An interview (and giveaway) with Peter Clines, author of The Fold

As far as I’m concerned, The Fold is one of the best books of 2015, so I’m thrilled to welcome Peter Clines to the blog! We’ve also got a copy to give away to one lucky US winner, so make sure to enter to win at the widget below the post.
I absolutely loved The Fold. The story starts with teleporting and then goes sideways, so very sideways. What inspired the idea for the book?

It’s been floating around in my head for ages. Decades, really. It started off with a short story I wrote called “The Albuquerque Door.” It was for a college writing class, and the TA told me it was simplistic and childish and I was a hack who was wasting everyone’s time. And, in all fairness, he was right about some of that. Not all, but some.

I picked it up again years later and realized it would make a good basis for a novel, which I started calling Mouth. A lot of the core ideas were there. There was a proto-Mike named Marco—a very different character. I worked on that version for a few months for a while, then around 2008 I set it aside so I could focus on another idea. This thing about superheroes fighting zombies in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles.

Anyway, about three years ago I was playing around with ideas to work on next and sort of stumbled across Mouth again. I could see, with a bit more experience, that a bunch of things didn’t work with it, but there were a couple that worked very well. And then I realized what I had would fit perfectly with some other ideas I’d been playing with.

Sooooo… that was it. More or less.

There was a lot to keep track of in this book, but you made it look so easy. What’s your secret? Will you tell us a little about your writing process?

What generally happens for me is, while I’m working on project X, I jot down a lot of notes for project Y in a new document. Character ideas, story beats, some clever snippets of dialogue, whatever occurs to me. Then, when X is done and it’s time to start actively thinking about Y, I take all the notes in that document and move them around into something kind of like an outline. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, but I still have a bare-bones framework that I’m starting with. And then I just start writing. The first draft will be big and messy, but that’s what first drafts are all about. They always need work and refinement. But I can’t do a second or third draft until I get a first draft.

A large part of it is just taking the time to get it right. Another part is having great beta readers and a fantastic editor who all point out when I screwed up. Which sounds kind of wiseassed, I know, but it isn’t. Having a few extra sets of brutally honest eyes can be a huge advantage.

I loved that you made the science in The Fold so accessible. What kind of research did you do for the book?

I dug through a few books, read a bunch of articles, and talked to a few people who are much smarter than me. I’ve always loved science and—even though my career went down a different path—I’ve tried to keep up with it since school, so I wasn’t coming into this completely cold. Still, I started with more accessible things like Alice in Quantumland by Robert Gilmore and working my way up to find specific answers I needed. I also read a lot about memory and IQ, and some about supercomputers.

I think any sort of extended explanation—grounded in reality or not—can be tricky in books. If it’s not done just right it’ll bring things to a grinding halt. So I like using simple metaphors and explanations. I think they end up sounding more believable, too.

How has your writing process changed from when you first started writing?

Since I first started? Well, my first story was on yellow paper with that extra line so you’d know how tall to make lower-case letters. That was my first attempt at Lizard Men From the Center of the Earth.

I know it sounds kind of pretentious, but I’ve been doing this for as long as I remember. I started submitting stuff (and getting rejected) before I was even in my teens, and well… that was a while ago. So there’ve been tons of changes as I tried different things and learned what worked best for me. As I just mentioned, I’ve learned that anything past the barest outline doesn’t work for me. I’ve learned better ways to do character and dialogue. I’ve learned to be more demanding when I edit, and to take time with my edits. How to take criticism was a big milestone. So was admitting how much of my earlier stuff sucked.

If the book was being made into a movie ( I would love this, by the way,) and obviously avoiding spoilers, is there a particular scene you’d really like to see on the big screen?

Well, avoiding spoilers, it’d have to be… y’know, that scene at the end. With the thing. And the other things. And the women. And that guy.

(I think I just described Fury Road…)

Honestly, just the idea of something of mine making it to the big screen is kind of amazing. I’d be thrilled to see the most boring, mundane moments. “No one will be admitted to the theater during the heart-stopping ‘Mike stirs his drink’ scene.”

Gah! There’s so much I want to talk about, but it would totally spoil things, so I’ll ask, on a fun note…have you read any good books lately? Is there anything you’re looking forward to this year?

First, many thanks again for avoiding spoilers. I have a bad habit of writing books that become very spoiler-heavy, and then I can’t really talk about them in interviews without feeling like I’m ruining things for readers. It’s stupid in the information age, I know, to hope you can keep a secret and surprise people, but I still make the attempt whenever I can.

I recently read Shoot This One by Javier Grillo-Marxuach. It’s a great collection of essays, mostly about the film industry but he talks about writing and the internet and a lot of other related things. This morning I just finished a pile of comics and graphic novels from a friend of mine who does reviews for Strange Kids Club. The winner by far was Ms. Marvel, followed pretty close behind by Archer & Armstrong.

I’m looking forward to Ernie Cline’s Armada this summer. I loved Ready Player One, so I’m dying to see what he does with an alien invasion. Devil’s Pocket, the sequel to Phoenix Island, is coming out, and that should be fun. Same with Chimera, the last book in Mira Grant’s “Parasitology” series. And Cullen Bunn is ending The Sixth Gun, which has just been absolutely amazing so I can’t wait to see how it all wraps up.

It seems to me that there might be a possibility that we might see future books featuring Mike Erikson. Is that something you can confirm (crosses fingers) or deny?

Well, I think it’s still too early to say anything. I interviewed Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman a few years back, and Orci wisely pointed out that it’s kind of foolish—and a little arrogant—to be thinking about sequels before the first one’s even out. He ended up cursing me with that statement, but that’s another story…

I have hopes and a few ideas, but for now I’m willing to wait and see what happens.

Speaking of the future… What’s next for you?

I have a few stories coming out in anthologies (including X-Files: Trust No One, which I’m very excited about), and my editor and I are working on the fifth book in the Ex-Heroes series right now. That’s Ex-Isle and it should be out this fall, barring more screw-ups from me. And in the meantime I’m starting a new book that’s sort of a road trip/mystery/time travel/horror story. That should be kind of interesting. I hope so, anyway.

Keep up with Peter: Website | Twitter

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About The Fold:

The folks in Mike Erikson’s small New England town would say he’s just your average, everyday guy. And that’s exactly how Mike likes it. Sure, the life he’s chosen isn’t much of a challenge to someone with his unique gifts, but he’s content with his quiet and peaceful existence.

That is, until an old friend presents him with an irresistible mystery, one that Mike is uniquely qualified to solve: far out in the California desert, a team of DARPA scientists has invented a device they affectionately call the Albuquerque Door. Using a cryptic computer equation and magnetic fields to “fold” dimensions, it shrinks distances so that a traveler can travel hundreds of feet with a single step.

The invention promises to make mankind’s dreams of teleportation a reality. And, the scientists insist, traveling through the Door is completely safe.

Yet evidence is mounting that this miraculous machine isn’t quite what it seems—and that its creators are harboring a dangerous secret.

As his investigations draw him deeper into the puzzle, Mike begins to fear there’s only one answer that makes sense. And if he’s right, it may only be a matter of time before the project destroys…everything.

A cunningly inventive mystery featuring a hero worthy of Sherlock Holmes and a terrifying final twist you’ll never see coming, The Fold is that rarest of things: a genuinely page-turning science-fiction thriller. Step inside its pages and learn why author Peter Clines has already won legions of loyal fans.

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