"All eyes"opens a new window I sure will keep my eyes out for those “virals,” “flyers,” “slims” or “smokes”.
His motivation for writing his virals trilogy - still can't bear to call them vampires - was his daughter Iris who was then something like 9 years old. A prodigious reader she had taken a look at his previous novels Mary and O'Neilopens a new window and The Summer Guestopens a new window and pronounced them boring and wanted to read a book about a girl who saved the world! Each day they would cycle around Houston and talk about what would be in such a book. Through this process he lost his inner critic.
Iris has an audiographic memory (like a photographic memory but for sound) she would always know what chapter they where up to when returning to a book. She had lots of suggestions - there would be a girl with red hair like her and she named the characters. There was only one rule about what would be in the book - it had to be interesting. After a while he realised his current novel wasn't going so well and he had 30 pages of notes so he thought he'd write the first chapter and see if it went anywhere - and here we are ten years later with the last volume of the trilogy.
An English professor at Rice University, his only rule for Iris at college is don't take any creative writing courses I can do that. Now publishing her own work it looks like dad has successfully taught her the family business although I don't know who taught who ...
Why vamps? They are the most interesting out of the four monsters in human form: Frankenstein, werewolves, vampires and zombies. Although I wonder if he forgot about yeti, and Karen was putting a great case for old-fashioned fairies. He excuses himself saying those other Vampire storiesopens a new window were not on his radar, at the time Twilight had only just come out.
At the heart of the vampire noir is the premise that immortality is a terrible state to reassure us that we would rather be human than live forever. He takes vamps and puts them into a new narrative and that's what makes it interesting. Vamps but with a twist - you've always got to bring something else in to make it interesting like a road trip and a viral epidemic. He was inspired by a couple of B grade movies one called Near Darkopens a new window directed by the talented Kathryn Bigelowopens a new window. It blended to the western narrative of a drifters story also Magic Johnsonopens a new window had just come out and there was the AIDs epidemic.
Justin's not averse to a bit of vampire seduction but in a different way, a seduction utilising rhetoric. Fanning as the charismatic narrator, Fanning sitting around for all those years in a library reading books using language to seduce Amy. A rhetorical seduction to make us feel sympathy with him.
On characters and community
- Since you are running for your life what is the one thing you would carry with you? In most cases people would carry someone else, therefore you have a love story and bonds of community.
- Survival is not sufficient. We read end of the world stories for reassurance and resurrection is an important part of that.
- You need survivors to have hope for their children. You think what does it mean to have a child? A child is a deal you make with the future.
Describing the novels as an apocalyptic western road trip, part of the inspiration for The Passage trilogy was the depressing world events at the time. Hurricane Katrina had just hit, G.W. Bush had been re-elected and a second less known Hurricane Rita had triggered an evacuation of Houston which he found himself in the midst of.
One morning stuck on the motorway at 2 am going nowhere in a massive traffic jam watching the fuel gauge go down he did the maths and decided they weren't going to make it out and made a u-turn and headed back home. Luckily the main force of the hurricane hit further off than predicted.
He is interested in the response of community to disasters like the Christchurch earthquake and how community survives. Community is a social lifeboat with a group of mostly good people who are resilient.
The vampires can't see themselves in the mirror and after a certain age that is the case with everybody.
On making things creepy
I look to nature - things that creep me out like fish, why do they all turn the same way like that? Crickets - how they can jump so much further than their body length. The virals are like bugs in hives.
He deliberately doesn't describe the virals too much leaving it to you to bring the things that scare you to your picture of them. Everyone's picture of a viral would be different. That's why movies can be disappointing and on that topic he has sold the film rights but it may be a TV show that will eventuate. TV shows are now where the story is at.
What drives him crazy
When the guns don't run out of ammo on The Walking dead, and cars start whose batteries would have gone for years and the tyres aren't flat. You have to think these things through.
- See our photos of An Evening with Justin Croninopens a new window
- Find Justin's books in the libraryopens a new window before you enter the passageopens a new window immerse yourself and find subject zeroopens a new window.
- Guardian interviewopens a new window
- Listen to Book Expo America interviewopens a new window
- Find subject zero teaseropens a new window
- Find interviewer Karen Healey's books in the libraryopens a new window