Author Christopher Golden talks time at Tufts, writing inspirations

Christopher Golden (LA '89), the New York Times bestselling author, speaks at an event hosted by Tisch Library in the Hirsch Reading Room on Thursday, Feb. 8. Eddie Samuels / The Tufts Daily

On Thursday, Feb. 8, Tisch Library hosted a talk from New York Times best-selling author and Tufts alumnus Christopher Golden in the Hirsh Reading Room. Golden graduated from Tufts in 1989 with a double major in English and history and a concentration in classics. Since then, he has written and collaborated on an extensive body of work, including novels such as “Tin Men” (2015) and “Snowblind” (2014), series such as “The Secret Journeys of Jack London” (2011–2013), “The Shadow Saga” (1994–2014) and “The Hidden Cities” (2008–2011) and media tie-ins, such as novels for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1998–2003), “Hellboy” (1997–2008), “Uncharted” (2011) and “Alien” (2014).  In addition, Golden writes for video games, comic books and graphic novels, and he appears on the podcast “Three Guys with Beards” (2015–).

Golden’s son, Nick Golden (LA ’16) interviewed his father in the conversational, oftentimes lighthearted discussion. Golden spoke on some of his philosophies about writing, influential teachers he had at Tufts, works that inspired him as a child and some of the challenges that can come with being a professional writer. 

Golden’s work is mainly in the horror and fantasy genres. Growing up, Golden was inspired by what Nick dubbed a “pulp era of the ’70s,” which included the Marvel comic series “Tomb of Dracula” (1972–1979) and the TV series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” (1974–1975) and “The Twilight Zone” (1959–1964).

“Those three things,” Golden said, “until I discovered Stephen King, were sort of the perfect storm of elements that really influenced me.”

Golden spoke fondly of his time at Tufts, discussing some of his favorite teachers.

“I had the best professors,” Golden said. “George Marcopoulos, who is no longer with us, was my advisor for four years and the greatest single teacher I ever had in my life. I modeled a character after him in my first novel.”

Along with being his advisor, Professor Marcopoulos furthered Golden’s interest in storytelling when he taught Golden’s Byzantine history class.

“He was so funny and so engaging and so detailed in his storytelling,” Golden said. “This is what I love about history. It’s all stories.”

Other influential teachers included Jay Cantor, whose creative writing class Golden took his first year, and Alan Lebowitz, with whom Golden studied English and creative writing over the course of his time at Tufts. 

While at Tufts, Golden explained, he moved his aspirations away from film school as he became more interested in writing and the horror genre.

“I knew in every one of those classes that I was passionate about stories, about storytelling,” he said.

This particular interest was quite evident when he diverged from the creative writing crowd at Tufts.

“All of my classmates wanted to write about marching on Washington, and I wanted to write about zombies marching on Washington,” he said.

After writing so many short stories for his classes, Golden realized that the daunting task of writing a novel could actually be a realistic goal. In his senior year, Golden began writing his first novel, “Of Saints and Shadows” (1994) in Stratton Hall.  

Golden discussed some of the difficulties being a writer can pose. He admitted that balancing all of his projects could be a challenge, but that forcing himself to narrow his focus can help.

“You just have to pick your moment,” Golden said. “See what’s burning brightest of all the fires that need to be put out. Focus on that one thing.”

With such a busy schedule, Golden mentioned that it is still important to take a break and spend some time on less pressing work.

“The one thing I do that’s just for fun is Jim Moore, Jonathan Maberry and I do this podcast, ‘Three Guys with Beards,’ which we mentioned, but I also do a podcast with my buddy Brian Keene, another fellow author, called ‘Defender’s Dialogue,’ Golden said. ‘Defender’s Dialogue’ is just Brian and I, every week, talking about the 1970s Marvel Comic series ‘The Defenders’ just for fun … It’s the ultimate fanboy self-indulgence.” 

In addition, Golden discussed some of the assumptions that with so many instant entertainment services like Netflix, people are not reading anymore.

“It is not true that people don’t read anymore,” Golden said. “It’s true that you need to get people’s attention.”

While people may have different opinions of series like “Harry Potter” (1997–2007), “Twilight” (2005–2008) and “Fifty Shades of Grey” (2011–2012), Golden argued that they all succeeded in getting people to read.

“Dan Brown [author of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (2003)], whether you think he’s a good writer or not, brought so many people into bookstores,” Golden said.

Golden stressed that at the end of the day, being a writer is about continuing to influence people to read.

“Writing is not a competition,” Golden said. “Some genres think they’re competing for space, but… it doesn’t matter.  I want people to be successful. I want people to read. Other writers did that for me when I was coming up, and we try to pass that along to other people because the goal is to get people to read. If 10 million people buy your novel, hopefully a few of those people are excited about reading and then go on to read other people’s books.”