Kristine Chester, Fanboy Comics Contributor: Chris, thank you for taking the time to speak with Fanboy Comics today. To start off, why don't you tell our readers about Clutch?
C.E.L. Welsh: Thank you for having me!
Clutch is both the name of the book and the name of the protagonist. The book is about answering the question of who you are going to be in a very difficult world. It’s also about machine-men, mutant animals and monsters, and lots of angry driving. It is a post-apocalyptic adventure story in a world that was laid to waste by relentless meteor strikes. Clutch himself had an unusual upbringing; he was raised in a motorcycle club called The Tribe, which actually prepared him in a way to survive the initial devastation and carry on in the years that followed.
Clutch has a teenaged adopted brother that he tries to look out for, and a community he is trying to fit in with. But, we can’t let that happen, so we have to make things tough for our hero. He winds up fighting with just about everybody and everything, and in the end is forced into some very rough, tough situations.
KC: You've written novellas, short stories, and comics set in a variety of times and locations, but Clutch is your first novel set in Wrecked Earth, a post-apocalyptic (PA) setting. What drew you to working in this genre?
CW: I’ve always been a huge fan of PA settings: Mad Max, zombie apocalypse, The Stand, The Road, even Red Dawn. The settings make you think, “How would I survive in this world? Who would I become?”
KC: What were some of the inspirations behind Wrecked Earth and Clutch?
CW: Even though the emphasis is on the PA side of things, Conan was a huge influence, as were pulp-novels in general. There are elements of Lovecraft in there, as well . . .
When I set out to create the world that Clutch would inhabit, I deliberately looked for things that would allow me to do whatever I wanted in terms of setting and obstacles. If I wanted to write a mystery story, I could do that. If I wanted to write a monster-slaying story, I could do that. The Wrecked Earth is a playground for me to put Clutch and the supporting cast through their paces, and entertaining adventure is the result!
KC: Post-apocalyptic settings are often unique from one another dependent on how the world ended. Waterworld had no land, Fallout is filled with mutants, etc. What sets Wrecked Earth apart from other PA settings?
CW: The meteors. In 2013 Earth intersects with a meteor belt – no one knows how, or if they do know, they aren’t saying – and there is a period called Rockfall during which much of the world’s population is destroyed. The years immediately following are called The Wrecking, when the very topography of the world is changed by the incessant meteorite impacts and resultant earthquakes. Now, in the Wrecked Earth, the meteor showers have abated, but not gone away. Shooting stars are a constant sight in the sky, night and day, and “getting caught out” in a meteor storm is a real possibility.
Along with the devastation, the meteors also brought strange radiation that affected the reproductive systems of many animals, causing rampant breeding and mutation. There are now herds of strange beasts that roam the lands, causing further challenges to humanity.
KC: From the example art, Clutch looks like he'd be at home in any '80s action film. What can you tell us about your muscle-bound protagonist?
CW: Take some Conan, some Mad Max, and some Lone Wolf & Cub, and you’ll have a sense of both the hero and the world he inhabits. He’s a rough customer with an unusual background who has been so busy surviving that he’s just now trying to figure out what he wants out of life. Unfortunately, he’s too good a problem solver for people to leave him alone, and he’s often put upon to take on a cause or right a wrong. His upbringing has uniquely prepared him for that, however. He grew up in a motorcycle club called The Tribe. He was eight years old during Rockfall, so his formative years were split between riding with the club “Pre-Wreck” and Post – and during The Wrecking the Tribe turned out to be a force for good, helping people out of tight spots and teaching them to live off the land.
When he was twelve years old, The Tribe were killed off by a mysterious band of raiders, leaving only Clutch alive to fend for himself in the Wrecked Earth.
He’s also a creative soul, taught by his mother to look beyond the rough (and sometimes horrific) life around him and see deeper meaning. He expresses his creativity mostly through his mechanical designs, like the work he puts into his special vehicle and weaponry.
