THE END IS NIGH Author Interview: Will McIntosh

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

It’s about a guy who hasn’t done much with his life who finds his purpose in compassion when a plague rips through his town.

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

A few years back I wrote a dark, violent apocalyptic novel (Soft Apocalypse).  This time I wanted to write something about an impending apocalypse that didn’t focus on the violence that’s likely to accompany it.  I also wanted to create a “quiet” apocalypse, one where, instead of people dying in dramatic fashion, they waste away in silence.  In some ways that seemed even more disturbing to me.

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

The plot came fairly easily, but I struggled with developing the main character.  At first he came across as too selfish, and even in the final draft he’s quite immature for a forty year-old man.  It was a challenge to create the right balance of him being a loser, yet not wholly unlikable.

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

I think the protagonist’s anguish over how little he’s accomplished in his life, how he’s late getting out of the gate, springs from the challenge of beginning a new career in middle age.  I’m only in my second year as a full-time writer, and sometimes I struggle with the awareness that I have only a limited amount of time to write everything I want to write.

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

The nodding disease at the center of the story is, unfortunately, based on a real disorder.  It’s not highly contagious like my fictional version, but I learned about the real disorder before writing this story.  I drove through the township of Ravine, Pennsylvania when we hit a detour on a highway last summer, and looked it up to learn more later on, because seemed like an interesting setting for a story.

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

You’ve got all of the tension, the bow pulled all the way back.  All of that dread in your characters.

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

The Children of Men by P.D. James is probably my favorite.  It captures the tone of impending doom so brilliantly.