Interview with F. Paul Wilson - a conversation about The Last Christmas, a Repairman Jack novel
I was lucky enough to sit down with the author (sorta - he sat at his computer while I sat at mine) to discuss how The Last Christmas came about, what keeps Jack ticking after all these years and what’s next for the author and, of course, our beloved anti-hero, Jack.
Dark Bites: What can you tell us about how you came to work with Barry Hoffman and how his Gauntlet Press came to play host as the next publisher in your Repairman Jack series?
F. Paul Wilson: After I brought Jack back in Legacies, Barry asked if he could do a signed first edition of the next book. He’s been doing them ever since. They’re beautiful limited editions, all with art by the great Harry O. Morris.
DB: As declared in your afterword of The Last Christmas, I understand you’re a proud outliner which is clearly working out for you. Considering the ever-growing depth that is Repairman Jack’s twisting, multifaceted universe, do you tend to keep a running outline that goes beyond any single RJ book you happen to be working, or do you stick to one book at a time as far as your outlining goes?
FPW One book at a time. I depend on my readers for continuity. They know more about the series than I do. One created a website that breaks down every book into characters and plot and synopsis. I use it to keep things straight. I outline because the most satisfying fiction offers a symmetry that’s missing from real life.
DB: In your afterward for The Last Christmas, you provide a bare-bones look at the outline you used while writing the book. One item missing from your outline is the end of the world element you added to the mix of challenges presented to your characters. What caused you to up the ante with an apocalyptic approach previously left out your original your road map if you will?
FPW: That’s always been there as a background arc, at least since the end of Conspiracies. But it starts to take over the series in By the Sword and the books that follow. Things are coming to a head and not looking too good for humanity.
DB: If I may say so, I would have to put Jack’s Jewish friend, Abe, as the most endearing character for me outside of Jack. Like every other character we meet along the way, each stands out vividly on their own set of quirks and style and rarely needs to be named for the reader to guess who’s doing or saying what. Paul, when you’re creating realistic characters like Jack and Abe, do you envision actual people from your own life experience, or is it more of the result of a well-honed craft earned over the years?
FPW: Abe’s speech pattern comes from the late founder of the group practice I joined. He was born and raised in Philly but every so often, just for kicks, he’d adopt the patois of a Hasid from Crown Heights or Williamsburg. He was my resource for yiddishkeit. Julio is based on Cheech, but drug free.
DB: You mentioned in a recent newsletter of yours that various projects have or are set to roll out Repairman Jack, one of which is a graphic novel series. Are you able to share much about what we can expect from this such as storyline, who’s doing the artwork, or anything else?
FPW: As of this writing I’ve scripted four of the five individual issues that will make up the first graphic novel, called Scar-lip Redux. Issue one has been drawn and inked by a guy named Antonio Fuso.
DB: While you may not be able to say much on the possibility of a Repairman Jack television show, can you share anything about why things may have veered away from the movie approach towards t.v. land and what you think we can realistically hope for as far as the project goes, if it does go into production?
FPW: After spending a million-plus on scripts over twenty years, Beacon abandoned the idea of a theatrical film. They started off with an excellent script from Craig Spector which Universal rewrote into a mess. After that, one mediocre script followed another until Chris Morgan arrived (before he moved onto the Fast and Furious franchise). A Jack fan who really knows the character, he did an excellent job. But by then the studios had seen so many bad Repairman Jack scripts, they didn’t want to read another.
Beacon now has a showrunner (all I can tell you is that his name is instantly recognizable to anyone with even a casual interest in weird TV) but he’s taking forever to finish the pilot script. But even when that’s done, it’s still a long way from a series.
DB: Perhaps the most burning question in this entire interview, what’s up with the Repairman Jack thongs available for fans to buy? How the heck did those come about?
FPW: Lisa and Susan, two devoted Jack fans, put my early web sites together. They wanted to offer Repairman Jack merch, so Susan designed a logo and contacted Café Press. The usual coffee cups and T-shirts and hoodies are available, but also a thong which the ladies demanded we offer. I don’t argue with Lisa and Susan.
DB: On a more serious note, as far as labeling what type of story Repairman Jack is such thriller, suspense, urban adventure, etc. – what do you think it is about this long-running series that tends to be so well received among the horror community in general?
FPW: Well, it has many devotees in the thriller community – Lee Child, James Rollins, and Doug Preston, among others. Jack has many, many fans in the romance community. But I think the overarching cosmic horror that suffuses the series is what draws the horror folk. I understand cosmic horror – I’m a devotee – and I do it right. I placed Wardenclyffe in the same Secret History as Jack’s; I feel it’s very successful in evoking cosmic dread.
DB: After spending much of your writing career getting to know Jack and his supporting characters, is there anything about him or the series that continues to surprise even you?
FPW: Surprises do occur, even at this late stage. I still don’t know where the Lady came from. She appeared in Hosts as a sort of Greek chorus for Jack, and evolved from there into a major player in the series. Madame de Medici also came out of nowhere. Okay, not nowhere. She came from a trio of short stories by Sax Rohmer. Somehow a similar woman with the same name wriggled her way into Jack’s short story “Infernal Night” as a supporting character with just two scenes. I cast her (as the Rohmer character) in the antagonist role in my Sherlock Holmes pastiche, “The Adventure of the Abu Qir Sapphire,” and then made her my own via an acrostic message to Holmes. She fascinates me, so I had to give her a major role in The Last Christmas.
DB: Paul, do you think there will ever come a time when even Jack’s fateful end is abundantly clear, where the light at the end of the series grows bright enough to be seen, or will Jack and his band of fellow friends, fiends and foes keep on trucking for as long as there’s fuel in the tank to allow it?
|Cover art by Harry O. Morris|
FPW: I’ve said it before and I’m sticking to it: I see no point in taking Jack beyond Nightworld. His role is the ghost in the machine and Nightworld breaks the machine. The Last Christmas exists because of The Void Protocol, which involved that mysterious and wonderful substance melis, which made TLC feasible. I don’t know when I’ll do another Jack novel, or even if I’ll do one.
DB: Thanks so much for your time, Paul! Until next time.
This interview first appeared in Gauntlet Press’s newsletter. To subscribe to their newsletter click HERE and add your e-mail to the list, located beneath the welcome section. /