Thursday, May 19, 2011

The F. Paul Wilson Interview Part Three

It's time for yet another installment of the face-to-face interview I had with New York Times bestselling author F. Paul Wilson.  In this segment, he responds to a very complimentary comment from Stephen King about his work, the road to publication of his most ambitious novel, Black Wind, and the evolution of the publishing industry as it rapidly makes the conversion to more digital-based publishing.

Also, read the note following this installment...I'll be having a very exciting contest to commemorate the final part of the installment with F. Paul Wilson!

Welcome back...F. Paul Wilson...

The Accidental Author: I'm going to ask you to respond to something. When I was a sophomore in high school, I worked at the library in my hometown. We had a display case, and every month, a different library employee had to do some sort of themed display. When it was my month, I decided to do a Stephen King display, since I was a huge fan at the time. I wrote him a letter and asked him to send stuff for the display case, and to my surprise, he sent back a whole box of promotional materials. And included in that was a personal letter to me, where he detailed many of his influences and inspirations. In one of the final paragraphs, he specifically states that The Touch is a book that taught him the “literary value of horror”.

FPW: My book?

AA: Yup.

FPW: Well, he never told me.

AA: Are you surprised that it would be The Touch?

FPW: I’m just plain old surprised. I’ve never been accused of “literary value” before. Let’s not spread that around too much – don’t want to sully my pulp cred. But literary or not, The Touch became an example of an ongoing problem with my work: Publishers didn't know what to expect from me. The Tomb after The Keep was not what Wm. Morrow wanted. They turned it down. Then, I wrote The Touch, and it wasn't really horror, per se. I mean, it was horror in the sense of what was happening to [the main character]. But I had all that gothic stuff in The Keep. Then I had what Ginger Buchanan, one of the editors, called “the blue meanies” in The Tomb. Then I did The Touch, which is what I would call “quiet horror”.

AA: Your editors must have really had to pick their collective jaws up off the floor when you sent them Black Wind, right?

FPW: That's why Black Wind wound up at yet another publisher. Putnam/Berkley turned it down. They said they didn’t know how to publish it. As for The Touch, we had a bit of a falling out over how it should be published. They saw me as a paperback author. They published the paperback of The Keep, and they sold a ton. They published the paperback of The Tomb, and they sold a ton. I insisted that they publish a hardcover for The Touch, and they didn't want to do it. I don't know if it was by design, or whether they didn't have enough advanced warning, but the spring catalog for that year did not list The Touch as a hardcover. Didn't list it at all. I’d go to bookstores and they would say, “You’ve got a new hardcover? I've never even heard of it.” But I had my vindication when this “stealth” hardcover went through three printings.

But then I threw Black Wind at them, and that was all she wrote.

AA: I would say [Black Wind] is your most challenging work. I think it demands a lot of the reader.

FPW: I don't know if I would say that it requires a lot of the reader. It’s my longest novel and not paced like Repairman Jack, and that puts some readers off. I’ve been told it reads like it was written by someone else. But if they let the story happen, they usually love it.

AA: What I mean is that it's clear that you spent a lot of time researching it, so the reader has to come up to speed with all the history and cultural aspects, so they get an education as they're reading. But I would also say it's one of your most gratifying novels to read.

FPW: It definitely has the broadest sweep of any of my fiction. Truly my most ambitious novel. It's got so much going on in it – the conspiracy theories surrounding the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the love quadrangle, the clash of cultures, the black wind itself. It's a difficult book in the sense that a lot of people were turned off by the children as the focus of the winds. And the self-mutilating monks. Definitely a lot of horror in it. But, it's also a family saga as well as a historical novel. And it starts off with a lot of human drama. So publishers were saying “How do we market this?” Tom Doherty did his damnedest, but the book never caught fire. I call it my “lost novel.” But people keep finding it. I met Joe Hill for the first time at a BEA a couple of years ago and the first thing he said to me after hello was, “I loved Black Wind, man.” That was nice to hear the next generation of writers. With the help of the ebook revolution, it will never be out of print again.

AA: Switching gears a little, you've written a number of articles for the journalistic website True/Slant regarding digital publishing and the problem of piracy. It seems like the publishing world is going through the same growing pains that the music industry went through a little over a decade ago. Do you think that this issue of piracy is something that the publishing industry is just going to have to learn to live with, or do you think there is a way to avoid piracy altogether?