KC: From the opening scene, it sounds like Sweetheart (Clutch's 1971 Dodge Demon) is just as much a character as anyone else. How important are vehicles on Wrecked Earth, and can we expect Clutch to come across more unique and possibly even named vehicles over the course of the novel?
CW: I’m glad you said that. Yes, Sweetheart is a supporting character in the story; she’s very real to Clutch in that she’s more than a possession. In this book Sweetheart is the most unique vehicle, but there are plans for some more along those lines in the stories that follow, especially as we travel along the Wrecked Earth and encounter some very challenging terrain. The land is very hard to traverse, and most scrubs don’t bother trying, so those that do are already set apart, looked on as brave or heroic – or crazy.
In fact one of the Kickstarter rewards is to collaborate with me to create a very unique vehicle for the next novel!
KC: A hero is oftentimes measured by the obstacles he overcomes. What dangers of Wrecked Earth can we expect Clutch to come face-to-face with?
CW: The meteors! And, mutated animals, and monsters, and machine-men (horrific surgical amalgams of man and machine!), and one they call the Wizard, a mysterious, bandage-wrapped figure who created the machine-men and has the power to control the minds of men. Then, there is the landscape, and dealing with a teenager, a gun-toting lover, and a community that wants more from him than he is willing to give.
KC: You've written for comics in the past and before writing a novel, Clutch even started out as a comic project between you and Danny Cruz. What was it like adapting the comic scripts to a novel format? Can we expect to see Clutch reappear in a comic form in the future?
CW: I had to start from scratch in terms of formatting, but I had the advantage of knowing what the story was about. Laying out the world and the rules and the initial plot (which at first only covered only THREE PAGES of comic! Talk about tight!) gave me a leg-up. There are a lot of different processes. With a comic, you talk to your artist or you communicate through the script, suggesting what you want to see, how things are positioned, what a character’s motivation may be. In a novel you have to communicate all of that to the reader via the writing, so it can take longer or may take some thought how to convey rather than just saying, “He points the shotgun at the priest,” to the artist.
Clutch as a comic? If we reach our stretch goal of $12,000, yes. It may happen anyway sometime down the road, but if we hit that in the Kickstarter, then it will happen SOON. It would start as an online comic, free to all, but with Danny’s art, NOT getting it into print would be a shame.
KC: This being Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your own favorite books, comics, games, etc.?
CW: As you might expect, I love a good story. I can appreciate shallower, high-concept vehicles as well, such as popcorn/blockbuster/action flicks, but the games, comics, and books that really stick with me are built on great stories. I loved BioShock for that reason. I’m a huge fan of Fringe and Breaking Bad, and as far as comics, I love storylines over titles or characters. For example, the Frank Miller run on Daredevil, Claremont on the X-Men. Loved Y: The Last Man.
Basically, media has to have something in it that reaches a part of me, be it deep characterization, a fully realized fantasy world, or something that rocks me back in my seat or makes me shout, “That’s AWESOME!” at the screen, which I promise I don’t do in movie theaters.
KC: Lastly, what would you like to tell Fanboy Comics' readers who would like to learn more about you and your upcoming projects?
CW: I’m just getting started! There are a number of novels that are in various stages of completion, just waiting for me to free up some bandwidth, both series (fantasy, YA sci-fi) and stand alone. But first, Clutch! I have a number of additional novels and short stories/novellas planned, and possibly the comic. There are a lot of forces at work behind the scenes of what transpires in the first book, and I am already at work on book two, bringing those forces to light!
The Kickstarter will give me a leg up, opening the door to advantages held by traditional publishers (basically, the money for professional layout, formatting, and editing services, artwork, and promotional costs), and it ends soon. Backers will not only be the first to read the novel, but they will also get an exclusive short story included with the novel ONLY for KS backers! Plus, there are awesome prints and originals of Danny’s art to snag.