X-Men.
‘Nancy Holder and I had talked for years about trying to do something together. Then, after we had both seen the first couple of episodes of Buffy, we were talking on the phone and decided to pursue writing something on the show. Pocket Books was in the midst of commissioning four young adult Buffy novels that needed to be written literally in about four weeks. So we wrote the first published original Buffy novel in three and a half weeks, Halloween Rain. That was about half the length of a standard novel, around 45 thousand words. Pocket really liked it, the fans liked it, and we cut a deal to do two more. The second one was called Blooded. But then Pocket decided that maybe there was a market for adult Buffy books, and we jockeyed for the first one of those. So the first adult Buffy novel, Child of the Hunt, took the place of the third young adult novel that we would otherwise have done.’
I wondered what it was about Buffy that made Christopher and Nancy so determined to write novels about it.
‘That’s a difficult question. I liked Buffy because it was really accessible. It was the kind of show I would have loved to have had on television when I was twelve. I’m not saying it’s just for twelve year olds, but it’s something that would have stuck with me had I been watching it at that age. Also, I just loved the idea that she’s a sixteen-year-old girl and all the guys do what she says. For my mother’s generation the very idea of that is preposterous, yet when she says Xander do this, Giles do that, they do it. They don’t question her, she is in charge, period. I like that, I like the taken-for-granted part of that.’
Joss Whedon, Buffy’s creator, seems so much in control of the television series, that I wondered how much influence he exerted over the spin-off novels and comic books.
‘It’s a process,’ explains Christopher. ‘First of all, I write a pitch. Pocket have to approve it first, then Fox has to approve it, and Joss’ production company, Mutant Enemy Productions, also has to approve it. The same thing happens when the finished manuscript is delivered. There are things that I have wanted to do and they have said no, but I have been either really persistent about or flexible enough about that they have finally given in and allowed me to do them. They are certainly getting more adventurous with what they will allow us to do.’
Like a great many book ranges allied to TV series, with the Buffy titles there is an unwritten rule that the status quo must not be broken: all characters must end up at the conclusion of the novel as they were at the start. ‘Buffy books are like that but you find ways to get around it,’ grins Christopher. ‘I’ll give you an example. Take the Gate Keeper trilogy. Because it was a trilogy, we didn’t have to return to the status quo until the end of the third book. So in the second book one of the main characters dies … that shook some fans up, I can tell you.’
Christopher has several Buffy-related projects in the pipeline. Available in the autumn is Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Monster Book. ‘That has been co-written by myself, Tom Sniegoski and Stephen Bissette, the comics writer and artist. It’s an enormous book which explores all the monsters that they have done on Buffy, including interviews with all the writers, but it also contains a reference guide to monsters in mythology and pop culture throughout the ages. It’s quite an undertaking and is packed with photographs – we got more than 200 pictures from the make-up guy alone, and I doubt we can use them all. We also cover other sorts of monsters, like Faith, who is a slayer, but she’s also monstrous in her own way. Willow is a witch and so she’s included. Angel is certainly a monster, and Oz is there as well as he’s a werewolf. Our definition of monster includes supernatural beings who are not necessarily evil.’
In fiction, later this year the paperback of Immortal is released, as is a new paperback called Sins of the Father, and a new hardback called Pretty Maids All In A Row. This is a Spike and Drusilla novel which does not feature Buffy. ‘It’s set in 1940 and, I think, has a cast of at least fifty primary speaking roles. There’s a lot of characters: Watchers and Slayers-to-be, current Slayers and Demons … the good thing about that is, anybody can die and I have a reputation to maintain! I have fans whose finest pleasure is to berate me for killing characters that they love, and I enjoy the fact that my books aren’t safe places to be!’
David J Howe