Today's interview is with Benjamin X. Wretlind, author of the chilling Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors and the brand new Sketches from the Spanish Mustang, which will be tomorrow's Book Feature.
Michael K. Rose: What role do you believe speculative fiction plays in society?
Benjamin X. Wretlind: As kids, we were fascinated by the supernatural, especially as we investigated the world around us. We've all grown up since, but many of us have never grown out of our desire to know more. It's a part of who we are. Think of the strong beliefs which existed in the time of William Shakespeare. What of the beliefs that existed around the time of Nathaniel Hawthorne? Charles Dickens? Do you think, just because we listen to music on iPhones, drive hybrid cars or make our own donuts at home these days, that we no longer believe in the supernatural, the paranormal, the speculative?
In a poll conducted by Gallup in 2010, 71% of Americans confess to having had a paranormal experience of some sort. While only 34% believe in the existence of ghosts, 65% believe Ouija boards are dangerous, 41% believe in extrasensory perception and 37% believe that houses can be haunted. Let me put that in perspective: if there are roughly 300 million people in the United States, about 213 million people confess to having had a paranormal experience of some sort.
I don't like polls myself, but what I do find interesting is that people generally want to believe there might be more out there. It's this desire to want more which drives people to look for more in movies, television, books. How many want to believe in sparkly vampires? How many want to think of some distopian future? How many people really think Harry Potter is real?
BXW: It's simple, really: I want to believe. That sounds a little X-Files-ish, but I've carried that desire to believe in what's speculative through my entire life.
MKR: How did you come up with the idea for Sketches from the Spanish Mustang?
BXW: The idea for Sketches came from my fiancee, Jesse Lee. We were walking down the streets of Cripple Creek one October day, people-watching. Out of the blue she said, "Look at all the casino people." From that phrase, we started to discuss a "neat idea:" sketch a variety of people from the town and put them all together in one story, and although I started with that idea, it quickly morphed into something a little more: a look at strangers from a different perspective.
MKR: What was your biggest challenge in writing it?
BXW: In one word: time.
MKR: What are you working on now?
BXW: First up will be a rewrite of the first novel I ever wrote, a magical realism piece that I feel deserves a bit of an epic feel to it. A Difficult Mirror should be ready to go in the winter, and whether that means December or February, I can't say just yet. The novel is also, I should say, the first of three.
As I rewrite and rework A Difficult Mirror, I'm also going to be writing a literary thriller, currently titled Driving the Spike. As I have it plotted out, the novel follows the lives of three brothers who each go their separate paths but come back together in a marriage of opposing forces for a common cause. It's a novel that's spent a long time in that "thinking" part of my brain. I'm not a political person, though, so don't think this is really going to be partisan or petty.
It's going to be . . . awesome, slightly dystopian, and probably pretty long. Driving the Spike will make you think, and that's what I love to do.
It will also have a ghost. :)
MKR: Thank you for your time, Ben!
Readers can connect with Benjamin X. Wretlind at his website and via Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to come back tomorrow for our feature of Sketches from the Spanish Mustang.