For his latest series, The Waking trilogy, he has adopted a pen name: Thomas Randall. In our previous interview, he explained why he used the pseudonym. In today's chat, he reveals more about the history and mystery of his haunting new series.
The first book of The Waking has a haunting title and premise: Dreams of the Dead. Have you ever been visited by lost loved ones in dreams?
I have, in fact. I should point out that I think there's a difference between dreaming about someone you've lost and actually having the feeling that they have touched you in some way. I'm a born skeptic, but it isn't that I don't want to believe...it's that I do. I want to be convinced, but I'm always a bit dubious. Yet sometimes things happen that are difficult to deny. I had at least two dreams about my father after he died where it truly felt as though he wanted to let me know that he was at peace. He had led a life that on the surface would have seemed quite happy, but his final years were spent unmoored from the kind of fundamental relationships most people rely on. Papa was a rolling stone. He died of cancer and suffered a lot at the very end. But when I dreamed about him--and in the dream I knew I was dreaming and that he shouldn't be there because he was dead--it really felt to me that he wanted to let me know that he was okay, now. I woke up feeling such relief...I still missed him horribly and grieved his death (that hasn't changed at all in more than twenty years and I doubt it ever will). But I felt like he was watching over me and wanted to set me at ease. As much as I loved him and as fun as he was to be around, you always had the feeling you were "out of sight, out of mind" with him. So to wake from that dream and feel like he had made this effort to comfort me was very powerful. Now, I'm the kind of person who tends to believe this sort of thing is all bull, and I'm aware that it was probably just my subconscious doing all of this work to deal with my feelings about his death. But maybe it wasn't. And, honestly, "maybe" is enough to lighten your heart.
In The Waking: Dreams of the Dead, Kara is an American girl newly transplanted to Japan. How did you balance the realistic storyline - the move, the culture shock and subsequent adjustments - with the supernatural storyline?
Fortunately, I didn't have to go to any great lengths there. To an American, Japan is exotic and mysterious, its culture and its folklore strange and different. In fiction that is the perfect sort of environment in which to set a supernatural story.
The second book in the trilogy, Spirits of the Noh, will be out in May 2010. Have you seen any Noh plays performed?
I wish I could say that I had, but actually I have never had the opportunity. I would love to see one. Better yet, I'd love to see one in Japan. What fascinates me the most about Noh theatre is the extraordinary discipline involved. The actors don't rehearse together, but perfect their roles in private and then put them together like a sort of living puzzle, like each of them has a part of the story but only when they come together will it become clear. And there is no room for improvisation. In many ways it's more ritual than theatre, and I'm intrigued by that.
In our previous interview, you said that you had always planned for The Waking to be a trilogy. Will the final book, A Winter of Ghosts (December 2010), leave any room for future stories, just in case? Would you be open to writing another book about Kara or related characters, or someone new in a similar setting?
The story that begins in DREAMS OF THE DEAD definitely ends in A WINTER OF GHOSTS. There are many resolutions in that third book, including with plot elements and characters you might think you had seen the last of in the first or second books. That said, I wouldn't rule out a sequel at some point, but I have no plans at the moment. My editor at Bloomsbury and I have been talking about what's next and if the powers there are as intrigued by the idea as my editor and I are, what's next would be very different.
Count me in and keep me posted! Which book took the longest to write? Which was the most difficult to get from brain to paper (or computer)?
Definitely DREAMS OF THE DEAD. I had so much research to do. Every new scenario that Kara faced, from taking a train to going downtown with her friends to eating lunch at school or dinner at home with her father to visiting a dormitory...I had to educate myself about every single aspect of her new life. Fortunately, I found it all incredibly interesting, so it was no hardship doing that research.
When writing a series, what comes first, each book's major plot leading up to the finale, or the character arcs, showcasing character changes and growth?
I can't separate the two. Most of the time, for me, concept comes first, and the fundamental structure of acts one and two, and probably a small glimmer of an idea of how it will wrap up. Then the characters are born and begin to interact and as I begin to understand how they will affect one another and how their nature will cause them to react to catalyst events in the story, they alter some of the story I've already come up with and also dictate the structure of the climactic third act.
What do you hope people take with them after they've read the final line of The Waking books?
That we have to live, and not let ourselves be haunted by the things we've lost or may one day lose. That we should laugh while we can and let yesterday be yesterday and tomorrow be tomorrow.
Learn more about The Waking trilogy.
Follow The Waking: Dreams of the Dead blog tour.
Visit Christopher Golden's website and blog.
Visit all of today's tour stops:
Sy Montgomery (Part 2) at Chasing Ray
Laini Taylor at Shelf Elf
Jim DiBartolo at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Amanda Marrone at Writing & Ruminating
Thomas Randall at Bildungsroman
Michael Hague at Fuse #8
Here's the Bildungsroman schedule for WBBT 2009:
Monday, November 16th: Courtney Sheinmel
Tuesday, November 17th: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Wednesday, November 18th: Jacqui Robbins
Thursday, November 19th: Thomas Randall
Friday, November 20th: Joan Holub
View the full schedule for WBBT 2009.