F. Paul Wilson Interview
by Drew Bittner
Review by Drew Bittner
SFRevu Interview ISBN/ITEM#: 0506FPWI
Date: June 2305 /
The writer behind Repairman Jack recently took some time out to answer a few questions for SFRevu's Drew Bittner.
SFRevu: When did you start writing?
SFRevu: Were there specific inspirations that led you to write horror? Is "horror" a poor description?
When I was a kid, you couldn't buy horror to read, only SF. It was Ray Bradbury's "October Country" that blew me away- and I wanted to have that effect, to do that, to someone else. It's the perfect story, and I found it in "13 More Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV" by Alfred Hitchcock. It was too gruesome?not on the page, though! It was what Bradbury didn't show that made it. I love it when a reader has to take the next step. That's the best kind of horror- the stories that make the reader a participant. I've striven for that but don't think I've ever really made it. I do think the oblique view is more effective than the in-your-face view. The more a reader has to participate, the less passive they can be.
SFRevu: There are definite differences, though, between a horror short story and a movie or TV show...
I'm doing The Keep for IDW next and that's not so hard, but I do believe that the more you show, the less mysterious it is. The entities in the Adversary Cycle are the Ally and the Otherness?they're too big for names, and they don't even want names! Names limit them somehow. If you give something beyond our understanding a name like Cthulu or Nyarlathotep or something, you trivialize them.
SFRevu: Was there anything in particular that inspired Repairman Jack?
With Jack, I intended him to be a one-shot, which is kind of obvious at the end of the book. As I finished The Tomb, I thought, "Well, this character is great?- so I gotta make it look like the guy is dead or they'll want more." I had books planned out and didn't want to get locked into a series. Then, later on, Jack became a way out of a trap I got myself into with a medical thriller contract. I'd gotten bored with writing them after doing three and I was contracted to do a fourth... but thought "Hey, why don't I rework this and use Jack again? It'd be great for him!" I made his client a doctor and that was that. And the publisher was happy that I was bringing back a character that my fans wanted to see again.
Legacies was fun so I had to do another, and it's been going from there. And now I'm up to starting on the tenth one. How the heck did I get here?
One downside, though, is that Jack's story has gotten so big and so wide angle, I need people?like the folks on my website?as resources. I really need a compendium, 'cause I end up asking readers, "Um, what happened here again?" I could use a compendium a lot more than the readers...
SFRevu: Many of the novels and short stories you've written are part of a meta-plot, a supernatural apocalypse that you've already written. How did this come about?
SFRevu: Was there a point at which you realized (or planned in advance) that all these works were approaching a mutual endpoint?
In Reborn, I didn't want to have an Antichrist?- but I thought, "I want something else to be born." So why not use the entity from The Keep? Maybe he sees this clone as a good vessel, so that ties Reborn into The Keep and... hey, that's pretty good. Then I started looking for other ways to connect. I mean, I knew I needed characters for certain things?- so why not take them from other books? Maybe I was thinking about this all along, subconsciously, but no one was more amazed than I when it worked out.
Thing is, I'm also a great fudger?- I can take something in a previous book that I wish I hadn't written, then find a way to fudge around it in making that connection. I'm good that way so that's how I levered some things in there. There are (gasp) some inconsistencies, but those who recognize them I hope would keep them quiet.
SFRevu: Have there been any particular complications in writing Jack's stories, given that his "fate" is pre-ordained?
SFRevu: What is the most unusual thing you researched in preparing to write one of these novels?
But I used what I learned. The Dormentalist religion is part Scientology, part Mormonism, part Raelienism.
It's sort of like my research for Haunted Air, studying psychics and how they do what they do. It's astounding that people believe even when they're shown how the tricks are done. James Randi did a test where he put two people in a room with a psychic for a cold reading?- they came out and said he knows all about us! Randi showed them the tape, where the guy was correct one in 14 times. Even after seeing the tape, they thought he was wonderful. If you can lock in the will to believe, people will accept anything.
SFRevu: In Infernal, we see Jack suffer some acute losses, one of them at the hands of what seem to be Muslim terrorists. Was this a conscious reaction to 9/11?
