INTERVIEW: Chuck Wendig on “Blackbirds”

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He’s the author of Blackbirds, Double Dead and Dinocalypse Now, and is co-writer of the short film Pandemic, the feature film Him, and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative COLLAPSUS. He lives in Pennsylvania with wife, taco terrier, and tiny human.


SF Signal: Hi Chuck, thanks for taking a couple of moments to talk about Blackbirds with us! To start off, what can you tell us about your background? How did you get into writing in the first place?

Chuck Wendig: Thank you for having me! I don’t know that you… “get into writing” so much as, one day you write and if you like it, you write some more, and if you do that enough eventually someone’s kind enough to read and maybe publish your work. A lot of it is honestly just bouncing around, writing my fool head off. Games, scripts, articles, film stuff, and now, novels. I love to do it and a day writing is, for me, a damn good day.

SFS: Blackbirds is a story of fate and a girl who can see how people die. How did Blackbirds come about?

CW: Blackbirds comes from a personal place wherein I experienced that very unfortunate part of every person’s life where you realize all the people you love are going to die and that you’re gonna join ‘em. In that sense it’s almost a power fantasy about power over death, but that power doesn’t come easy, and being what it is it can’t come without a hard dose of tragedy, too.

SFS: Miriam and Louis are two almost polar opposites: Miriam’s wild, while Louis is far more calm. Did you intend for such a yin / yang sort of relationship between them, or is that just how it came out?

CW: Louis is probably the one genuinely nice guy in a book full of dubious people. Miriam I think has a good heart but it’s floating around in a jar full of poison. And Louis, I think, is a good man but is damaged on the inside.

So, it’s not so much that they’re necessarily opposites—it’s that each sees a little something in the other. The Yin Yang comparison is apt: hers is a little light in a lot of darkness, his a little darkness in lot of light. They fit together, if sometimes uncomfortably.

SFS: Stories with precognition have been done for quite a while, in a wide range of mediums. What makes Miriam’s abilities special?

CW: Miriam’s ability—in which she can see how and when you die by touching you skin-to-skin—are limited. She gets them one time only and can’t discern where the death happens; the visions are in that sense imperfect. Further, as the books move forward, her abilities change and evolve—we see some of that already in the recently-released sequel, Mockingbird.

SFS: At the end of Blackbirds, we see Miriam change the fates. Why was she able to do this at this point, rather than any time before?

CW: To tell that would be to spoil the book. :) I’ll only say this—changing fate required a cost of which she was not aware until the end of that book. It is not an easy cost to pay, nor a pleasant one.

SFS: How is this revelation going to change her moving forward?

CW: It moves her from being a scavenger to a predator, I think—not a comfortable transition (vulture to falcon, crow to hawk), but one that’s necessary. It makes her active and complicit in her own life—but it still keeps her own destiny hidden behind a giant question mark.

SFS: Blackbirds was followed up with by Mockingbird. What’s next for Miriam and Louis?

CW: Next up is The Cormorant in 2013. It’ll take Miriam into some dark places with her own family and find her confronting a fellow psychic who puts her and those she loves in the cross-hairs. Oh! And it’s set in warm, sunny Florida—a place Miriam will despise.

SFS: Besides the Miriam Black novels, what else do you have going on that we should keep an eye out for?

CW: Oh, my. I’m lucky enough where I have a pretty big slate of work coming out. With Angry Robot I’ve got The Blue Blazes (where the criminal underworld meets the mythic and monstrous Underworld). I’ve got a young adult “cornpunk” series coming out with Amazon Children’s Publishing called The Heartland Trilogy. I’ve got two more books in the Dinocalypse series, the start of a new urban fantasy series called Gods & Monsters, and finally, the sequel to Bait Dog, which stars Atlanta Burns, my “Nancy Drew on Adderall” teen girl detective.

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