Exclusive Interview: Author John Passarella Talks Supernatural: Rite of Passage
When Supernatural: Rite of Passage is released on August 14, 2012, readers will go on a ride with Sam, Dean and Bobby as they head to the town of Laurel Hill, New Jersey, following a series of unlucky incidents occurring in the small city.
Dread Central recently sat down with the author of Supernatural: Rite of Passage, John Passarella, to ask him about his upcoming novel and some of his other works. Enjoy!
AMANDA DYAR: Supernatural: Rite of Passage is only one of many novels you've published that deals primarily with supernatural and horror themes. Can you tell us a bit about how you began writing professionally, how you got the gig for Supernatural: Night Terror and what that particular experience was like?
JOHN PASSARELLA: I wrote in various genres before Columbia Pictures purchased the movie rights to my co-authored first novel, the supernatural thriller WITHER. Shortly thereafter, Pocket Books purchased the book rights. I've been working in the supernatural and paranormal thriller genres ever since. A San Francisco Chronicle reviewer wrote that WITHER "hits the groove that makes TV's 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' such a kick." I was a big "Buffy" fan, so I approached the "Buffy" tie-in novel editor with that quote. She invited me to submit and outline a sample chapter. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Ghoul Trouble became my first tie-in novel. Since then, all of my tie-in novels (two Angel novels and now two Supernatural novels) have resulted from editors contacting me, asking if I'd like to submit proposals. Cath Trechman (who would become one of my Night Terror editors) found my website, saw I had supernatural novel and tie-in experience and asked if I'd like to submit pitches. I submitted four ideas and got approval to outline one of those, and Night Terror was the result.
AMANDA: Supernatural: Rite of Passage is your second work based on the television series "Supernatural". For fans who may not be familiar with your work, how will the novel coincide with the television show, and how difficult would it be for someone to understand your novel without first watching the show?
JOHN: Supernatural: Rite of Passage is set in the seventh season of the show, before the events of "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters." During the pitching and outlining process, I try to keep the storyline as current as possible with the airing shows. In this case I was told to set it before that episode so in my mind it takes place between Episodes Nine and Ten. I had to finish the novel long before Season Seven ended, but fans reading the book will have the benefit of knowing how the season-long story arcs played out. At its heart, the show and the books are about two brothers fighting supernatural evil. That's what I tell fans of my other books who may not watch the show. The Supernatural universe fits in so well with my other books, all supernatural thrillers, that I believe they would enjoy the tie-ins as well. A few earlier reviewers of Night Terror had not watched the show but really enjoyed the book. I think that will hold true for Rite of Passage.
AMANDA: Supernatural: Rite of Passage tells a story about Sam, Dean and Bobby going toe-to-toe with a Japanese demon that has been plaguing a small town a series of unlucky events, and it directly coincides with Season Seven of the television show. What more can you tell us about your upcoming novel's storyline, and will we hear about or see any Leviathans during our reading?
JOHN: I envisioned Night Terror happening in a small town but wanted to scale things up for Rite of Passage. Laurel Hill (fictional) is not a big city, but it is a fair-sized one, with more of the venues of a higher population center. I needed that size and those settings for some of the big action and disaster scenes in the book. Basically Laurel Hill is experiencing Murphy's Law on steroids. Whatever can go wrong goes horribly wrong, and then gets unbelievably worse. One of my guidelines in writing the novel was that the Leviathans were off-limits. So I mention them a few times, and the Winchesters are ever-conscious of their threat and consider their possible involvement at one point in the book, but ultimately Rite of Passage is a standalone novel, not part of the Leviathan arc. That's a necessary constraint, though, since the longer book publishing cycle is out of sync with the airing of episodes. Rite of Passage occurs near the end of the halfway point of Season Seven but will be published long after the finale and a couple months before the start of Season Eight.
AMANDA: In another interview you said one of the great things about writing a novel as opposed to creating a television show is that you have no budget or censors, thereby allowing for more violence and special effects to be present in your story. Can you tell us in what ways this influences your stories and give us some specific examples of what it has allowed you to add to this or a previous novel that would never make it on television?
JOHN: Yes, that is kind of a mandate of the books, to do in print what the TV show could never afford to film. Night Terror might have had a season's worth of creature effects had they needed to be produced for TV. Rite of Passage has a level of destruction that might fall in line with a feature film budget but could never be filmed for a TV episode. When I'm writing my outlines, I'm looking for ways to increase the scale of the action and destruction. In a way, selecting the supernatural menace for the book plays into this as well. I want a monster that has the potential to rise above the more intimate scale of the TV episodes. But I also need to keep the story believable within the universe of the show, even when all hell breaks loose. What has worked for me is that the faster it scales up to "major disaster," the faster the Winchesters need to resolve it. They see the pattern before anyone else. They are on the ground and fighting the menace long before local law enforcement realizes the extent of the crisis.
AMANDA: "Supernatural" is obviously a wonderful television show with a tremendous storyline that has now lasted into its eighth season. As a writer, how difficult do you find it to come up with a completely original story that hasn't been featured yet on the show, and what type of restraints do you receive when working on a Supernatural novel that may prevent you from dramatically changing the show's storyline?
JOHN: When I was asked to submit ideas for what would become Rite of Passage, I was told that it should be a standalone monster story set in Season Seven before "How To Win Friends..." and that I should not use the Leviathans or any angel/demon stuff. From there, my first order of business was to find a supernatural menace the show hasn't used. Then I try to put my own spin on that menace, to expand the mythology or reinterpret it in interesting ways. I come up with four or five of these and submit short pitches for each. Informing my story is where Sam and Dean are emotionally in the arc of the season when the novel takes place. Within the confines of the novel, I ignore anything that happens to them after that point in the season, even though I'm watching those events occur as each new episode airs. (Of course, I watch those episodes because I'm a fan of the show!) Nonetheless, because of Bobby's diminished role in the show after "How To Win Friends...", I wanted him to have a larger role in Rite of Passage versus his phone cameos in Night Terror. And because of his presence, I wanted to examine various family dynamics, from supportive and strengthening to extremely dysfunctional and horrific.
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