FPW: Unless there is some sort of new “zapping” technology that allows us to fry the offending websites, I think we're going to have to coexist. When I put up my own eBooks for the Amazon Kindle, I put them up DRM (Digital Rights Management) free. Number one, I don't think there is a DRM that can't be hacked. Number two, I think that if you buy an eBook, you deserve to be able to read it on any platform you wish. It's like saying if someone buys a book, they can't read it on the train, they can only read it at home. Even though I know [the lack of DRM] could lead to more piracy.

I mean, I have a Google alert set to look for pirated copies of my books, and new ones show up every single day. And the servers are in places like Vietnam, so you're never going to catch up with them. I always compare it to Whack-a-Mole: you knock one down, and another one pops up. Most of them are bottom-feeding pirates; some will dress themselves up and say that they're providing a service, or that they're just like libraries. But they're not. With a library, a patron has to return the book, and there's only a finite number of copies. But with these pirates, there's no finite amount.

These parasites essentially have set themselves up as publishers without the permission of the content providers. They're appropriating the work of living authors, publishing and selling it without permission, and without compensating the creator. It’s flat-out thievery. The lawyers call it “copyright infringement,” but you can’t let lawyers define reality: it’s thievery and they’re thieves.

AA: One of the things that I've noticed with the digital revolution in the music industry is that some artists are actually moving away from the full-length album, and they're releasing single songs or shorter collections of songs, and they're thriving on that. Do you think that we're going to see the same transition in publishing, where more authors will be selling stand-alone short stories and novellas?

FPW: We're starting to see that now. Barry Eisler has got a couple of short stories that he's put up from his Rain series. They're selling very well, and they're selling for the same price that many of us are selling our full-length eBooks. I don't know if I would personally pay $2.99 for a short story, but I guess a lot of people have more discretionary income.

Draculas is a good example. We wrote that over a period of about six weeks, and we were all writing at once. But [in the eBook version] we included all the emails we sent back and forth. It's an 85,000 word novel, but there's 80,000 words of extras. And a lot of readers enjoy reading all the emails we traded, because it gave them insight into the process of writing it. You know, one of us would say “Well, I always intended to kill this character.” And [one of the other authors] would say, “No, you can't kill that guy. My wife will kill me if you kill that character.”

So, to include all that in a paper book, you'd essentially have to double the price. It's twice as much paper, and twice the amount of shelf-space, and so on. But with an eBook, it's just a bigger file, and so you can do it for the same price. I see the inclusion of bonus material as a huge advantage for eBooks.

And when the technology evolves a little more, and it’s easier to include images, I think it will really take off. I’ve found the inclusion of images very useful as I'm scripting graphic novel adaptations of the Young Adult Repairman Jack books. If I'm not sure if the artist knows what I'm talking about, I'll just search out an image and insert it in the script. The artists we're using are Spanish. A lot of people are using European artists these days, because they work cheaper, and they're VERY good. But when I mention that we open up with a panoramic view of the New Jersey pine barrens, and the artist is in Barcelona, does he know what I'm talking about? It doesn't matter. I find an image, and insert it in the script.

But the technology is evolving where we will soon be able to enrich the text of eBooks. Right now, formatting and inserting JPEGs can be problematic, because of the different screen-sizes of the various eBook readers. I mean, when you're reading an eBook on your iPhone as opposed to some of the other platforms, what is it going to look like? But that will all evolve very quickly.

AA: That's one of the things I enjoyed about the eBook version of Draculas. There were a few images sprinkled in that gave the reader help in envisioning these creatures.

FPW: Yeah, we commissioned four illustrations for Draculas.

Note:  Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment from the F. Paul Wilson interview, which should be up around the end of next week (the week of May 23).  As a part of the conclusion of this interview series, there will be a giveaway of a SIGNED copy of an F. Paul Wilson book to one lucky reader.  You DO NOT want to miss it!

