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Interview with Dan Wells

Posted by -Slamel- On Monday, September 14, 2009

Elitist Book Reviews: We here at Elitist Book Reviews don't hesitate to tell people how awesome we are, because its the truth, and we want you to do the same. So tell us, why are you so awesome, Dan?

Dan Wells: I'm awesome because I once wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure book specifically designed to be unwinnable. I'm awesome because I've eaten brains. I'm awesome because I am not a cylon (as far as you know). But most of all, I'm awesome because Elitist Book Reviews loves my book.

EBR: Without giving too much away, can you give us a little background on the I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER trilogy?

DW: I wrote the first book because one night when I was explaining the MacDonald Triad to Brandon Sanderson he said, "that would make a cool book." It took me a year to figure out the best way to write it, but he was totally right. I submitted it to a number of editors, and Moshe Feder from Tor not only loved it but wanted a trilogy, which I had not planned for. That night I rewrote the ending a bit and brainstormed two sequels; three years later, the trilogy is finished and follows that brainstormed outline remarkably closely. In short: John spends the first book letting his dark side free, and a dark side is not an easy thing to lock away again.

EBR: What sets your book apart from the other Horror novels on shelves today?

DW: That's a hard question to answer, because modern horror covers such a wide range of styles and backgrounds. In some ways the plot of my book is closer to common fantasy tropes than to horror: young boy finds his world threatened by a dark power, and learns that he must use his inner gifts to rise up and become the hero. Of course, the dark power is a supernatural serial killer, and the "inner gifts" are sociopathy and a comprehensive knowledge of how to stalk and kill an unsuspecting victim. So I guess what I'm saying is: the structure of fantasy with the elements of horror, in a story that most readers describe as a character drama. Wow; that makes it sound really weird.

EBR: Was it difficult to write a book based on the behavior of serial killers without glorifying it?

DW: Writing without glorifying was not especially difficult, because the context of the story shows that the main character a) does everything he can to stop a killer, and b) suffers horrendously for his many serial killer-like traits. Promoting the book, on the other hand, has been very difficult to do without glorification. American culture is fascinated by serial killers--they're our hometown boogie men--and that's a big part of the draw of the book, but I've had to step very carefully to avoid things like "who's your favorite serial killer?"

EBR: What, if any, influences do you draw from in your writing?

DW: I didn't read a lot of horror until after I started writing it, but in retrospect I see a lot of horror themes in the stuff I did read: classic authors like Victor Hugo, Joseph Conrad, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is pure horror, beginning to end. I find that I'm attracted to hopelessness in fiction, for some reason; Russian literature, for example, is an incredible blend of determination, humor, and despair. I'd like to think that some of that comes through in my books.

EBR: What courses or trends do you see the genres of speculative fiction taking from here?

DW: Every new generation grows up more steeped in speculative fiction than the last, and I think we're not far off from the day when speculative fiction not only joins but takes over the mainstream. Do you want something more immediate than that? The same principles apply: the same formulas that made paranormal romance big ("it's like a romance novel, but with vampires!") will spread very strongly and very visibly into other areas of high-readership fiction, such as thriller and mysteries. The courtroom novel, the detective novel, the spy novel, etc. will all have their Twilight, thanks to the foundational work already done by people like Jim Butcher and Jonathan Maberry. In the realm of fantasy the pendulum is going to continue to swing toward heroic over epic, but overall I definitely think we're in a golden age of fantasy, and years from now people are going to look back at this period as the time when fantasy really took off.

EBR: Thank you for your time and indulging our curiosity. Any parting words for our readers?

DW: I like your shirt. It really sets off your eyes.


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