The Chuck Wendig Interview
Dan & Kate: STAR WARS: AFTERMATH: LIFE DEBT came out July 12, 2015, and INVASIVE is due out a little over a month later on August 16th. Both works are rooted in science fiction, with INVASIVE being that much closer to science fact. Tell us how you go about switching brain gears from the pop-culture phenomenon that takes place in a galaxy far, far away, to the world of INVASIVE – which may be closer than we realize?
Chuck Wendig: As it turns out, the brain has something called a ‘narrative clock.’ It’s similar to all the other little clocks we have ticking in our heads – biological clock, our sleep clock, and so forth. The narrative clock deals with our comprehension of event sequencing and thematic resonance, and so jumping from novel to novel requires you to “reset” the clock in the same way you might if you take a long haul flight. I do this by drinking a whole bottle of tequila, then hitting myself in the face with a skillet three times. Not four. Three.
Okay, none of that is true.
Mostly, I just give it a day between projects to refresh. I will say that right now I’m having to bounce between writing a new Miriam Black book and performing edits on the third Star Wars book—that is so jarring a shift, the whiplash could kill me.
D&K: We first became aware of your work by discovering you on Twitter. Between your massive social media presence and your blog TERRIBLE MINDS, it’s safe to say you have built a cult of personality. Many have come and gone from the world of blogging, but you have not just survived, but thrived. What lessons have you learned, and what knowledge can you share with our readers?
CW: Oh, god, I have a cult of personality? That is a genuinely frightening concept.
As to how I do it, I have no real lessons to share—in fact, that might be the lesson: avoid all lessons. I keep doing it just to do it. I do it because I like it. I don’t care really how successful I am at blogging or tweeting; I do it because it’s fun and a way to squawk into the void and maybe be heard once in a while.
D&K: Some writers live comfortably in genres. You have a large catalog of non-fiction how-to-write books; the ALTANTA BURNS novels are wonderful Young Adult books; and Miriam Black and Mookie Pearl live in the world of Urban Fantasy. Now INVASIVE follows up on the world we were first introduced to in ZER0ES. Oh yeah, and you now write comics for Marvel and the Dark Circle line from Archie. What are your thoughts on breaking genre boundaries and what is the secret to your immense word output?
CW: Some of this gets to the heart of ‘branding,’ which is a thing that Coke and McDonald’s do, and some people think writers should do, too. But for me, branding is as much a thing you burn into the flesh of livestock to make sure you know who owns them and where they belong, and I don’t really dig that very much.
For me, I read widely and see no problem writing widely, and it also makes sure that I don’t die with a chosen genre. (People who cut their teeth on urban fantasy – even successfully – might now be told that urban fantasy doesn’t sell.) Diversify early and you can pretty much write whatever you want, I find. Within some reason.
As to the secret to immense output – it’s more about slow and steady wins the race. Write a little every day and you’ll have a lot of words at the end of a year. And you’ll also learn to write faster and cleaner with that practice.
D&K: Your first Star Wars novel, AFTERMATH, hit shelves September 4, 2015, and debuted at #4 on the New York Times and the USA Today Best Seller Lists. But the legend of how you landed that gig is just so incredible to us. Please tell our readers how sometimes wishes do come true.
CW: On September 4th, 2014, I publicly wished on Twitter to write Star Wars.
They gave me the job and by strange serendipity (THE FORCE), the book came out exactly one year later.
D&K: Aside from all of your writerly duties, you are also something of a foodie and an advocate for non-GMO based farming. How did these take… er… root?
CW: I’m definitely a foodie, which comes from this thing where I like to put delicious foods into my fact. I’m definitely not an advocate for non-GMO farming. I mean, I like non-GMO farms as much as I like GMO, but I am not unduly frightened by the concept of genetic modification. I am occasionally discomfited by the concept of some companies holding unprecedented power in that arena, or in places where the law fails to catch up with or understand the realities of GMO, however. But I am decidedly pro-GMO, at least in case by case scenarios.
In the spirit of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and the Bernard Pivot questions asked of every guest, we have our own set of questions we ask of every interviewee.
D&K: When did you finally say, “Yeah…I’m gonna write stuff for a living. And it will be AWESOME.”
CW: Eighth grade. Nobody believed me.
D&K: What was your favorite moment in mystery writing? The moment that when you read it on the page, you smiled and said, “That was so cool!”
CW: I wrote the ending of The Cormorant having trapped myself into a fate I didn’t know how to escape with more writing, and then once I figured it out, I was very, very excited.
D&K: What was the moment that made you say, “Writing books is amazing”?
CW: No one moment — just a cascading series of moments every day. They are also accompanied by similar moments, often just minutes later, where I say, WRITING BOOKS IS STUPID.
D&K: The standard Beatles or Rolling Stones question: Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett?
CW: Hammett’s kinda the OG here, so let’s go there.
D&K: Parting thoughts?
CW: Fuck Trump.