I said there’d be good news today.
Well, Last House in the Sky is done. It’s not a Rough Draft. It’s not a First Draft. It’s in the hands of a test-reader, and off to betas soon after that. My mad love project, sending heists into the post-apocalypse and crossing cars with dinosaurs, is growing on up. With good health and luck, I’ll be querying it by summer.
Recently T.S. Bazelli tagged me for the Next Big Thing question series. I sat down with these last night to celebrate. Let me know what you think of my answers, and how the book sounds to you.
---What is the working title of your book?
“The Last House in the Sky.” People seem to like it.
---Where did the idea come from for the book?
Intense friendship is one of my favorite themes in life and fiction. I love those small units of incredibly diverse characters, who you’d never imagine tolerating each other, yet whose bond is unquestioned. It’s often testy and tested. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are one. Lupin the 3rd and Samurai Champloo are prototypes of this. You get this intense samurai, this horny lock-pick, this Noir marksman – they should hate each other, and yet they never turn on each other. I could read or watch those bizarre dynamics for hours.
There was a week, I think it was the summer after college graduation, that I stuck three fictions in a car, with a far off destination, and made them talk until they revealed who they were to me. Soon I had my voices, of the aristocratic sociopath hopelessly in love with a lesbian, and that master-thief lesbian who willfully abuses his affection, and the failed sidekick who hates them both but can’t do better. Then they arrived and stole the sun out of the sky. These three have been with me ever since, and I kept going back to them, knowing eventually they were going to get their own book or series. I just needed to find the right heist.
---What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A trio of misfit thieves seek to steal the last shreds of civilization from an apocalyptic cult, who'd otherwise waste them blowing up what remains of the world.
---What genre does your book fall under?
Secondary World Fantasy, but also Heist and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, since the world has suffered a series of civilization-ending catastrophes every 200-300 years. It’s really a Post-Post-Post-Post-Post-Apocalyptic novel. Survivors have almost gotten the hang of surviving by now.
---Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’d love a Studio Ghibli adaptation, even though their adaptations are notoriously loose. Anyone who worked on Castle of Cagliostro and Princess Mononoke could make this work in animated form.
Casting people is always hard for me since I don’t write thinking of my characters that way. They’re distinct, they have their own physicality, and so the impulse is to get a lookalike or someone who played a role that’s anything like this before. Let me try to ghost-cast The Trio…
Ninx Anzhel: The boss of a group that pretends it’s democratic. Rosario Dawson keeps coming to mind. I have a soft spot for Clerks 2, and she was a doorbuster in 25th Hour. She can balance flippancy and confidence in the crucial way, and turn it up later.
Randigo “Randy” Chambers: Son of hero-parents. Sidekick of the greatest hero of previous generation. Utter failure, now a nudist and wheelman. Aren’t I insulting someone by casting them? I don’t know. Maybe Kunaal Roy Kapur? Or anyone from Attack the Gas Station.
Egal Vineguard: He’s a triclops, so either I’m asking some great actor to wear a prosthetic over his head or we’re in CGI territory. Perhaps the best shot would be WETA-style cinema magic with Mark Hamill as a voice. He’s an incredible voice actor, and was a bit of the original voice-inspiration for Vineguard. Vineguard is the perpetually upbeat, shrewd and educated man who simply will not stop pursuing Ninx. So, Kevin Kline would be great. Matt Keeslar would make me happy. The triclopes in the part of the world I’ve written are Caucasian, but I’d also love to see (or hear) Souleymane Sy Savane try this. I’m willing to bet in five minutes he’d be the definitive Vineguard-voice.
---Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’ll seek representation and send out a package to houses like Tor and Angry Robot – places I’d love to work. It’d be funny if this beat my previous novel to press.
---How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It was May to September to write the rough draft, interrupted miserably over the summer for all number of events and travel. That was about 90,000 words. I’ve only just finished the perfectly clean draft this month. It’s off to an alpha now, and betas soon.
---What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Thieves are archetypal in Fantasy, and humorous Heist Fantasy is precedented in the mainstream in both Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl and Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard Sequence. The Last House in the Sky has a harder edge than Artemis Fowl, with more emotional development and maturity along with all the woeful immaturity that makes life worth living. Gentleman Bastard Sequence, which thus far is master-class Fantasy, is still more cynical and political. There isn’t enough of a world left in my Frontier for that much politicking, and is always defined by the personal experiences of these characters. Even the world-building is restricted to what they think and experience; I give plenty of references to the bigger world, and you can connect dots, but there won’t be chapters of exposition on something they barely see.
---Who or What inspired you to write this book?
At the beginning of May, 2012, I was more or less done with edits on my previous novel and waited on theta readers. I knew I’d be in a holding pattern for final edits and submissions to agents and editors, and I didn’t want to spend all that time producing nothing. I had about five novel ideas and couldn’t pick which was best, and so asked friends. One asked what ever happened to The Trio. That incepted me. I’d convinced myself it was their time by that evening.
---What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Besides heists and road trips through the Post-Post-Post-Post-Post-Apocalypse, driving in an ancient gremlin car among seas of glass, the bones of giant demons, and herds of dinosaurs feuding with carnivorous robots? A triclopic swordsman facing down a bulldozer? Mutually assured sexual harassment? Inter-dimensional lock-picking?
Then there’s this little promise. If you’ve ever read my blog, you know I strive to write from my heart. Weird as it is, this sort of madness is what is closest to my heart. This is as pure John Wiswell as it gets. That means heart, and that means heartbreak, and heartbreak is always funny.