THE END IS NOW Author Interview: Robin Wasserman

This interview was conducted by Lee Hallison.

This story is structured around letters from Heather to the men in her past. What about the epistolary format appeals to you as a writer?

I’d never tried writing something like this before, but I really fell in love with the flexibility and emotional urgency of it. Writing each letter to a different ex-lover offered an especially fun challenge/opportunity, as it forced me to think about how the narrator might refashion herself for each addressee. We’re all unreliable authors of our own stories; we all shape our narratives and our personas to suit our purposes. Writing to a series of fictional ex-boyfriends drove these shaping and reshaping efforts to the surface, because I had a narrator who was writing for a very specific audience of one, and had to stay constantly alert to the impression she was making.

You chose to continue the story of an end-of-the-world preacher’s son from the point of view of a member of the congregation. What were the challenges involved in moving into the head of a different character in the same world?

The challenge of switching character was no different than it would be if I’d started a new story/world from scratch. The real challenge here was actually finding a story I wanted to tell that would be continuous with my End is Nigh story. It took me an abominably long time and a lot of flailing to find a way into this story. I didn’t want to tell a big-canvas, high-drama story of a cult surviving the apocalypse, because I felt like I’d read that a thousand times before and wasn’t the best person to find a unique spin. I wanted to tell a story that would be very personal, very small and specific to the person enduring this trauma, and that meant shifting away from the characters driving the central action and into the head of someone on the sidelines. The apocalyptic Rosencrantz or Gildenstern, I guess you could say. And once I found her, the form and content of story unfolded from there.

Heather’s letters are painful and deeply personal. We experience her fears and weaknesses, yet at the end she triumphs. In what way do you see Heather’s growth as being connected to or caused by the apocalypse she is living through versus normal growing up?

For Heather, the apocalypse is just another traumatic event, something to shake her out of her patterns and force her to make another choice. If it wasn’t this, it would have been something else (or, at least, I’d like to think so). She’s a girl who’s terrified of being left alone or left behind, suffering through the ultimate abandonment. As far as she’s concerned, the whole world has left her behind—as, in a another way, she’s left the world. I wanted the apocalypse to serve as a mirror for the rest of her life, a way of taking her choices to their logical extreme. This is her rock bottom—but everyone hits one eventually.

What do you think happened to Heather after she left? Or does it matter?

I’m going to plead the fifth on this one, since I’ve still got one more story to write!

How difficult was it to write from the point of view of a character who has such utter fury inside?

I don’t know that “difficult” is the word I’d use. How about “delightful”? Or maybe “effortless”? I often get questions like this about my protagonists—how I wrote someone who was so angry, or so emotionally repressed, or so narcissistic, or whatever—that make me wonder about myself, because I always see my characters as having perfectly natural and reasonable reactions to the situations that they’re in. Is Heather furious? Of course she is, but no more furious than she should be in the face of those circumstances, no more than any of us are in the face of being hurt or rejected or abandoned.

I will admit, though, that I always enjoy writing angry characters–maybe because I’m the kind of person who, in my own life, tends to keep that stuff pretty buttoned up—and it’s possible I took a particular pleasure in venting that anger at a bunch of fictional ex-boyfriends. Emphasis on the word fictional—but that doesn’t preclude a certain joyful catharsis…