You’ll want to keep an eye out for the release of Robin Wasserman’s brand new thriller, THE WAKING DARK, on the 10th, but in the meantime, Robin was kind enough to answer a few questions about the new book, so please welcome her to the blog!
When I was younger, I was a huge horror reader. I devoured every book Stephen King ever wrote, and read most of them over and over again, desperate to escape the horrors of my own life (boredom, junior high, mean girls at the mall, etc) and instead live out some (fictional) horrors that could actually be defeated. I loved everything about these books: the blood and gore, the sound of my heart pounding when I finished one at 2 AM and tried to fall asleep, even the killer clowns. But what I loved most about horror novels, and Stephen King’s horror novels most of all, was the way they seemed to capture something true about the frightening side of life—and the frightening side of other people, even those we know the best. I’ve always wanted to write a story like that myself, and THE WAKING DARK is my best shot at it. The novel is about six teenagers stranded in a small Kansas town after a tornado cuts off all communication with the outside world and people in the town start going a little bit nuts. And then a lot nuts. It’s also about murderous football players, religious fundamentalism, martyrdom, meth dealing, Molotov cocktails, and a little making out. Think Breaking Bad meets Friday Night Lights meets It. And think twice about reading after dark!
What did you enjoy most about writing THE WAKING DARK?
Because THE WAKING DARK is about a town full of people giving into their deepest, darkest, most unimaginably terrible desires, I had to spend a lot of time thinking about what those desires might be. And I’ll admit, it was a lot of fun to let my imagination run free. Take any petty annoyance on a normal day – the guy who cuts in front of you at Starbucks, the girl playing her music too loud on the subway – and imagine what you might do about it if you had absolutely no limits. Who wouldn’t have fun playing with that?
The Waking Dark has been compared to vintage Stephen King and obviously explores some pretty scary territory. What is something that you find particularly terrifying?
What don’t I find terrifying? I am likely the biggest wimp you’ll ever meet. I’m afraid of fires, burglars, kidnappers, tuna fish, ceiling fans, failure, any activity where my lack of coordination might involve me meeting my doom (ie any activity that requires any coordination whatsoever), public humiliation, being left alone, not being left alone, getting my hand stuck in the garbage disposal, getting electrocuted by my hair dryer, getting arrested for a crime I didn’t commit, getting bored…you name it, and I promise you, I’m scared of it.
Out of the main characters in the novel, Jule, Cass, Daniel, West, and Ellie, do you have a favorite, one that you particularly enjoyed writing about?
I’m not sure I can choose between Jule, Ellie, and West. (Poor Daniel and Cass, left in the dust.) I fell in love with Jule (the tough, sarcastic daughter of meth dealers) from the moment she appeared on the page, and she turned into a much more major character than I’d intended, because I couldn’t pry myself out of her head. Ellie (a modern-day Joan of Arc) and West (the closeted football player), on the other hand, were a little more of a struggle at the start – it was challenging to figure out exactly who they were and why they made the decisions they did. But, maybe because I spent so much time obsessing over them, I was left really attached to them. They’re both such vulnerable characters, trying so desperately to do the right thing…I just want to give them a hug.
Back when I read Stephen King novels obsessively, I took a lot of strength from watching other characters face darkness and emerge triumphant. I think that when I was a teenager, I felt like the world (and certainly my life) was a lot darker than anyone was willing to acknowledge, and in those books I found both evidence of horrors and the possibility of defeating them. It’s my hope that if there are people out there who are looking for that same confirmation and comfort, they’ll find it here.
Of course, I’m also hoping to scare the crap out them in the process!
What are a few of your favorite authors or novels?
I get asked this question so often that I finally decided I should sit down and actually figure out a real answer to it, and here it is. My personal pantheon of genius writers (not all novelists, but it doesn’t matter): Stephen King, Stephen Sondheim, David Foster Wallace, Joss Whedon, Tom Stoppard. If I could achieve anything close to what one of these guys (and saying that, I just noticed that they’re all guys, so I’m going to have to do something about that), then I would be a very, very happy writer.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
I just finished Bennett Madison’s September Girls, which is as breathtaking as I’d heard. My favorite YA novel of the year so far (which is saying a lot, this particular year). Very soon, though, I plan to have The Coldest Girl in Coldtown on my nightstand – it comes out this week, and the draft I read was AMAZING. The best thing Holly Black’s ever written (which is also saying a lot). It comes out this week, and I can’t wait.
What do you like to see in a good book? Is there anything that will make you put down a book, unfinished?
I have a very low tolerance for boredom, and that’s the most common reason for me to put something down. If it’s something I’ve seen a million times before, if it’s telling a familiar story in a familiar voice, then why would I want to waste my time reading it? I dream of the book that delivers the unexpected, that pulls me in from the first page and makes me sit up and say, “whoa, I didn’t even know you could do that!” Which is kind of a vague description, so I’ll explain by example: Bennett’s September Girls, Going Bovine by Libba Bray, Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson—they’re all books that break the bounds and expectations of storytelling and remind me of the limitless possibilities of writing. Those are the kind of books that inspire me to do better.
When you’re not busy at work on your next project, how do you like to spend your free time?
I should probably make up some fancy, creative sounding hobbies here (and, since I live in Brooklyn, they should probably involve some kind of artisanal food-making), but honestly? I watch a lot of TV. I’ve been catching up on several seasons of FRINGE this summer, and can talk about pretty much nothing else.
What’s next for you?
I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. And if you’ve read THE WAKING DARK, you know I have my ways…
About THE WAKING DARK:
They called it the killing day. Twelve people dead, all in the space of a few hours. Five murderers: neighbors, relatives, friends. All of them so normal. All of them seemingly harmless. All of them now dead by their own hand . . . except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town. She doesn’t even know why she killed—or whether she’ll do it again.
Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander’s, Kansas—something dark and hungry that lives in the flat earth and the open sky, in the vengeful hearts of upstanding citizens. As the town begins its descent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself. Jule, the outsider at war with the world; West, the golden boy at war with himself; Daniel, desperate for a different life; Cass, who’s not sure she deserves a life at all; and Ellie, who believes in sacrifice, fate, and in evil. Ellie, who always goes too far. They have nothing in common. They have nothing left to lose. And they have no way out. Which means they have no choice but to stand and fight, to face the darkness in their town—and in themselves.
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