F. Paul Wilson
SUNNI: Hi, Paul -- it's great to talk with you again! How are you, and how's life in Jersey?
PAUL: I'm well and it's cold here. Nearing the winter solstice.
PAUL: Yes and no. How's that for a definitive answer? I let each book find its own voice and rhythm. Infernal turned out way different from any of the Repairman Jack novels before it, and I don't see another one like it anywhere ahead. I didn't start out saying this one's going to have much more character and suspense, with less action and derring-do. It simply happened that way. I'm in control when I write a book, but I've learned over the years that different stories must be told different ways.
SUNNI: For me, the difference really worked -- but then, part of the reason why I like your writing so much is that you've never settled into a tried and true formula. Given the timespan in which Infernal unfolds, I'm getting the idea that the story arc is starting to run up against whatever happened in the original Nightworld -- don't tell me, because I haven't read it yet and I don't want to until the rest of the RJ storyline plays out! -- is that right?
PAUL: Infernal takes place 18 months -- internal time -- before the events of Nightworld. The larger arcs within the RJ series demanded a certain character's demise. Infernal answered the call. And yeah, the novels are accelerating toward Nightworld.
SUNNI: Do you remember when we -- Lobo, snolfs, a couple of friends, and I -- met up with you in Minnesota for lunch at a con you attended? Gosh, that was around three years ago ...
PAUL: Yeah. Halloween time at the 2002 World Fantasy Con in Minneapolis. It was great putting faces to the names. I enjoyed that very much.
SUNNI: We did too! Anyway, you mentioned then that you'd be rewriting Nightworld. How different will the new version be from the original?
PAUL: In the original 6-book Adversary Cycle, Jack joined the Nightworld ensemble cast knowing nothing about the eternal cosmic war raging across the multiverse. Now, through the series, Jack has learned a lot about it -- more than he wants to know. So yeah, Nightworld will be rewritten so that he comes in as a knowing player. I'll have to make a bunch of other tweaks as well. In the next month or so I'll start revising Nightworld for the Borderlands Press limited edition. I want to delay that release until after the first edition of the next RJ -- Harbingers -- which I've just handed in. Why? Because if you read the new Nightworld first, you'll know who survives Harbingers.
Man, it's a pain writing a series when you've already published its conclusion. But I never planned for a Jack series -- obviously.
SUNNI: Yeah, I've read that. But it's turned into a terrific series. Are you saying, Paul, that Harbingers is going to be the last RJ before the revised Nightworld comes out?
PAUL: No. I've got about 4 more to go. I'm contracted for at least two more.
SUNNI: I don't want to say a lot about Jack or Infernal, because I know a number of my regular readers haven't gotten into the Repairman Jack series yet and I don't want to ruin anything for them if I can help it. But I am curious: how does someone like you -- a doctor, a very scientifically trained individual -- come up with all these supernatural things, and not only that, but mesh them fairly convincingly with the everyday reality of New York, or New Jersey, or Florida?
PAUL: I don't know. My quotidian existence is that of a skeptic, a hard-edged realist with a scientist's mindset. But I love to play in places that can never be, with beings and concepts that are way over the top. Being a storyteller by nature -- I was a great liar as a child -- I take immense pleasure in intersecting my no-bullshit reality with something totally outré and seeing what happens. It's fun.
SUNNI: Your enjoyment seems obvious in your books, too. Your fiction spans an impressive range, from An Enemy of the State to Sims to The Keep to Midnight Mass. Some of it is pretty hardcore pro-freedom fiction, some pretty basic sci-fi, and some ... horror? Anyway, which kind of writing do you enjoy most?
PAUL: I like them all. What I don't like writing is something I've already written. My rule has always been: Write the next book -- that is, the story that's most ready to be told. Which has made me a genre hopper. And genre hopping is not a good career move for a writer in the modern book culture. The publishers are into the old high-school cheerleader chant: "Let's have another one, just like the other one!" Who knows? Maybe I'd be a household name if I'd listened. But I didn't and so I'm not. I've had bestsellers, yeah, but my next books were not enough like the bestseller to ride it onto the lists again. Slate magazine recently termed me a cult writer. Maybe they're right. Maybe they heard about my stock of Kool-Aid.