F. PAUL WILSON is the author of forty-plus books and numerous short stories spanning science fiction, horror, adventure, medical thrillers, and virtually everything between. His novels regularly appear on the New York Times Bestsellers List. He was voted Grand Master by the World Horror Convention and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers of America. He has also received the Stoker Award, the Porgie Award, the Prometheus and Prometheus Hall of Fame Awards, the Pioneer Award from the RT Booklovers Convention, the Inkpot Award from San Diego ComiCon, and is listed in the 50th anniversary edition of Who's Who in America.

Over eight million copies of his books are in print in the US and his work has been translated into twenty-four languages. He also has written for the stage, screen, and interactive media. His latest thrillers, Ground Zero and Fatal Error, star his urban mercenary, Repairman Jack. Jack: Secret Vengeance recently concluded a young-adult trilogy starring a fourteen-year-old Jack. Paul resides at the Jersey Shore and can be found on the Web at

JESSE S. GREEVER is "The Accidental Author" and CEO of eLectio Publishing, a digital publisher for Christian authors.  If you are a Christian author and have a manuscript that you think is worthy of publication, check out the submission guidelines and follow the directions for manuscript submissions.

Greever is also a co-author of the book, Learning to Give in a Getting World, and numerous fiction titles from Untreed Reads publishing.
You can become a fan of eLectio Publishing on FaceBook:
You can follow eLectio Publishing on Twitter (@eLectioPubs):!/eLectioPubs


  1. I've only recently gotten into Wilson's work - a few months ago Moby tweeted about how excited he was to be mentioned in the new Repairman Jack book, so I decided to check out the series. Needless to say, I'm hooked (eugh. that line was so tacky I can't believe I said it). I've read most of my way through the series, but there are still a few books I haven't got to yet.

    Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he was also the author of The Keep. I loved that movie. I know it didn't turn out the way he wanted it to, but I still dig it (of course, I watch MST3K, too). After finding out what a good author Wilson is, I actually had to go read the book to truly appreciate the story, though. Why don't they have an audio book with Tangerine Dream playing in the background?!

    I'm pretty exicted about the young Jack books (might share them with my kids...if they're lucky), and I'm especially pleased to see that there's a graphic novel in the making. I heard of about the GN of The Keep and I can't believe I don't own it yet (!?!). So much to look forward to!

    I found the part of the interview about The Black Wind interesting. I've had that on my list of books to read for a little while now and I was wondering how it would stand up to his other works. I loves me some historical fiction <3

    Anyway, if I write any more I'll have to start my own blog just to comment on this one.
    Loved the interview. I expect greatness from your final installment :)

  2. @Opopanax: Welcome to the FPW fold! There truly is SO much in the Adversary/Repairman Jack universe. I've read all of the books so far, and I'm eagerly awaiting the final installment, THE DARK AT THE END with bittersweet anticipation. Fortunately, as you mentioned, we have another trilogy to look forward to until FPW retires Jack. That will be a sad day indeed, but I have also found his medical thrillers to be wonderful as well. You should check them out if you haven't already.

  3. As an undergrad I was a history major. I was pleasantly surprised with the extent of FPW's knowledge and mastery of the historical background for Black Wind. I can see why FPW holds Black Wind as one of his greatest published works. I think Black Wind could easily be adapted for inclusion in the adversary cycle. But... it is a marvelous work as it stands. As for the digital age... I like the freedom an e-book gives you but to me there is still nothing like holding an actual book in your hands. I wish publishers would include a free digital download with the purchase of a physical book. That way I could enjoy the physical book at home or the e-book when I'm on the go.

  4. I've never heard of "Draculas" before but it does sound like a good read. I like the idea of being able to see the e-mail correspondence between the authors. When I was reading FPW's short story collections I looked forward to his preface for each story (he gave some background info about his life at the time) almost as much as I did the story itself.

  5. DRACULAS is quite a fun read. I enjoyed it immensely, and found all of the bonus material both enlightening and enjoyable.

  6. I'm glad to see that Stephen King has such inspired taste! I'm only through 3.5 FPW books so far, but The Touch is my favorite so far. Looking forward to reading Black Wind now as well.

  7. I broke down last night and purchased Draculas with my kindle app. I was only able to read for about 30 minutes but in that time I became very excited about my new purchase. I really liked the opening hospital scene with the shifting pov and... blood etc. I look forward to reading more of this book. Also... did I see somewhere that a Draculas 2 is in the works?