THE END IS NIGH Author Interview: Ben H. Winters

Tell us a bit about your story.  What’s it about?

“Bring Her To Me” is set the night before everybody in the world is going to die, happily, by their own hand. For thirty years or so, God has been speaking in people’s minds, telling everyone in different ways that a better world is coming, as long as everybody exits this one on this one particular day and time. The only tricky part is that there are some people—at least one that we know of, the terrified girl at the center of the take—who have never heard God’s voice, and are taking it on faith that his command is for real.

What was the genesis of the story—what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I’m fascinated by people who hear voices (in a spiritual sense) and people who hear voices (in a mental-illness sense) and the gray area between these two categories. It was something I was actually researching for a chapter in another book, a chapter that I didn’t end up using, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

The basic outline of the plot was quite clear from the outset, but I kept monkeying around with the details of the world, even things like how old the girl is. As I learned writing my Last Policeman trilogy, it’s fun but also scary to be writing a tale that’s the first of three, because every decision is going to have consequences months or a year down the line.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I’m an atheist, with a strong connection to my religious heritage but zero connection to a higher power of any kind.  So the idea that appears in the story, of absence-of-faith, and the kinds of isolation and confusion that absence can cause you, resonates with me personally.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I had done some phone interviews with a family member who is a psychiatrist, about schizophrenics who talk to God. I also had to look up the spelling of the word tartare, as in thin raw meat, as opposed to tartar, the stuff that forms on your teeth. I find that in nearly everything I write I end up conflating two very common words.

What is the appeal—either as a writer or a reader—of stories that take place BEFORE an apocalypse?

Same appeal as in all good fiction: Tension! The slow, terrifying build of is this really happening…is this going to happen… I think the appeal is also in creating intriguing or lovable characters and then making us really, really worried about them.

What are some of your favorite examples of pre-apocalyptic fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

On the Beach, by Nevil Shute. It’s so beautiful and so sad and smart that you don’t think of it as “pre-apocalyptic fiction” or “speculative fiction” or any other kind of genre: it’s just really good fiction.