THE END IS NIGH Author Interview: Jonathan Maberry

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

 I know quite a lot of people who are deeply invested in various conspiracy theories, including a number who are either part of doomsday cults or who subscribe to doomsday beliefs. This includes folks who believe in the imminent arrival of a rogue planet that will destroy the Earth. These people are deeply invested in these beliefs, and seem to want it to happen. That kind of apocalyptic devotion is sad, frightening and fascinating. My story was born from that.

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

 I had a ball writing the story and it flowed out very quickly and easily. It is exactly the kind of story I would want to read, which is my primary inspiration for writing: I write the things I want to read.

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

In my younger years I worked as a bodyguard, and there were several ‘retrieval experts’ in our agency. These were guys trained to go into cults and recover kids, or sometimes adults, who had become caught up in dangerous practices. Often these victims were totally brainwashed, occasionally hostile. And the cults themselves occasionally offered violent resistance to these rescues. I trained extensively with these guys, including role-playing, doing research games, and various kinds of threat resolution. More recently  ran a company that offered threat-response workshops for all levels of law enforcement, including SWAT, hostage rescue and others. Cults were often discussed in our workshops and we helped train some of these recovery specialists. One of the striking things about these specialists is how bright and educated they are, and how deeply they research the tenets of the cults they are targeting. They can talk the talk, and often know so much about it that they can deconstruct the doctrine that’s been force-fed to the members of the cults.

As far as the cult beliefs in my story, those came from a great deal of research on conspiracy theories I did while writing my 2013 thriller EXTINCTION MACHINE (St. Martin’s Griffin).

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

I’d already done my research before tackling this story. It was born from material I’d already investigated for EXTINCTION MACHINE, and quite a lot of it from personal experience.

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

Most of what I write is pre-apocalyptic. My Joe Ledger thrillers are all about confronting—and hopefully stopping—a global apocalypse. Those kinds of stories are incredibly thrilling because they are often built on extremely plausible scenarios. We know damn well that there are a lot of ways our technologies can go wrong. We see the effects of our mismanagement of the planet in the damaged biosphere and climate. We fear mishandling of technologies like drones. We read about the return of diseases and plagues that were once thought to have been eradicated. We know that computer terrorism is becoming the new battlefield for global warfare. Our world is pretty damn scary. When we write—or read—fiction about a potential apocalypse, we get the chance to explore the what-ifs, to fiddle with the controls to see how it might all play out.

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

When I was a teenager I had the chance to meet and receive some mentoring from Richard Matheson. His landmark novel, I AM LEGEND, is the template for virtually all apocalyptic fiction. He wrote that book in 1954 and we see its shadow in so many end of the world novels, comics, movies and TV shows. That’s my all-time favorite. Others that are in my best of list include SWAN SONG by Robert McCammon, THE STAND by Stephen King, PLAGUE by Graham Masterton, THE DEATH OF GRASS by John Christopher, DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS by John Wyndham, WAR DAY by Whitley Strieber and Jim Kunetka, and the brilliant EARTH ABIDES by George R. Stewart.