Chuck Wendig is the author of many books including the Heartland Trilogy, the Mookie Pearl series and the Miriam Black series. He’s also a screenwriter and game designer, as well as the Taco Pastor of the Holy Taco Church. You can find him online at terribleminds.com, where he writes fantastic advice for authors.
Shauna Kosoris: Your Heartland Trilogy is your first foray into young adult books. What inspired you to write this series?
Chuck Wendig: A great many things conspired to create this book. When I found out my wife was pregnant, I thought, okay, I’d better write a book that my son can at least read before he’s 37 (my other books put the ‘adult’ in ‘adult fiction’). And I was also driven by all these ideas surrounding corn and GMOs and global warming and suddenly, I had this story bloom in my head — I wrote the first draft of the first book in the month before my son was born. (Though it took me almost a year to get the final draft just right.)
SK: Why mutant corn and hobos?
CW: The book is a far-flung future but takes some of its aesthetic from the dust bowl 1930s, so that’s where the hobo thing comes in. As for corn — well, have you driven across America lately? It’s corn, far as the eye can see. Actually, you don’t need to drive too far — a great many of our processed foods contain corn in a variety of guises.
SK: The second book of the trilogy, Blightborn, just came out in July. What can you tell me about it?
CW: The second book has our characters heading out across the Heartland in search of a way to get onto one of the flotillas to find Cael’s sister, Merelda, and one of their crew-mates, Gwennie. But then we also get the POV of Gwennie and Merelda, who have gotten into quite a bit of trouble on their own. Blightborn opens up the skies and shows us more of the world — not just of the Heartland, but we also get a glimpse of what lurks beyond.
SK: Will Blightborn be split into multiple narratives (following say Cael, Gwennie, and Pop)?
CW: Yes! It follows Cael and Gwennie, predominantly, but a lot of the characters get POV chapters (Lane, Rigo, Merelda). I will say that Pop is conspicuously absent from this one, but his actions remain felt just the same.
SK: Under the Empyrean Sky focused on the Heartland. Will we get to see more of the world (outside of the Heartland) in Blightborn?
CW: We will! In the skies and beyond them. We spend a lot of time with the Empyrean, but we also learn what is outside the Heartland’s borders.
SK: How exciting! So what was the hardest part of writing Blightborn?
CW: I might be cursing myself here, but this book was very easy to write. It flowed from the first word. That said, the one difficulty was just that it ended up a much bigger book than I thought it was going to be!
SK: Hopefully you’re not! Especially since you’re such a prolific author. Speaking of which, I see you’ve got several books coming out in 2015 (notably the second Mookie Pearl book The Hellsblood Bride, and Zeroes). What are you most excited for?
CW: I think I’m supposed to say that I love all my books equally. But I am very excited that my YA anti-heroine, Atlanta Burns, is getting her first proper release!
SK: Can you tell me a little about her?
CW: Sure! Atlanta Burns is about the titular character — a sort of Nancy Drew on Adderall who investigates a friend’s murder by cutting open her town’s criminal underbelly to see what spills out. She’s a Southern girl transplanted to the middle of meth-addled Pennsyltucky, so she’s always something of a broken thumb. Lots of fun to write. A little bit Veronica Mars.
SK: She sounds like a lot of fun! Other than novels, you’ve also worked on short fiction, games, comics, and film. What’s it like working in all of these different media?
CW: Freeing in a lot of ways. Fun to explore different ways to tell stories — and that, ultimately, is the key. Despite different formats, you start to see that there’s a weird Matrix code behind it all: the programming language of story itself.
SK: Do you have a favourite medium to work in?
CW: Novels are my one true love.
SK: What are you working on now?
CW: I just finished up the first draft of the third Heartland book (The Harvest), and am now halfway through Zeroes.
SK: Your blog (terribleminds.com) has some excellent advice for writers. What made you start blogging all this advice?
CW: Mostly it was me yelling at me about me! Eventually, other writers started to listen in.
SK: I have to ask: how exactly did you become the “Taco Pastor, Priest of Pineapple Parish” of the Holy Taco Church?
CW: I was ordained, of course. I was made delicious in the grill-fires of the taco furnace by Tacopope Picante I, aka, Kevin Hearne, author of the Iron Druid series.
SK: What are the duties of a Taco Pastor?
CW: To make sure the world is delicious. Also, to write drunken, rambling recipes at the Holy Taco Church website.
SK: What’s your favourite taco recipe?
CW: Why, it’s Tacos al Pastor, of course. Get it? Taco Pastor? Pastor Tacos? *elbow elbow*
SK: To finish up, I’d like to ask you a few questions about reading. What book or author inspired you to write?
CW: No one book — we are a summation of all the books we’ve loved, as writers. But one book really pushed me over that line, and it was Boy‘s Life, by Robert McCammon.
SK: Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?
*insert sinister laugh*
Umm. I mean, what? I didn’t say anything.
I don’t think there’s any one book essential for everyone to read. The only essential is that we read something.
SK: That’s fair. So what are you currently reading?
CW: I just finished Cherie Priest’s Lizzie Borden novel, Maplecroft. It is truly the dark fantastic. Sharp as the axe Lizzie Borden wields.