However, that said, I don't like Islam much. It seems like an adolescent power fantasy, having multiple wives and all that?- I have no respect for it, but I didn't really dwell on that when I was writing Infernal.
SFRevu: Jack is also in a position of being powerless to stop something terrible from happening, but can't. That has to weigh on him too.
One of the things I've really tried to emphasize is that Jack is fallible. I refuse to make him Superman or James Bond, because he isn't; he's feeling his way through life like the rest of us. He's not a SEAL, there's no big government agency behind him. People aren't used to that?they see the ultracompetent guy who's always one step ahead.
Jack is sometimes ahead and sometimes behind, but sometimes people die who shouldn't because he can't predict human nature. In real life, you can't predict what other people will do. There's always a kink in the plan?- everything sounds perfect and then something screws it up. It's something I've used for comedic and horrific effect. When real crooks are caught, it's usually some stupid thing they didn't foresee. I love to play with that type of thing, setting up a clich?, and then pulling the rug out.
SFRevu: It seems a number of supernatural powers are waking up-- the subject of the new book's title being one of them. Will we learn more about the world's "magical history" in the future?
Things right now are in flux in the world. As of Infernal, there are 18 months of internal time before Nightworld begins?- it starts in May of the following year. I don't want to run this into the ground, so I'm not sure exactly how far I'll go in mapping out Jack between now and then, but there are things I want to set up. Like the woman with the dog, for one.
I?m always trying to misdirect the readers, but you know, in a series, there's a huge drawback: you know Jack's not going to die 'cause then there won't be a next book. Putting him in jeopardy won't work. But I think I've gotten through to people that no one is safe... except maybe Gia and Vicky, and even they might not make it.
SFRevu: Whoa, wait. They make it to Nightworld...
The baby [note: Gia is currently pregnant with Jack's child] could be an Achilles heel but Gia and Vicky already are?- ah, but I do like to break hearts. My wife might not speak to me if I do something to the baby and some people would really resent it, but I can say that the fate of the baby is determined in the novel I'm writing now. There are still two ways I can go. I have choices to make will it come out one way or the other. I do love to break hearts, though... like with [Jack's sister] Kate in Hosts.
SFRevu: I liked that microwave radiation, which many people fear, is what kept the alien influence at bay...
Science is a process of discovery. If you have the source of all knowledge be the bible, there's no discovery. Creationism can't be modified by new information, no method, no process, they have the answers. And they have no understanding of science. They're glib and people are sucked in, but they're dead wrong and they're a bigger threat to American education than the teachers' unions.
SFRevu: The Repairman Jack novels have introduced a number of characters and situations-- would you revisit any of these in a revised or expanded version of Nightworld?
SFRevu: How has your view of Jack evolved? How has Jack evolved?
Crisscross started with the idea of framing a murderer with murder he didn't commit. It's where the novel came from, that one little idea. To make it work, I had to have someone heinous for Jack to kill and someone heinous to pin it on. There are fates worse than death and for this schmuck to be in jail? well, like I said, worse than death.
In the Asian cultures, face can be lost with small things but in our culture, nowadays it seems impossible. It's hard to shame people, which is very sad. Standards are gone. One of the ongoing themes in Repairman Jack is that he's a career criminal who has higher standards than the world around him. He has a code and lives by it.
Kusum [the "villain" of The Tomb] was a man of honor and did what he thought was right to pursue vengeance?- but he respected Jack for being the man he was. They could have been friends if their purposes weren't crossed, because they were so much alike. It's why Kusum didn't kill him at one point?- it wouldn't be honorable.
So in Infernal, I asked, "What if Jack's brother is sort of the Anti-Jack? Everything Jack believes in, his brother doesn't care about?" Tom takes what he can take and has no moral compass. Jack loathes him but has to stick with him. That's just the kind of guy he is.
SFRevu: There is a lot going on in these books.
SFRevu: Is there one question you would like NEVER to be asked again?
Readers should visit the official F. Paul Wilson website: www.repairmanjack.com for news and current events, as well as a very active forum. Readers can also sign up for email updates?all they have to do is ask. Thanks to F. Paul Wilson for taking time to chat? so now hurry out and get a copy of Infernal, the ninth Repairman Jack novel!