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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Robert McCammon Talks About “The Providence Rider”

New York Times bestselling author and World Fantasy award winner ROBERT MCCAMMON is the author of seventeen books, among them the novels Boy’s Life, Swan Song and The Five. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, McCammon has won numerous awards in his career, including the French Grand Prize Of The Imagination Award for Best Foreign Novel for his The Wolf’s Hour.  His novel The Queen of Bedlam was nominated for the 2008 Thriller Award from the International Thriller Writers, and he is very pleased to be published in dozens of languages around the world. McCammon is currently writing a series of ten books centered around a young detective in colonial New York in the early 1700s. The third in that series, Mister Slaughter, was published early in 2010 and the fourth, The Providence Rider, will be published in 2012.
McCammon is one of the founders of the Horror Writers of America, along with Dean Koontz and Joe and Karen Lansdale. McCammon is also hard at work on a new science-fiction/horror novel he calls his “Hellzapoppin’” book.

Charles Tan: How did Subterranean Press end up publishing The Providence Rider?

Robert McCammon: Sub Press has published the third book in the Matthew Corbett series, Mister Slaughter, and they did a super job with it. The bottom line is, they produce beautiful books. I’m fully on board with them and I hope they want to publish the rest of the series!

CT: There’s a lot of influences in The Providence Writer. How would you describe it?

RM: Well…yes, there are a lot of influences. I would describe it as an “adventure novel” first of all, and secondly as an “historical novel.” It was always my intention to make these books interesting and entertaining, with elements of mystery, action, adventure, suspense, sex, wickedness, humor…a little of everything, I suppose. I don’t think I could count all the influences in The Providence Rider. Certainly the James Bond books are in there…a little Hammer Films…a little Hawthorne and Poe and…a lot of what I grew up enjoying.

CT: What was the genesis of characters like Matthew and Professor Fell?

RM: Matthew is the earnest young man who battles Fate, and Professor Fell in a way is the embodiment of Fate. The professor wishes to remold Matthew, to distort and control him, and Matthew is fighting that influence. Their battle will go on.

CT: As part of a series, The Providence Rider felt like it could stand on its own, without prior knowledge of the series. Was this intentional? What writing considerations did you take into account?

RM: I would like for readers to read the first three books, to get the grounding…but it would be great if The Providence Rider could stand alone. But I do think you would get more out of it by reading the books in sequence. It’s a challenge to bring readers “up to speed” at the beginning of every book and not be bogging things down. A lot has happened so far in Matthew’s young life. I do try to explain what has gone before, and really every book sort of merges into the next one. They are set in a time sequence only a few months or so apart. In the case of The Providence Rider and the new Matthew book I’m working on now, they’re set only a few weeks apart.

CT: Do you everything in the series plotted out, or are you more of a “discovery” writer (or some combination of the two)?

RM: Some things are “thought out” far in advance, but many more events and plot turns take place from discovery. Each book has a personality, and reveals itself slowly even to me. I know this sounds “mystic” or whatever, but it is true that everything comes to life and seems to “create” itself. I always say that after the first hundred pages, a Matthew book will write itself. (But I do have to do the typing!)

CT: What kind of research did you have to do for the book?

RM: Lots of research on every subject under the sun. I have to know much more about a subject than I put into a book. Again, I don’t want to bog the reader or the story down…but I’ve got to be convincing when I describe something of that period, so I’m going to have to know more than I need to write.

CT: What was the most challenging aspect when it comes to writing the novel?

RM: The speaking language. Making that sound authentic while being readable. Now it comes naturally to me, but “hearing” that language and making it sound “real” was a challenge.

CT: You’ve had a long career writing fiction. How has your writing evolved over the decades? What makes you keep coming back to the novel format?

RM: Oh, I hope I’ve become a better writer just because I’ve done so much of it. I have done a lot of Chapter Ones and Page Ones! I enjoy stretching out in the novel format, being able to go long if I want to. (And for some reason my novels do seem to run long, either because the plot calls for the length or because I’m long-winded!)

CT: What projects are you currently working on? Or anything else you want to plug?

RM: I’m working on the next Matthew Corbett book. Then doing an interesting and different novella and then into a big contemporary novel I’ve been planning for some time. Thankfully, I have a lot ahead of me!

2 Comments on EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Robert McCammon Talks About “The Providence Rider”

  1. Enjoy your work… can’t wait to read ” The Providence Rider”!!!!!

  2. Thanks, Charles. Good interview.

    I’ve heard plenty about Robert’s work, but, sadly, have not yet read any of it…

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