Please tell us about your upcoming books and their production schedule.
Panacea is out July 5. I’m writing a sequel of sorts, The God Gene, now. Not really a sequel, simply another mystery-adventure with the same two lead characters. Lemme tell you, it was with no little trepidation that handed in Panacea — my first non-Repairman Jack novel in many years. It’s a significant departure, since the Jack books are noirish crime stories with a fantastic back story. Panacea is a continent-hopping mystery adventure in search of the legendary cure-all. But the publisher loved it and even wanted another like it. Thus, The God Gene.
And sometime this year Tom Monteleone and I will finish The Silent Ones, third and last in our YA series, Nocturnia.
Who are the authors that have influenced your writing the most?
Tons. In no particular order: H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Sax Rohmer, Bill Blatty, Robert Heinlein, Victor Hugo, Robert B. Parker, Poul Anderson, Raymond Chandler, Larry Niven, Dashiell Hammett, Charles Dickens, Fred Pohl, C.M. Kornbluth, Henry Kuttner, Charles Fort, and lots of others whose names escape me at the moment. And I suppose I shouldn’t leave out EC Comics, Captain Video, The Shadow, King Kong, the old Flash Gordon serials. Anyone and anything that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go.
I’m standing on the shoulders of all of the above, but the one still influencing me thematically (not stylistically), is H. P. Lovecraft. His cosmic horror, his materialistic take on the universe as indifferent at best, but most often malign, shook up my worldview when I was in my teens and has stayed with me since. It echoes all through the Adversary Cycle and Repairman Jack novels, and even into Panacea.
If you had the ability to bring one author back from the dead to write one more book, who would it be and why?
I wish Henry Kuttner were around to write more Gallagher stories, and I could do with a couple more Hogben tales.
If you could live in any world, real or imaginary, where would it be and why?
I’d very much like to live in Barry Schenck’s Retropolis. You can find it at http://thrilling-tales.webomator.com/ It’s sort of the way the present was supposed to look from the perspective of the 1930s (if that makes any sense). Check out the website or check out the 1930 film Just Imagine. (Full feature at http://tinyurl.com/h4bomxf – it’s awful in the way only early talkies can be, but visually it’s a jewel. Watch the first 3 minutes to get an idea of the retrofuture I’m talking about.)
This wouldn’t be an interview with you if we didn’t talk about Repairman Jack and The Secret History of the World. How far into writing your books did you realize you could convert your stories into one epic world? Were you influenced by anyone? Is there a story behind the story?
Well, the Secret History sort of grew. It starts with Lovecraft’s materialist, mechanistic universe – his so-called cosmic horror – amplified by the Fermi Paradox which boils down to: Where is everyone? With billions of Earth-type planets in our galaxy with the potential for supporting life – many of them much older than ours – why haven’t we been contacted? The answer could be that sentience and sapience don’t occur very often in the universe. What if the human level of sapience is so rare that when it occurs it attracts… attention? What if we are under the scrutiny of (to quote Wells) “intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic”? Lovecraft and Charles Fort (who declared “We are property”) mined that vein, and I’m following in their footsteps. Those unsympathetic intellects have shaped human history from behind the scenes, that’s why it’s called the Secret History.
Humanity being the plaything of vast, unknowable forces percolates through The Keep, The Tomb, and The Touch even though they were all intended as stand-alones. I started another completely unrelated novel with the working title The Chadham Clone. I meant for it to look like Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen on the surface but actually be something different (just as The Keep looks like a vampire novel for a while, but it’s not). I wanted to use an evil entity other than the tired old Antichrist, but who? Then I realized I already had that entity in Rasalom from The Keep. I needed a suburban setting convenient to Manhattan, and realized I already had one in Monroe where The Touch took place. I became intrigued by the challenge of tying those two novels, and The Tomb as well, into Rasalom’s reincarnation, bringing the books full circle. It worked so well that I suspect my subconscious might have been linking them all along.
