The new novel Supernatural: Carved in Flesh (review here) is now available from Titan Books, and we recently chatted with author Tim Waggoner about the supernatural journey ahead, what the Winchester brothers are up against this time and much more.
AMANDA DYAR: You have an excellent writing portfolio full of fantasy and horror novels so you seem like a natural fit for creating the newest “Supernatural” novel. How did you first become involved with this project, and how did you prepare for writing Supernatural: Carved in Flesh?
TIM WAGGONER: I’ve been a fan of the show since it first aired, and when I saw novels based on “Supernatural” start hitting the shelves, I was naturally interested in writing one. I queried the editors at Titan Books about the possibility of doing a “Supernatural” novel, but they didn’t have any openings at that time. A few months later an opening came up, they contacted me, and I started pitching ideas. I did my best to pitch ideas that would fit the “Supernatural” mythos but which were different from anything dealt with in the series. One of those ideas was to have Sam and Dean encounter a supernatural threat that inspired the Frankenstein story, and I based the idea on a real-life philosopher and alchemist, Conrad Dippel, who lived in the actual Castle Frankenstein and who may have inspired Mary Shelley’s novel, at least in part. That’s the idea that the editors eventually decided to go with, and I was thrilled. Who wouldn’t want to write Sam and Dean Winchester Meet Frankenstein?
Even though I’m a fan of the show, to prepare to write Carved in Flesh, I immersed myself in the series, primarily so that I could get the brothers’ speech patterns down, along with the rhythm and pace of their dialogue exchanges. For me, as much as I enjoy the magic and the monsters in the series, it’s the brothers’ relationship and interactions that make the show so great, and I wanted to do my best to make their characters live and breathe on the page.
AMANDA: Supernatural: Carved in Flesh will be the twelfth novel tie-in for the highly popular CW series. Where does the narrative of this new novel transpire in the timeline of the show, and why do fans of “Supernatural” need to pick up this new novel?
TIM: Carved in Flesh takes place in the series’ seventh season, directly after the episode “Time After Time.” I chose that point as a setting for my story simply because that’s where the series was when I started working on the book. I wanted to feel as if I were writing about the “current” Sam and Dean. As a bonus, “Time After Time” is set in Ohio, and since I live in southwestern Ohio and often set my stories there, it was a simple matter to have Sam and Dean make a trip downstate for my book!
I’ve received feedback from fans that I succeeded in depicting the relationship between Sam and Dean so that it feels like you’re watching an episode of the show, so that’s one reason fans should read the book – to find out if they agree! I also included flashbacks to an adventure Sam and Dean had as teenagers which has an impact on the novel’s present-day storyline, so hopefully fans will enjoy that aspect of the book as well.
AMANDA: In Supernatural: Carved in Flesh, Sam and Dean Winchester will experience a progression of foes from an undead dog up to some truly supernatural beings. Can you tell us a bit more about these unique encounters? Also, does the inclusion of so many antagonists make some chapters feel like a totally new episode of the show?
TIM: One reason for the progression of foes is a practical one: I needed to have enough threats for the brothers to face in order to fill a whole novel! But since the story deals with Frankenstein-like themes, it seemed to make sense that there would be different types of experiments that would result in various creatures for Sam and Dean to encounter. Also, since the threats result from a fusion of ancient magic and modern science, I wanted to show various aspects of this combination of forces in the novel. As to whether having multiple threats make some chapters feel like mini-episodes of the series, that never occurred to me until you asked! But I can definitely see that. In a way, a novel like this is more like a “Supernatural” movie rather than a single episode of the series, so it does cover more ground story-wise than you can in a single hour (with commercials).
AMANDA: Choosing to have the Winchesters face off with so many enemies definitely puts a new spin on the “Supernatural” novel series. What made you decide to go this route instead of using one single, powerful entity, and how difficult was cramming everything you wanted to include in the novel into a little over 300 pages?
TIM: Not to give anything away, but all the different enemies spring from the same ultimate source, so to my mind the brothers are dealing with multiple aspects of the same overall threat. Also, part of my inspiration for the story was the Hammer Studios series of Frankenstein films. In those movies the brilliant Peter Cushing plays the doctor, and he’s the prime antagonist of the series. Basically, he’s the real monster. In each of those films, the doctor creates a different creature with different – but always disastrous – results. I wanted Conrad Dippel to be like the Hammer Dr. Frankenstein, responsible for the creation of multiple creatures.
I normally love to include as many interesting characters and ideas in a book that I can, while at the same time trying to keep the narrative from feeling overloaded to the point that it collapses from its own weight. The fantasy author Steven Brust once said that he subscribes to the “cool stuff” theory of writing: He throws as much cool stuff into a story as he can. It’s a theory I follow as well, although it does require quite a bit of juggling to make everything work – but that’s part of what makes writing like this so much fun! After having written around thirty novels by this point, I think I can do that juggling act pretty well, so I didn’t find plotting and writing Carved in Flesh that difficult.
AMANDA: “Supernatural” is a series full of great characters in addition to some interesting antagonists. Was there a particular character you wrote into Supernatural: Carved in Flesh that you enjoyed putting in your story most, and how did writing for established characters vastly differ from creating your very own characters to place in the story?
TIM: As far as characters of my own creation that I included in the book, I loved writing all the monsters, of course, but my favorite is probably Catherine. I enjoy the challenge of writing a sympathetic antagonist, and I think that sort of character fits the Frankenstein theme well. I’ve done a fair amount of tie-in fiction, so I’m used to writing about established characters. But in this case there was more pressure because I didn’t want to disappoint all the show’s fans who might read the book. And I wanted to do justice to the characters as created by all the talented people who work on “Supernatural” – producers, directors, writers, and of course the actors! The fact that the Winchesters’ relationship has been depicted so well over the course of seven (now eight) seasons was a huge help. I felt I knew the characters well enough to write them, almost as if I were writing about real people.
Another challenge of working with established characters is that as a writer you’re limited as to what you can do with – or to – them. One advantage of “Supernatural” is that given the existence of magic and evil forces, all kinds of bad things can happen to Sam and Dean which can be undone. Look how many times they’ve died in the series, for example!
AMANDA: What was your favorite part of writing the new novel, and do you have any predictions for the end of Season 8?
TIM: My favorite aspect of writing Carved in Flesh was getting to write from Sam’s and Dean’s viewpoints. The wonderful thing about tie-in fiction is that you can do things on the page that you can’t on the screen. So writers – and readers – can experience what it’s like inside the heads of their favorite characters. I also loved writing in Dean’s voice. He can be such a smart-ass, and that’s always fun to write! As for predictions about the end of Season 8, I wager that Sam and Dean will end up closing the gateways to both Hell and Heaven and that there will be major unintended consequences of this development. The absence of angels and demons would leave a huge power vacuum in the “Supernatural” universe, and I’m sure something extremely nasty is just waiting to fill it!
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