THE END IS NOW Author Interview: Will McIntosh

This interview was conducted by Andrea Johnson.

This is an apocalypse triggered by a disease, and it unfolds in a shockingly passive manner. Where did you get the idea for the disease that is affecting humanity in “Batgirl in the Land of Nod”?

The neurologist Oliver Sachs wrote a book titled Awakenings (it was later made into a film starring Robin Williams and Robert de Niro) about people who were trapped in catatonic states for decades, after suffering from an epidemic of encephalitis in the 1920s. That was my inspiration for the disease. I took the nodding symptom from another disease that, unfortunately, is also very real. It’s found only in and around South Sudan, and affects only children.

The story’s protagonist, Ray, is a huge fan of Batgirl as a character and of Helen Anderson, the actress who played her on TV. What kind of research did you do to develop Helen’s character and her experiences with the television show?

I didn’t want to make Helen Anderson too similar to any real actress, but I also didn’t want to make up a superhero name, because I thought that would make the story feel less real. So I chose Batgirl, a real superhero who never had a TV show. Although Helen Anderson is not based on Lynda Carter, the star of the TV show Wonder Woman, you could say Helen Anderson is a troubled character with a past similar to Ms. Carter’s.

This isn’t your first foray into the “it’s the end of the world as we know it” realm of genre fiction.  What’s the lure of writing apocalyptic fiction?

I think part of it is that an apocalypse affects everyone. All of your characters are being affected, they’re all fighting to survive, and that makes them interesting to work with. I’m also drawn to decay for some reason. I love exploring abandoned buildings. Sometimes people ask if it was depressing to write Soft Apocalypse, imagining Savannah (where I was living at the time) collapsing and burning. It would be depressing if it actually happened, but I found pretending it was happening kind of fun.

Do you also enjoy reading apocalyptic fiction?  What have been some of your favorite apocalyptic and/or post-apocalyptic titles?

I love apocalyptic fiction. The Postman by David Brin, Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Miller, This Is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow, Feed by Mira Grant, The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard, and of course, Wastelands, edited by John Joseph Adams. I’m especially drawn toward post-apocalyptic settings, whether in books, movies, or TV shows.

Do you have any new projects on the horizon that you can tell us about?

I’m always working on something! Coming in a year or so is Burning Midnight, my first young adult SF novel, from Delacorte Press. I recently finished a novel titled either Faller or This Broken World (still deciding) that involves an extremely strange apocalypse. And I’m currently working on a novel titled A Thousand Nights Till Morning that puts a new twist on the asteroid strike apocalypse.