Things grew from there. The result was an outline for a 1,000+ page novel. Nobody was going to publish that, so I broke it down into a trilogy that became Reborn, Reprisal, and Nightworld. When I was done I called all 6 novels The Adversary Cycle, and that formed the foundation of the Secret History. When I brought Jack back in 1998, he was already part of the Secret History, so I used him to expand on the story.
We also know that you are a medical doctor specializing in family practice. But like Repairman Jack, do you have plans to retire? What will you do when that time comes?
I’ve been a part-time physician working 2 days a week for quite some time now (I’d never have been able to write all those books had I been full time). I’ve got a few more practice years left in me. I love my patients, but the government and the insurance companies are conspiring to drive me insane. As for writing, I’ll probably keep that up till I die or develop full-blown dementia.
And Jack? He’ll be back. I have no doubt that a suitable novel will come along and I’ll bring him in from the pasture and put him to work. Can’t say just when, though.
If you were able to trade bodies with one person for one day who would it be and why?
Willie Dixon in the late 1950s. I’m writing “Little Red Rooster,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” “Spoonful” and other blues classics. I’m doing session work for Chess Records, I’m playing upright bass in Chuck Berry’s band. I’m not a household name, but I’m defining the Chicago Blues sound. (Later on, in the 60s, my songs will be covered by the Stones, Led Zep, Cream, the Doors, Hendrix, even Dylan.)
Then again, maybe Kim Kardashian – pre-Kanye, of course. I mean, what’s it like to sit on that butt?
What are the next three books you’re planning to read?
Just started Watched Too Long by Ann Voss Peterson and J.A. Konrath. The books ahead haven’t been published yet – ARCs by Norman Spinrad and Charles Stross.
Do you have any guilty pleasure books/authors? You know the ones…stuff you don’t let your friends see you reading.
I’ll read old pulp novels from time to time, but I’m not guilty about them. The snoots turn up their noses but, y’know, who cares? It’s my comfort food. That’s why I wrote “Sex Slaves of the Dragon Tong.”
I do have guilty music, though. I’m a blues guy, but I have a weakness for good harmony and a catchy tune. My iPod hides an occasional song by the Partridge Family, the Carpenters, Air Supply, and others too uncool to cop to. (“Easy Come, Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman – yoiks!)
If you were to give just one piece of advice aspiring writers, what would it be?
The obvious one is keep writing…write every day. When I started out, writing part time, I found a minimum of 3 first-draft double-spaced pages per day did the trick. That’s 21/week. At that rate you’ve got over 540 pages in 6 months. That’s a decent-sized novel.
In writing those 3 pages per day, avoid tinkering with them. This stalls you by fooling you into thinking you’re still writing. You’re not. And you’re losing momentum. Get those 3 pages down and then leave them alone and go on to the next 3. The time to fix and hone them is after you’ve finished that all-important first draft – what I call the vomit draft. You’ll know your characters better then and can go back and make meaningful edits and additions.
The other is less obvious: Avoid envy. Other writers are going to be more successful than you. Applaud their success rather than begrudge it. Just remember, there’s objective success and subjective success. Objective is counted on bestseller lists and dollar signs. Subjective is defined by you: what are your goals in putting those words on paper? Don’t lose sight of that.
What five people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?
Dorothy Parker, Ambrose Bierce, Ogden Nash, Oscar Wilde, and H. L. Mencken. A veritable torrent of wit. Can you imagine the laughs? The unbridled cynicism?
How do you want the world to remember you?
A stand-up guy who poured a mean gimlet and told lots of good stories.
You can find Paul on Twitter and follow him, look for @fpaulwilson. Check out his Facebook page too! Thank you so much for the interview, Paul. And thank you for letting me read Panacea.
This is an exciting book! Think Dan Brown meets Michael Crichton. Then, boom! You’re off off on an around the world (Paul’s World – it fits into the Secret History) whirlwind thriller as competing forces attempt to find a cure-all. Can it truly exist? Dead bodies are turning up that were otherwise perfectly healthy…and they shouldn’t have been. Have fun reading this – I sure did!
Find PANACEA at Amazon.com