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On writing and painting ...

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On writing about America ...

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Horror king Clive Barker returns with 'Galilee'

(CNN) -- Clive Barker has made a name for himself as a highly successful writer of horror fiction. Besides his numerous books, his film credits include "Hellraiser" and "Candy Man." Now, he's back with "Galilee," a much different kind of book that he says he would not have attempted in the past.

Clive Barker spoke with CNN Anchor Bobbie Battista on CNN Sunday Morning.

BOBBIE BATTISTA: Why would you not have attempted this book in the past?

CLIVE BARKER: It's a more ambitious book than I've ever tried before. It's a big family saga with multi-generational stories, something that goes back as far as the Civil War, in fact. It's still got, I should say, elements of the fantastic and some dark stuff in it, but it's not this little blood thirsty flying "Flash" kind of thing for which I am a reputedly notorious.

BATTISTA: That's good. That usually doesn't work with a romance.

BARKER: Not really.

BATTISTA: As you say the story is about two very powerful American families.

BARKER: Right. A very American book, actually.

BATTISTA: You said this book is more about America than anything you've ever read. What do you mean by that?

BARKER: I've been living in this country now for seven years. I love this country. I'm a little careful about what I will write about the American scene. As I get to know it, I want to -- I feel more confident about it. The subject of the Civil War, for instance, and the subject of very wealthy families in America -- those are the two of the twin subjects in this book. I really needed to feel like I've been in this country for awhile before I could comment on those things. I made sure it was my business to research the often-corrupt past of very wealthy families in this country, which fascinated me.

Then, I wanted to run it into this saga which has got all the kind of stuff which I think people are used to from me: The intrigue the complex character acts and so on.

BATTISTA: Did you use any particular American families as models?

BARKER: Oh yes and I ain't telling which. But I think if you pick up "Galilee," it's pretty obvious which my models are. It's interesting that, as I start to look over these families, there were a lot of things in common amongst the lives of the very rich. The saddest is the tragedies which are visible upon these families by circumstance and by hubris very often.

But I also wanted to make sure that the more accessible elements, the more human elements were in place. I didn't want to make this just a story of evil and corruption. This is -- finally it's a love story.

BATTISTA: And it's also in some ways complexly erotic ...

BARKER: I would hope so.

BATTISTA: ... and some of it deviant.

BARKER: Well, yes, you know, one man's deviance is another man's Saturday night. I think you have to be a little careful with the word deviant. But certainly, there's a good range of -- what should we say -- sexual possibilities in this book. Yes.

BATTISTA: That's a good way to phrase it. OK, we won't go any farther with that.

BARKER: It's Sunday morning after all.

BATTISTA: I'm always curious about a book of this complexity because there are so many characters and so many subplots. As a writer, how do you keep the continuity going? Do you keep like charts and graphs behind you?

BARKER: I do, I do.

BATTISTA: How do you do that?

BARKER: Well, it becomes like writing -- like creating a family tree. You know, it's the reverse of going back over your history and discovering who your ancestors were. Here I'm sort of creating the ancestors for the characters. I had huge files on the characters and it fascinates me that part of creating stories.

I enjoy hugely the richness that you can get into a novel. I really think it's one of the precious things about novels is that you can have this kind of narrative complexity. You can immerse yourself in a book like "Galilee" and stay there for days on end. And because the book has got a lot of tonal changes in it, it moves from the very dark to the light to the romantic. You mentioned erotic earlier on. There's the feel, I hope, that it's like a novel, it's like living another life.

I know the novels that I used to love as a kid, and actually still love, are the kind of books that feel like another life for me. I enter them and it feels as though I'm breathing a different air, I'm living with people I know intimately.

BATTISTA: You're also, we might add, a man of many talents because you're also a painter.

BARKER: Right.

BATTISTA: And a filmmaker.

BARKER: Right.

BATTISTA: Do you prefer one over the other? Is one work artistically better for you than the other?

BARKER: I like painting and writing pretty much equally. Movie making I enjoy, but it's sort of -- I guess it's a hard thing to say, but it's a kind of hobby for me. I don't take it as seriously as I take writing, or painting which are very personal businesses. The point about writing a book is, everything I am for 14 months of my life is poured onto those pages. No compromise, no need to deal with the money man or the producers or the marketing people, just writing out my heart and putting it there on the page; and the same with painting.

It's a very direct way to communicate with somebody else or, in the case of a book, many millions of people out there, most of whom you'll never meet. But hopefully, you're able to take a story which will touch them and make them feel a certain resonance with their own lives.


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