F. Paul Wilson on writing, his protagonist Repairman Jack, and inspirations. | More2Read
 

F. Paul Wilson on writing, his protagonist Repairman Jack, and inspirations.



F. Paul Wilson is the New York Times bestselling author of horror, adventure, medical thrillers, science fiction, and virtually everything in between. His books include the Repairman Jack novels—including Ground Zero, The Tomb, and Fatal Error—the Adversary cycle—including The Keep—and a young adult series featuring the teenage Jack. Wilson has won the Prometheus Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Inkpot Award from the San Diego ComiCon, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers of America, among other honors. He lives in Wall, New Jersey.



The Interview with F. Paul Wilson


 

Lou Pendergrast

Two latest works, The Void Protocol and Wardenclyffe, what is the seed and inspiration behind them?

 

F. Paul Wilson

Void’s original title was Nadaný but the sales department didn’t think it would fly with readers.  It evolved from the two preceding books in the ICE Trilogy and answered questions about the cosmic horror basis of the series.

Wardenclyffe was triggered by a request from Eugene Johnson to do a story that involved historic figure for his anthology.  He was looking for 4k words and I produced 40k involving Nikola Tesla.  He couldn’t fit that so I dedicated the story to him and Journalstone pubbed it as a stand-alone.



 

Lou Pendergrast

Repairman Jack, from his first stepping into a tale in The Tomb and to book 15 with Nightworld, how has he changed and aged?

 

F. Paul Wilson

Definitely mellower than the guy you meet in The Tomb.  The love of a good woman can do that.  The grand irony of the series is that he has struggled since adolescence for an autonomous life only to realize that his whole life has been manipulated.

 


 

LP

What was it like this journey of yours with Jack as your main character?

 

F. Paul Wilson

We learned about each other.  We watched society changed from relatively free and open, to one that’s closed down and oppressive.

 


 

LP

What was the most memorable scene in Repairman Jacks’ life for you on the page?

 

F. Paul Wilson

Probably when he tied up the guy who killed his mother and dangled him over the NJ Turnpike to become a human piñata for the trucks passing by.  That drew a line in the sand between him and the rest of society.

 


 

LP

Stephen King used to be President of the Repairman Jack Fan Club. He must have been a real fan, tell me more about this please?

 

F. Paul Wilson

He sent me a copy of Eyes of the Dragon and signed it “President of the Repairman Jack Fan Club.”  I happened to mention it to my publisher and they were all over it.

 



 

LP

Writing, when, where, and with what do you do it?

 

F. Paul Wilson

I write in my upstairs office on a custom-made desktop with Windows 10 using Word. I sit down around 7 am and go.

 


 

LP

Looking over the many years as an author, mystery and horror you write with and many others strains of telling too, what is writing to you? 

 

F. Paul Wilson

I can’t imagine not writing.  Yes, it’s work, and it’s frustrating at times, but so is anything worth doing.  For me, writing is an obsessive-compulsive disorder.  If I won $80 million in the lottery today, you know what I’d be doing the very next morning?  Well, I’d be in a CCU recovering from the heart attack winning caused me.  But as soon as I got out, I’d be writing.

 


 

LP

These works, what do you wish to communicate inspire and instill within the reader?

 

F. Paul Wilson

I’m here to entertain, make you turn the pages.  I want to own you for a while.  My worldview – my Weltanshauung, if you will – creeps into my fiction, of course.  If I can intro you to a different way of looking at life and society than you were allowed to see in the state-run schools, fine, but I’m not out to sell you anything.

 



 

LP

Story mechanics, do you outline?

 

F. Paul Wilson

Yes, but less than I used to.  During my first 20 years as a selling writer I was a part-timer.  Every page I was turning out was precious and I couldn’t imagine getting halfway through a book and realizing I couldn’t finish it. That’s why I outlined: to avoid dead ends and blind alleys, to avert the horror of dumping hard-earned pages into the wastebasket.  

I want to know in advance if the story is worth telling, if it’s going to stand up to lengthy treatment, and most of all: Can I bring it to a satisfying conclusion?  That – the satisfying conclusion part – is, I believe, the best reason for an outline.  How many novels have done this to you: You’re sailing along, digging the prose and the plot and the characters when, about three-quarters of the way through, you start to notice it falling apart, finally to end not with a satisfying bang, not even with a whimper.  It doesn’t really end, it just seems… to… dribble… away…  

If I’m not sure I can end a story, I don’t start it.  I feel I owe you a good ending.  Not necessarily a happy one, not necessarily a neat tying up of every loose end, but at the very least a catharsis, a release of all the narrative tension I’ve been building.  If I don’t do that, I’ve failed you.  I haven’t done my job, and you haven’t received your money’s worth.

Nowadays I mostly write out story beats, but I always know where I’m going to end up.

 


 

LP

What writing advice would you give to the aspiring author?

 

F. Paul Wilson

The key is writing every day — EVERY day — to maintain the narrative flow. Often if you leave days between, you lose momentum and it’s hard to bring your writing up to speed again.

When I was practicing full time I’d use drive time to mentally compose my next pages so that I’d be primed when I sat down at the keyboard.  That’s a key point: TURN OFF THE DAMN RADIO AND TAKE OFF THE DAMN HEADPHONES. Stop wasting valuable time listening to other people’s words. You’re a writer. When you’re driving or walking around you should be working on YOUR words – the words you want to tell other people.

I found a minimum of 3 first-draft double-spaced pages per day does 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 them 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 vomit draft.  You’ll know your characters better then and can go back and make meaningful edits and additions

 



 

LP

Which characters in fiction do you re-read and recommend?

 

F. Paul Wilson

I don’t reread.  Too many books I haven’t read to be going back to books I have.

 


 

LP

Which writers and their books inspired you in becoming an author?

 

F. Paul Wilson

In no particular order:  H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Sax Rohmer, William Blatty, R. E. Howard, and so on.  Non-horror authors have influenced me as well: Robert Heinlein, Victor Hugo, Robert B. Parker, Poul Anderson, Raymond Chandler, Larry Niven, Charles Dickens, Fred Pohl, C.M. Kornbluth, Henry Kuttner, and lots of others whose names escape me at the moment.  

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 shook up my worldview when I was in my teens and has stayed with me since.  It echoes all through the Repairman Jack novels.  

 



 

LP

What your thoughts on publishing its future, publishing houses, and ebooks combined?

 

F. Paul Wilson

So many variables have come into play and so much awful shit is going down in the publishing world (check out the Amélie Wen Zhao debacle) that I see a narrowing of what’s going to be allowed into print and subject matter reduced to snowflake-safe pap.


 

LP

Thank you for this insightful peak into your writing life, it has been a real honour to chat with you.

 

F. Paul Wilson

Thank you!

 



 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 31 May 2019