Peter Clines was born and raised in what he calls the “Stephen King fallout zone of Maine.” After working in and writing about the film industry for many years, Clines wrote the Ex-Heroes series and the thriller 14. His latest sci-fi thriller, The Fold, is out June 2.
Today, Peter answered a few questions about his new book, The Fold.
Rachel Cordasco: In your latest novel, THE FOLD, you take on teleportation, DARPA, and some funky physics. What was the inspiration for this story? What made you focus on teleportation? (I can’t help but think about Bester’s THE STARS MY DESTINATION when I think of great literary approaches to the subject).
Peter Clines: The basic ideas that became The Fold have been rattling around in my head for years. I wrote a short story for a college class about teleportation—the TA didn’t like it and called me a hack, but I kept it tucked away as something to revisit. Then I started playing around with the idea for a superintelligence character, which slowly faded to a high IQ-eidetic memory character. And a while back it all kind of came together with some other stuff and I realized I might actually have a story here.
Teleportation is one of the pillars of science fiction, isn’t it? Warp drive, artificial intelligence, ray guns, teleportation… I think it stuck with me because it’s a high concept idea that works on a very small scale. You don’t need to cross galactic distances or start wars. Teleportation works in a warehouse. The Fly is a great story about teleportation (among other things) where the user travels about fifteen feet and we can all grasp what it means.
And what would it mean? What kind of impact does it have when you can go anywhere on Earth with one step? No more us and them—everyone’s my neighbor. No more long distance relationships. No more travel times or shipping delays or logistics issues. It’s an invention that would change the world and affect everyone’s lives.
RC: Which authors have influenced you the most and why?
PC: There are so, so many. I think Stephen King is pretty much the greatest character writer of the past forty years or so, which is why his horror’s so damned amazing—it’s happening to real people. And he does some amazing writing on top of that. Ray Bradbury’s writing is just beautiful—the structure and vocabulary of it. It’s clear that people like Stan Lee, Bill Mantlo, Chris Claremont, and Roger Stern influenced me a lot during my formative years. And then there’s Lloyd Alexander, Isaac Asimov, Alexander Key, Dan Abnett, Lee Child…
Really, I think reading anything should influence a writer one way or another. I try to finish every book I start, because there’s always something to get out of a book. Even if that something is just “wow, how could this train wreck have been avoided?” or “could this character ever have been interesting?” Every book and story has a lesson, and in a way I think the bad ones can be just as influential and informative as the good ones.
RC: Do you find yourself returning to certain themes/problems in each of your books? What are they, and why do they seem to preoccupy you?
PC: I’m very big on “average person” stories. It’s fun to have a story about a billionaire genius half-alien supermodel, but at the end of the day I think readers need to be able to relate to a character. There needs to be something reader and character have in common. Likes, dislikes, or problems. When I decided to give up the film industry and write full-time, I ended up poverty-line poor. It’s a gut-wrenching place to be, and a lot of people have either been there or still are there. So I’m usually going to prefer writing about teachers, janitors, etc.
RC: Can you tell us a bit about your next project?
PC: I owe one anthology a short story, and then my next book is going to be a road trip story. Sort of. Kind of a road trip-time travel-treasure hunt-horror story. It’s been bouncing around in my head for a while and there’s finally a spot in my schedule. It begins with a teenager in colonial clothes sitting on the side of the road next to a Model T Ford with a hydrogen engine. And then it gets a little weird.
RC: When can we expect to get Lizard Men From the Center of the Earth? Because I want to read that 🙂
PC: Hah! It’s probably better for everyone if my third-grade epic is never seen again. Or the seventh grade reboot. I truly think one of those big, learning-curve moments for any writer is when they can look back at stuff and go “Wow… that was not good. It’s not bad for a third grader, but I’m so glad no one past Mom ever saw that…”
I did finally get a lizard man story published, though, in an anthology called Times of Trouble. So one childhood goal was achieved.