Justin Cronin is an American author. He has written five novels: Mary and O'Neil and The Summer Guest, as well as a vampire trilogy consisting of The Passage, The Twelve and City of Mirrors.
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My name is Justin Cronin, author of The Passage, The Twelve and the recently published, The City of Mirrors. I'll be answering questions from 11am EST and will try to get to as many as I can.
Do, by all means, ask me anything. I will try and answer as many of us as I can.
Edit: Thanks folks! That has to be all for now, about to fall over from jet lag. It's Miller time.
In the ultimate battle for Earth domination, who would win?
A. Your virals
B. del Toro's strigoi
C. Kirkman's walkers
D. Bernie supporters
The Cleveland Cavaliers, apparently.
Also the Expeditionary Forces of the Army of the Republic of Texas.
What was it like to wrap up the series? Did you have a plan from the beginning how it would end and how much, if at all, did that plan change?
Planned it from the start. I've known the last sentence since July 2007 when it came to me as I was standing in a parking lot at the Shaws Market in Hyannis, MA.
Justin, first off wanted to say thank you for an incredible set of books. Your writing has really expanded my view of how fantasy can be written. You blend horror and suspense and love and everything else seamlessly.
I'm a little over halfway through the third book right now, but I've had a question that I've always wanted to know. If Fanning is so strong and powerful, does that mean every other pre-Fanning expedition viral that was in the South American jungle was as strong and as powerful as Fanning is? Could they also exercise mind control?
Thanks for the kind words.
As for your question: I don't really have an answer! I always like a few mysteries to rest in the book.
What is in your experience the most challenging aspect of writing a book?
That's a tough one. A lot of discipline is required, but I seem to have that. For me the darkest days come when there's some logical question I can't easily solve -- how to get my characters from here to there, or get two characters in the same room, or the dynamics of a large action sequence. I remember one really bad day a couple of years ago walking endlessly around the block into an icy wind trying to solve just such a problem. In the end the answer always comes, but it can be a struggle.
Do you use any tools or techniques to get the reader to connect with a character and care about the characters well-being?
Here's one thing I always do: I ask each of my characters, "What's the thing you're not telling anyone?" In other words, what event in your life has, in a sense, never really ended and is always present? I think of this as the stone around my character's neck, and everybody has one -- I have one, you have one, all the people in The Passage have one.
Was it a conscious choice to make the culture, technology - even language - of 1000 years in the future largely a reflection of the present day, or is that section meant to be interpreted with a grain of magical realism?
There's really no reason it WOULDN'T be rather like our world, since people are building it from the tools of the old one. I wanted the reader to feel comfortable there as well -- I didn't want significant material differences to distract from the point of the epilogue. As for language, of course that would have evolved in a variety of ways, but I wasn't going to invent a new language for that part of the book.
What's your process when you write? Are you a fly-by-the seat type? Do you like writing stories, scripts, or world-building more?
I like to write on the fly, but have my world established (culture, attire, cities, dialects, etc). I find that doing this sometimes pushed me to procrastinate on the actual story.
Also, how much does your editor typically cut from each mss. you submit? Favorite snack to get you ready to write that isn't bagels or alcohol?
1) I'm a planner. Each of the books in the trilogy was outlined in detail before I started. There's still lots of room for improvisation, but I like to know where I'm going.
2) My editor doesn't really cut anything, come to think of it. He makes suggestions, voices concerns, but in the end it's all my call. Most of my manuscripts get longer from the first to second draft, and shorter from the second to the third.
3) I dunno. A powerbar and a banana? A cup of coffee the size of a paint can?
Would you rather...fight off a Grizzly bear...or try and swim away from a Shark?
shark most definitely. I'm a good swimmer.
My copy of City of Mirrors came in the mail this morning, excited to crack it open.
Do you think you'll return to this world again, such as in the form of a novella about a side character, or a short story to fill in some backstory you didn't have the space for? Or are you happy to be done with it and move on to something new?
I'm going to take a break for a while. I don't want to be known only as that guy who wrote The Passage. But I do think I will return eventually, perhaps a couple of books down the road, to tell some stories from that world that couldn't logically find their ways into the story. I imagine such a book as titled something like "Tales From the World of The Passage."
Do you sometimes wish you could "switch" genres and/or write in a different voice?
I've switched genres before; I imagine I'll do it again. But my voice is my voice; you write how you write. That's only going to change as my life changes, in other words. My voice on the page now is not the same as my voice when I was 25, or 30, or even 40.
Hi Justin -- I actually just finished The City of Mirrors yesterday. I'm only disappointed that it's over. I'm curious about the decision to include the scene of [spoiler] (/s "Fanning reuniting with Liz"). Considering Fanning's centuries-long mission to eliminate the human race, it struck me as an extraordinary grace -- both in the world of the story, and for the author to include it. What was the reason for including that scene, and did you ever question whether it would be included?
Never questioned it. I suppose you reach an age when you want to send everyone to heaven in the end. The last line of that chapter (which I won't quote because: spoiler) pretty much sums up my feelings.
The Passage sits among the top 3 books I've ever read, I've been goading people into trading it ever since I started reading it 7 years ago. So thank you for that.
In the books, especially the first and third, the are significant jumps in time. Did you get concerned at any point that you might lose people, or that the jump itself would be so jarring they might lose interest?
Honestly, no. That's just what the story was. There was no other way to tell it.
Thanks for the nice thoughts for The Passage!
How do you like to keep the reader interested, when you are writng about information that you feel is important to the overall plot or setting?
I think what you're asking about is 'exposition' -- the orienting facts of the story, usually near the beginning. And you're right -- if the writer just laid it all out in one big chunk, it would be dull. What I like to do is disperse it-- to give the reader what she needs WHEN she needs it, while the story itself is in motion.
Hi Justin, love your books! I know you answered already that you pre-planned most of the series. How much if at all were you tempted to change the trajectory of the plot as you actually got to writing? Any characters that turned out different than you originally anticipated, etc?
Michael became a lot harder than I anticipate-- this somewhat nerdy kid who, by the end, is capable of ordering people to their deaths.
The plot stayed more or less the same, in terms of major touchstones. I don't think I could have made it through the workday without knowing where things were going -- you can't sit at your desk and think, "Today I will work on my 3500 page epic." My head would fly off. Instead I think, "Today I will write the next 1000 words of such-and-such a scene" that serves certain goals and moves the story forward.
Love the trilogy! I just finished City of Mirrors a few nights ago and am at a loss of what to read next! Everything feels like it will pale in comparison.
There were points in each book that brought me to tears. How did you balance the huge, world-building aspects of these books with the quieter, more emotional moments? Also, does it bring you a little satisfaction when people tell you the books made them cry?
First of all, thanks. Second, I love when people cry; I cry myself sometimes, writing the thing. Note sure what that says about me, but there you go.
You're right: the books mix two very different elements--the large, public events of the story and the smaller emotional moments of the characters. It's a constant give and take. Without the first, the story would feel overly confined; without the second, it would feel inconsequential. I just try to keep both in mind.
How much research do you do into background? The inner workings on ships like the Bergensfjord or Chevron Mariner for example.
I do a great deal of research, of course, but here's the truth-- I don't have to know a lot about a few things, I have to know a little about many things. Enough, in other words, to make the world of the story believable.