This is an unconventional Santa but a real kind of guy. At this point is he going through the motions of life? In one of the lines in the story, Santa mentions having done the Santa “job” for 181 years. Or, as he says, “running this wicked-bitch of a route.” It’s enough to burn anyone out. Now after all this time, the world’s gotten really dangerous, he has to carry a shotgun to keep himself and the reindeer safe, and time has taken its toll on him. He’s an old man who has to sit on this hard wooden bench in his sleigh. He’s got terrible hemorrhoids, his back and knees ache, and his nose is wind-burned. Just think about what that of being Santa job entails. It’s not about taking pictures with crying children in malls. He literally delivers billions of toys every year, but first has to make this list up to decide who even gets those toys. Even with magic powers, it’s probably the hardest job on Earth. No wonder Santa wants to retire someplace warm, drink a pina-colada, or shoot craps in a Las Vegas casino.
Also, the image with Santa handing a truck to what appears to be an impoverished little boy. There are tv satellites in the background. I got the sense that material items are coveted rather than the basic necessities in life. What was the meaning behind that image? At the heart of that image of Santa handing a toy truck to one little boy — while another little girl and even smaller boy stand there with their hands out — is Santa’s own disillusionment with having to cast judgment on children. Maybe at one time all that “naughty and nice” stuff was okay for him, but now that there’s so much suffering in so many places, it’s heartbreaking for him to have to make that call. Deep in Santa’s heart he knows that all little children are essentially good, only in time do they get corrupted by a world of satellite dishes and other things in the material adult world that turn them “naughty."
The images are pretty rustic. North Pole with a few gunshot holes. What makes Santa want to carry a shotgun after all of these years? Or was be always a shot gun kind of guy? Got to protect the reindeer from those wolves! The first renderings of our Santa had him kind of resembling Ernest Hemingway, and all the macho stuff associated with that. The idea was that this guy lives up at the North Pole. It’s cold, it’s rustic, there’s wild animals around, some of which like polar bears might be dangerous. Santa then evolved from Hemingway into this rugged Nordic kind of guy, which if you think about him literally is what Santa is. And of course, now that the world’s so dangerous and he has to deliver toys to kids in war zones, not to mention that Santa is basically a home intruder and there’s a lot of people out there who’ve got a gun at home, he’s got to work Christmas Eve with a shotgun. I mean, who wouldn’t these days?
CLIFFORD EVANS - SALTY SANTA
In your words, tell us about this side of Santa that you've had the privilege to know. (How did you come up revealing this side of Santa?)
I’ve come to realize that the Santa in the story is a metaphor for what Christmas has become. He’s tired, burnt-out from doing this gig for nearly 200 years, and once-upon-a-time was a happier Santa doing good work for a happier world. The story idea itself originally came from a Halloween story I’d read called “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers.” Our Santa kind of emerged from there, as this really foul-mouthed, totally-over-it guy. A bit like the old man neighbor who yells at you to get off his lawn. He’s kind of like the guy who’s worked for the same company his whole life —in this case it’s Christmas — and then out of nowhere it’s become Christmas, Inc., something he doesn’t recognize at all. In the book, his language is mostly toned down and cleaned up, but he’s still tired, world-weary, jaded about what has become of his Christmas. Which of course reflects on him, and his own self of self.
Seems like he brings up the naughty or nice along with the big businesses taking over. Mom and Pop shops are becoming a thing of the past. Does he feel like society is caught up in consumerism and escaping traditional values? That’s the Santa/Christmas metaphor here, spot on. Instead of Christmas being about giving, it’s become more and more about “getting.” In the story, Santa is horrified by Amazon, Walmart, “that fancy schmancy Apple Store.” But in the end he says, “It always feels best when we give.” This, after Santa realizes that to give love is really what Christmas, and life, is all about. I guess Cupid, the runaway reindeer in the story, represents this. He doesn’t want to be on the sled team any more. He wants to be free of all Christmas has become. Cupid is pretty much about the Love.
Santa likes Cigars. Seems to be an aficionado from the looks of it. No pipe? It’s funny you mention this. Yes, Santa smokes a cigar throughout — a bit of oral fixation or pacification. But as the illustrator and I were developing the book, we always talked about a content Santa smoking a pipe, but the unhappy one smoking a cigar.
Does Santa still enjoy being Santa? By the end of the book, Santa realizes that being Santa is his calling in life. There is no one else who can do it. As the story says, “Santa’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.” It’s a really tough job, but he’s the man for it. And once he understands this again, that it’s his calling to deliver joy, he’s able to carry on and be Santa again. Even if he has to keep smoking a cigar to make it through that long, brutal and cold night.
One of the things Stan Lee was famous for was bringing relatable complex characteristics to the characters he was writing for, do you think your Santa is relatable? I think this Santa is totally relatable to anyone who’s burnt out on their job, lost a sense of who they are, or just feels like they need a change in their life. One the other hand, it’s only when Santa remembers who he really is — the one and ONLY Santa — he comes to a kind of peace with that. To me, anyone who’s ever kind of “lost” themselves for a while can relate to this. Especially because nothing feels better than to realize who you truly are again.
Do you have any plans for "kids book for adults" like the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost or Punxsutawyney Phil? Or will you continue on with Santa? The next book is already written. In that one, Mrs. Claus is the star. The story itself is basically done, but it hasn’t been illustrated yet. It’s a side of Mrs. Claus that very few of us know. Let’s just say the girl has got some secrets.
CLIFFORD EVAN is a published novelist with “Delivered” being released in 2013. He has an MFA in creative writing and has been teaching writing and literature at the university level for over 15 years. CUPIDS LAST CHRISTMAS would definitely make a great gift. Get your copy HERE in hard copy or Kindle! WE CAN’T WAIT FOR HIS NEXT BOOK ON MRS. CLAUS!!!