Christa Faust is a successful horror and crime writer. Her novel Money Shot for Hard Case Crime won the Crimespree Award and was nominated for several others. She has written tie-ins to Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Twilight Zone amongst others. She lives in Los Angeles, California, and loves vintage shoes and noir cinema. Christa is the author of three Fringe tie-in novels for Titan Books: The Zodiac Paradox, The Burning Man and the newly released Sins of the Father.
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro: The Zodiac Paradox, the first of your three Fringe novels, is an exciting, suspenseful thriller that does a great job of establishing the early relationships between Walter Bishop, William Bell, and Nina Sharp. How much of a Fringe fan were you before WB and Titan books approached you to write these tie-ins?
Christa Faust: As a professional tie-in writer, I don’t get to choose which properties I will be hired to work on. In this case I was just a casual viewer before I was hired and had to dig deep into the show to get into all the complex details. My office ended up looking like the lair of a serial killer, walls all covered with notes and photos and diagrams and plot breakdowns.
AZA: On your blog you mentioned working closely with Bad Robot on this project, and that they had to approve whatever you wrote. Whose idea was it to focus on Walter in 1974 in The Zodiac Paradox, on Olivia in 1995 in The Burning Man, and Peter in 2008 in Sins of the Father?
CF: It was my suggestion to give each of the mains their own book and set them all before the start of the first show as a way to flesh them out and fill in their backstories. However, I still had to submit an initial proposal for approval from BR. Luckily, it was accepted.
AZA: Once you outlined your basic stories, how much back-and-forth was there with Bad Robot/Titan on the use of additional elements from the Fringe universe, like Velvet Sedan Chair in The Zodiac Paradox, for example? Can you describe the collaboration?
CF: I spent a lot of time on the phone and in meetings with Bad Robot writers and execs bouncing ideas back and forth during the creation of the more detailed plot breakdowns. Then, once the books were completed, each one had to be submitted to BR for approval. They had the final say on every detail.
I will say that I was the one who chose to include Velvet Sedan Chair, just because I thought that would be a fun detail to expand on. Plus it fit so perfectly with the chosen time period.
AZA: Walter Bishop is a complex character. It must have been challenging to develop him in a way that was both identifiable to us as the person we know from the television series and also as someone different, in a more formative stage of his life. How did you go about it?
CF: My mother was an academic and I grew up surrounded by guys very much like Walter. In a way, he’s the character I related to the most out of the three. Also, dialog is one of my strong suits and I tend to pick up on the way people talk very quickly. Once I could hear Walter and Belly’s voices in my head it was easy to just let them speak.
For my job a tie-in writer, this kind of backward deconstruction of character is actually pretty common. I’m often called upon to fill in backstory for preexisting characters and I think it has a lot in common with crime scene reconstruction. In the same way that a bullet riddled and bloodstained room can tell a seasoned detective what happened there, a character’s current traits and personality give a writer clues to how they might have gotten to be that way.
AZA: In the very first chapter of The Zodiac Paradox, you open a scene with the following line of description: “The sky above Allan’s head was starless and blank, like the gray, dead screen of an unplugged television.” Was this a reference to William Gibson’s Neuromancer or is any similarity a coincidence? (That novel’s opening line is: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”) Were you a fan of cyberpunk, once upon a time?
CF: Yes, I read Gibson when I was younger. I also reference other SF and Horror cult classics such as The Outer Limits and Video Watchdog in the Fringe books. I like putting those kind of insider hat-tips into my tie-in work because it makes it more fun for me and more fun for the fans to dig up all the subtle (or sometime not so subtle) references.
AZA: Serial killers seem to be a through-line in the first two Fringe novels. What made you choose Tony, the crazy ex-cop, as the antagonist in The Burning Man?
CF: I guess because I saw Olivia as a kind of “good cop” character (or she would be in the future) in that she is all about justice and righting wrongs. Creating a bad cop antagonist was a way to bring out all those developing qualities in her and help shape her into who she would later become when we first meet her on the show.
CF: The hardest part was reconnecting with what is was like to be an adolescent girl, which was a long time ago for me. Also, high school wasn’t exactly a thrill a minute for geeks and weirdos like us so revisiting those times can be less than thrilling. I, like many of the readers and fans, was bullied in school and I thought it would give the book a little extra depth to explore those themes. Particularly through the eyes of a character like Olivia, who has a very protective nature and a strong moral compass.
AZA: There were several scenes in The Burning Man that made me think of Stephen King’s Carrie. Who are some of your favorite horror writers, if you have any, and is Stephen King one of your influences?
CF: I was more of a fan of Clive Barker and the Splatterpunk writers of the late 80s such as David J. Schow. I also love cross-genre troublemakers like Michael Marshall (Smith) and Charlie Huston. I did read Stephen King, even though his work was a little on the suburban side for this New York City girl.
AZA: Did knowing from the start that you were going to write three Fringe novels change your approach to this project in any way, or did you tackle each one purely as a stand-alone?
CF: I tried to make them all link together, but also stand alone from a storytelling perspecitve. Of course there are tons of little in-jokes, references and nods to things on the show that would be missed by an outsider. But I still wanted each story to be readable and entertaining for someone who’d never seen the show.
AZA: Any future projects you’d like to mention?
CF: I’m currently working on a third Angel Dare book, my protagonist from Money Shot and Choke Hold. Plus I’ve got a very exciting, but currently top-secret graphic novel project in the works. Check in with me on twitter @faustfatale or on Facebook for updates.
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro is the co-author, with Robert Silverberg, of When the Blue Shift Comes, which received a starred review from Library Journal. Alvaro’s short fiction has appeared in Analog, Galaxy’s Edge, Nature, The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, and other venues; his poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling award and has appeared in Star*Line and Apex. Alvaro’s reviews and essays have been published in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Strange Horizons, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and elsewhere. Alvaro currently edits the Roundtable blog for Locus.