A few weeks ago my friend Rena Mason invited me to join the Next Big Thing blog tour. Since the last time I posted here was a couple of months ago (I apologize for the inconvenience; real life intervenes), I'm using my first post of December to participate. I've answered her interview questions about my most recently completed story. Enjoy.
1) What is the working title of your next book?
Well, at the moment I’m wearing at least three different authorial hats because I have at least three different stories in the works: an erotic romance under my pen name entitled “Strange Attractors”; an alternate history spy series in collaboration with a friend of mine that we’re tentatively calling American Caesar; and a western horror story set in the New Mexican territory that I’ve given the working title “McAllen’s Get.” I won’t talk about those, however, and instead want to focus our question-and-answer session on my novella “The Savage Solution: A Romance.”
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
At Armadillocon last year I attended a panel on apes in science fiction and fantasy when somebody began passing around to the panelists a facsimile of the classic Zeppelin Stories cover featuring the illustration of Gil Brewer’s “Gorilla of the Gas Bags,” in which a man fights an ape on a rope ladder dangling from a balloon in flight. The story is lost—the only remaining copies are in the hands of collectors—so Joe Lansdale posed a challenge to the panelists: write a story around the cover. Mark Finn, the moderator, allowed me into the challenge even though I wasn’t a panelist. I spent the rest of the convention thinking about how I wanted to approach it, and suddenly found myself thinking of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan stories, and thought it would be cool to really go Philip José Farmer with it by including elements of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, and tie it all together with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I read a portion of the finished story at Armadillocon last summer.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
I suppose I’d best describe it as an old-fashioned pulp adventure story, though there are a lot of metafictional games I’m playing with it too. Perhaps I’d call it an homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. G. Wells, and Joseph Conrad.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Even though I love movies and review them for the Hugo-Award-winning SF Signal and Revolution SF, when I write fiction I almost never think of actors and/or actresses to play the roles. The second I start doing that, I begin to tailor my characters to fit them, and I don’t want to do that. While I would love to say, “I envision Bradley Cooper playing Jack Clayton,” I’d rather not fall into that kind of lazy trap. Maybe my reader will see an actor to portray my characters, but not me.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
“Korak the Killer investigates the death of an American inventor in the jungles of Africa, where he discovers a terrifying new evil.” At least that’s how I’d describe the basic plot.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
That’s a very good question. I’ll shop it around to the usual places. There was earlier this year of putting together an anthology of all those who participated in Lansdale’s ape challenge, but I haven’t heard anything about it yet.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
If you mean the actual writing, only a few weeks. But I spent a good deal of time just trying to figure out how to make it all work, and how I could iron out any snags to make it flow like a combination of high art dragged into the pages of a pulp action story. I spent a long time thinking about the relationships between Korak and Kurtz, and how to really make it stand out against what I was guessing would be formidable talent (Subterranean Press recently published Lansdale’s contribution The Ape Man’s Brother, also influenced by Burroughs).
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’ve mentioned several already, and would also add that I’m probably borrowing things I’ve learned from Howard Waldrop, Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Kim Newman’s Anno-Dracula series.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I think most of that was answered earlier, but I will say that Paul O. Miles inspired what I consider to be the highlight scene. I won’t say any more than that.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
It’s hard to say, since there’s so much about it that I find exciting and therefore assume others might as well, from the pulp adventure to the nods to other classic tales to the steampunk-style flavor.
Derek Austin Johnson has lived most of his life in the Lone Star State. A member of the Turkey City Writer's Workshop, his work has appeared in The Horror Zine, Tell-Tale Press, Skull Fragments: A Skelos Sampler, Rick Klaw's Rayguns Over Texas!, Nova Express, Moving Pictures, Her Majesty's Secret Servant, and Revolution SF. His film column "Watching the Future" appeared each month at Hugo Award-winning SF Signal.
He lives in Central Texas.