VICTOR GISCHLER is a novelist, comic book writer, and screenwriter from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His work has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony and Bram Stoker Awards and has been translated into numerous languages. He earned a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi. He is a beer swiller and chicken wing gobbler. His new book, CONQUISTADOR: A SARAH RIPLEY THRILLER, is now available! We talked recently about his writing in multiple worlds, and a hilarious moment if one of the all-time great cinematic thrillers.
Visit Victor Gischler's website here.
Dave Watson: Congratulations on Conquistador. It seems as if you're going back and forth between fantasy and reality-based stories. Is it easy to switch horses like that?
Victor Gischler: It's easy if I'm in the right mood. Sometimes, after a lot of "world-building" for a fantasy novel, it's a bit of a relief to write something "reality-based" as you put it. I don't have to explain to those readers how the world works because they already live in that world. Then it's a relief to switch back to fantasy because I'm not constrained by reality. I feel no obligation whatsoever to address the current headlines or news of the world. I can go off and do what I like.
DW: Sarah Ripley is a new character. How would you describe her?
VG: Tough, but she doesn't think of herself as tough. Working class but trying to half-exist in a world that isn't. Her husband is an academic, and that's not her world at all. She's much more Coors Light than she is Pinot Noir ... although I do think those things can exist together.
DW: There seems to be a strong desire for female-driven stories now. Why do you think that is? Is it a reaction to anything in our world?
VG: A fair question, but for me it's simply that I tried a few chapters with a male protagonist, and it just seemed more fun and interesting in this case to switch to a female protagonist. I like that the protagonist is a mom. I like that she's tough, but doesn't cling to her toughness as a too-important part of her identity. I guess I'm mostly flying on instinct here. A female protagonist just hit me on a gut level as better for this particular novel.
DW: Conquistador is topical, centered on schools, possible terrorism and the like. What set you off in this direction?
VG: Honestly, I wrote this book a while ago, and had the idea for it even longer ago than that. It's funny how something can be topical ... and then old news ... and then topical again. In no way am I clever enough to intentionally be topical. Ha Ha. Maybe I should just take credit for having my finger on the pulse of society and not tell everyone how much I rely on dumb luck.
DW: Do you read the news and get inspired to write or create stories from the inside out?
VG: ''Inspired" might be overstating it. But certainly I pluck bits of this and that from the news that might catch my attention. Example: I live in southern Louisiana, so I've seen/heard the word "contraflow" in the news hundreds of times. It stuck. I started thinking, okay, what sort of chaos would erupt if a university campus had to be evacuated for [insert various reasons] and they tried to initiate contraflow? Hopefully, the proper authorities would implement contraflow with calm and precision. But what if not? Once enough of these notions get stuck in your head, it's time to sit down and write a book.
DW: What's next?
VG: I'm working on Book Two of my new fantasy trilogy Kingdom of Ghosts. I'm very close to being finished. Then I'm going to drink five beers and immediately start on book three. I'd also like to write another Sarah Ripley thriller, but for obvious practical reasons, I just need to see how the first one does. Fingers crossed.
DW: What's your favorite cinematic moment?
VG: Well, I don't want to repeat myself, so I won't say Miller's Crossing again. I recently re-watched Jaws, and the moment the mayor says, "This is no time to do some half-assed autopsy on a fish ... and I'm not going to cut that thing open and see that little Kitner boy spill out all over the dock." It's just one of the many moments that makes Jaws one of the best movies of all times.
Founder and editor of Movies Matter, Dave Watson is a writer and educator in Madison, WI.